For the past few months visitors to the Melbourne Recital Centre have been able to get their hands on a piece of history as they played the Federation Handbells in the foyer. The Handbells are beautifully crafted instruments that were originally commissioned by Arts Victoria for the 2001 Centenary of Federation and are considered one of the great iconic musical instruments identified with Melbourne.
The world’s first true harmonic bells, the Federation Handbells cover two chromatic piano octaves (from E to D#) and consist of 24 bells. They are on display in Melbourne Recital Centre’s foyer until September. And now, in an exciting collaboration between Melbourne Recital Centre and Museum Victoria, four new commissions have been created for the Federation Handbells by some of Melbourne’s most exciting composers and musicians.
These four pieces will premiere as free performances at Melbourne Recital Centre, where the Bells’ beautiful tones ring through the foyers. Each of the four composers has been asked to write a piece around the theme of “Quiddity” the essential nature of something.
The free performances are as follows:
In the first commission for the beautiful Federation Bells, Martin Martini will explore the essential nature of the unconscious – the sleeper – the day dreamer – the moment where we pass from being awake to being asleep. Martin will pair the bells with piano and song in a piece that will emphasise the ethereal nature of the Federation Bells.
Friday 1 August, 6.30 – 6:50pm, Melbourne Recital Centre foyers.
Prior to Festival of Beautiful Sound
Elissa Goodrich’s new composition for the Federation Bells explores the quiddity of sound and movement. Her work is inspired by the poem Andante by Gwen Harwood.
Why do I have an image/ of owls with…bells/ hung from the tarsus, hunting/
Hunger, music and death./ And after that the calm/ full frontal stare of silence.
Elissa says she wants to explore “the essential qualities of the bells – how the sound hangs in the air and how we hear and indeed can follow traces of sound moving in air and its changing effect and movement as it decays.”
Elissa is joined by Elliot Folvig (electric guitar) and Craig Beard (percussion).
Wednesday 27 August, 7 – 7.20pm, Melbourne Recital Centre foyers.
Prior to Nicolas Hodges (Great Performers series)
Adam Simmons presents his new commission, which pairs the bells with shakuhachi, soprano and percussion. Adam’s piece promises music of gentle beauty, harnessing the spirit and essence of the Bells. Adam is joined by Melbourne Recital Centre regulars Deborah Kaiser and David Jones for a piece that promises to embody the spirit and essence of these beautiful instruments.
Thursday 4 September, 6:30 – 6.50pm, Melbourne Recital Centre foyers
Prior to Ensemble Liaison: The Diary of Anne Frank and Trio Anima Mundi
Steve Falk has worked extensively with the Federation Bells. Earlier this year, Steve conducted the Federation Bells community composition workshops and performance as part of the celebrations for Melbourne Recital Centre’s 5th Birthday. In a new composition for the bells, Steve will explore the nature of sound waves, pairing the bells with the elf-like sound of the glockenspiel.
Friday 12 September, 7–7.20pm, Melbourne Recital Centre foyers
Prior to Joe Henry