MCO Presents Blazing Trails

Percussion star Claire Edwardes joins MCO in celebration of pioneering composers

On Thursday 30 May and Sunday 2 June, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra is delighted to partner with iconic percussionist Claire Edwardes at Melbourne Recital Centre for its next orchestral series, Blazing Trails.

Led and curated by MCO Artistic Director Sophie Rowell, the program celebrates composers who amplified overlooked voices, be it Vivaldi’s work in music education, Mahler’s reappraisal of Beethoven, or Florence Price’s advocacy for women of colour.

Edwardes joins MCO for Natalie Williams’ concerto Steeling Fire – a work that pays homage to the women who fought for the right to work at the Port Kembla Steelworks in Wollongong. A vivacious Vivaldi concerto, written originally for the young recorder players at the orphanage in Venice where he taught, will also be revealed anew on the vibraphone.

“This concert highlights the ability of music to be a powerful advocate, a concept I find both inspiring and exciting,” says Rowell.

“Claire Edwardes is herself a trailblazer, a passionate supporter of her instruments and of those writing for them, as well as being a dynamic musician and performer. She brings an electricity and energy to the stage that, combined with the vibrancy of the MCO, will produce fireworks.

“I am thrilled that we are presenting the first Victorian performances of Natalie William’s mesmerising concerto,” continues Rowell. “Steeling Fire is impressive in its scale and dramatic impact, a work that is a significant addition to our genre. Claire’s virtuosity will also dazzle through Vivaldi’s effervescent Concerto.”

Claire Edwardes says: “I am super excited to be performing Natalie Williams’ Steeling Fire, the percussion concerto that she wrote for me in 2022, with MCO!

“This is a unique work inspired by the plight of the ‘women of steel’ in Wollongong. Indeed, this was a brilliant starting point, both sonically and conceptually. The piece utilises sounds from the Wollongong steelworks and also celebrates the women who fought for gender equity in their workplace in the 1980s.

“Gender equity in the classical music industry is dear to my heart and I feel really proud to be presenting a percussion concerto by a female composer (one of only a handful in existence) with MCO in Melbourne!”

Rowell adds: “Another trailblazer in this concert is Florence Price, a remarkable composer herself and advocate for other female and African American composers. These Folksongs in Counterpoint highlight her exquisite ability to paint the world with rich textures and colours.

“Beethoven’s mighty Serioso Quartet is one of the great string quartets. Mahler’s arrangement takes it to even greater proportions. By turns tempestuous and serene, I can’t wait to bring this masterpiece to life with my virtuosic MCO colleagues.”

Blazing Trails will be performed at Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, on Thursday 30 May at 7:30pm and on Sunday 2 June at 2:30pm. For tickets and details, click here.