Prolific South Australian composer Anne Cawrse has become a changemaker in the world of music through her championing of women composers. Among many other activities, Cawrse curated the ASO’s inaugural She Speaks festival of music by women composers in 2021 and, with Anna Goldsworthy, co-curated the expanded She Speaks festival of 2022.
Cawrse’s brand-new marimba concerto, entitled Dare to Declare, champions the achievements of three Australian women: poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920-1993), visual artist Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) and composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990). Cawrse cites these as three of her muses, figures who are under-acknowledged but who have influenced her thinking and her music.
In the first movement, entitled Oodgeroo, the writing for the marimba suggests the flowing consonants and vowels of the poet’s voice, with the marimba’s sonorities flavouring the diction and the clarinet supporting the material. This gently paced movement is thoughtful and introspective yet clear in its speech.
For the second movement, Clarice, the marimba’s sound evokes the patterns of light in Beckett’s paintings — perhaps the sun glinting on the gentle waves of Sandringham beach where Beckett often painted — and the strings, oboe and flute complement the marimba’s warbling motifs. Where the marimba represents the sound of...