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a2. orchestra team member Charlotte Greenway sat down with composer Amy Skellern to discuss the world premiere of her piece Sunrise on Saturn, which will be performed at our concert Triumph and Tragedy on November 23rd at Government House Ballroom.

Article No. 8

Charlotte asked Amy to describe a little bit about herself and she said, “I was originally born in South Africa and moved to Western Australia when I was 4 years old. Ever since being introduced to the piano at age 7, I’ve been composing small tunes and melodies in my head. At 9 years old, I began to learn the cello and took music lessons which exposed me to music writing even more. I studied at Churchlands Senior High School, where I learned the Double Bass in the GATE Music Program and met many amazing musicians! I began to take composition more seriously, using notation software to write for complex arrangements of instruments, such as orchestras and large ensembles. Today I am 18 years old and in my first year of studying a Bachelor of Music Composition at the University of Western Australia”.


Curious to know more about Amy’s composition, Charlotte enquired about its inspirations and meaning. Amy shared, “my composition Sunrise on Saturn is dedicated to NASA’s Cassini space mission. The mission was to successfully launch a spacecraft to Saturn and observe the planet and its unusual surroundings for scientific discovery. Launched in 1997, the spacecraft travelled 7 long years before it came into Saturn’s orbit in 2004. Cassini was a huge success in exploring Saturn along with its rings and moons thereby becoming a monumental expedition in the world of space science. Finally in 2017, Cassini reached the end of its lifespan and made its final fateful plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, and that’s where my piece comes in. Sunrise on Saturn was inspired by an image taken from the spacecraft of an ethereal sunrise on Saturn, a few months before inevitably plummeting into its atmosphere. Sunrise on Saturn aims to express the immense wonder, sadness and acceptance that came with the final moment of NASA’s Cassini space mission”.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this photo of Saturn on Feb. 25, 2017, from a distance of 762,000 miles (1.23 million kilometers). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Seeing as the piece has such a unique inspiration, Charlotte enquired if there was anything the audience should listen out for during Amy’s piece. To this Amy replied that, “the main theme of the piece is represented early on and can be heard in the clarinet. It’s a sweet and singable melody, yet with a hint of underlying tension as it doesn’t resolve the way you’d expect. I also encourage you to listen out for the woodwind instruments throughout the piece, as they carry a bouncy and cheerful melody which directly contrasts with the darker chords introduced by the string instruments, and later the brass instruments. In the second section of the piece, a new theme is introduced in a bassoon solo, which builds throughout the woodwind instruments and into the next phase of development which involves the whole orchestra”.


When asked why Amy chose to pursue composition, she responded, “composition has always amazed me because the possibilities are endless. When I compose, I strive to tell a story to the listener, and depending on who you are, everyone will hear a different story. Music is a language much more complex than any other, and it can allow for a great array of complex emotion to be heard and felt”.


Musicians and composers often have people that have influenced their style and inspire their creations. Amy said that, “excessively emotional music inspires me, as well as music themed from nature, space and colour. In this composition specifically, I was greatly inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, as well as Debussy, Messiaen and film composers James Horner and John Powell”.


And lastly, composition mostly involves bringing intangible ideas to life. Charlotte asked Amy how she manages to do this, to which she said, “coming up with ideas for composing can be a struggle. There were times during the process of composing Sunrise on Saturn that I got ‘writers-block’. However once the idea sparks, no matter how small, you can transform it to life by exploring the different aspects of that idea by expanding on it, and growing the piece through different layers.”

We absolutely look forward to performing this world premiere piece for our next concert “Triumph & Tragedy” on November 23rd. Tickets are available HERE

a2. orchestra rehearsing Amy's piece before the concert.

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