The Hush Foundation recently released a new CD, Volume 18: Collective Wisdom, performed by the ACO Collective, the critically acclaimed regional and education ensemble of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
A registered charity working with patients, families and healthcare professionals to transform the culture of healthcare by channelling the power of the Arts to educate and nurture change for better outcomes for everyone involved, the Hush Foundation have revolutionized the culture of health care in Australia and across the world.
Under the guidance of Artistic Director Pekka Kuusisto, the ACO Collective combines Australia’s most talented emerging string players with the professional musicians of the ACO, to create a dynamic spirited seventeen piece string orchestra.
Twelve Australian composers were invited by the Hush Foundation to visit adolescent health units. The composers who took part in the project included: Matthew Hindson and Katia Beaugeais (NSW), Paul Stanhope and Natalie Nicolas (NSW), Stuart Greenbaum and Caerwen Martin (VIC), James Ledger and Olivia Davies (WA), Elena Kats-Chernin and Rachel Bruerville (SA), Maria Grenfell and Thomas Misson (TAS).
They attended residencies and workshops all over Australia. The time spent with the young people, who had chronic illness or mental health challenges, inspired the composers to write this honest, sympathetic music; a very heartfelt and creative way of reducing stress and anxiety for patients, families and staff in hospitals.
The Sydney launch of Hush 18 – Collective Wisdom, was hosted by ABC’s Eddie Ayres at City Recital Hall, Sydney and Conductor Benjamin Northey presented at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
ACO’s Principal Violin Helena Rathbone directed both very enriching and animated concerts. These stirring performances were scattered with interviews with performers, patients and composers.
I was fortunate to attend the world premiere concert in Sydney. Stuart Greenbaum’s The Rotation of the Earth opened the program.
This was a buoyant, cheerful and frolicking cyclic orbit featuring the rich velvet tones of the cellos. Then the music glided into a sweeping circular expression of joy and promise.
Composers Stuart Greenbaum and Caerwen Martin articulated “music can remind patients that they are more than their illness … and what they might be when they are better.”
The opening bars of Rachel Bruerville’s composition Dancing on Tiptoes are lyrical. The strings echo wondrous little musical footsteps and the pauses communicate the dancers’ hesitation but also their discriminating confidence.
Eddie Ayres introduced medical pioneer Dr Catherine Crock AM, Producer and Founder of the Hush Foundation who explained that the challenging and stressful situation associated within hospital environments has been reshaped through music which leads towards better outcomes for patients.
Maria Grenfell’s Knitting Unicorns followed with viola and violin drawing wondrous notes and then merging with the tender and poignant sounds of the entire strings.
They sustained the playful beauty of the music with palpable hints of melancholy and isolation.
The wistful celestial sounds resonated with a delicate, gentle power. The restless search was underscored by the heart beats vibrating from the double bass.
This was a magic composition.
The rhythmic and passionate playing of Natalie Nicolas’s We Won’t Let You Down integrated the resilience and courage to face any challenge into the very essence of the composition. The cries of pain and suffering were like invisible bird songs.
The soft serene beginning of James Ledger’s Daydream fused into spiritual notions that lingered and were echoed throughout the music. The fragile moments of the composition were interspersed with powerful themes that built and retreated. The coiling twisting motions of pain were tenderly drawn into a spiral of sustained hope.
Paul Stanhope’s Dancing on Clouds conveyed dancers soaring high up into the heavens where they hovered and pirouetted; floated in sequences of fragile grace tenderly nudging and playfully chasing clouds, a free falling fantasy.
This exquisite composition exuded emotional integrity juxtaposed with contemplation and uncertainty. The optimism within the dance formed chains of intensely supple and spirited movements. In the final notes you could almost hear bells rejoicing and tolling, celebrating conquering adversity,
The plucking of strings constructs a striking promenade layered with richness and depth in Thomas Misson’s Glow. The music is ponderous as it etches the struggles and pain, the distance and loneliness. The isolation resonates in the piercing aching cry of the cello.
In Katia Beaugeais’s Like Snowdrops You Will Shine wisps of white petals are harvested and blended to create a mysterious mixture of subdued sadness and comforting joy.
Together these themes cascade to form a contented chorus of continual radiant shine. The music tumbles with triumph and unassuming bravery.
The ominous and solemn sounds at the beginning of Olivia Bettina Davies’s Crystalline are followed by fluttering notes that herald moments of clarity and calm.
Pools of tears, sobs of anguish and gusts of stress permeate the composition. The sounds and patterns of light and life within the music suggest a soothing peace.
The gentle, richly tiered, lyrical and expansive music of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Moon Feather Magic is healing and affectionately uplifting.
Tumbling through the vast abyss of illness but embraced by love and protective arms the music is wistful but mindful of the spirit of cheerfulness and the hands of compassion and tenderness.
The daunting unknown is flickered with hope and the determination not to surrender in Caerwen Martin’s Stars Come Out in a Midnight Sky.
The endless sky lights up and the darkness of the night is caressed by the twinkling lights.
The music meanders through the terrain of illness, pain and anguish.
However, possibility flickers in the radiance of the shinning stars, always softly glowing, and building to a vibrant beam that can’t be diminished.
Matthew Hindson’s Nothing is Forever opens hearts and minds to the excruciating pain and suffering that with time will change and fade. The emotional intensity of this composition is communicated by the inspirationally aligned tone of the strings.
This profoundly evocative music is a declaration of beauty with the pulse of pain that beckons to be released. Twelve Australian composers reflect the dynamic, creative and innovation within the Australian contemporary music scene.
The ACO Collective has instilled the wonder and lustre of the compositions on this CD, with emotional resonance and poetic nuances communicating effectively, the fragility of life and human suffering.
They intuitively and technically articulate the delicacy, beauty and compassion within the motifs of the compositions.
Together composers and musicians are supporting patients, their families and staff in hospitals and I sincerely recommend this honest, heartfelt and beautiful recording, will make the perfect Christmas gift!
Rose Niland, NSW Special Features Correspondent, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018