A Sunburnt Country
We met up with Maddi Goodwin, creator of the "A Sunburnt Country" Project. Three years ago, Maddi moved from Australia to Antwerp to study at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, where she’s studying two master degrees in flute and piccolo performance. After finishing her degrees in Australia it was a logical step to move to Belgium, as her two esteemed professors happen to be teaching in Antwerp and she wanted to experience the European musical world. Europe has a very rich classical music heritage, but so does Australia. Maddi wanted to create more attention for Australian arts, which is why she created the project A Sunburnt Country.
TIA: Can you tell us more about your project?
Maddi Goodwin: A Sunburnt Country is a new concert series that is centred on Australian Arts. It tells a story of Australian culture and addresses some of the issues in the country. Our first concert is multidisciplinary, involving classical music, dance and literature, and it’s going to premiere at deSingel in Antwerp. The performance on Friday is going to be very diverse, showcasing different themes and styles of Australian music and culture. It is meant for a broad international audience and is going to be entertaining as well as educational. A nice little touch is that our performance team is very international; people from all over the world are joining me in this production.
TIA: Nice, tell us, who else is involved in the project?
Maddi: There are five composers involved, and three of them have written music especially for the project – so we have the honour of performing world premieres of new music!
Michael Bakrnchev is the first composer I commissioned, and is someone I knew from when I first began studying. He is born in Australia but has Macedonian heritage, as his family migrated in the 60s. I really love his past work and his vision, so I asked him to write a piece for the project. He was enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of writing a concerto, which he very unexpectedly named after me! He combines his Australian identity with his Macedonian heritage, creating a very unique style. The Australian culture is essentially a mix of different cultures and Bakrnchev’s music reflects that perfectly.
Also, I commissioned Samantha Wolf, whom I also met during my Bachelor studies. Her piece addresses the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. It is written in a contemporary context and involves speech, recorded tape and music. The speech intertwines with the music, which makes it a powerful work with a strong, direct message.
The third contributor is William Barton, a well-known Australian musician; he will be flying over for the concert to also perform with us. Barton is an internally renowned didgeridoo player, composer, and ambassador for the Aboriginal culture, so it is an honour to work with him; his work is a very important addition to the project. In this particularly piece he is incorporating my connection to Australia as well as his own, inspired by our first meeting in 2016. The other two pieces are existing works by renowned Australian composers Ross Edwards and Anne Boyd, and are very important pieces in the Australian flute repertoire.
I am very excited to have two Australian dancers joining the project: Nicola Wills, a dancer working in Ballet Vlaanderen, will be choreographing a personal piece to the music of Boyd. Madeline Harms, currently living in the Netherlands and working with the Dutch National Opera, will be choreography a short piece to the text of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, My Country. It’s a highly vivid piece and really paints a picture of Australia as a country. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of it come together and playing this iconic music!
TIA: What inspired you to start this project?
Maddi: At first, it was about organizing a simple flute recital as a final project for my Master degree, which every Master student has to do. The Conservatoire is always stimulating multidisciplinary projects, so that encouraged me to include other arts beside music. I already had some of the artists in my personal network, so it was a natural step forward. But actually the initial inspiration for the growth of the project was a bit abstract. I came across a video recording on YouTube of Claire Chase, an American flutist, in which she performed an excerpt of ‘The Silenced’ by Jason Eckardt. I love Chase’s work and this particular performance really moved me. Something clicked, and I suddenly wanted to go for it – to challenge myself and this concept to the fullest. After seeing it, the repertoire just fell into place and the ‘A Sunburnt Country’ Project was born. Also, since moving to Antwerp I have really grown as a person and as a musician. I have more confidence and I feel that I am in the right place and on the right path. I wanted to give something back to the cultural community which has influenced me so positively.
TIA: Why should people come to the concert on Friday?
Maddi: I’ve noticed that the people I’ve met in Europe are always genuinely interested in the idea of Australia, whether they have visited or not. This project gives the community an opportunity to experience the country and its culture in an original, unique and entertaining performance. I feel that we are really doing something special, with a great team. It’s a very special thing to hear music performed for the first time, and we are honoured to be able to do so. The combination of music, literature and dance and the diversity of styles is going to make the concert unforgettable. And don’t forget William Barton coming from Australian to join us! I am in complete awe of his work; his artistry will captivate any audience.
TIA: Thank you so much for you time. Now we’re even more looking forward to the concert.
Text by Marian van Sprakelaar
Pics by A Sunburnt Country