Apsara is an original project of classical soprano Michaele Archer, exploring a sound palate that is rich and raw. Composed with Latin text from Virgil and Roman woman poet Sulpicia, Apsara’s debut EP Galatea intertwines ancient and new sounds.
Leading the Apsara project on harmonium and vocals, Archer is joined by cellist Rachel Whealy, violist Gabrielle Laura Steele and guitarist Giuseppe Zangari.
It been a journey bringing together the different layers for this project – Ancient Latin text, alto instruments and a vocal approach that blends opera and early music. “Once I had it the music came quickly. The songs almost wrote themselves. They came so fast in a matter of minutes recording on my phone.”
In addition to medieval vocals, ancient Latin text and deep analogue instruments, the flow of water and nature inspires Apsara. In Virgil’s Eclogue 7 there are references to Galatea, a water sprite and the name Apsara also translates as Indian water spirit.
Michaele has performed opera, song and oratorio in Australia and internationally and has featured in several world premieres of new works by Australian composers.
“Coming from an opera background and having a larger voice type my sound has always been full on opera”. Michaele has recently been performing and studying in Los Angeles with Robin de Haas, a leading voice coach in Europe and founder of a new performance and body work method called Breathing Coordination. Going ever deeper into anatomy and the science of breathing led Michaele to a new vocal style, blending Opera into medieval straight tone.
Discovering the poetry of Roman woman poet Sulpicia struck a deep chord. “The portrayal of women in opera is often two dimensional and I wanted to depart from that,” says Archer. Sulpicia was a woman who lived outside the stereotypes of Ancient Roman society in terms of being unmarried, writing poetry and writing explicitly about love. The feel and sound qualities of old Latin text and stories interpreted from a female perspective form a rich layer, built with instruments from the deeper harmonic spectrum.
“I’ve got a thing for the darker sounding instruments so combining the tone of the viola with cello and alto harmonium was a perfect fit.”
Cellist Rachel Whealy has been a muse since high school. The pair met in Year 12 Music class, where Michaele fell in love with Rachel’s playing and the mellow sob of the cello. There were quite a few maths lessons skipped to play Purcell on Balmoral Island with the waves. They have been performing, writing and recording together ever since. “We’ve created some beautiful original recordings, but I kept putting them aside. I hadn’t quite cracked the feel of the sound I knew I was looking for. I wanted to move slightly left of opera with an instrumental foundation that was real and textured.”
APSARA – GALATEA is OUT TODAY August 23 and released through Foghorn/MGM.
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REBECCA DANIEL AND FIONA JOY HAWKINS JOIN FORCES TO CREATE THE LIGHTNESS OF DARK – A POWERFUL MUSICAL EXPLORATION OF LOSS, MOURNING AND FINDING BEAUTY AMIDST LIFE’S SADNESS
Superb Classical Crossover Music, featuring award winning artists Rebecca Daniel (Violin/Voice/Piano) and Fiona Joy Hawkins (Piano/Voice) Will Be Supporting Their Cathartic and Healing New Album With A USA Fall Tour 2019.
Leonard Cohen once said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Australian instrumentalists Rebecca Daniel and Fiona Joy Hawkins place this insight on the back cover of The Lightness of Dark to illuminate their creative and spiritual vision behind the project –their first dual album after many years of live and studio collaborations. The two explore the many facets of life and loss, the search for something positive in the crippling shadows and the potential beauty that can emerge from mourning and sadness.
The Lightness of Dark weaves its lush, cathartic narrative via music with varying instrumentation depending on the emotions the two are expressing. The opening track “Heavenly Voices” blends string quartet (featuring The Kanimbla Quartet)with organ, piano and vocals. Other tracks feature solo piano (“Ghosts, Insanity, Angels”), piano/violin duet (“Elegy”), piano with quartet pads (“Lake of Contemplation”), string quartet only (“Interwoven Threads of Chance”), string quartet featuring piano (“Empty Moments”) and other combinations uniquely fitted for the compositions they imbue.
“We believe our album will connect with everyone because we all experience loss in varying forms,” Fiona says. “It can be the loss of youth, a loved one, a pet, your health…Life changing events where we are left to mourn because of loss. People only face their own issues when you lead them to a safe place to do this.”
Rebecca and Fiona have enjoyed a long history of collaborations and are looking forward to working with renowned Australian Producer Llew Kiek. They have performed over 50 concerts together including at the Sydney Opera House for the 2012 MusicOz Awards, New Orleans for 2014 ZMR Awardsand 2017 Sydney Women’s International Jazz Festival-and Rebecca has appeared on nearly every one of Fiona’s solo albums. The two have played together as part of Fiona’s Blue Dream Ensemble, and Rebecca produced the group’s album Live at the Q.
