[all the images above are by Sarah Walker]
“There is something viscerally textural about The Calling. Its colours, it’s wonderful visuals, immaculately curated to bring the feel of country and people rushing past the alleys of inner-Melbourne. [Adam] Simmons, with the aid of Sally Blackwood, tells a story with sound, movement and image with complexity and drive.
And it’s a deeply personal story brought to a climax with the exquisite final solo in collaboration with Vikram Iyengar. In those moments when dancer and player fully fused there was longing, joy, pain, confusion and liberation.”
Raphael Solarsh, Arts Hub, Melbourne. May 2018
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I met musician-composer Adam Simmons and opera director Sally Blackwood as co-participants in the Australia Arts Council’s international Arts Leaders Programme (cohort of 2017-18). We self-selected into a group to imagine a project to deliver as part of our participation in the programme. Inspired by Adam’s ongoing project, ‘The Usefulness of Art’, our focus became about creating a sustainable ecology for the arts and supporting each other as artists. Adam invited both Sally and me to collaborate on ‘The Calling’ – the next concert in The Usefulness of Art series. My role – to propose and direct movement and choreographic interventions. This premiered in Melbourne in May 2018.
The Calling is inspired by sounds and experiences from my first visit to Sri Lanka in 2016, connecting with the culture of my mother’s homeland. On a broader scale I am also curious about the themes of identity and belonging to place, and how art is an integral part of bringing these things together. I look at my own history of being born in Chelsea (near Frankston) to Anglo and Sri Lankan parents, growing up in a mix of Ballarat, Upwey and Westall, working in Melbourne and travelling internationally; and I wonder exactly where my place is, who my people are, and even who am I? My hope with The Calling is to share some of my searchings to prompt others to consider their own connections.
“The Calling is the fourth in a series of five large-scale concerts, each featuring a different ensemble, by multi-instrumentalist and composer Adam Simmons throughout 2017–18. The overarching title of the series, ‘The Usefulness of Art’, is inspired by a quote from sculptor Auguste Rodin: ‘I call useful all that gives happiness.’ In an age when the funding of the arts is always an open question, Simmons’s project is a rallying cry for the importance of art in our lives.
“As the theatre darkened, dancer Vikram Iyengar entered the stage area and moved silently through the performers, elegantly stretching his arms, turning his body. At the same time, Grant and Chan slowly turned circles, while bassists Howard Cairns and Miranda Hill gently spun their instruments. The choreographed dance culminated with Iyengar embracing Adam Simmons from behind, the two figures bending back and forth, while Simmons, in near darkness, poured forth a sputtering solo on soprano saxophone that approximated a human cry, redolent with emotion. It was an astounding moment, visually and musically, and one not likely to be forgotten.”
Des Cowley, Australian Book Review. May 2018
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The process of creating this concert, the concert itself, and the many discussions we had alongside are being collated into a project document by another Arts Leaders Programme colleague, Angelina Zucco – chief executive of the Australian String Quartet, Adelaide.