Q&A with Artistic Director Pianist/Composer Gemma Turvey

We posed a few questions to Artistic Director Gemma Turvey ahead of her final Essence duo concert of the year on Monday 9th November with vibraphone and percussionist Craig Beard.


Q.   What are you looking forward to in this final Essence concert?

Craig Beard, or ‘Beardsy’ as he likes to be called, is a mesmerising improviser and the vibraphone is an absolutely stunning instrument. Together with his auxiliary percussion thrown in, we have so much fun together when we play. We’re both looking forward to sharing the music with everyone, and the Salon is such a wonderful intimate venue.


Q.    What music can we expect to hear on Monday night?

We’ve had a lot of fun putting the set list together for this concert. I have been hooked on the latest Netflix drama ‘Narcos’ and have transcribed/arranged the opening theme song Tuyo for vibraphone and piano! It sounds like an old ‘30’s tango, but was actually only written earlier this year by Rodrigo Amarante for the TV drama. We’re also including Dave Grusin’s Mountain Dance – made popular by the 1980’s film ‘Falling in Love’. We’re also featuring a couple of Craig’s original compositions, and of course some NPCO favourites. So, lots to look forward to!


Q. Who is your favourite vibraphonist? Does he/she have any influence on you?

Aside from Craig!, I would have to say the late great Milt Jackson. Milt was such a lyrical improviser, I would listen to him for weeks on end when I was studying at the Conservatorium, and buy old LPs of his albums from the second hand record store in Brisbane (much to my parents’ bemusement!)


Q. Do you have any pre-performance habits or superstitions?

Practice! I used to have some superstitions of sorts – such as needing at least 8 hours sleep before a concert, eat well but avoid coffee before performing, and a minimum 20 minute warm up at the piano before performing. This was all thrown out the window when I was on tour in Germany in my early 20s, and had to grab 6 hours sleep on the floor of a friend’s room, have a handful of almonds for breakfast and a (much needed) cup of coffee before performing a Liszt Etude for a house concert that morning! The performance went surprisingly well, and I was liberated from my pre-performance ‘routine’. Nowadays I still try to make sure I’m rested though, and usually like to meditate for 5 minutes before going on stage.


Q.  What has this year’s Essence Series meant to you?

The Essence series has been such a special addition to our Concert Season this year. As well as celebrating and showcasing some of the diverse talents of the NPCO core musicians, it has also been a wonderful excuse for us to spend more time getting to know each other musically and personally, through preparing and rehearsing. I am looking forward to continuing the Series in 2016, and hope to feature our French hornist Rosie Savage, and viola player Phoebe Green, amongst others.


NPCO Essence Concert #3: 6pm Monday 9 November

Melbourne Recital Centre, Salon

Tickets $38 standard / $28 concession  Phone 03 9699 3333 or online melbournerecital.com.au