On the lower ground floor of Fine Music 102.5, tucked into Studio C, the Acacia Quartet are hard at work. Their name chosen to depict the wattle flower, it has, like them, evolved to represent a dedication to Australian music and composers. At the end of 2016, Fine Music will be bidding Acacia farewell as their time as Artist in Residence comes to an end. After three years, and a wonderful partnership, it is time for the quartet to spread their wings.
Though they had already been nominated for an ARIA and an APRA-AMCOS award, few people had heard of the Acacia Quartet in 2014. Bringing together a wealth of talent in the guise of violinists Lisa Stewart and Myee Clohessy, violist Stefan Duwe and cellist Anna Martin-Scrase, the quartet needed to find a way to have their voice heard. Fortunately Liz Terracini, then General Manager of Fine Music, stepped in and invited the quartet to have a ‘Media Package’. As Myee Clohessy explains, suddenly, Acacia went ‘from being a relatively unknown ensemble to being recognised as one of Australia’s leading ensembles’. Fine Music’s support combined with Acacia’s hard work and dedication allowed them to find their niche and unique voice.
Acacia’s dream was to have an Australian presence. Not only have they collaborated with musicians and composers such as Nick Russionello, Sally Whitwell and Elena Kats-Chernin (to name but a few) but they have also toured broadly throughout regional NSW. For Clohessy, this has meant a return to her roots. Having grown up in the Southern Highlands, Clohessy recalls how her Mum would look up the broadcast programme on radio and ‘record them, to let me listen to when I came home from school’. On the morning that she spoke to Fine Music, Clohessy had watched a 12-year-old girl play a Mozart violin concerto with her regional orchestra.‘It reminded me,’ Clohessy mused, ‘of opportunities that I got when I was young. Now (with Acacia) I want to give opportunities to young people for them to be exposed to top-quality music.’
This dedication to fostering a love for music across the generations is perhaps why Acacia have been selected for the Raphael Project. In May next year, they will travel to Berlin to record and perform three string quartets by the German composer, Günter Raphael. Though Berlin may seem a far cry from Bellingen, the origins of the project are closer to home. Lisa Stewart worked in Germany for many years and it is there that she met Fredrik Pachla, Raphael’s son-in-law. On hearing of the death of Pachla’s wife, solo violinist Christine Raphael, Stewart felt she needed to contact him. As she told Fine Music, ‘We began conversing with each other and talking about having lost such loved ones. Fredrik told me about the Christine Raphael Foundation and how it was an everlasting memory of her achievements promoting the overall presence of her father, Günter Raphael’s works. I was so touched by Fredrik’s love of both Christine and her father Günter Raphael that I was keen to know more. I told Fredrik of my life now in Acacia Quartet and said how I would love to hear Raphael’s music and was saddened to hear that Raphael’s music had been banned during the Nazi regime in Germany, and hoped that perhaps we could bring Günter Raphael’s music to Australia.’
Pachla agreed and sent over CDs of his wife playing her father’s music as well as scores
of the works. The quartet fell in love with the music and after a couple of phone calls had an invitation to Berlin to record three (of Raphael’s six) quartets. As Stewart had hoped, they will also be performing these forgotten works at the Sydney Opera House and the Bowral Autumn Music Festival next year.
For a quartet to cross the world (with their precious instruments in tow) is not, however, an inexpensive undertaking. Acacia hope their craft can help them raise the necessary funds. On the 6th of November, they will be holding their annual fundraise at The Rose Room, Burradoo – combining country surrounds, great food and beautiful music, it is the Acacia Quartet epitomised.
Fine Music should be proud of what they have nurtured. They have helped an ensemble grow and, in the process, assisted new composers to become established while ensuring that old ones are not forgotten. The Acacia Quartet is now fully in bloom.
– Nicky Gluch
A word of thanks from Myee Clohessy:
Acacia would love to thank Fine Music for their vision in recognising the Quartet’s potential back in 2014. Since being Artists in Residence we have received such great support from the Directors at Fine Music. Behind the scenes there have been so many amazing volunteers and staff that have welcomed and supported us. In particular, Acacia would love to say a huge thank you to Program Coordinator Steve-Marc McCulloch. We wish next year’s Artist in Residence the best of luck with their musical journey and urge other ensembles to apply for this wonderful opportunity.