Rebecca Daniel studied violin and chamber music with Emanuel Hurwitz and the Amadeus String Quartet at The Royal Academy of Music. She worked with Trevor Pinnock and Simon Standage, and The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and was Orchestra Leader for Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast. She has recorded and performed with, John Denver, Bread, James Galway and the Chieftains, Will Ackerman, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Men at Work and INXS.
Rebecca cites John Lennon, Amadeus String Quartet and Samuel Barber as amongst her earliest musical influences. She also told us that a collection of 78’s from the 1930’s was her first music purchase. Her natural penchant for music was evident when she was very young. “I started singing as a baby, was given a violin at 4,” she says. “It was just expected of me to be a musician. But I only started writing a few years ago.”
Fiona Joy Hawkins, a Conservatorium-trained pianist, renowned for her romantic, melodic songs and lush arrangements, is a prolific composer who regularly tours China and the USA and is also a member of the Contemporary instrumental group FLOW (Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman). Fiona’s song “Grace’ is on a 2014 Grammy Winning album, and in 2016 she won two Independent Music Awards at the Lincoln Centre in New York. She has several Best Piano Album ZMR Awards and has worked with Producer Will Ackerman (Founder Windham Hill Records and Cookie Marenco (Blue Coast Records) for hi-resolution audiophile recordings.
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‘Lost At Sea’ looks set to exceed the streams of the first collaborative offering from Steve Kilbey and Gareth Koch, Broken Toys (50K + streams on Spotify). ‘Lost At Sea’ has notched up 7000 streams in only its first two weeks of release!
‘Lost At Sea’ also sitting at #1 on the SoundsLikeCafe Chart, getting serious amounts of spins in cafes all around the country.
The video for Lost At Sea is out now. Check it out at YouTube here!
Gareth Koch just announced the exciting news that the duo will be returning to the studio this October, to record several tracks including one called Thylacine (the scientific name for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger).
Koch recently talked about the song with British music journalist Jason Barnard. “The idea was to write a soulful ballad filled with ocean and journey references,” he explained. “Musically it harks back to a tuneful and almost Italian style of writing. The harmony owes a little to J.S. Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’, as does of course Procol Harum’s ‘Lighter Shade of Pale.”
He also talks about how he ended up writing music with Steve Kilbey, saying he’s been a fan since seeing The Church way back in 1980 at The Mosman Hotel in Sydney!
For the full interview, head to thestrangebrew.co.uk.
(photo credit: Tony Mott)
“I’m just a guy holding the pen” is the poignant opening line of the recent Steve Kilbey & Gareth Koch collaboration ‘Lost at Sea’.
The statement seems innocent enough at first glance, yet it elegantly addresses the mystery of creativity. How does art come into being, and is the creator just a filter or medium for the creative process?
The sentiment is even more interesting given the background of the two protagonists. Steve Kilbey, perhaps best known as the frontman of veteran rock band The Church, has a lifetime of esoteric lyrics to his credit. Kilbey’s themes pose questions and riddle-like answers. Perhaps this is why his lyrics continue to engage us. Gareth Koch on the other hand, a Viennese-trained guitarist/composer, has explored the nature of creativity head-on in his PhD thesis. Perhaps between the pair, Kilbey & Koch might have some answers.
These considerations aside, this collaboration has yielded a truly beautiful and timeless ballad. There is a wistful and haunting lilt to ‘Lost at Sea’, as it floats seamlessly through a narrative of stolen hearts, voyages into solitudeand roaming in no-man’s land. And to compliment these lyrics is a delicious instrumentation, weaving and wafting, ghostly and waif-like, present yet elusive.
This is possibly why this collaboration works so well. Kilbey & Koch are both masters of the esoteric form. As they step sideways from their respective genres this coming together highlights a close aesthetic connection.
‘Lost At Sea’ is sure to follow in the footsteps of the first collaborative offering, Broken Toys, which last week was sitting pretty at #1 on the Radio Indie Alliance chart:
Lost At Sea will be released on July 5 via MGM.
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What happens when the musical worlds of Australian music icon Steve Kilbey & classically trained ARIA Award winner Gareth Koch collide?
The answer lies in their new single Broken Toys– a refined and confident title brimming with sensitivity, experience and fresh ideas.
UPDATE – NOW WITH OVER 12,000 STREAMS ON SPOTIFY!
It’s not easy to describe a fascinating and unexpected collaboration such as this one. Steve Kilbey is perhaps best known as frontman of veteran rock band The Church. Gareth Koch on the other hand is a Viennese-trained classical guitarist/composer.
