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Guest Director Jane Sheldon talks about "Superbloom"

The stunning vision of a desert landscape carpeted in flora is a rare sight and one I’ve been fortunate enough to see in person in the deserts of California, most dramatically in Death Valley in 2016. Our own deserts experience the same phenomenon, such as when the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre basin fills.

Superbloom explores musical expressions of aridness and lushness, putting these qualities into contrast. A piece might count as arid or lush due to its textures, its harmony, the amount of language it contains, the conceptual motivation for the work, or some combination of these.

Aridness is represented in the longest work on the program, Rebecca Saunders' Soliloquy (2007), an exquisite piece about “singing what cannot be said, from trying to speak but not having the words,” and one featuring an array of dry vocal sounds and beautifully restrained harmony.

Katherine Balch’s Forgetting (2021), in its Australian premiere, portrays the mind plagued by gaps of memory, with moments of lush chordal blooms when the mind is articulate, and pitchless dryness when it is not.

I’m excited to be contributing a new piece of my own, Flowermuscle, which sets a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and represents the fecund end of the scale.

These three works are new to the Song Company, but since 2024 marks the ensemble’s 40th anniversary it feels important to honour its incredible legacy by revisiting music from past programs. One such work is Michael Whiticker’s As water bears salt, which was performed and recorded by The Song Company in the early 1990s.   

In a completely different style are works by Gesualdo and Hildegard von Bingen, whose O nobilissima viriditas (O most noble greenness) is a beautiful ode to the divine in nature.

I hope you can join me and The Song Company in March for Superbloom, a thrilling exploration of the voice.