Children, Features, Music, News

From catastrophe to symphony

Seesaw is delighted to share this short film documenting the journey of 13 year old singer and songwriter Anastacia Dawes. The video follows her experience performing her original song ‘Catastrophe’  with the Perth Symphony Orchestra in front of more than 8000 people.

PSO Chief conductor Jessica Gethin fell in love with Anastacia Dawes last month after watching her story on the ABC TV documentary ‘Don’t Stop the Music’.  Gethin invited Anastacia to perform at their next concert which was just a week away. In a whirlwind seven days PSO spoke to Anastacia and Micheál McCarthy transcribed and harmonised the song which was arranged for orchestra by WAAPA students Corey Murphy & Callum O’Reilly then rehearsed and performed by Anastacia to over 8000 people!

Thanks to Perth Symphony Orchestra for this beautiful short film. To read the full story of how Anastacia fell into the spotlight go here.

Pictured top: Anastacia Dawes with arrangers Corey Murphy and Callum O’Reilly, music teacher Scott Blanchard and Micheál McCarthy and Jessica Gethin conducting in the background. Photo: Rosalind Appleby

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Features, News, Performing arts

Music Makes a Way

For 12 year old Armadale girl Anastacia Dawes life was a catastrophe. Much of her childhood had been spent managing diabetes, epilepsy, ADD and Tourette Syndrome. To top it off her mum was fighting cancer. She dreamed about studying singing at the WA Academy of Performing Arts but even getting to school was a challenge. It was hard  for Anastacia to talk about it, so instead she wrote a song.

“I’m livin’ a catastrophe, and life is gettin’ harder/I live it tough, everyday, it’s getting hard to see the other side…”

It is now 12 months later and Anastacia will be performing Catastrophe on Saturday night with the Perth Symphony Orchestra. It is a dream come true for the student from Challis Primary School and a direct result of the transformation that has taken place in the school since since the principal decided to introduce a music program.

Anastacia’s story came to light in the landmark ABC television documentary Don’t Stop the Music which screened in November. When conductor of the Perth Symphony Orchestra Jessica Gethin watched the documentary she was captivated by Anastacia’s singing.

Jessica Gethin meets Anastacia Dawes. Photo Belinda Sherry.

“Not only does she have an amazing voice and talent but the journey she’s had and the way she was able to translate that into music – she is a natural at it.”

At one particular moment in the documentary the Challis school choir visited WAAPA to hear Eneskis vocal ensemble perform. The camera caught the expression on Anastacia’s face when the ensemble started singing.

“There was this look wonderment on her face,” Gethin said. “I could see the experience was giving her hope and opportunity for her future. And it made me think we need to support her. It was an opportunity for all of us to see where things start and how important it is to nurture those beginnings so that people like Anastacia don’t fall through the cracks.”

Within two weeks the song had been arranged for orchestra by WAAPA students Corey Murphy and Callum O’Reilly and on Wednesday night Anastacia rehearsed the song with orchestra for the first time. Joining them on stage was Challis music teacher Simon Blanchard accompanying on guitar.

“I’ve gotta live my life to the full, and not be afraid to speak aloud” she sang from the stage. “I’m a girl ready to be me, it’s who I’m made to be.”

““It felt amazing,” Anastacia said afterwards. “I’ve loved singing since before I can remember and I am so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Anastacia Dawes with arrangers Corey Murphy and Callum O’Reilly, music teacher Simon Blanchard and Micheál McCarthy with Jessica Gethin rehearsing in the background. Photo Rosalind Appleby

In fact it was pure coincidence that Anastacia’s talent was discovered. Blanchard had been receiving coaching from WAAPA lecturer Micheál McCarthy who happened to overhear Anastacia singing. McCarthy organised an audition for her at a specialist music school.

“It was pure luck that I happened to hear her outside the music room that day,” McCarthy said. “If I hadn’t heard her that day she wouldn’t have featured in the documentary and she wouldn’t have got into Kelmscott Senior High School. I didn’t realise until I transcribed the song last week that the words were ‘Luck will arrive one day, maybe today’s the lucky day’.”