(photo credit: Tony Mott)
The Kilbey/Koch musical arrangements are acoustic and highly sophisticated. ‘Classical’ is one way of describing the sound. But it is much more than that. Kilbey is a self-confessed classicist, so the pairing is actually spot on. Kilbey & Koch have roughly 1000 years of music history bubbling away in their consciousness, and coupled with this knowledge is a keen awareness of contemporary sensibilities.
Sparkling effervescent textures, percussion by veteran stickman Barton Price (of Models fame), dobros, classical and 12-string guitars and even a 1966 ‘Beatle Bass’ all combine to create a unique and original soundscape.
Their eclectic partnership draws inspiration from medieval music to post-modern psychedelia, with every imaginable influence in between. These experienced musicians have created a strong and immediately recognisable musical identity, a new sound and aesthetic that comes with a fluid movement across genres. The result is a unique blend of classical & pop sensibilities with lyrics poised for repeated listening.
Expertly mixed by Russell Pilling at Damien Gerard Studios Sydney and superbly mastered by Grammy Award-winning King Willy Sound, Broken Toys is a feast for the ears.
Stay tuned for news of the second collaborative track from this stellar duo, coming soon!
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Rachel LaFond – New Album – Encounters of the Beautiful Kind
Come along on a powerful musical journey inspired by Rachel LaFond’s experience, of being a stranger in a new country. New Zealand to be precise where she now calls home.
This beautiful solo Piano Album was recorded in high resolution audio at her home and mastered by the golden ears of Mike Bloemendahl.
The music explores universal human experiences: feelings of loneliness, worries about not being good enough, and the evolution we undergo as existing friendships change or fade while new connections spring to life.
This journey culminates in the realisation that as we bear each other up and connect with one another, we make the world a more beautiful place for all of us.
About Rachel LaFond:
Rachel LaFond is an American composer and pianist now residing in New Zealand who has been steeped in musicality her entire life. Her appreciation of the piano began when she was a toddler as her mother (a piano teacher) played with a young Rachel on her lap. She began formal lessons at age five, and by the time Rachel was eleven, she began teaching lessons herself. She lived in Vienna and studied piano performance there as a teenager, then returned home to major in piano at the University of Washington. After university, she continued to teach and perform professionally, but for years Rachel didn’t realise she had a talent for writing music hidden inside herself until David.
David she had met just weeks ago. Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about him on one rainy autumn afternoon, everything changed. Gazing out the window of her teaching studio, Distraction transformed into inspiration, and by the end of that evening she had finished her first original piece, Loving in the Rain. This first piece stood alone for a while as Rachel got swept up in life’s adventures: Rachel and David got married, quit their jobs, and embarked on a year of long-term travel around the world.
Rachel’s music is inspired by, and engages with, the full depth of human experience. Whether she’s capturing the heady wooziness of falling in love or responding to the chest-cracking pain of Barcelonans who suffered in the terror attack of summer 2017, her pieces are unflinching and compel the listener to lean into the feeling of the song for just a moment more. Rachel’s drive to bring beauty, light, and kindness to dark places through her music lends a striking sense of purpose to her creative work. And she’s just getting started.
All recorded in Auckland, New Zealand in Rachel’s home.
Mastering by Mike Bloemendahl
Connect with Rachel LaFond
- Hi Andy Iorio,
- Tell us about the moment you decided to become a composer. What did your family have to say about it?
When I was very young, the moment that I really connected with music was when I saw the film “The Neverending Story”. I fell in love with the movie instantly and more importantly I was drawn into the music that went with the moving images. Shortly after seeing that movie, my parents bought me a keyboard – my state of the art Casio SK-1, (equivelent to a Fisher-Price “plunk and plop”) and I started creating my own little pieces and experimenting with sounds. I would set up my keyboard in front of my tv and mute the sound and create my own music for what I was watching. It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to be a composer and score a film of my own one day.
- Who are your early influences?
There are so many artists that have inspired me throughout my life! I was around 10 years old when I found my parents vinyl collection and started listening to the records I thought had the most interresting artwork on their album covers. Early influences included Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Elton John and George Winston. As I got older, Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Philip Glass, Yann Tiersen, Abel Korzeniowski and Hans Zimmer were at the forefront of my most inspirational composers. Simple tonality, beautiful melodies and soaring strings made for some of my strongest musical influences.
- What current Australian acts inspire you and why? What international acts?
I really like Sia; I think she has a great voice. I have been a fan ever since I heard her track “Breathe Me” in the final scene of the HBO show “Six Feet Under.” I have always been drawn to instrumental music most. So when I think of international artists, Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter are the first two that come to mind. Both have unique musical signatures unlike any others.
- What is the first record you bought and why?
The first album I bought was Counting Crows “August and Everything After”. I loved Adam Duritz’s lyrics and the organic sound of the band. The instrumention was so unique for the early 90’s. The phrasing of Adam’s voice was also very different from anything else I had heard up to that point. I still listen to that album in it’s entirety today.
