Kym Dillon: the story of a new work – #1

I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to have been awarded this Continuo commission; when it was first announced there was such a reaction of giddy excitement from myself and the ensemble! I feel sincerely grateful to the Continuo Community for awarding this to us, and it genuinely feels as if something rather special is about to happen as a result.

Although I’ve met the Croissants & Whiskey ensemble members individually in other contexts, I have actually yet to meet them together in the same room, and as such I’m very much looking forward to shortly attending the ensemble’s first ever gig to hear them live for the first time.

Croissants & Whiskey, with croissants and whiskey - photo Darren James

Even though it is still very early in the creative process, I have already begun thinking hard (and perhaps a little obsessively) about the piece. I don’t mean specific notes, structures, styles or otherwise, but more about the foundational question of ‘why?’ — Croissants & Whiskey is such a unique ensemble, with its blend of harpsichord, baroque viola, recorders and G Violone, instruments which evoke an older tradition of music… but is that really their main function today? Can they be brought together in a way that speaks directly, and relevantly, to a contemporary audience? It’s a question I know the ensemble are exploring for themselves generally; it is also one that I feel drawn to answer in my own way for this piece.

I’m also very keen to avoid the idea of mere gimmickry, of simply writing for these instruments because it’s quirky and ‘different’. For instance, I wouldn’t want this to be a piece that could have just as easily been written for a piano and string trio, but merely becomes more interesting because of the uncommon instruments that happen to be playing it. For me, the presence of these intriguing instruments, their unique characteristics, and indeed something of the context they evoke, is an idea that must find its meaning holistically and convincingly within the world and story of the piece itself.

To give an analogy, if I was a film director it’s as if I have been initially presented with four very distinct and enigmatic characters, ones that you wouldn’t expect would be found in the same film. The initial task falls to me to think of a story that convincingly brings these characters together and grounds their presence and interaction. Once this in place, things can begin to grow creatively from there.

Now I believe I have come up with just such an idea, one that links in with larger themes I have been thinking about, and one that I’m very eager and energised to start exploring… but I will share that with you once I’ve first shared it with the group! I’m aiming to give them a ‘pitch’ very soon, after which I’m looking forward to them introducing me to their individual instruments, all of which are new territory for me.

I look forward to keeping you updated as things progress, not only to add to the excitement that comes from this commission but also to give some insight into the creative process itself.


Introducing Croissants & Whiskey

2022 Continuo Composer Kym Dillon has chosen Croissants & Whiskey as the ensemble for whom she will compose the commissioned work.

Curious about the name? We asked Miranda Hill to tell us how the group was formed, and how it got its name. Here’s what she sent:

“Croissants & Whiskey, the unlikely pairing that combines the crispness of good pastry with the smooth aftertaste of a well-aged spirit. In musical terms, it brings together the established beauty and earthiness of baroque instruments with new ideas, cultural diversity, and timbral explorations.

“This ensemble was a dream project, conceived of during those long winter lockdowns in Melbourne when everyone was free, and yet no one could gather to play any music. So in lieu of actual rehearsals, we started to muse on the ideal group to break this imposed drought with; what music are we longing for, and what will be restorative both personally and musically after so long apart? This dream-team was founded by Miranda Hill (G violone), asking Joy Lee (harpsichord), Ryan Williams (recorders) and Katie Yap (baroque viola) to form a prog baroque quartet. There is one surviving work for this instrumentation from the baroque period by C.P.E. Bach, however, the main aims of our quartet are to commission new works from diverse Australian voices, and to write our own music as a collective.

“We were fortunate to receive a grant from the City of Melbourne Covid-19 Arts Grants, which commissioned Victorian composer Louisa Trewartha to write our first work, to be premiered at Homophonic! 2021. Rehearsals were scheduled, and then cancelled. The shows were scheduled, and the festival was cancelled. Rehearsals were attempted online but quickly abandoned… so when we finally got to our first rehearsal in person it had been literally 11 months in the planning! And it was even better than we’d imagined.

“It was 11 am on a Thursday. Miranda had brought croissants for morning tea, Joy has a good collection of Whiskey… it was inevitable. These joyous post rehearsal libations have become a strong tradition, and have come to represent our commitment to celebrating what each instrument and musician can bring to the table, and the beautiful combination of our diverse experiences and musical backgrounds.

“We’re bringing the fusion to your aural palette! and by commissioning, performing, and composing new music for baroque instruments we can fully explore this collaboration. Thanks to the generous support from the Continuo Commissioning Circle we are really excited to work with Kym Dillon on developing a new work for the quartet, and have already discussed some great ideas for the commission to be premiered in 2023.

“If this has whetted your appetite for new Australian compositions for baroque instruments, we’ve got our debut performance coming up on the 23 July at the Leaps and Bounds + Beyond Festival in Melbourne. The performance will feature skilful commissions written for us by exciting young Australian composers, including Louisa Trewartha and Emily Sheppard; a classic Nigel Butterly, with world premieres by Ryan Williams and Elizabeth Younan. The Fertile Crescent by Younan is a riotous whirl of Lebanese dances reimagined for western baroque instruments, commissioned and recorded for release by ABC Classic. (There’s also some sneaky CPE Bach and Couperin in there to round off the palette like a nicely aged Scotch in a wine barrel.)”

You can hear and see Croissants & Whiskey play the work by Louisa Trewartha in the video below.

Continuo Composer 2022 – Kym Dillon

We’re delighted to announce that the Continuo Composer for 2022 is Kym Dillon.

We would like to thank our esteemed panel Zoe Knighton, Euan Murdoch and Prof. Linda Kouvaras for their time and incredibly thoughtful consideration of each submission. The Panel were very impressed by the quality of the submissions we received and felt that all of the proposals were worthy of consideration.

We would also like to acknowledge the pioneering support of our first Continuo Commissioning Circle. Their generosity will provide Kym with a wonderful opportunity to continue developing her craft, weaving a new work in collaboration with chamber ensemble “Croissants & Whiskey”.

About Kym Dillon

Kym Dillon has a Bachelor of Music Performance from the University of Melbourne, and is currently studying for her Masters of Music Research (Composition), also at the University of Melbourne. Kym has composed chamber works for the Forest Collective and for the Sonus Ensemble.

You can read more about Kym’s background in the Composers section of our Who’s Who.

About the Commission

Here’s what Kym wrote in her winning submission:

My intention in submitting this application is to collaborate with the ensemble ‘Croissants & Whiskey’, a quartet comprising of Joy Lee (harpsichord), Ryan Williams (recorders), Katie Yap (baroque viola) and Miranda Hill (G Violone).

Over the last few years I have fallen in love with writing long-form chamber works, drawn in by the unparalleled sense of intimacy and communication that this genre affords. So far these works have all been for relatively common combinations, with my never before having composed for an ensemble of early/baroque instruments.

Collaborating with and composing for Croissants & Whiskey would offer me a unique opportunity to explore these older instruments and sounds, piecing together a language and story that can speak to contemporary audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with classical music. I love finding sonic links between instruments, finding ways to not only celebrate their individual natures but discover the unique worlds that can be created when they are combined.

Our first Commissioning Circle is complete!

If you had a plan to join but hadn’t quite got around to it, then don’t despair. We will be back next year (if not before) with another opportunity for our supporters to join in a commissioning project.

In the meantime you can contribute to the Continuo project by becoming a financial member for a mere $45 a year. Your annual fee helps to cover the operating costs of the Continuo Community.

Stay with us!