New Music Residency for WollCon

New music residency for WollCon to support Junior Strings program.

An all-woman chamber music quartet will be supporting WollCon’s Junior Strings Program as Musicians in Residence, as well as performing exclusive concerts in the Illawarra, thanks to a Create NSW arts and cultural grant.

The Enigma Quartet is a group of friends united by their passion for performing exquisite chamber music, and workshopping with young students. They are Marianne Edwards and Kerry Martin (violins), Elizabeth Woolnough (viola) and Rowena Mcneish (cello). The residency aligns with WollCon’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of string players and bringing more music to Wollongong.

“Chamber music is music played by a small ensemble (2-16 players), performed in a small space. We love it for the intimacy and the powerful connection it creates between both players and with the audience. The power of this experience is unlike anything else.” Said Rowena Mcneish (cellist for the Enigma Quartet).

Throughout the year, junior string students at WollCon will have the opportunity to attend workshops and masterclasses by experienced chamber music players and perform with them at exclusive events.

“Having the chance to learn from and perform with these musicians is an invaluable opportunity. The students will be inspired by seeing high level musicians from outside the region, and will come away with greater technique, musicianship, and overall ensemble skills.”

Adrian Davis

Head of Junior Strings, WollCon

The residency will also include some public performances, where the quartet aims to bring more chamber music to people’s lives.

“I hope people will fall in love with string quartet playing and the incredible music they will hear. We’re bringing four uplifting concert programs to Wollongong with the themes of Light, Hope, Spirit and Courage. There will be a lovely mixture of well-known works, new works and Australian pieces.” Said Rowena.

The quartet has been workshopping with younger musicians and ensembles since they formed over 10 years ago. This includes working with string ensembles at the Sydney Conservatorium, Four Winds in Bermagui, in Gunnedah, and ensembles that were involved with the ‘Strike A Chord’ competition for Musica Viva.

Funded by a Create NSW arts and cultural grant, the residency reflects WollCon’s investment in the Junior Strings Program, and in promoting new Australian music. Part of this year-long project also involves the commissioning of a new work by Alice Chance, for performance by the Quartet premiered at their final concert.

“We’ve worked with Alice back in 2013 so we know and love her work and her writing for string quartets. David, WollCon’s CEO applied for a new commission by an Australian composer so it was with much delight that we heard Alice was going to write a piece for us. We can’t wait to see what she has written.” Said Rowena.

The residency is also complemented by several masterclasses with members of the ‘Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows’, ensuring WollCon’s junior string players have an intense training year ahead. A Junior Strings Spectacular finale concert is planned for later this year to showcase the students’ skills as Illawarra’s future musicians.

“The 2022 concert was such a great success for the students. This year we plan to do it bigger and better with preparations already underway. We’re planning to highlight the very best of the WollCon Junior Strings Program.” Said Adrian.

Our colleagues from WIN News Illawarra went along to one of the July holiday workshops by the Enigma Quartet at the Wollongong Art Gallery.