ABC Classic has announced the release of Ensemble Offspring’s new album, Songbirds – a surprising and beguiling collection of chamber works for flute, clarinet and percussion inspired by butcherbirds, blackbirds, lorikeets and leafcutter ants, frogs and flamingos.
Originally intended to accompany the Ensemble’s 25th birthday concert tour, Birdsong at Dusk (presented as part of 2020 Sydney Festival’s Salon Series), the album is being released to celebrate both this major milestone and the creativity and endurance of the ensemble even in the face of a global pandemic.
With a little help from nine revered Australian composers, Claire Edwardes (percussion), Jason Noble (clarinet/bass clarinet) and Lamorna Nightingale (flutes) capture the calls and songs of Australia’s birds and create something new: familiar, yes, but unique and engaging and exciting too.
Throughout their rich history Ensemble Offspring have been an extraordinary force in Australian music: bold, risk-taking and tireless advocates of work by living composers – championing female and First Nations Australian artists in particular – and have fostered the creation of over three hundred works of new music. So it is no surprise that the majority of the works on this disc were written by some of Australia’s leading composers especially for Ensemble Offspring!
After many wet seasons spent listening and recording in Central Australia, Hollis Taylor brings us the song of the pied butcher bird in Bitter Springs Creek 2014, while Kate Moore takes the liquid melodies of the European blackbird and intertwines alto flute, bass clarinet and vibraphone in an intricate counterpoint.
Fiona Loader’s Lorikeet Corroboree is an upbeat, punchy work which weaves the crazy chatter of Australia’s rainbow lorikeets in with some older, ground-dwelling composers, with fragments from Papageno’s magic flute, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending and the scintillating sound world of Messiaen. Meanwhile Gerard Brophy makes flamingos dance and humming birds buzz in his brand new 3 movement tour-de-force Beautiful Birds.
The Sydney-based ensemble are Australia’s musical mavericks, championing living new music in all its forms. A group of Australia’s most innovative and virtuosic instrumentalists led by acclaimed percussionist, Claire Edwardes, the group celebrates living composers and creates musical experiences that stimulate the senses and pique curiosity.
Nominated for an ARIA Award for their ABC album and podcast Classic Kids: Music For The Dreaming, winners of the 2019 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Group Award and the 2016 APRA Award for Excellence by an Organisation and touring widely around Australia and internationally, they are one of Australia’s most exciting and unique ensembles.
Live performances of selected works from Songbirds will be released over June and July 2020. For more information, visit: www.ensembleoffspring.com for details.
Image: Lamorna Nightingale, Claire Edwardes and Jason Noble – photo by Keith Saunders