On the Couch with Claire Edwardes

Arts Review On the Couch Claire EdwardesWho is Claire Edwardes?
I am a percussionist and artistic director of Ensemble Offspring, cook, gardener and mother of two. People often ask what percussion is and what it entails – usually I just say drums and xylophone to keep it simple but actually it’s so much more. I am often required to play a huge combination of instruments ranging from the giant 5 octave marimba to bass drum to cymbals to brake drums (from a car) and even bubbles!

What would you do differently to what you do now?  
Actually probably very little. My only gripe with being a percussionist is the sheer amount of energy, time and effort it takes to move all of my gear around. It is complex logistically and I find this frustrating. But actually being a percussionist is the most exciting, fun and varied career one could ask for and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who inspires you and why?
My departing co-Artistic Director at Ensemble Offspring, the Sydney composer Damien Ricketson has been a huge inspiration to me over the years – his creative thinking and boundless energy for making amazing music happen has been uplifting. Likewise the Australian Art Orchestra Artistic Director Peter Knight, with whom we are collaborating on Exit Ceremonies, is a big inspiration to me for his open mindedness, vision and commitment to the making of our art at the highest possible level.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I feel that championing contemporary classical music ie music that is not the norm – music that challenges and inspires and makes a difference to people’s lives is the best way in which I can make a difference in the world. I am passionate about the music of our time and in particular Australian music. I truly believe that when audiences experience musicians such as the members of Ensemble Offspring giving their all on stage they can be drawn into a new world of sound which can potentially change their lives.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I am a big beach goer and love nothing more than sunning myself then taking a dip in the ocean. I am currently in Forster on the north coast of NSW and earlier in the year I was lucky enough to travel to Bali for some much-needed R&R. I lived in Europe from 1999-2006 and during that time travelled extensively to beach destinations such as Croatia, Sardinia and the Greek Islands – if I could I’d go back every year!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
It goes without saying that a trip around Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House are a must for out of towners. I love it when my five year old daughter Poppy sees the Opera House and says ‘that’s where you work isn’t it Mummy’. Although I don’t have a full time job in one of the orchestras I do indeed perform a great deal at the Sydney Opera House and it actually makes me feel proud when she says that.

What are you currently reading?
With two young girls and a busy career novels are a tricky thing for me to have time to get into but I do read a lot of books on music and I am currently reading Musicking by Christopher Small. This is a marvelous book which looks into our preconceptions about how and why music is presented – I am obsessed with changing up the traditional norms of concert presentation and this is also at the core of Ensemble Offspring’s reason for being.

What are you currently listening to?
On the radio I move between FBI (Sydney’s best community radio station) and ABC Classic FM so that gives you a bit of an idea of the breadth of my tastes. But I’d say my current favourite album is Szymon’s Tigersapp, which I first heard on FBI. There is a really sad story around this album and I’d urge everyone to check it out.

Happiness is?
A glass of wine with friends and loved ones on a sunny terrace with awesome music playing in the background!

What does the future hold for you?
In 2016 I take over as sole Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring so it’s actually a really exciting time for me. I am really looking forward to what we have coming up at the Sydney Festival with Exit Ceremonies and beyond that more generally excited about discovering and playing new music – Ensemble Offspring has a mammoth year in 2016 with performances at the National Maritime Museum, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Ngaringa Arts Centre (Adelaide Hills).

Exit Ceremonies is Ensemble Offspring’s Sydney Festival collaboration with Melbourne’s Australian Art Orchestra. Aussie composers Simon James Philips and Austin Buckett have both made really special bespoke long form pieces for organ and mixed ensemble and the lush and pulsating sound worlds are sure to envelop audiences and make for an unforgettable sonic journey.

Exit Ceremonies will be presented as part of the Sydney Festival on Saturday 23 January, and then at the Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday 6 February 2016. For more information, visit: www.ensembleoffspring.com for details.

Image: Claire Edwardes – photo by Monty Coles