Noosa ISAM composers with Ensemble Offspring.

Noosa ISAM composers with Ensemble Offspring.

New music in Noosa? Not normally what you would expect in the Sunshine Coast tropical holiday playground, but for a couple of weeks in March 2019, Noosa hosted a great program pairing younger composers, mostly from the US, and one from Portugal, with Ensemble Offspring.

Normally held in America, the International Summer Academy of Music (ISAM) made its Australian debut with about twenty composers from Colorado College calling Noosa home for a few weeks.

Each was tasked with writing a new work for Ensemble Offspring. These budding composers were a mix of those taking their first steps in writing for an ensemble, or the more experienced who were testing new ideas.

The students spent a week workshopping with Ensemble Offspring and their compositional mentors – Ofer Ben-Amots (America/Israel) and Jan Jirasek (Czech Republic) before a public concert and recording of their pieces.

Some works actually drew inspiration from the idyllic Noosa surroundings: think sunsets, pelicans, white sands and clear, warm water. The more experienced composers wrestled with more complex concepts and kept us on our toes.

I was particularly drawn to the dark colours of Kyle Henkel’s The Stormfather, the humorous elements in Ian Guthrie’s Those Left Behind, and the pitch and rhythmic relationships in Portuguese composer Pedro Finisterra’s La Vojaĝo.

Ensemble Offspring (EO) also presented a program of mentor works, including two Australian works by Paul Smith and Rob Melbourne. Rob was responsible for most of the organising too, and did a tremendous job connecting everyone (and offering prosecco after hours). EO worked with composer Ofer Ben-Amots and performing his epic work Montage Music, and two works by Jan Jirasek.

Outside of the workshop and performance schedule, we managed to have a few swims at Noosa’s Main Beach and Little Cove. Not much to complain about there when the water is 25 degrees. I also did a four-hour walk through the National Park, where I found other stunning beaches to explore and caught some of the local surfing competition too.

I really enjoyed the week working with these younger composers in such a relaxed setting. They seemed very open to our input and engaged in the process. The pairing of writing a piece of music with a trip to Australia seemed a real winner. Let’s hope Noosa gets this festival again, and builds on the success of this year’s event.

Main Beach, Noosa — crystal clear, 25-degree water.

Main Beach, Noosa — crystal clear, 25-degree water.