Claire takes to the stage with the ASO for the World Premiere of Anne Cawrse’s Marimba Concerto, written especially for her. In this Q&A, Claire discusses her passion for music, her journey as a percussionist, her collaboration with Anne.
What ignited your passion for music, and what drew you to the marimba?
Music has been a bug for me since starting the piano aged 5. During primary school I was also quite serious about the flute and was just a self-taught percussionist playing in community wind ensembles, until I started my Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium age 18.Piano stayed with me until my early 20s and I definitely have that to owe for my penchant for the marimba and mallet percussion instruments in general. Basically percussionists tend to start on either the piano or drumkit and those of us who are lucky enough to start on piano seem to have a natural tendency towards marimba and reading music pretty easily. The marimba has certain challenges though that are quite different to the piano due to its sheer size and length. It is impossible to play the top note and the bottom note at the same time and the margin for error is high also because of the height that the sticks have to travel above the keyboard to move around. Unfortunately also instead of having 10 fingers we have 4 mallets so our dexterity is more limited than a pianist. On the plus side we have this awesome mellow woody tone and the capability of playing funky rhythms in a very visceral and physical way!
You will be performing the World Premiere of Adelaide composer Anne Cawrse’s Marimba Concerto – how does this make you feel?
There are a lot of moving parts to a concerto commission (finding the funding, getting an orchestra to commit to the premiere, the composer writing an idiomatic and effective work, etc. etc.) and in my relatively long career I have only had a handful of percussion concertos written for me simply because they are a tricky thing to get up. I have actually never had a marimba concerto written for me so this one is extremely special to me – also because it will be my first time playing with the ASO and Elena Schwarz. Lots of exciting firsts– I literally can’t wait!
Tell us about your collaboration with Anne on the Marimba Concerto.
Anne is a truly amazing collaborator and we work extremely naturally together. She would send me snippets of material and then drafts of movements for feedback as she composed them and I would send my feedback and thoughts. Completely without ego she would take on my comments and integrate them until we were both happy with the final product.
How does it feel to be part of a concert that brings together a female soloist, composer, and conductor?
It makes me feel very proud and very excited about the positive role modelling we are creating just in this one program for all young females who attend. I aim to inspire and motivate young girls and women to be anything and everything they want to be and that includes being a solo percussionist, a conductor or a famous composer – and this concert will no doubt do this!