Debussy's music is filled with moonlight, the enchantment of night-time and nature, from the early piano piece Clair de lune (part of Suite Bergamasque) to the late Cello Sonata, which evokes Pierrot's spellbound moongazing. Debussy himself - Bohemian and rebellious, though immensely cultured and informed - returned to this imagery time and again, as if caught in the same magical trance as Pierrot. The spell that held him was frequently that of a woman. An early love affair with a singer inspired his first set of songs; his second wife, Emma Bardac, was a keen amateur singer herself. His love-life was chequered, to put it mildly; but it was only when he met Emma that his creative spirit began to reach its zenith. He and Emma were both already married; eloping together, they caused a massive scandal, during which Debussy's first wife attempted to shoot herself. Emma, for her part, had previously had a love affair with Gabriel Fauré. Sensuality may have been just one element of Debussy's inspiration, but it was a vital one, a quality for which his music has long been noted and from which it remains indivisible. Lit by the recurring image of musical moonlight, this story traces the way that Debussy's women helped him to find his true ‘voice' by lending him their own.
The programme will include songs sung by Merlyn Quaife accompanied by Caroline Almonte, the Cello Sonata played by Julian Smiles and Jonathan Plowright, the first movement of the rarely-heard Piano Trio with the Storioni Trio, L'après-midi d'un faune played by Kathryn Stott and Jonathan Plowright and other pieces.
What began as a chance encounter at a festival seven years ago with an impromptu performance of a couple of short songs, has now led to a significant ongoing musical partnership between two of Australia's most loved female artists. Following a hugely successful national tour last year, Noonan and Schaupp join forces again in their new project "Songs of the Southern Skies". The programme explores music close to home, reinventing some of Australia and New Zealand's best classical, folk, jazz and pop songs. The programme will feature World Premiere performances of works by Elena Kats-Chernin and young Adelaide composer Andrew Georg, (winner of the Songs of the Southern Skies Art Song Composition Competition), alongside intimate reinventions of Australian and New Zealand pop and jazz classics by artists such as Nick Cave, The Easybeats, Bic Runga, Pixie Williams, Vince Jones and The Finn Brothers.