It’s uncommon knowledge that corporate leader Kim Williams is a composer and passionate philanthropic advocate for new Australian music. His 2017 Peggy Glanville-Hicks lecture, one of the most inspirational public statements on art ever delivered in this country, was triggered by anger at a former Prime Minister’s refusal to deem Peter Sculthorpe worthy of a State Funeral, and an anxiety that art music, “as core to my being as breathing”, was in danger of becoming irrelevant to most.
It was also peppered with wit and fun. Riffing on his friend Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music (which took its name from a 17th-century ensemble specialising in music two decades old, and, on occasion, pre-historic relics from a century ago), he proposed a hypothetical “New Academy of Ancient Australian Music” to “promote …fresh creative adventure and to know and honour our creative past.”
The 2021 Adelaide Festival proudly gives him that very opportunity: Incredible Floridas is an entertaining and mind-expanding weekend that honours our musical elders and mounts a bold assault on cultural amnesia.
A stellar Australian cast performs not only major works by Sculthorpe, Glanville-Hicks, Richard Meale, Margaret Sutherland, Ross Edwards, Percy Grainger and Alfred Hill, but also those of the current generation that stand on their shoulders. All this alongside seminal European music of the 20th century that deeply informed their styles.
Yes, there is challenging material, but the curator’s hand balances it with “ancient” and more recent hits: Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans Suite, Grainger’s Handel in the Strand, Satie’s Gnossiennes, Messiaen’s glorious Quartet for the End of Time, Schoenberg’s luscious Transfigured Night and in a rare outing, the “other Rite of Spring”: a theatrically authentic Pierrot lunaire in all its glorious 1912 weirdness.
There is even a screening of an early rarely seen film by Peter Weir, and, prefacing each fascinating program, a poem read by one of Australia’s most beloved thespians and a former artistic director of State Theatre Company of South Australia, the remarkable John Gaden.
Choose a concert, choose a day if you must but attendance for the entire weekend should be mandatory. It’s a Ukaria experience like no other.