On the Couch with Ania Reynolds

CO_Ania Reynolds_photo by Rob Blackburn oncWho is Ania Reynolds?
I am the Musical Director at Circus Oz. I joined the Circus Oz Band in 2010, and became Musical Director in 2014. I also continue to work as a freelance musician and composer. I have 4 of my own bands, which are Papa Chango, Johnnie and the Johnnie Johnnies, The Whoopee Project and Los Cojones. I also continue to compose for theatre, and most recently wrote the soundtrack to Winds Of Woerr, a contemporary dance work by Torres Strait Island woman Ghenoa Gela, whom I met working at Circus Oz.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I adore my job, and I love that making music is such a big part of my life. Not only am I able to perform regularly with a wild and wonderful troupe of performers and musicians, we get to travel all around Australia and the world doing so. My favourite way to travel and experience the world is through work and projects – I find that you really get to connect with communities that way. And as a performer you are bringing something to the places you visit that can be enjoyed by so many people. Also, at Circus Oz I find I am constantly being challenged and inspired creatively. Although our big show tends to have a fairly long run of 1-2 years, there are elements (both theatrical and musical) of the show that change and evolve over that time, and that keeps me inspired and engaged. We’ve also been lucky to work on a couple of smaller projects that have had a very different scale and aesthetic to the big show, which has been great for exploring and developing a different side of the creativity of the ensemble.

So I am very happy with what I do at the moment, to be part of so many different musical projects and activities. The only thing I would change would be the weather in Melbourne during winter!

Who inspires you and why?
I am constantly inspired by the artists and musicians that I work with. I love seeing how other people’s creative minds work, which is often in ways that are completely bamboozling to me.

When I was 18 I went to see Jan Garbarek play at Hamer Hall, and was awestruck by the percussionist, Marilyn Mazur. I’d never seen anyone play with such energy, joy and vitality, and look so happy to be onstage. And her amazing musicality shone through all that. Afterwards I thought, if I become a performer I want to perform just like that!

I’ve had several very inspirational piano teachers, whose teachings weren’t limited to learning jazz scales. What I loved about learning from them was that they would talk at length about what exactly it means to be a musician – everything from discipline, to practice, to developing musical relationships with your bandmates, to understanding the elements that make up specific genres of music, to harnessing your musical energy and emotions. I guess it was looking at music as a way of practicing your life in general, as opposed to just your instrument.

When I first saw Circus Oz as an adult in 2001, the Musical Director John O’Hagan did his flying double bass act suspended from the ceiling of the Melbourne Town Hall. I was very impressed by that, and remember thinking that would be a very cool gig to have.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I like to think by being a performer and musician I am doing so, even in a small way. I think that music, theatre and art in general, can be a very powerful way of connecting with people, and bringing different cultures together. Being able to travel and tour our show is really important – when I’m on tour with Circus Oz, I love chatting to the audience after the show. When I hear how much people enjoyed or felt inspired by the show, whether they be in Madrid, Montreal, Manhattan or Maningrida, then I feel like we are contributing something valuable to the world!

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Wilson’s Prom, for a good long bushwalk interrupted by swims in the ocean. I haven’t been there for a few years, but when I was young I used to go every summer with my dad and a childhood friend. We’d do a different overnight hike each time, and it was always so glorious arriving at the campground after a good day’s walking. Sunset over Oberon Bay (looking west) is my favourite.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
I think the beauty of Melbourne is that so many cultures co-exist harmoniously. So, I would start off by taking them to my local falafel joint, Half Moon Cafe in Victoria St Mall Coburg, where the falafels are out of this world and you can sit in the mall and not hear a word of English being spoken at the tables around you. Next, we’d go to a gallery and check out some modern art – perhaps at Heide, or the Ian Potter, or ACCA. And then to a footy match at the MCG, that’s an experience not to be missed! I grew up three blocks from Windy Hill, Essendon’s old suburban ground, and have been a Bombers fan all my life. I love the sound that a crowd of 90,000 makes as the siren goes at the ‘G! In the evening, we’d go to see a band at one of Melbourne’s many wonderful live music venues – depending on the mood, maybe to Claypots in St Kilda, or our local, The Post Office Hotel in Coburg, or for a boogie at the Night Cat.

What are you currently reading?
I have a couple of books on the go – The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and Hiding The Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer, which is about the history and evolution of the art of magic and illusion.

What are you currently listening to?
I have been listening to Hermitude’s Dark Night Sweet Light, and Miso’s self-titled album. My favourite song at the moment is The Peep Tempel’s Carol – it’s Aussie, it’s punk, it’s got balls and the best lyrics I’ve heard in ages. A sort of punk celebration of the unremarkable!

Happiness is?
To be found all around. The world really does offer us so many things to enjoy – from the smell of the native garden in Royal Park after the rain, to playing to a crowd of people dancing, to the sound of a really fat dirty synth patch. Happiness is also like a bottle of wine – most enjoyable when shared with those you love.

What does the future hold for you?
I can’t wait to find out!

Ania Reynolds has worked as a freelance musician and composer after completing an Advanced Diploma of Music Performance in 2003 at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE.

She worked with Polyglot Theatre from 2000 on projects including Stop That House! (2004), We Built This City (2004-2010), Checkout! (2007), The Big Game (2008-09) and Tangle (2010-12) – which she toured to New York in July 2012 as part of the Lincoln Centre’s Summer Outdoor Festival.

Ania’s first brush with the circus was with Westside Circus’ Urban Heroes (2000). She continued with Westside Circus as a musician, musical director and composer until joining Circus Oz in 2010. Ania has also worked for the National Institute of Circus Arts, the Women’s Circus, Asking For Trouble Physical Theatre, Melbourne Workers’ Theatre Company and Asphyxia’s The Grimstones, and has scored several short films.

In 2010 Ania won a Green Room Award for Best Musical Direction in Cabaret for Yana Alana And Tha Paranas In Concert. She currently plays with afrobeat group Papa Chango; surf/garage/rock band Johnnie and the Johnnie Johnnies; and genre-busting progressivepolka-experimental-kozmigroovpost-funk-symphonichard-rock-avant-ska sonic conceptualization collective, The Whoopee Project.

Ania is currently appearing with Circus Oz in But Wait… There’s More, playing under the Big Top in Birrarung Marr until 12 July 2015. For more information, visit: www.circusoz.com for details.

Image: Ania Reynolds – photo by Rob Blackburn