The Marais Project, one of Australia’s most intriguing early music ensembles, releases a disctinctive and typically eclectic new album next month, Australian Monody. And it will celebrate the launch with a concert Precious Colours at the Independent Theatre North Sydney on Saturday afternoon 7 May.
Performers include Russell Harcourt, counter-tenor; Susie Bishop, voice and violin; Jennifer Eriksson, viola da gamba; Catherine Upex, viola da gamba; and Tommie Andersson, theorbo, 9 course lute and 9-string classical-era guitar.
The repertoire for Australian Monody reaches from greats of the past like Henry Purcell, John Dowland, Marin Marais and colonial composer, Isaac Nathan, to works by living composers Carl Vine, Gordon Kerry, Alice Chance, and Michael Nyman. Marais Project singer, Susie Bishop, also contributes an original song. In all, there are three world premieres including a new movement written by music director and viola da gambist Jenny Eriksson, composed to close the Marais suite.
The initial inspiration came from composer Gordon Kerry. He contacted Eriksson to say he had financial support from the late Marena Manzoufas to write a piece for the Marais Project which he titled Christchurch Monody, referring to the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. The ensemble already had The Aboriginal Mother by colonial composer, Isaac Nathan, in their repertoire. This song explores a similar scenario: the infamous 1838 Myall Creek Massacre of people from the Wirraayaraay clan.
Gradually, the idea formed for a whole album of Australian songs, plus a sprinkling from overseas – all sung by Australians. A welcome guest on Australian Monody is leading countertenor, Russell Harcourt who contributes several solos and duets with soprano, Susie Bishop. Historically, the rich sounds of the viols have blended especially well with the countertenor voice, and Australian Monody is no exception. Alice Chance rearranged her choral work Precious Colours for the ensemble with Harcourt in mind, as did Eriksson and Tommie Andersson in the original arrangements they made for the release.
Alongwith conventional options, the album will also soon be available in a special Dolby ATMOS mix, the first time The Marais Project has made use of this new recording technology.
Album available from MOVE Records, Buywell Music, iTunes, and streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Dolby ATMOS (via Apple Music) and Spotify
* The butterfly album cover image above left is a painting by Susie Bishop inspired by Alice Chance’s song ‘Precious Colours’. It tells the First Nations’ story of how the butterfly lost its colour – only to be immortalised in opal. The story is used with the permission of late Gamilaraay woman, Auntie June Barker.