On the Couch with Alex Gorbatov

Alex Gorbatov photo by Ian LaidlawWho is Alex Gorbatov?
I am a classical singer and music director based here in Naarm and one of the artistic directors of Divisi Chamber Singers. I grew up singing in the car with mum and in choirs a slew of choirs, predominantly Sydney Children’s Choir under Lyn Williams OAM. I fell in love with singing there and knew it was what I needed to do for the rest of my life.

Since finishing my undergrad in Music, I’ve performed with a number of the countries best ensembles such as Song Company, Luminescence Chamber Singers, and our very own Consort of Melbourne. Divisi has been my main project for the last 5 or so years and has been such a great opportunity to create a musical identity around the performance of new music and taking risks on interesting ideas and on putting queer stories in the centre of classical music making.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
More music, and a little more nature, but mostly more music. Since starting Divisi I’ve learnt this incredible freedom that comes with producing your own shows – we can do whatever we want as long as we can find some cash to do it with. The limiting factor is always the time of the people involved.

If I could wake up tomorrow and quit my day job and do music full time I would in an instant. Perform more early music and get into performing some jazz as well as singing in or directing a larger ensemble – all of these would be great.

Who inspires you and why?
Currently some of my biggest inspirations are people right here in Melbourne. I love seeing queer people being audacious and entrepreneurial – pushing boundaries and inventing new things for themselves which are often so creatively interesting. People like Mama Alto, Miranda Hill, Themme Fatale, and even our very own Coady Green.

These are all people who are incredible performers in all their art forms. This would be enough to be inspiring but, they each very bravely push for queer stories to be at the front and centre of their practice and find ways to get their stories in front of as many people as possible. I don’t think we need to look anywhere else to find inspiring people when we have so many in our own backyard.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Huge question! I want to help other people tell their stories in different ways. When people get something out of art I think it is the story behind it, its history, its reality, and telling these stories with art is a way of preserving and creating history.

Telling stories about queer joy, queer realities, and queer success and documenting it for the future really helps people. It brings communities together and creates the conditions for more queer joy. If this makes a positive difference in one persons life, that is a major difference in the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I think it’s probably the East Coast of New South Wales, especially around the Hawkesbury River just north of Sydney (sorry to betray you Victoria). Those waterways have so many childhood memories and are some of the most beautiful places in the world and right at our doorstep. Being in the water and seeing so much life around is inspiring.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
We eat and we dance! The first recommendation I have for anyone who loves music and is visiting Melbourne is Rook’s Return on a Wednesday night. Some incredibly high standard jazz for free in one of the cities iconic dive bars. The Rookies, (the band) give a truly world-class performance and the audience, packed like sardines into this tiny venue dancing and laughing, makes the vibes immaculate. If you don’t mind a little bit of sweat and pushing through others with your drink, it can’t be beat.

What are you currently reading?
Embarrassingly, I struggle to read at the best of times. I’ve been doing a lot of podcasting instead! This American Life, Australian Politics with Katherine Murphy, and Half-assed History keep me on my toes for drives to rehearsal and the occasional plane trip. I recently finished Stephen Fry’s Mythos series which are a really engaging retelling of the Greek myths.

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve been going back to old favourites lately – Wally Gun: The Ascendant and Bach: Motets (Monteverdi Choir recording) keeping me calm and collected. When I need to get excited I’ll listen to a little techno, hyper-pop or high bpm funk like Kaelin Ellis. I recently came across Meara O’Reilly’s Hockets for Two Voices which are enchanting and exciting. A really cool exploration of how we can use recording technology as an extension of the voice.

Happiness is?
Happiness is good food, good music, and good people. My siblings are muso’s too, not professionals but very good in their own right. I spent some time in Sydney with them this summer and playing music with them was pretty special.

What does the future hold for you?
This year I’m going back to do an Honours year in Music at Melbourne University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music as a way to get more music into my life and I have also been accepted into the Song Company’s Apprentice program this year. Divisi also has a big year coming up, after this February we have our annual performance at the fortyfivedownstairs Chamber Music Festival and a major commissioning project we are chomping at the bit to announce.

Personally, I hope to be performing as much as possible whether it is here or overseas. I’m keeping a few goals in sight, like doing a Masters at Scholar Cantorum in Basel but I’m mostly keeping my options open. As long as I get to sing with good people, that will be a good future for me.

Alex can be seen in Divisi Chamber Singers’ a love is a love is a love – a celebration of queer voices and perspectives at the Melbourne Recital Centre, as part of the 2024 Midsumma Festival on Saturday 3 February. For more information, visit: www.melbournerecital.com.au for details.

Image: Alex Gorbatov – photo by Ian Laidlaw