Arts & Entertainment

The Hourglass Ensemble

Ewa Kowalski, Andrew Kennedy & Anna Rutkowska-Schock

For many people, classical/chamber music is one of the most intimidating styles of live performance. Thankfully though The Hourglass Ensemble is revolutionising the way chamber music is delivered to audiences and in the process breaking down many of the barriers people often encounter.

Formed in 2015 by Artistic Director Dr Andrew Kennedy The Hourglass Ensemble takes to the stage with one key mission underpinning every performance, play new and recent music that an audience will be able to enjoy and understand on first hearing. When City Hub spoke with Dr Kennedy we asked him why he felt this was a necessary avenue to explore in the Sydney music scene.

“I’ve been a musician my whole life but when I would take friends along to concerts they would be very disorientated,” Dr Kennedy answered, “They wouldn’t understand the formalities, the codes, the rules or the routines of that particular style of music, so I would have to explain it to them.”

It was these early experiences that would then guide The Hourglass Ensemble’s concert programs. In order to break down the barriers to enjoyment, Dr Kennedy found that simply providing context for the music was a major step forward.

“Merely talking about the composer or playing an example from the piece and explaining why it was used in the way that it was, perhaps it represents an emotion or a bird or a butterfly, helped the audience enjoy the music that much more.”

Another area which Dr Kennedy noticed a disconnect between audience members was in regards to the formalities of chamber music performance.

“People were a bit frustrated because they didn’t feel a connection with the artist. As performers, you would go up there wearing all black or a suit and it all felt very stiff. So the audience didn’t understand what they were supposed to get out of classical music.”

In response to that The Hourglass Ensemble takes a much more relaxed approach to their concerts. “We want to have a relationship with the audience, so we’re very friendly and approachable. We’re not just a group of people wearing very formal clothes… we dress how we want to and according to a particular theme. So you can tell from the audience’s perspective what each performer’s personality is like, which the audience loves.”

Since its inception in 2015, The Hourglass Ensemble’s impact on the classical music scene has been significant. Both in regards to welcoming in new audiences but also in terms of the new music they have helped create.

As part of their repertoire, The Hourglass Ensemble always incorporate a significant proportion of local compositions. In order to do this, they have had to commission a number of pieces specifically for their concerts, a fact which Dr Kennedy is incredibly proud of.

“I’m particularly proud of the 22 pieces that we have commissioned because that has created work for Australian composers and new music for people to listen to.”

Looking ahead to their concerts at the Opera House this month Dr Kennedy said that in the past the “people who have come to a classical concert for the first time have always walked away elated and saying ‘I wonder why I never did that before.’”

Oct 12-13. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $20-$58+b.f. Tickets & Info:

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