Anastacia Dawes. Photo Belinda Sherry

Anastacia’s mother Kelly Dawes  watched the rehearsal and said it was beyond her wildest dreams for her daughter.

“Anastacia’s confidence has gone up, she is more positive and relaxed and inspired. The impact on Challis Primary has been amazing. There are so many students from the school going into specialist music programs next year. Music should be in all the schools.”

Anastacia agrees. “Having music at school meant I was able to improve and singing in the choir meant I had to learn to work as a group. And when I sing in front of people it makes me calmer. Plus I met Micheál (McCarthy) and Guy Sebastian.”

Has her luck arrived?

“That moment has come. Mum hasn’t been in hospital for a long time. At school I have the best teachers and good friends. It is fun.”

Anastacia Dawes will perform Catastrophe with the Perth Symphony Orchestra Kwinana at the Tianqi Lithium Symphony Spectacular, on December 1. Don’t Stop the Music is an ABC documentary by Artemis Media available on iView.

Pictured top: Anastacia Dawes rehearses with the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

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The Nature of Why
Calendar, Dance, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music & Dance: The Nature of Why

21 -23 February @ Heath Ledger Theatre ·
Presented by the British Paraorchestra ·

Feel the transformative power of music and dance in an epic performance bursting with passion and joyous intensity. Taking inspiration from the unconventional curiosity of Nobel prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman, and his search for meaning in the world around us, The Nature of Why is an intimately powerful and evocative work.

Led by renowned conductor Charles Hazelwood, members of the world’s only large-scale ensemble for professional disabled musicians, the British Paraorchesra, are joined by string players from Perth Symphony Orchestra to perform a cinematic live-score by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory. The stage becomes a site of discovery as four dancers move to the music in a choreography by Australian artist and disability advocate Caroline Bowditch.

Merging contemporary dance and live orchestral music The Nature of Why erases the divide between musicians, dancers and audience, immersing you in an uplifting up-close-and-personal theatrical experience.

More info:

Pictured: The Nature of Why, credit: Paul Blakemore

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Symphony orchestra dressed in grunge fashion, with cheerleaders
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A stellar night of symphonic grunge

Review: Perth Symphony Orchestra: “Unplugged: Nirvana Reimagined” ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 28 September ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Perth Symphony Orchestra’s mantra “Music for Everyone” is admirable considering classical music is often associated with high-brow art practice. But if there is one thing the modern world of diminishing arts funding and audiences fixated on digital media has done for the arts, it is to breed resilience.

Perth Symphony Orchestra (PSO) epitomises this. It knows the arts equivalent of “build it and they will come” is the exception not the rule. Audiences must be actively pursued and the best way to get them to come is to produce a quality show they want to see.

One sure-fire way to boost attendance is to make that show appealing to as many people as possible, that is – dare I say – music for the masses. What better way to achieve that than genre-hop from its classical repertoire in to the popular music style of grunge.

Grunge the world over is synonymous with one band: Seattle-based trio Nirvana. The band’s albums Nevermind and In Utero produced a score of global hits. Its best-known live performance is the 1993 acoustic concert filmed for the “MTV Unplugged in New York” series.

“Unplugged: Nirvana Reimagined” was PSO’s take on this. The concert was such a success last year that an encore was scheduled for 2018 and last night His Majesty’s Theatre was sold out once again. The full orchestra consumed much of the stage with black candles and a plethora of white lilies dotted amongst them and along the front. Fame-afflicted Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain asked for these solemn accoutrements in 1993. He wanted the set to look like there was a funeral. Tragically, his own suicide came just five months later.

Pulling off a concert of this ilk was always going to be heavily dependent upon who played the role of the enigmatic, introvert Cobain. Former lead singer of Perth band End of Fashion and Helpmann Award nominee for Best Actor in a Musical (Rock of Ages) Justin Burford channelled the role and gravelly voice to near perfection.

