[MUSIC/Classical ~ SA PREMIERE ~ SA]

by Adrian Miller.

Many talented female composers have made their mark on the music world over the years. For example, Barbara Strozzi was an Italian singer and composer of the Baroque period who published eight volumes of her own music, Clara Schumann was one of the most distinguished pianists and composers of the Romantic era, and Anne Cawrse lives amongst us in Adelaide. What do these three women have in common? Enough to be the basis of a new Fringe show, it would seem.

We speak with Cheryl Pickering from Various People Inc, to find out more, and begin by asking her what people can expect to see and hear at this show.

“Glorious music in an intimate space, perhaps a bit of ironing, and a cuppa…”

Why were Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann, and Anne Cawrse, in particular, chosen as the basis for this show? Is there a connecting set of circumstances?

“In 2019 Barbara Strozzi turned 400 and it was Clara’s 200th birthday, and the world didn’t seem to pay a great deal of attention,” Cheryl says. “Both these women were trailblazers in classical music, and their stories and compositions deserve to be much more widely known. Anne Cawrse is a South Australian composer on the rise, representing the next 200-year instalment of female composition and music-making.”

Is Household Names purely a performance of the songs of these female composers, or is there a theatrical component to the show?

“At Various People, we always enjoy a touch of design and theatre, and we usually manage to incorporate a cup of tea or a glass of wine for our audience. Our approach makes for a more personal connection with the music and with the performers. In the Taylor & Holmes coffee lounge, we’ll be a bit like a cosy extended family gathering.”

With a hint of gentle irreverence in the program notes it sounds as if there is a story to tell behind the music?

“There sure is!” Cheryl says. “Let’s just say there will be a bit of subtext going on…”

What particular difficulties of being a female composer are brought to light in this program?

“The duet that Anne Cawrse and I created especially for Household Names is called Mental Load – the unseen work a woman often does in managing so many areas of responsibility (professional, domestic, relational) at once. Household Names highlights some of the additional barriers to women in achieving artistic excellence, and celebrates the excellence achieved nonetheless by these three outstanding composers.”

Presentation in a café lounge sounds like it is intended to be an intimate event. But with eight performances there should be an opportunity for people to see the show?

“Absolutely,” Cheryl says. “The current restrictions and the intimate space mean that our audience numbers will be limited, which is one of the reasons we are offering several opportunities to see the show. Our Orpheus Underground in the Treasury Tunnels was similar – we could only fit 25 in the space, and by the end of the season we were doing our best to squeeze in all the requests – a couple of times we had to find space for audience members to sit on the windowsills!”

How long has Various People Inc been presenting programs like this?

“Last year we celebrated our 10th birthday. It turned out to be a rather quiet celebration, with COVID putting some of our plans on hold, but we are looking forward to finally having the opportunity to bring Household Names to our Adelaide audiences.”

What do you think people will enjoy most about this show?

“After the Household Names premiere in the Port Fairy Spring Festival, many people expressed their joy at hearing these beautiful works by our unsung heroines and the thrill of experiencing the voices ‘up close and personal’. We also brought many in the audience to tears, and several women sought us out afterwards to share similar stories of battling to find space for their own creative endeavours.

But, there’s also a bit of fun to be had,” Cheryl says. “And people always love the sense of belonging and intimacy a Various People show creates.”

Is there anything further you would like to bring to our attention about Household Names?

“Yes. Taylor & Holmes do fabulous food! A selection of food and beverages will be available for the audience to buy at the venue.”

Further info about Various People Inc performances, check out their FB page or head to www.variouspeople.com.au

Household Names performs at Taylor & Holmes Café at Freemasons Great Hall, at various times, from Tue 16 Mar to Sun 21 Mar.

Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 and adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.


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