Prism showcase VAMFF Arts 2018

Preparing for our 3rd consecutive year as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Arts Program 2018, we check in with NPCO Artistic Director Gemma Turvey, as she tells us about her new composition Prism and what else to expect from this 2018 Season opening concert.


Q: Tell us about your new composition, Prism?


A: I composed most of Prism back in April 2016, but put it to one side as other priorities took hold.  It wasn’t until an invitation from Melbourne Recital Centre in 2017 that I saw the perfect opportunity to premiere it and program an entire concert around the prism theme.


Sometimes when I compose the majority of the work comes out in one sitting, which is a blessed thing! When this happens, I haven’t sat down and decided “I’m going to compose a piece about ‘x’.” Rather, it interrupts my plans for the day and almost plays itself, although often at a slower tempo to begin with! This is what happened with this piece.


Q: Why did you call it Prism?


A: I knew immediately when I started playing that the music was inspired by a close friend who was navigating a very difficult phase in her life. Watching her situation unfold was like trying to look through a prism – something that distorts, slants, or colours whatever is viewed through it. This doesn’t mean the piece has blurred lines or lots of distortion, although now I think of it there are a lot of semitones which create some harmonic ‘clashes’! But there is also a lot of compassion and empathy in the work.


Q: Prism is written for Piano and String Quartet, sometimes referred to as a Piano Quintet. What made you choose to write for this combination?


A: At the time of composing, I could hear String Quartet and Piano, but interestingly I didn’t hear an obvious role for any other instrument. I think subconsciously I had been wanting to write a piece for Piano Quintet for a long time anyway, and this presented a good opportunity.


Q: What can audiences expect from the rest of the Prism concert at VAMFF Arts?


A: We first performed this concert in November 2017 at Melbourne Recital Centre and the audience response was overwhelming. Everyone had so much fun! The rest of the repertoire centres around the prism theme, – being varying angles of perception and illusion, which has so much resonance with VAMFF and the festival’s focus. I know some people’s first association with a prism might be Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon classic album cover. There isn’t any Pink Floyd, but I think thats about all this concert is lacking!


I feel a strong connection with the music in this concert and the stories that go with each of the pieces. Phoebe (viola) and I will perform Arvo Pärt’s sublime Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror). I’ve also enjoyed arranging Piazzolla’s Oblivion for the quintet. It has such a beautiful melody, and Jeremy (first violin) really makes it sing.  And we’re all very excited that Campbell will again perform Eugene Friesen’s Shadow Play as well as Ligeti’s Dialogo for solo cello!  Every time I think about it, this concert is simply overflowing with great music! 


Gemma Turvey (Piano) and NPCO String Quartet perform Prism on Wednesday 7th March 7pm at Yamaha Premium Piano Centre as part of Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program 2018. Attendance is limited to invitation only. Email to register.


Image: NPCO Artistic Director Gemma Turvey at Yamaha Premium Piano Centre, South Melbourne