new heights with Elphinstone; and new “Viol” depths

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Baroque ensemble Sequenza seems to be at an acceleration point. From Government-matched crowdfunding of instrument purchases, to special guest appearances by Michael Elphinstone on Baroque Flute in upcoming performances, it’s all happening for the Southern Tasmanian outfit.

In March, Sequenza’s soprano and spokesperson, Helen Thomson, attended an intensive fundraising Lab as part of Creative Partnerships Australia’s Match program. “The project is to get a contrabass viol (or Violone), both for my own practice and for use with Sequenza, but also to enrich the bottom end of continuo groups generally in Tasmania’s thriving Early Music world,” Helen continues. “They put thirty aspiring fundraising artists from all over Australia through two days of incredibly intense training, and then sent us out to put it into practice. But the most exciting thing about the Match program is that CPA doubles every dollar you raise.”

With the opportunity that the Match program provides, crowdfunding a violone (a rare, double-bass-like instrument which is the larger cousin of the Viola da Gamba that Brett Rutherford plays in Sequenza) became a much more feasible goal – extremely feasible for Thomson, it appears. Her “Deeply Viol” Pozible campaign went over its target within three days of being launched. “I reckon it was all the puns and puerile humour that nailed it,” says Thomson, before continuing exultantly, “check it out: a violone will soon live in the Huon Valley and hopefully be played all over the State. I certainly aim to play it everywhere I can, as often as I can. I’m still a bit stunned!”

With the extremely rapid success of the campaign, Thomson was faced with a luxury problem: what to do next? “I thought about stopping. I really did. But, because of this amazing Match Program opportunity, I thought: ‘We can’t stop now. We need to get David a lute’.”

So the soprano has set a “stretch goal” to raise a further $2500, doubled by the Match program, towards getting David his own instrument. And just over two weeks into a five week campaign, she is within $1000 of that goal, too: by effectively pre-marketing CDs, concert tickets exclusive to campaign supporters, and unique behind-the-scenes experiences, Thomson is not asking for a handout – she’s looking to earn the instruments she’s fundraising for. “Except, of course, that people have been so unbelievably generous. Sequenza has volunteered, and will continue to donate, many hours of rehearsal, travel and performance time to make this happen. The lovely Kate and John at Southern Swan agreed to host our Cygnet launch event for nothing. PFLAG Tasmania, who I was hoping to provide with some fundraising cash of their own in exchange for their catering the events, all volunteered their time – although I trust I’ll volunteer right back soon enough. Perhaps at a marriage equality event…? And then there’s a bunch of people who, entirely of their own accord, have given without claiming a reward, which just seems weird to me when there’s really cool stuff up for grabs. But I’m so so grateful to everyone – it’s really been a group effort!”

Speaking of group efforts, in case Sequenza isn’t busy enough, they’re also putting on two special Baroque concerts at the end of August. “Again, having Michael Elphinstone visiting was too good an opportunity to pass up,” says Thomson. “We’re preparing a wonderful, varied program of music for Baroque Flute, soprano and continuo, including works by Vivaldi, Telemann, Hasse and Campra – so that covers the Italian, French and German traditions. It’s going to be a special event – the matching of the Baroque Flute’s sweet timbre and flexibility with virtuosic passages for the voice promises to be wonderful fun to do, and to listen to!”

The concerts will take place on Friday August 25, 7pm in Hobart at St George’s Battery Point; and Sunday August 27 at 2pm at the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. Tickets are available through Eventbrite by searching for Sequenza.
Helen Thomson