Jig's Up March 2014

Spotify has 3 million musical works available to you. Most of what you want you can find. But what if you don’t know what you want? How do you browse 3,000,000 toons? An industry friend says the opportunity is there for curation. That could be the next twist of the game.

If you like to listen to orchestral works by Australian composers, one of the more unlikely places to hear them is at a concert by an Australian orchestra. A review of the 2014 programs shows that performances of Australian works make up 4% or less of total performances for seven out of nine of the orchestras.

    And as for the opera companies, only one of the five main companies, the Victorian Opera, is performing an Australian work. However, the State Opera of South Australia is beginning a developmental program for new Australian operas. It has commissioned no less than three and has begun a long and thorough process of workshopping them so that by the time they go on stage, they will be as good as their creators can make them. Bravo!

New South Wales government treatment of multicultural arts goes beyond neglect. While Multicultural Arts Victoria, with state support, has developed a most impressive program that takes some of the best artists into fruitful professional careers and builds their audiences, and BEMAC and Kulcha in Brisbane and Perth also do a solid job, NSW governments have given less and less until support now is virtually invisible.
     The artists are about to fight back. Groundswell Arts NSW has just been launched at the Sydney Opera House. It calls for multicultural arts and artists to be treated the same as the mainstream (whatever that is!). They see this as an improvement, which is an indication of their dire straits.
     A surprising and gratifying development is that Jonathon Bielski of the SOH has offered it as the venue for a Groundswell forum and showcase later this year. That goes beyond catch-up to affirmative action.

Many in the arts community are not too happy with the prospect of having a review of the new Australian Curriculum: the Arts. It has been in the making for about five years with workshops, seminars, consultations, iterations, reviews of iterations, all involving people with actual expertise, followed by reviews by Education Departments and Ministers for Education. It has just been published but has not been tested in the classroom. The idea that two people with no expertise in the arts are helicoptered in to pass judgement is disrespectful. Why would such a strategy be expected to produce improvement?

Didg virtuoso William Barton has just completed another international tour, this time in the USA. If you haven’t heard Barton perform, take the first opportunity. Vibrant, surprising, engrossing. Would he be the first to build an international career as a didgeridu soloist? Will also plays a mean guitar in a style all his own.

Peter Winkler founded the Bondi Youth Wave, directed the music for the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, won the Ros Bower Award in 1998 for his contribution to community cultural development and has been music director for some wonderful children’s theatre – in Australia and in Seoul! Now he is giving voluntary support to his daughter Tara, also a musician.
     Nine years ago Tara, aged 19, went to Cambodia. She started supporting an orphanage in Battambang Province, which turned out to be corrupt. To rescue its 14 children she and local NGO director, Pon Jedtha, established the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) which now supports more than 200 vulnerable and underprivileged children and families in the Battambang community and has moved away from the orphanage model.

     Peter writes: “Between 2007 and 2010 CCT struggled to survive financially. Then the first Australian Story was broadcast on ABC-TV and that turned things around hugely. Since 2010 Tara and team have expanded so much that CCT is now running in deficit again so we’re hoping the upcoming Australian Story will give us the boost we need to achieve a sustainable level of activity.”

     It’s a wonderful story. Catch Australian Story on Monday March 17.

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