In her new recital performance, When We Speak, Katherine Philp, principal cellist at Camerata, aims to re-cast our ideas of beauty, gesture, and expression. The solo recital features recently written music using electroacoustic and amplified sound to meld with film and animation.

The program, held on Saturday 1 May at Metro Arts, features works by Kaija Saariaho, Lisa Cheney, Kate Neal & Sal Cooper, Simon Steen-Andersen and Roger Smalley. It is designed to showcase emerging and established Australian Female composers.

Through featuring these works, Katherine Philp says she aims to address the gender imbalance present in classical music programs across Australia and internationally.

Ms Philp says the gender divide in music programs for the major Performing Arts companies across the world is stark. A recent study found that 97 per cent of works performed by the worlds of leading orchestras were composed by men.

Some of the disparity can be explained, she says, because works are performed by composers who were writing three and four hundred years ago.

“But it also means that even within contemporary music programs, women are underrepresented.”

“I think, apart from anything else, there are just some incredible, really wonderful works. And some are those I am featuring in this program.”

On 1 May, Ms Philp will perform a work she commissioned from composer Kate Neal and animator Sal Cooper who work together to create their work.

“It’s exciting to be able to present one of their new pieces written specifically for this recital.”

“And Metro Arts is such a great venue.”

I asked Ms Philp if people are sometimes a little frightened of contemporary work, and if so, how she would encourage them to try it.

“My answer to that is always just to talk about the art form and the composers themselves. The composers have these really rich, theoretical, but artistic worlds that they talk about when they’re making their work. And to hear composers speak about their work, I always find deeply inspiring and beautiful.”

“I find it rewarding to be able to play a part in establishing and generating support for music that’s written in our time because it really does reflect who we are, our current experiences, even our demographics.”

“It’s about putting the performance of new music back into contemporary culture, place, and society and the expression of all of those things that make us who we are.”

Ms Philp says the works are stunningly beautiful. For example, a piece by Kaija Saariaho called Sept Papillons (Seven Butterflies).

“Seven tiny beautiful, crystalline works.”

Lisa Cheney’s, When We Speak which, she says comments on broader issues surrounding gender inequality, provides an atmospheric soundscape interweaving the composer’s own musical language with that of Finnish composer, Kaija Saariaho.

“Lisa Cheney has recorded samples of Sept Papillons and remixed them into a beautiful electronic track that weaves together Kaija Saariaho talking about her personal expression.”

The recital includes video introductions by the composers and creators themselves.

“Some of the things I was thinking when I curated this concept was about the process of finding your authentic artistic voice.”

Ms Philp says there is a dedicated contemporary music audience in Brisbane, but this performance she says, is also aesthetic and immersive.

“The works I’m playing in this recital use film, animation and amplification. These beautiful elements added to the solo recital make it more like a piece of theatre”.

“A lot of these works are lyrical, beautiful pieces of music that I’d like to share with everybody. I think they have universal appeal.”

Katherine Philp

Performance Details

Date/times: Saturday 1 May 2021, 3pm and 7pm

Location: New Benner Theatre, Metro Arts

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More about Katherine Philp

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Katherine Philp ‘s work ranges from the classics, to cutting edge contemporary art music, as well as improvisation, arranging and composing. She is particularly interested in projects that engage in respectful intercultural collaboration, and actively supports the generation of new works by women and non-binary composers. She regularly appears in ensembles and as a soloist at many Australian festivals including the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Tyalgum Festival, Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music, and the Woodford Folk Festival.

Katherine’s performances and arrangements have been broadcast live and recorded for ABC Classic FM and ABC Radio National. She is currently the principal cellist of Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, and maintains a busy and eclectic freelance career.

She says on the Camerata website that her favourite band is Radiohead. “They are musical geniuses.”

At the time she said she was listening to West African music, particularly Toumani Diabaté, Cat Power, Radiohead, Sharon Van Etten, Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field, Steve Reich, Doc Watson and, “don’t laugh, Dolly Parton.”


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