One of the reasons we were drawn to making this film was the prospect of embedding ourselves within an orchestra or ensemble and bathing in the glorious sounds around us. 

The Music Staff always choose an excellent range of music from the Classics to 20th Century composers, Contemporary Australian and Commissioned works. The 2009 concert was no exception. In the period of our filming the Chamber Orchestra was being introduced to early music techniques, under the tuition of Nicole Forsyth and Danny Yeadon. Hence the appearance of a number of Baroque pieces throughout the film and in the concert.

In our film we focused in on the process of learning  and the performance of 6 pieces:

Scroll down to read about them:

String Sextet #2 in G major Op.36  iv. poco allegro

by Johannes Brahms 1833- 1897

Performed by Emily Sun, Cindy Guo, Suzie Kwon, Kristy Nguyen, Gillian Madden, Lucy Cormack

“I love you, I must see you again” wrote Brahmns to dark eyed Agathe von Siebold around the time this sextet was written, “but I cannot be bound.” And that was that. Although virtually engaged, the pair parted company, Agathe eventually marrying someone else. 


“I loved Johannes Brahms very much,” she wrote in old age, “and for a short time, he loved me.”  But their love is immortalised in this beautiful sextet. “Listen to the beating heart” pleads strings coach Lynn Byun in the film, only to be greeted with raised eyebrows by an unimpressed Emily Sun. But come the concert, it’s a different story. The six girls triumph, have grown into the sextet musically and emotionally.

String Quartet in F major  ii. Assez vif: Tres Rythme

by Maurice Ravel 1875 -1937

Performed by the Renata Robinson, Grace Kim, Kristy Nguyen, Aurora Henrich, Amelia Noble

When Ravel wrote this scintillating work aged 27, his musical mentors advised him to foresake composing and stick to the piano. But the quartet helped elevate Ravel to the pantheon of French composers. Technically demanding, it proved no easy task for Karen Carey’s young musicians, particularly viola player Kristy Nguyen. “This is the only one I’m worried about” says Karen just before the Concert. But on the night, the kids did her proud.

Triumphal March from Aida

by Guiseppe Verdi 1830-1901

Performed by the MLC Full School Choir, Cantillation Choir, St Mary's School Choristers, Kings School Choristers, MLC School combined Orchestra and Sinfionetta

1400 singers and musicians performed this rousing finale to the Concert, including feisty Iris Shi, who “didn’t wanna be there.” So after defying Mrs Carey for a year, why did Iris sing on the night and cheer at the end? Was she carried away by the occasion? The august venue? Or was it Verdi’s March, a smash it when he wrote it, an enduring favourite today. Whatever. Settle back and listen as Carey’s young charges raise the Opera House roof.

Star Cross

by Damian Barbeler

Performed by the MLC Percussion Ensemble, Soloist: Hannah Buckley & Suzie Kwon
Quartet: Lauren Salanitro, Lisa Sung, Grace Kim, Noel

In 1977 NASA launched the two Voyager Space craft. These exploratory vehicles had a dual purpose. Firstly they were to record data from the planets and broadcast data and images back to earth.  The likely success of this first phase was uncertain to say the least. The destruction of one or both Voyagers was highly probable. If both craft did survive they would go onto the second, perhaps more evocative phase: travelling into deep space to make contact with alien life. To this end both craft have an interesting payload: a gold LP record. The records are in effect a bit like a current day data disk. They hold photos, and sounds from earth… and the most amazing collection of music; everything from an Australian Indigenous Morning Star song to Cuban folk music, with jazz, Bach, Mozart and more.

The last track is a Cavatina (or short and simple song) from Beethoven’s 13th String Quartet Opus 130. This is an intriguing choice for the final track. The people who chose the content for the LP were conscious that it might become the last remaining artifact of the human race, that in the millions of years it took for the voyager crafts to reach the nearest solar system the human race will likely have been destroyed.  Is the Cavatina a metaphor therefore? Were they aware that this Cavatina is from the same quartet as Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue? After the premier of this quartet Beethoven’s publisher asked him to remove the Grosse Fugue for being too adventurous. He wrote a new finale, and died before hearing the final version of the quartet. So too the human race may cease to exist long before our final intentions for the voyager mission are realised.

In my own work Star Cross, all the characters from the voyager saga are here. The Voyager Craft are represented by two soloists. They are like star crossed lovers doomed to travel the universe in opposite directions. The destructive threat of the planets appear in the percussion, and sounds of Beethoven from the LP record appear mourning the aspirations and culture of a human race long since extinct.

Damian Barbeler 2009

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

by Ralph Vaughan Williams 1872-1958

Performed by the MLC Chamber Orchestra Conducted By Louise Keller

“Who’s ever been in love?” asks conductor Louise Keller, exhorting her young musicians to new heights of lyricism. She answers the question by coyly raising her own hand, earning gales of mirth for her pains.

Vaughn Williams did not write this with adolescent schoolgirls in mind. His exquisite Fantasia homages a Hymn by 16th Century composer Thomas Tallis.  But what glorious sensual chords these  21st Century schoolgirls produce in the Concert, finessing a year of practice and Louise Keller exhortations.

Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor  i. Prelude- Allegro moderato

by Max Bruch 1838 - 1920

Performed by the MLC Sinfonia Soloist: Emily Sun Conducted by Kimbali Harding

Max Bruch was a child prodigy and so was violinist Emily Sun. Traumatised at a tender age by the death of her father, Emily ran off the rails for a few years, jeopardising a promising musical career, providing Karen Carey with plenty of headaches. Emily’s redemptive journey - documented in Mrs Carey’s Concert - climaxes with this thrilling Concert performance of Bruch’s first mature work, and his most enduringly popular.

Other music in performance and where it appears in the film:

Violin Concerto in D major Op.77 ii.adagio

by Johannes Brahms

Performed by the MLC Sinfonia, Soloist: Doretta Balkizas

Premiered in 1879 to a rapturous reception, the D major concerto stands tall in the violin repertoir. It’s also fiendishly difficult and emotionally demanding, which was why young Doretta’s teacher initially advised against it. And why the perfectionist Doretta resisted playing with the orchestra until a few weeks before the Concert. Badgered by an insistent Mrs Carey, talent and courage prevailed over self doubt and the resulting performance earned another rapturous reception.

‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’

by Sarah J Hale

Nothing evokes the beginning of learning to play music more than the sound of a recorder and this little ditty.

‘Nigun’ from ‘Baal Shem:Three Pictures of Chassidic Life’ 

by Ernest Bloch

Performed by Emily Sun & Bethany Cook

Intercut with a rehearsal performance of this piece, Mrs Herret, the Head of Senior School explains to Mrs Carey Miss Keller about the "at risk" behaviour Emily has been caught up in.

Concerto Grosso No. 5  

by Friedrich Handel

Performed by MLC Chamber Orchestra 

 No. ? appears as the soundtrack to as they all head off to Music Camp. No.5 is the second item seen in the Concert with the Chamber Orchestra.

'Confessions 2'

by Damian Barbeler 

Performed by Emily Sun

This is a piece originally recorded and performed by Genevieve Lacey on recorder. In our film, Damian Barbeler, a resident composer at the school, tutors Emily in this piece, trying to open her up to 'the emotions he was feeling at the time he wrote it'.

Here are his notes on the piece:

Confession 2 (2006) for recorder, violin and electronics is a portrait in sound of two characters. There are strong emotions here yet we can only guess from the musical lines, what events brought the couple to this point. The musical structure suggests two levels of consciousness. The live instruments express surface sentiments: regret, guilt, contrition etc. These emotions are betrayed however in the background electronic sounds by darker, primitive instincts.

The “Industrial Romantic” treatment is a favourite with the composer, and a recurrent theme in much of Barbeler's work.

'Brandenberg Concerto #4'

By J S Bach

Performed by MLC Chamber Orchestra We see Emily enter late to rehearsal while Mrs Carey and Miss Keller discuss Emily's prospects with concern.

‘Battalia’

by Heinrich Ignaz Von Biber

 The orchestra is being instructed to 'watch Emily's' lead. The male English accented voice you hear is that of Danny Yeadon.

‘Partita No 2 in D Minor’  

by Johann Sebastian Bach

Emily Sun practices this piece by herself in the auditorium in the Music Department, while Mrs Carey reflects on giving her a bigger role in the concert.

'Wir setzen uns mit tranen nieder” from St Mathew’s Passion

By J S Bach

The only pre recorded piece of music in the film. Mrs Carey contemplates her seemingly failed efforts to involve Iris in the full school event. She listens to St Mathews Passion, the piece that made her a life long convert to large scale musical undertakings.

'Mambo Plus'

by Ian Munns

Performed by the MLC Full School body percussion & MLC Combined Concert Bands

While Mr Munns  is watching the synchronised body percussion he wrote for the full school in action at the dress rehearsal in the Opera House, Mrs Carey is watching Iris's efforts

'Taking Flight'

 by John Peterson

Performed by the MLC Stage Band  

Another piece Commissioned by MLC for the stage band. We hear a small phrase of it, seeing Millie Noble playing trumpet before she picks up her cello for the dress rehearsal of the Ravel.

'Ring Out Wild Bells'

 By Andrew Schultz

Performed by the MLC Full School Choir, Kurt Ison Organ. Conducted Michele Leonard

 This piece was commissioned especially as a full school number  to open the concert. It utilises the massed choir of the entire school and the grand pipe organ that lives in the Concert Hall. In the film during rehearsal, conductor Michelle Leonard tell the girls their performance is "safe" nad hence "really boring".

'Symphony No 5 Op. 47 D minor'

by Dimitri Shostakovich

Performed by MLC Orchestra  Conducted by Christopher Hayles

Christopher Hayles, the conductor of this piece is always a crowd favourite for his passionate conducting style. We included a snatch of it in the course of the concert.

'Rejoice O Virgin'

by Sergei Rachmaninov

Performed by MLC Chamber Choir, Cantillation Choir, St Mary's School Choristers, Kings School Choristers
Conducted by Ian Munns 

This was a particular favourite of ours, however we only managed to squeeze a small stanza of it in the film while the Ravel quartet are warming up backstage.  Miss Keller was often over come with emotion while listening to this piece being rehearsed.

'Geography Vl'

By Paul Stanhope, Words Micheal Dransfield

Performed by the MLC Chamber Choir

Paul Stanhope, a rising star in the contemporary art music world, is also one of the resident composers at the school. He appears conducting this piece on stage in the concert while Emily prepares for her solo of the Bruch.