COVID-19 has presented its fair share of challenges, but for Eleanor Lyons, it has also been an opportunity to see a long-time dream come true.
The Australian soprano and her husband – pianist and conductor Vladimir Fanshil, who was slated to conduct a concert for the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Turkey before faced with a last-minute cancellation in March due to COVID-19 – have stayed in Sydney during the pandemic, devising a repertoire together and taking their concert to private residences.
Normally based in Vienna, the husband-wife musical duo are offering concerts in homes across Sydney and Canberra, and in regional locations including Armidale, Yass, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Merimbula and Orange.
“A long-time dream has been to travel to regional areas to perform recitals and this seemed the right time to do it,” remarked Lyons.
“This time of relative silence” was an opportune one to bring music to people’s homes, and “micro-concerts”, as Lyons has referred to them, are “just like the salon concerts of old”.
Other artists involved in Lyons and Fanshil’s concert series Live at Yours include tenor Andrew Goodwin and pianist Vatche Jambazian.
Lyons was the star attraction in Don Giovanni at the Sydney Opera House earlier this year, performing 13 concerts with Opera Australia, and finishing a few weeks prior to COVID-19 restrictions setting in.
The intimate concert atmosphere in private residences may be a sharp contrast to the Opera House stage, but Lyons explained how performing in smaller spaces is “very exciting as the voice isn’t forced to project and thus becomes much more expressive”, adding that it has been “a rare pleasure to perform with my husband at the piano as he’s usually travelling and conducting”.
One particularly special element of Live at Yours is a world premiere piece, Wandering Hearts, written by Lyons and Fanshil’s long-term friend, Elena Kats-Chernin.
“I knew the name needed to be something about travelling the world and not quite knowing,” said Kats-Chernin, a world-renowned composer.
“They are at home right now, but based in Europe, and they are wandering the world. Because I have such a soft spot for them, I thought ‘hearts’ was perfect because they put their hearts into the music. It fitted for them,” remarked Kats-Chernin. “They bring their hearts and the music into people’s homes.”
The last few months have nurtured Kats-Chernin creatively, moving her to create works that illuminate ideas of distance and longing.
In March, Kats-Chernin began composing short pieces that represented a particular mood or experience associated with the pandemic.
She composed a piece for Australian musician Amy Dickson, who is currently residing in London, called As if by distance.
“I kept thinking about the idea of distance and that word has been sticking with me. I felt like writing a piece where there is a lot of space … I don’t usually write like that – I usually write dance pieces with little time in between.
“It’s nice to hear the sound of one note and have a moment to think about it. I thought it’s nice to explore something different,” said Kats-Chernin.
“What happens between notes is just as important as the notes. Silence is very loaded.”
Kats-Chernin is currently writing an orchestral work for the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra, and a children’s opera for the Luxembourg Philharmonie.
She also recently wrote a solo vibraphone piece for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra called Distance Solo.
Bookings and more information for Live at Yours: www.liveatyours.com.au.