Carl Vine on The Galileo Project
The Galileo Project was premiered by Tafelmusik on January 9, 2009 at The Banff Centre in Canada, where it was co-produced as part of a residency. The very next day I received an email from pianist Piers Lane, who was working at the centre at the time, to tell me that Musica Viva simply had to get the show to Australia. Over the following weeks further endorsements trickled in from friends and collaborators in the broader international Viva family, and it became clear that Piers, as usual, was right.
A few months later we secured video footage of a performance, and it was immediately obvious that this was a remarkable concert event that Australian audiences deserved to see. It took the next few years to put all of the pieces in place to make an Australian national tour of The Project possible. We are about to enjoy the fruits of all this organisation.
Tafelmusik is a remarkable ensemble by any measure. Like most world-class chamber orchestras it has, in the person of Jeanne Lamon, a tireless and endlessly inventive director who is also a phenomenal musician. Less evident at first, hidden away behind a double bass, is Alison Mackay, whose uncommon skill at combining elements of theatre, literature and history with a passionate love of Baroque music has resulted in a string of extraordinary staged musical events that have placed the ensemble in a class without peer.
Previous spectacles devised by Alison for the Toronto-based group include a multi-disciplinary festival inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a multicultural creation based on ‘The Four Seasons’, and a musical celebration of Canadian architecture.
Professor of Astronomy at the University of Toronto, Dr John Percy, is an avid fan and long-term supporter of Tafelmusik who had followed these events with interest. He wanted, in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the astronomical telescope, and wisely reasoned that this should form the basis of the group’s next theatrical presentation.
The result is an amazing concert that opens with Shakespeare, Bach and Kepler, and wends its mesmerising way through centuries of musical, philosophical and scientific evolution, led by meandering musicians, an actor, and projected images whose impact is as astronomical as their content.
It is disarmingly easy to create multidisciplinary events that falter on every one of their axes. Tafelmusik hews the infinitely harder path, not just of making every component shine, but also of having the totality far exceed the sum of its parts.