The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Poetry in song

Katie Noonan’s new a cappella vocal quartet will be performing music based on the verse of David Malouf

- Story PHIL BROWN AVE (Australian Vocal Ensemble) launch concert, 7pm, April 10, Queensland Conservato­rium Theatre, South Bank, Tickets $40-$60, qtix.com.au

Katie Noonan has had a few dreams come true but one of them took a while to materialis­e. And then along came COVID delaying things further. But now the moment is nearly upon us when she launches her latest project, a national a cappella quartet celebratin­g old and new Australian stories while honouring the classical canon.

AVE (Australian Vocal Ensemble) features Noonan, a soprano and ARIA Award winner, fellow soprano Fiona Campbell from Perth, Sydney tenor Andrew Goodwin and baritone David Greco. Their launch concert is next month at the Conservato­rium Theatre, South Bank, where AVE is the Conservato­rium’s ensemble in residence. The concert will feature works by

Bach, Handel and others. The surprise element is a song cycle of pieces composed around poems by Queensland author and poet David Malouf.

“Our repertoire, like our Australian culture, will be a unique blend of the old and the new,” Noonan says. “The old will be represente­d in the glorious spiritual music of the late Renaissanc­e and the early Baroque – the golden age of vocal polyphonic writing,” Noonan says. “The new will be the modern music of the 20th and 21st century with a particular focus on new Australian works.”

Noonan has commission­ed pieces by Richard Tognetti, Iain Grandage, Connor D’Netto, Alice Humphries, Zac Hurren (Noonan’s saxophonis­t husband and collaborat­or) and Robert Davidson, among others.

“For me it’s such a thrill to be working with these amazing singers,” Noonan says. “The music will focus on the human sound and the text.”

Noonan is a huge fan of Malouf, an accessible poet whose writings about Brisbane are iconic. “Whenever I commission I choose people I love,” Noonan says. “I said to the composers they could choose any Malouf poem they like.”

Noonan is ambitious for her new project and says without reserve she wants to make

AVE an “elite” group but also one that can eventually work with choirs and others.

“We aim to create an unparallel­ed music experience for audience members,” she says. “It’s a chance to explore new Australian composers, a chance for audiences to find their own voice and a chance to hear Indigenous songs of their own country alongside late Renaissanc­e and Baroque masterpiec­es and brand new works.”

It’s also a way of making a comeback after COVID which devastated the arts and left people like Noonan scrambling to earn a living.

This year, however, is starting to get busy for Noonan, who lives with her family at Eumundi. She was recently named artistic director of the National Folk Festival in Canberra, which will be next held in April 2022. Her latest acclaimed album, The Sweetest Taboo, came out last April.

“It was bloody weird putting out an album in the pandemic,” Noonan says. She performed songs from that album at The Tivoli as part of the COVID-safe Brisbane Festival and since then has been hatching other plans and sometimes jamming with her family.

Husband Hurren and teenage sons Dexter and Jonah have their own talents – Dexter on drums and Jonah on bass. Noonan’s Katie Noonan Trio includes Dexter (along with bassist Steele Chabau) and you can hear them play at The Imperial Hotel at Pomona on April 24. Both Noonan’s parents, Brian and Maggie, are singers, her brother and former George bandmate Tyrone performs popular jazz shows in Brisbane with his group Palimpsest. Katie Noonan is regarded as one of our finest talents and that voice! To hear it in such good company in AVE will be quite a treat.

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