Astra concerts 2022

Concert 1

MAY-DAY IN JUNE: “To sing on the Streets”

Music of Hanns Eisler, Margaret Sutherland, Elisabeth Lutyens

Saturday 25 June, 4 pm and 7.30pm

Church of All Nations, Palmerston St, Carlton

with new works by

George Dreyfus, Kym Dillon, Barry McKimm, Andrew Byrne, Richard Sanderson

The Astra Choir & soloists

with Niels Bijl (saxophone), Alexander Meagher (percussion),
Kim Bastin & Joy Lee (pianos)
conducted by John McCaughey

Music exists among calamities of many eras. Sometimes it gave expression to them, sometimes its composers engaged with the social struggles against them. None more so than Hanns Eisler, whose works in this program span from the streets of 1920's Weimar Germany to the post-war years and collaborations with Bertolt Brecht in the USA and East Germany.

George Dreyfus, dean of Australia's composers, has joined the Scot Thea Musgrave in the rare ranks of musical history who continued to write new works well into their nineties. Since 2019 he has composed a choral trilogy reflecting on specific catastrophic events in Nazi Germany, from which he escaped with his Jewish family, arriving in Melbourne at age 11 in 1939. The first two works are heard in this concert, recalling a failed action by a Jewish Communist group in Berlin in 1942, and the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944.

Themes of historical darkness and light, of mental states and refugees, are taken up in the other new choral works of the concert by Kym Dillon and Barry McKimm, and in Elisabeth Lutyens' 1942 setting of W.H. Auden's "Refugee Blues". The multiple rhythmic energies of outdoor drums in Eisler's street choruses extend into new solo percussion compositions by Andrew Byrne and Richard Sanderson.


Concert 2


Australian premiere

With responses from composers (2022)

Warren Burt, Andrew Byrne, David Chesworth,
Wally Gunn, Kate Neal, Catherine Schieve

Curated by Andrew Byrne

Saturday 27 August, 7 pm
Church of All Nations, 180 Palmerston Street, Carlton

Also included are commissioned works by six Australian experimental-minimalist composers who come together for the first time to offer individual reactions to Tom Johnson's piece.

Kim BastinPeter DumsdayJoy LeeJennifer Yu keyboard instruments
Vahideh Eisaei qanunKate Tempany tabla, Alexander Meagher percussion

Celeste, Indian harmonium, harpsichord, kalimba, melodica, organetto, piano, positiv organ, qanun, regal, tabla, toy piano, yangqin with percussion


Lead-up Event at the Grainger

Duos in motion, with rational words

Curated by Andrew Byrne

Saturday 20 August, 5 pm
The Grainger Museum, Gate 13, The University of Melbourne, Royal Parade, Parkville

Kim BastinPeter DumsdayJoy LeeJennifer Yu keyboard instruments
Vahideh Eisaei qanunKate Tempany tabla, Alexander Meagher percussion

Indian harmonium, kalimba, melodica, organetto, qanun, regal, tabla, toy piano, yangqin with percussion



Concert 3


New duos and ensemble works by performer composers Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim with Lizzy Welsh, Chloë Sobek, Alexander Garsden.

Saturday 5 November, 5 pm & 8 pm

Church of All Nations, 180 Palmerston Street, Carlton VIC 3053

Anti-World & World presents new works by Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim, continuing a two-decade collaboration that has explored the porous margins of composition, improvisation, musique concrete and psychoacoustics via dozens of performances, recordings and texts.

This concert features premieres of two Pateras/Veltheim duos (Harpsichord/Mandolin and Banjo/Virginal) and two electro-acoustic quintet compositions, for which they are joined by some of Australia’s leading exponents of new music: Alexander Garsden (Guitar), Chloë Sobek (Violone) and Lizzy Welsh (Viola d’Amore).

Pateras and Veltheim’s shared worldview has compelled them to employ music as a barricade against the inescapable drive towards consumption, convenience and commodification. In this concert, they are interrogating our communal corporeal and psychic absorption by internet-based technology, informed by key thinkers of techno-skepticism from the last 10 years, such as Nicolas Carr, Evegny Morozov, Isabelle Stengers and Shoshanna Zuboff.


Concert 4

Schütz REQUIEM 1635 with Schoenberg and Dreyfus

5 pm Sunday 4 December

Good Shepherd Chapel, Abbotsford Convent,
1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford

This concert traverses a dark path, from the Thirty Year Wars, with the epic expressive Requiem of Heinrich Schütz, to George Dreyfus's quietly dramatic memorial for a relative lost in the Shoah. Composed in his 94th year, this newest piece completes a trilogy of historical reminiscences for choir, the first two of which were performed by the Astra Choir in June.

Further 20th-century images emerge from a rich psalm setting of Carl Nielsen, from Schoenberg's lustrous vision for 'Peace on Earth' in the early century, and from Anna Akhmatova's transcending of destruction in the setting of Helen Gifford.

The concert also commemorates composer Martin Friedel following his death in early November. Allan Walker has composed his setting of Paul Celan for this occasion, and Martin Friedel's own music is represented in an environmental soundscape of a city park, and in his setting of Horatio's dark closing speech in Hamlet.

Astra Quarter-Hour Concerts

Short aural-video programs for online listening and viewing, assembled from the Astra Concerts archive from the 1950s to the present, and introducing new studio works from composers in the period of COVID-19.