Seidler Salon Series premieres emerging Con composer

Dr Daniel Yeadon (left) and Professor Neal Peres Da Costa (right) with Ella Macens (centre) in rehearsals for The Lake premiere. Photo: Mandy Campbell.

Ella Macens, one of the first students in the National Women Composer’s Development Program (now known as Composing Women) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, will premiere her latest work in the Sydney Festival’s Seidler Salon Series on 19 and 20 January.

The Lake, a six-minute work commissioned by Jason Catlett, a patron of the arts, was composed for Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Dr Daniel Yeadon (baroque cello) and Professor Neal Peres Da Costa (chamber organ), and renowned recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey for the chamber music concert series.

The young composer has had a busy start to the year with a growing list of commissions, residencies and other projects coming up in 2018.

“It’s been quite a crazy start to the year. I received this commission in mid-December, and was only able to begin working on the piece on the 2nd of January due to a festival I was helping to organise in late December.

“On 10 January, I sent the final score off to the performers, and now it’s already time for the performance! Whilst I would have loved to join everyone else in holiday mode and take a nice relaxing break over the Christmas period, this piece deserved my full attention, especially considering I had never previously written for the chamber organ or Baroque cello, and had only had one prior experience writing for recorder.

“So instead of going on the relaxing holiday I had dreamed of, I worked to find my own escape through writing this composition. It is meditative piece of music that is intended to depict the complete serenity one might experience while looking over a still lake where not a single ripple dances,” she said.

Many of Ella‘s commissions she attributes to the two-year development program that has fine-tuned her technical skills and opened doors to composition work in the industry.

“There is so much to be said about the Composing Women program and all that I learnt from working with such esteemed musicians, mentors and organisations.

“On reflection, I think I can categorise all that I learnt, and am still learning, into three areas: the practical, which includes time spent composing and workshopping new pieces, and working with my supervisor Professor Matthew Hindson AM to create the best music I can; the social, which includes learning how to effectively communicate with performers and conductors; and the career-establishing aspect that embodies everything else – from learning how to juggle multiple deadlines; the effective use of social media and establishing an online presence; the ability to approach organisations and ensembles to commission new works; managing the minutes on the clock and the finances; and lastly and most importantly, the ability to foster positive connections with others in the creative field.

“Through a series of workshops with performers, conductors, artistic directors, tax accountants, publicists and marketing managers, to name a few, the program has equipped me with the skills necessary to confidently continue carving out my place in Australia’s music scene,” said Ella.

Her next commissions are writing choral pieces for the centenary of Cranbrook School in Sydney and for Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. She is also the composer-in-residence with Sydney Children’s Choir, has been commissioned to work with the Song Company once again, and has been offered a place in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s composer training program for the next two years.

Ella Macens, who is of Latvian background, was on the organising committee for the 35th Australian Latvian Youth Festival held in Sydney from 28 to 31 December last year. She was responsible for organising the festival’s opening concert, which showcased the musical talent alive among the youth of the Australian Latvian community.

In June this year, she will travel to Rīga, Latvia’s capital, with her family to participate in the country’s centenary celebrations that will include singing in a mass choir of around 15,000 singers from Latvian communities around the world. During the week-long festivities, a concert titled Diaspora Day will showcase music composed by Latvians living outside of Latvia. Ella has been commissioned to compose a new choral work for the concert.

“Somewhere in between all the commissions, concerts and celebrations, I also need to write my thesis for the Master of Music (Composition),” Ella laughs. “So, it truly is going to be a very busy year.”

Until then, Ella will attend the premiere of her new work The Lake in the Seidler-designed Surry Hills office building and home to the Australia Council this Saturday. Her teacher, Professor Matthew Hindson AM, along with fellow composer greats, Carl Vine AO and Dr Paul Stanhope, will also have their music performed by the Goldner String Quartet in the Seidler Salon Series this weekend.