- Favourite artists of all time?
Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Ludovcio Einaudi, Max Richter, Philip Glass, Yann Tiersen, George Winston, Abel Korzeniowski and Hans Zimmer.
- Fave food or drink and is there a story associated with that?
I would have to say my favorite drink is tea. Hot or cold, it is the best to calm and relax me. I can’t pick a favorite one, but there is nothing I enjoy drinking more. I actually have a 5′ long tea station at home with over a dozen international artisan teas, tea sets and tea accessories displayed on it.
- Tell us a little about the new record and what a crowd can expect at a live show?
My music is mainly piano driven, with a cinematic and lush vibrant string section. It carries simple tonality with controlled harmony. Recently, I have been playing all of my concerts as solo piano performances. I feel it is more intimate this way and the audience can really connect with the music the way I composed each piece – always on the piano first, then with orchestrations built around the piano. Over the next year, I want to add a string quartet to bring the pieces to the live audiences the way they hear them on the album. My performances will then be a mix of piano and strings along with the intimate setting of solo piano.
Flying Free Album Release September 1 (MGM) CD and Digital(14 tracks)
Album Launch Event Details
Springtime Soirée at Cranlana
Tuesday 19 September 2017
5:30 for 6pm – 8pm
Cranlana, 62 Clendon Rd, Toorak, VIC
Simply email for an invite.
On the eve of the First Single and Title Track from her new Album ‘Flying Free’ (Out on MGM Friday July 21) we have a chat with Tania De Jong (AM)….
- Tell us about the moment you decided to become a singer? What did your family have to say about it?
When I got the lead role in Oklahoma, the school musical – I was 17. Please see question 4. My family were supportive but encouraged me to do a stable degree first as a back up as my grand parents were artists and being an artist is a hard life, especially in Australia. So I did a Law Degree and also went to Opera School, coached tennis (to earn money as I was a top tennis player). Then I set up my group Pot-Pourri in 1987 with another student at Opera School, Jonathan Morton. He sings in a couple of songs on this CD.
2. What inspired you to become an artist and who are your early influences?
My grandmother invented the original foldable umbrella in Vienna in 1929 and my grandfather was an acclaimed sculptor. My great aunt was a renowned actress on the Paris stage. My mother is a writer and creator.
Art, music and invention runs through my family DNA.
See more here:
Visit The Duldig Studio (DGR charitable organisation) where my grandparents’ work now resides (as well as in galleries around the world) and be inspired by their extraordinary story of escape and survival. The Studio (which is my grandparents’ former home often reminds people of the Anne Frank House in Holland.
My mother’s book “Driftwood” telling the story will be launched August 20 2017 a month before my CD launch.
WATCH these short beautiful videos for more background and inspiration:
Against all Odds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j8HxQrhfyg
Flirt – The Magical Umbrella of the Sculptress https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25gVCAHrBJY&feature=youtu.be
3. Tell us a little about your writing process, how does a song come along? What gets you going creatively?
It’s usually being in a beautiful place connected to divine consciousness, a higher spiritual energy emanating through nature and then transmitting to me in the form of lyrics. Flying Free lyrics came into my head at Macchu Picchu as I was imagining a gathering of all the people who were most special to me. That sense of being connected to all that is. Everlasting Light lyrics came after my first experience with psychedelics in the purest form of psilocybin. I realised that we are all continuing light and felt this amazing, enormous love and connection to the circle of life.
4. Tell us more?
PLEASE be inspired by my TED Talk which tells the below story and much more:
5. Favourite artists of all time?
Abba, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and John Lennon’s Imagine, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah
6. Fave Book? Fave pet?.
I love dogs and had a beloved poodle cross till last year. A favourite book is “Racing in the rain” which sees the meaning of life and human relationships from a dog’s point of view.
7. Fave food or drink and is there a story associated with that?
Superfood junkie – love wheatgrass and maca and coconut oil and aloe vera juice and green organic vegetables. I famously asked for a Bok Choi Burger at MacDonalds when I was on tour with my group pot-Pourri – based on a dare from them!
8. What are your future plans for 2017/2018?
Launching this CD and confirming more singing and speaking gigs in Australia and globally, including concerts, singing at events where people do not expect it, getting the whole audience singing and finding their voice.
I sang in Vienna at the Kursalon the other week and had an awesome response. I hope to do more singing in Europe and USA and Asia. I’ve performed all over the world with my group Pot-Pourri in the past and we still do gigs all over the place
FLYING FREE RELEASE DETAILS
Official Worldwide Release Date Flying Free Single July 21(MGM) Digital Only
Flying Free Album Release September 1 (MGM) CD and Digital(14 tracks)