Shoalhaven project photos

I spent the weekend working with the delightful Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra, up at Riversdale, which is  part of the Bundanon estate bequeathed to the Australian people by artist Arthur Boyd. It was an incredibly satisfying project. Musically, the group proved themselves to be extremely open to creative ways of making music, and excellent collaborators, with great communication skills amongst themselves, and the ability to keep progressing through the task.

Often in these 2-day composition projects I have a team of professional musicians working with the young players. Not for this project, however. Their two music teachers/directors were there and kept an eye on the different groups as they worked, as did I… but it was satisfying to see the way the young people just got on with the task without that adult guidance or input. It suggests to me that sometimes, the adults are possibly getting in the way of the young people’s composing. Certainly this group had no shortage of ideas, and their responses to the starting points I gave them (different artworks by Arthur Boyd, and the stories behind their creation) were thoughtful and original.

Riversdale is a stunning location, built on a hill overlooking a sharp bend in the Shoalhaven River. Boyd’s home was built in a traditional homestead style and these days houses the library (complete with fantastic paintings from the Nebuchadnezzar series). Visiting groups stay in the purpose-built Boyd Education Centre, an award-winning design by Glenn Murcutt that takes you right into the heart and splendour of the landscape. There is a large rehearsal space with sliding doors that open out to a view of the mighty Shoalhaven River, guests sleep in simple, comfortable dormotories of four beds each (I had one to myself though – very privileged!), and we are woken each morning by the sweet light of sunrise.

Here are some photos of the groups at work during the day, sunrise over the river, and the view from the hall on the day of the concert.

Note for travellers:

The Bundanon Estate is open to visitors on Sundays. The nearest town is Nowra, about 3 hours drive south of Sydney. If you are travelling on to Melbourne, linger awhile through this part of the coastline – it really is beautiful. The beach and bushland national park at Jervis Bay should not be missed.


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