Music in the Sky Concerts and the new ‘Neoclassical’

Australian Institute of Music classical lecturer, accomplished pianist and academic Dr. Brieley Cutting reflects on her experiences performing with the Radu Cello Ensemble for the Music in the Sky series of concerts at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability in North Sydney.

The concerts were part of the Music in the Sky ‘Mini’ Series – labelled ‘mini’ because the shows take place in unique locations around Sydney and showcase performances designed to bring audiences closer to the music and the performing musicians. 

The musical program of Ciele Cello was designed by the talented cellist Eleanor Streatfeild from the Radu Cello Ensemble. I was delighted to be invited to collaborate with this ensemble for these performances, especially as I have greatly enjoyed working with Eleanor in previous collaborative projects. 

Through her choice of music, Eleanor aimed to align with the Music in the Sky vision and to transport the audience into a different space and time. It was also designed to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the unique and unexplored performance site: Tunnel One of the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability in North Sydney. Tunnel One is a 180 metre long, coal-loading tunnel.

The four performances of the 65-minute program including soundtrack music from Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar, solo cello works by J.S. Bach, relaxed classical tunes from Ólafur Arnalds’s popular Living Room Songs, Faure’s famous Après un rêve, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, Chopin’s solo piano Nocturne in C minor Op.48 No.1, and the premiere of new music by Mathew Minter. 

music in the sky live

On a tangent, from this concert, I discovered that the term ‘neoclassical’ seems to be applied to such music with this vibe – that is, for the collation of relaxed, sometimes minimalist, so-called ‘popular’ classical music. Indeed, Ciele Cello was sold as a celebration of ‘modern neoclassical music’. It seems this term has been adopted and revamped relatively recently. For me, as for many classical musicians, the term ‘neo-classical’ refers to the 20th century compositional trend to consciously use techniques, gestures, style, forms etc. from the Classical style. However, now in 2022, I have found that upon searching ‘neoclassical’ in Spotify, one can see the growing use of the new version of this term. I found this to be rather interesting. 

So, this carefully selected program of music was performed acoustically, naturally amplified by the crushed sandstone and heritage-condition concrete surface of the performance space. Eleanor worked hard to make sure that there was an acoustic piano available and in place for me in Tunnel One, and she worked extra hard with Music in the Sky to ensure the success of these events in spite of Covid restrictions and the flooding(!) of the venue, which caused the moving of the initial Thursday night events to the Sunday. There was much unexpected water involved and heightened drama!

I felt privileged to be a part of the amazingly well organised event. The organisers showed dedication, knowledge, courage and fortitude, and the Radu Cello Ensemble were extremely professional and delightful to work with. A fabulous start to my 2022. 

Do you have a question?

Speak with us today.