From the salubrious acoustics of the world’s best concert halls to the rehearsal space at Taree’s Valley Industries, it was a day with a difference for renowned conductor and broadcaster Guy Noble and members of the Mid North Coast Sinfonia late last month.
Swapping the Opera House’s organ pipes for the backdrop of the centre’s hand painted mural, Guy conducted Sinfonia musicians through his arrangements accompanying a locally inspired song, ‘Slipstream’.
The song is part of a creative online and television project hosted by Mid North Coast musician, producer and songwriter Hugh Scott Murray and a production team including Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet film producer Martin Brown, former Channel Four commissioning editor Deborah Poulton, and former ABC researcher/producer Rebecca Casson.
The concept follows the creation of a series of original songs inspired by real stories written and recorded in collaboration with both local and international musicians.
This episode follows one involving INXS’ Kirk Pengilly, who co-wrote and recorded a song inspired by drover Vane Walker, with Hugh and more than 30 regional brass band players during a trip to Gunnedah.
For this episode Hugh has co-written Slipstream with North Coast artist Grace Hickey while spending several days with oyster farmers around Forster Tuncurry’s Wallis Lake.
Guy Noble was invited to arrange and record the string section, an integral part of the song.
“Guy’s very supportive of music in regional areas. He’s worked with artists like Harry Connick Junior, the Beach Boys, the Sydney Symphony and Opera Australia. He has this incredible ability to make everybody feel comfortable, helping the Sinfonia to rise to the challenge on the day. They were great,” said Hugh.
Sinfonia founding chair, board member and cellist Leigh Vaughan, admitted that “many orchestra members (myself included) were anxious about working with someone with such a high musical profile as Guy, but he was very relaxed and accommodating of our small community group and everyone was very happy at the end.”
Accompanied by the Sinfonia’s diverse string section, Laurieton oboist Lindsay Kaul and Forster trumpeter Nic Parsons, the song captures the essence of a life spent working on the water. Classically trained Guy arranged the parts drawing from his experience across genres and a wide range of platforms.
In the space of just over one and a half hours, he expertly led each section through the arrangement with Grace and Hugh on hand, with the result captured by North Coast sound engineer Ian Casey on state of the art Rode microphones and a portable Zoom recorder.
“They’ve never done anything like that before,” said Sinfonia conductor Heidi Lambert.
“I’m still getting comments about how much they enjoyed it.”
“I was also surprised that we managed to achieve as much as we did and that was largely due to Guy’s expertise (and the amazing support team!),” added Leigh.
Now all’s that left is to wait for the weather to warm up a little before Hugh’s childhood piano Tilly is loaded onto an oyster barge, with the Sinfonia on another, to set adrift at sunrise on the ‘Slipstream’ of Wallis Lake for the song’s grand finale. As they say, ‘stay tuned’.