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Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:46pm

Taking Flight with Genevieve Lacey


Genevieve Lacey is a recorder virtuoso, serial collaborator and artistic director, with a significant recording catalogue and a career as an international soloist. She joins conductor Paul Kildea and the ASO for TAKING FLIGHT as part of our Gigs at Grainger series on Saturday 21 October (more info here).

In order to find out more about this astonishing artist and what you can expect from TAKING FLIGHT, we asked Ms Lacey some questions.

About yourself:

What is your favourite sound?

Your favourite smell?
The bush after rain.

Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?
Beijing, for work.

What is the strangest talent that you possess?
Most people would say playing the recorder professionally!

Where did you go to school?

What is the best thing about your work?
The privilege of doing what I love.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?
Birdsong - it’s twilight, and the doors are open out to the garden.

The different career path that you could have gone on?
My romantic escape notions involve landscape architecture or writing. Neither is based on any kind of talent or reality, but I like to dream!

Your favourite word?

Default drink of choice?

Favourite place in the world/at home?


What was your inspiration for selecting the works that we will get to hear during the concert?

Recorders have been playing bird for centuries. Our classic repertoire is graced with nightingales, cuckoos, warblers of all types, and in the eighteenth century, recorders were used for the curious, dubious pursuit of teaching caged birds to sing human tunes!

About a decade ago, I realised that all my recorder birds were European. As an Australian, with a deep love of our land, this felt odd. So began a quiet mission to work with composers to ensure different kinds of birdsong would enter the recorder’s language. Nowadays, I also play magpies, grey thrushes, honeyeaters, Little Jackie Winter, and most recently, butcherbirds.

This concert traces music in flight, and the environments in which these airborne creations live. We hear birdsong and bird-inspired music, alongside Rebel’s eighteenth-century creation story, which conjures up the environment in which our winged friends exist. From Finnish whooper swans and shore larks to Australian butcher birds, via an Estonian composer’s dream of our ancient continent, composed in the European springtime in a woodland alive with birds, this is a poetic evocation of our natural world. 

Which piece on the program are you most excited about and why?

Hollis Taylor’s Absolute Bird. It’s one of the greatest joys and privileges of a life in music to premiere a piece that you’ve commissioned. I can’t wait to hear this piece come to life for the very first time with Paul Kildea and the ASO! Hollis will be with us for the rehearsals and performance, and it will be fantastic to have her voice in the room to guide and inspire us. 

Do you enjoy collaborating with orchestras? In what ways do you have to adapt your playing having the huge body of sound behind you?

I love playing with orchestras - there’s nothing like being surrounded by that lush kaleidoscope of sound. Even though the recorder’s small, it has an amazing ability to cut through sound, and in the skilled hands of fine composers like the ones we’re playing, as well as with some judicious technical assistance, you’ll have no trouble hearing it even in the midst of an orchestra in full flight. So technically, my approach and sound doesn’t change much. But mentally, the attitude to playing a concerto is utterly different from playing chamber music. In preparation, I feel like I’m training not just my fingers and ears to be at their most formidable, but also my nerves to be at their most steely.

Genevieve Lacey and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at Mona's Synaesthesia

What will it be like sitting in Grainger Studio listening to the music? How might the experience of the concert inspire us sitting in the audience? What might we take away from the night?

We think of this concert as a kind of listening reverie. A chance to wend your way through land, dream and air-scapes, in the spirit of Plato’s idea of music, “giving wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything”.

What is something that people might not know about the recorder?

The most exquisite recorders are Australian made, sometimes even of Australian wood. 

How many recorders will you be bringing with you to Adelaide? Is it difficult to travel with them?

Seven! No, they’re what a dear friend of mine, a double bass player, enviously calls handbag instruments!

What does nature mean to you?

It provides sanctuary, sanity and wonder, on a daily basis. From the pleasures of growing a garden to the delight of constant observation of natural life, it gives me intense joy. I live in a city, and travel widely for work. I’m a runner, so for my daily run, always find parks, gardens, waterways, wherever I travel. And, whenever I take a break, it involves going bush, whatever form that takes, whatever country I’m in. 

Out of all your instruments, which is your favourite one and why?

I can’t pick a favourite. They each have different moods and voices, so I gravitate to different ones depending on what I need to express.


Einojuhani Rautavaara: Concerto for Birds and Orchestra “Cantus Arcticus”, Op. 61

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