The Australian Festival of Chamber Music is over for another year and we have returned to chilly Melbourne after an inspiring and immersive week. After such an intense period it's surprising how quickly we've both readjusted to our busy routines of work, rehearsal and teaching. It is hard to believe that only last week we were enjoying tropical mid-twenty degree days and almost unlimited practice time! However, there has been some chance for reflection on take-aways from our time in Townsville.
We took a risk in deciding to take only duets for horn and soprano this year. It is challenging music to prepare and was unknown to everyone at the festival, including our coaches. It tested our patience regularly and we were unsure how an audience would respond to something so unfamiliar. As it turned out, the risk paid off. Not only did we learn a lot from challenging ourselves and being challenged by our coaches, but the audience at the Winterschool concert on Saturday responded very positively. We had some lovely feedback from audience members reaffirming our hopes that maybe, as an unusual ensemble, we can bring something new and genuinely interesting to the table.
The festival was also a crash-course in personal growth. Aside from being excellent musicians, all of the artists were also wonderful human beings. Their calm professionalism under pressure and friendly generosity was amazing and most of them appeared, outwardly at least, to be enviably well-balanced individuals. In an industry where there are so many stories of colleagues burning out or experiencing difficult personal lives, it was refreshing and has given us something positive as individuals and an ensemble to work towards. Work-life balance is a buzzword in the corporate world and should maybe have greater consideration in ours as well.
On returning to Melbourne now our biggest challenge is to keep up the positive momentum of the last week. We have so many ideas for where we want to go musically, personally and professionally after this experience and it is going to be important for us to debrief and reflect properly. Our next concert on 25th September is a good opportunity to start implementing some of this as we work with new repertoire and artists. Having this project to return to will hopefully help us avoid that deflation that can so often follow a performance-high!