For composer Ella Macens there is nothing quite like the feeling of standing in front of an orchestra and hearing her music come to life. The world premiere of The Space Between Stars (2017) at the 2018 Chancellor’s Concert will no doubt be an especially poignant experience for the Master of Music (Composition) student, as the piece is dedicated to her grandfather, who passed away as she was composing it.
I imagined the listener lying in an open field – the earth in total stillness.
“When I began composing this work, I imagined the listener lying in an open field – the earth in total stillness,” Ella said. “I imagined gazing up at the night sky, watching as it glowed with millions of bright, shining stars. I pondered, 'What is the space between stars? Is this space empty? Is this space silent? Could this space be charged with the energy of those who are no longer with us?'" she said.
Ella composed the piece while participating in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s inaugural National Women Composers’ Development (now called Composing Women) program (2016-17). As part of this program, she spent two days working with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Hobart. Composers Maria Grenfell and Matthew Hindson guided Ella as she workshopped early versions with the orchestra.
Professor Hindson is also included in this year’s Chancellor’s Concert program with his 1996 work LiteSPEED. This high-energy piece will kick off the night with the pulsing beat of '90s techno dance music, demanding speed and stamina from the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and conductor Maestro Eduardo Diazmuñoz.
The musical and artistic growth of our students is paramount.
Other pieces that will feature on the night include Ney Rosauro’s Concerto No. 1 for Marimba and Orchestra, to be performed by 2017 Percussion Concerto Competition winner Jing (Nancy) Zheng, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47.
“The musical and artistic growth of our students is paramount," said Professor Diazmuñoz on selecting the program. "We always strive to offer them the best possible experiences, including major works and music composed by their fellow country men and women, including their peers.”
After completing the Composing Women program last year, Ella has been in high demand. She is currently composer-in-residence with Sydney Children's Choir where she is creating six new choral works. New works created for Sydney Philharmonia Choirs VOX ensemble and Cranbrook School's choir will be performed this year at the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Town Hall respectively.
Ella is also working with the Nationwide Latvian Song Festival, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra's National Composer School, The Song Company, Sydney Festival, and the National Carillon Association of Australia, all while teaching three units of study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and completing her master's studies.