Astra's 2024 Season

Astra Embarks on an Expanded 2024 Season with Musical Directors Andrew Byrne and John McCaughey 

In 2024, Astra welcomes composer and artistic director Andrew Byrne to the leadership team, joining long-time musical director John McCaughey. With decades of combined experience and a shared vision, the duo is set to expand Astra’s cultural footprint with a significant increase in its concert activities in 2024.

Reflecting on this moment, John McCaughey remarks, “Astra is delighted to connect with the times in fresh ways through the arrival of Andrew Byrne as co-director. He has a long history with Astra – as composer and guest curator – but also brings a wealth of outside knowledge from many years of activity at the heart of cultural diversities in New York."

Andrew Byrne adds his own perspective: “After spending more than two decades overseas, I am thrilled to return to Melbourne and Astra, which is my musical home and has played a significant role across my musical life."

Under the leadership of Byrne and McCaughey, Astra unveils an ambitious 2024 season - eight concerts of choral, experimental, world-music, instrumental and electro-acoustic performances. The Astra Choir forms the backbone of the season with three choral events. 

The season opens with “Between Mall & Chapel” (19 May) – a mobile event in Footscray ranging from mediaeval pilgrim songs to new works by local composers. Two newly commissioned pieces for choir and processed sound that touch on historical-political figures are heard with 17th-century choral music in “Prison Job” (6 October). "Choral Forests" (8 December) explores collective singing among sounds, recordings and imagery of nature in Romanian and Australian compositions.

The Astra Choir continues to chart a special course in Australian musical life, equally at home exploring movement and theatre, traditional repertoire and newest contemporary music. In John McCaughey's words: “A choir can offer multiple forms of presentation that reflect human life, modes of collective order and cooperation. Is there a more flexible vehicle for artistic expression? Our programs attempt to reflect such complex identities of a modern choir.”

In addition to the Choir, Melbourne-based musicians of many musical traditions appear in Astra’s 2024 season. From intimate performances at the Eleventh Hour Theatre to the imposing space of Church of All Nations, audiences can expect an eclectic mix of performers – from musical traditions in Iran (Vahideh Eisaei and Elnaz Sheshgelani), Japan (Brandon Lee), Guinea (Mohammed Camara), as well as experimental musicians (Astra Improvising Choir, Alexander Meagher, and Liam Wooding), early-music performers (Laura Vaughan, Linda Kent), and Western instrumental virtuosos (Judith Dodsworth, Peter Dumsday, Linda Kent, Joy Lee, Georgina Lewis, Christopher Nankervis and more).

Reflecting on Melbourne's evolving music scene, Byrne notes, "I have been struck by how much Melbourne's musical landscape has changed in the last couple of decades thanks to a new generation of music performers from all walks of life. Astra is privileged to collaborate with a number of these artists and contribute to the city's burgeoning cultural life."