His uncanny physical resemblance to the dishevelled Cobain, coupled with his superlative West Coast US accent, made it feel like the man himself was there. The cardie, chain smoking and nervous movements on a swivel chair took us right back to “MTV Unplugged”.

What set this concert aside was the casual interplay between Burford and lithe PSO chief conductor/artistic director Jessica Gethin. She said little but was a potent and lively conduit between the grunge front man and the sea of black-clad players.

This triumvirate was as one, throughout arranger Ash Gibson Greig’s beautifully realised versions of the “MTV Unplugged” song list, including gems such as “Come As You Are” and “All Apologies”.

Hoots of recognition from the audience were met with off-the-cuff comments from Burford, delivered with the seamlessness of a consummate professional.

Occasional projected snippets of biographical information about the band gave context to the songs and were a reminder of Cobain’s humanity. The orchestra beautifully conveyed the tragedy and melancholy inherent in the song “Polly”, which was inspired by the abduction and rape of a teenage girl.

But there was plenty of fun on the night, exemplified during the multi-tune encore of other Nirvana hits. When the curtain dropped, the audience were in full voice demanding the performers return with more. When they did return, PSO had been “grunged”. It was jackets off and a whole new outfit for Gethin. Even Burford swapped his cardie for Cobain’s definitive checked shirt.

Their finishing song? The biggest of all Nirvana chart toppers “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, accompanied by four teenage dancers with pom poms. But this wasn’t the end: smoke and moving lights gave the whole show a rock concert feel, so why not smash a violin centre stage to sign off?

The masses approved with a raucous standing ovation.

Find out more about Perth Symphony Orchestra. 

This review was first published on Noted and is published here with the kind permission of Rosalind Appleby.

Photo: Nathan Bullivant.

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Calendar, Film, September 18

Film: McQueen – Special Fashion Event

5 September @ Luna Leederville ·
Presented by Telstra Perth Fashion Festival ·

The Telstra Perth Fashion Festival presents one of the most anticipated fashion documentaries of the year.

Join us on Wednesday 5 September at Luna Cinemas Leederville for an exclusive preview screening of MCQUEEN (6.15pm arrival, 7.00pm film start). Guests will receive a glass of Prosecco on arrival courtesy of Risky Business as well as a sweet delicacy lovingly created by the talented Sue Lewis Chocolatier.

Our pre-screening function includes a celebration of local fashion creatives as well as a performance from members of the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

The Telstra Perth Fashion Festival celebrates 20 years in 2018 and runs from 5 -15 September.

This is a screening event not to be missed. Get your tickets now.

More info:

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Calendar, March 18, Music, Performing arts

Music: Ministry Of Sound: Orchestrated

Ministry of Sound Orchestrated24 March @ Pioneer Women’s Memorial, Botanic Garden, Kings Park ∙
Presented by: Mellen Events ∙

Mellen Events, Frontier Touring & Ministry of Sound Events Australia are thrilled to announce Orchestrated, a celebration of classic dance tracks performed live with the Perth Symphony Orchestra and guest vocalists Daniel Merriweather, Alison Limerick (UK) and Ilan Kidron (The Potbelleez).

Orchestrated will take over Kings Park & Botanic Garden on Saturday 24 March, 2018 and will marry the euphoria of the most loved dancefloor moments of the past 25 years with the magic of a live symphony orchestra.

Classic tracks from iconic artists like Fatboy Slim, Moby, Underworld, Shapeshifters and Massive Attack will be rearranged, remixed and reimagined in a brand new Australian production, taking the audience on a journey through the best moments in dance music through the ages; from house and chillout to electronica and the biggest anthems of all time.

“After working in clubs and events for 25 years, the chance to take these much loved records onto a big stage in this exciting new format with a full orchestra is a brand new chapter in the ever evolving story of the Ministry Of Sound brand,” says Tim McGee, CEO, Ministry of Sound Events Australia.

More info:

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