In November 2008 Maribel Steel was inspired by an orchestral concert at the Melbourne Concert Hall. Enthralled by the beautiful music of Nigel Westlake’s ‘Shadow Dancers’, she came home that night with a dream and a vision – to inspire a group of people, yet unknown to her, to help bring to light the exquisite music of Tarka as a live performance for the music loving community of Victoria. And in the small hours of the night, she wrote up ‘a plan’ as she dared to dream…‘it seemed like a far fetched idea at the time, but my heart knew we would make it happen’…
Like sending a mysterious message in a bottle, Maribel believed her dream would reach the right person – she emailed her local community. Mary Crooks responded, ‘Sounds interesting, let’s talk‘…and thus collaborative plans began between Spring Studio and The Victorian Women’s Trust.
Tarka the music – Watermark the book
Tarka – is a modern symphonic work in three movements with a codicil, the Anthem. It was first performed and recorded by members of The London Philharmonic and BBC National Orchestras in Wembly studios 1978. Co-composers Harry Williamson and Anthony Phillips also play on that recording, inspired to write the music in 1976 as a homage to Henry Williamson’s classic book ‘Tarka the Otter’. Henry’s magical descriptions of the natural world have helped open the eyes of so many to the beauty of England’s West country. Tarka was finally completed after much heartache it was released to critical acclaim in 1988. The recordings remained high in the British New Music Charts for several months and achieved considerable sales.
Watermark – is a thoroughly researched book produced by The Victorian Women’s Trust (VWT) as a wake up call to the citizens of Australia to become actively involved with plans and projects to conserve precious water supplies. As Executive Director, Mary Crooks saw the obvious natural link between the music of Tarka – literally meaning ‘wandering as water’ – with the message of Our Watermark.
With the seeds of possibilities now sown, Harry and Anthony found themselves swept away in the dream, collaborating all over again, after 30 years! The scores were retrieved from their various hiding places in the UK and Australia and dusted off for revision – the work would need re-scoring in places, to accommodate the needs of a live orchestra.
Copious emails between the composers ensued as Anthony checked his guitar parts with his original score before posting his corrections to Harry 12,000 miles away in Australia. The two musicians and old friends meticulously compared notes and sometimes, relying on their memories of the different orchestral parts rewrote small sections via the internet using the scoring software Sibelius.
Anthony’s checked scores arrived safely in February 2009, as several huge packages, and Harry took on transcribing the 1000 bars into Sibelius, so that clarifications and improvements could be easily achieved.
Work in progress
The complete Tarka movements one, two, three and finale – the anthem, were handed over to Gerald Keuneman, conductor of The Whitehorse Orchestra, who began rehearsals
The concert generated much excitement from various well known Melbourne based musicians taking part.
Concert + guest musicians
Internationally renowned guitarist, Doug De Vries took the challenge of learning Anthony Phillip’s part in altered tunings as Anthony cold not be here for the concert. Harry and Doug were be joint soloists with The Whitehorse Orchestra for the performance of Tarka
- The music feast didi not end there! – in the second half we featured other fine artists.
- Kavisha Mazzella – acclaimed singer
- Invention In Time – Vibraphone and Marimba Duo
- Michael Johnson – Solo harpist
- Doug De Vries – Solo guitar
- Northern Voice Choir
Mary Crooks presented excerpts from the Watermark Book in between acts in the second half of the concert. The World Premiere Live Performance Of Tarka was performed at The Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday 27th February 2010 at 2pm + 7.30pm
You can see more images from the concert here
A DVD of the locations featured in the Book Tarka the Otter was filmed in 2009 in Devon and the result is available from Spring Studio