After a fortuitous conversation with flautist Sally Walker, a Coogee bank teller introduced her to his mum.
15 years later his mum has written a concerto for her talented and dear friend.
ELENA KATS-CHERNIN’s Flute Concerto Night and Now
WORLD PREMIERE Darwin Symphony, 24 October 2015
MELBOURNE PREMIERE Zelman Symphony, 5 December 2015
15 years ago a conversation with a bank teller in Coogee led flautist Sally Walker to a fortuitous and solid friendship with Elena Kats-Chernin, one of Australia’s most celebrated composers. She was the bank teller’s mum!
The latest chapter in their relationship is the premiere with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra of Night and Now, a flute concerto Elena has written specially for her.
Attempting to resolve a problem with receiving her bank statements in Germany (where she was then resident), Sally visited branches in Bondi and Coogee over two days. Coincidentally, in each branch, she was served by the same ‘handsome young man’.
On the second day, they chatted and realized they’d both lived in Hannover. Sally explained that she was a musician, and studied and worked there.
“My mum is a musician too, a composer,” said the bank teller. “She writes ‘acid-funk-new age’. Her name is Elena Kats-Chernin.”
Sally recalls: “This made me smile. She is incredible, but I’m not sure I’d call her work acid-funk-new age. I had heard “Clocks” and loved it, so was familiar with her captivating and imaginative musical language. I was promoting Australian Music in my chamber concerts in Germany and so was very keen to know if she had written anything for flute. I left a note with him for her asking this and my number. Meeting her son twice seemed serendipitous.”
She adds these co-incidences have become regular occurrences: “Last week when we met for dinner, we had exactly the same burgundy wooden necklace on – one neither of us wear often and neither of us knew the other one had. These slightly eerie things have repeatedly happened to us.”
Elena called Sally and the pair met up, clicking immediately. Despite living on separate continents a bond was formed, further cemented when Sally returned to Australia to live. It was the beginning of a long and strong relationship, connecting personally and professionally.
“What is really funny is that I normally don’t call people,” says Elena. “That’s not the way it usually works. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but more that I believe in chance. I like to leave things to chance. But the way I came to meet with Sally was just meant to be.”
Over the 15-year period, Elena and Sally have both enjoyed great successes and their respective careers have flourished. Sally has toured and recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, was Principal Flute of the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss and performed as Guest Principal Flute with the City of Birmingham Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and NDR Radio Philharmonie Hannover. After playing full-time with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 2003-2005, she returned to Australia in 2006 and is currently the Lecturer in Flute at the University of Newcastle and touring with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Elena’s star continues to rise and The Sydney Morning Herald says that “her status as one of this country’s most prolific and consistently innovative composers remains unchallenged”. Her work has been heard in the most intimate settings, through to the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Her music for ballet, opera and the concert stage is performed all over the world.
So why the Darwin Symphony for the world premiere of Night and Now?
“I’d heard from a few sources about a superb new Chief Conductor at the Darwin Symphony,” says Sally. “Subsequently I was working with the group Halcyon on some really challenging contemporary music and was really impressed by the conductor, Matthew Wood. I heard him say something about travelling back to Darwin and I thought to myself, ‘it’s you!’”
During the project, Sally told him about the new work Elena was working on for her: “Matthew told me that the Darwin Symphony would love to premiere the work, and Elena and I thought it was an ideal fit. They present a number of works each year by Australian composers and we loved that commitment, especially from a community orchestra.”
“And the second performance will be in December in Melbourne by Zelman Symphony, with another inspiring conductor I met through Halcyon, Mark Shiell,” says Sally.
And what can we expect from the Night and Now concerto?