Katie Noonan Joins Louise King As Part Of Horizon Festival's Open Air Concert Series

Louise King
National Music Editor, based in Brisbane, Australia.
'Passionate about true crime docos, the Swannies, golf and sleep, I’ve been writing about music for 20-plus years. What I’ve learnt? There’s two types of music – good and bad.’

Part of the Sunshine Coast's Horizon Festival Open Air concert series, Australian singer-songwriter Katie Noonan has joined long-time collaborator, English expat and cellist Louise King.

The beautiful, classic-contemporary concert features solo and duo performances from these two incredible artists, filmed against a stunning sunset at Chambers Island, Maroochydore.

Tell us a bit about the Horizon Festival Open Air concert you're part of with Katie Noonan?
[Louise] This Open Air concert is a celebration of music, friendship, and place.

Chambers Island is a stunning backdrop to which we perform two of my personal, favourite solo works for cello and two of Katie's favourite songs, which I join her on. Katie finishes the set with 'Song Of Hope', which sets Oodgeroo Noonuccal's poetry to music.

We both chose music centred around the ideas of flying and hope, such as 'Flying Dream' by Iain Grandage for a solo cello in which I improvise over an ambient soundscape; and 'Bluebird' by Katie, which resonates beautifully with the soaring videography by Nic Morley capturing the stunning riverways of the Sunshine Coast.

Given it's a virtual concert, did you and Katie have to approach the performance any differently to a standard show?
Not really. In essence, it is the same – you focus on producing the music the best you can and centre your awareness on the moment. I had my son there; he was my audience! I like playing outdoors; it's very spontaneous and you can respond to what you hear.

The best gift is that there is a digital record of what we created. Most of the time, as a performer, what we do is intangible, in the fleeting moment and often not intended to be filmed, so this was really special to capture it.

The concert was filmed at sunset at Chambers Island in Maroochydore; that must have been pretty magical to marry the classical sounds with a stunning show performed by Mother Nature?
I am a sucker for a spectacular sunset and this one was really magical: glittering ocean, fish leaping and the roosting of birds in the trees around us. Being on an island also feels secluded and removed from the hustle and bustle.

Katie Noonan Louise King credit Nicholas Morley
Katie Noonan (left) and Louise King - image © Nicholas Morely

Was the music coordinated in a way that matches with the sun setting?
The music we picked evokes the sensation of flying and soaring above the landscape and the gentle way the sun sets matches the quietude of the music.

Anything else Katie and you specially planned for this concert?
Make-up – essential after three months of isolation – and my glittery top; it looks like fish scales.

Was this one of your first performances since going into lockdown? If so, you must have been jumping out of your skin to perform, even to a virtual audience?
For both of us, it was the first gig with a musician in person and not online since March when lockdown hit.

Both of us have experimented with digital concerts and at-home live shows via our socials, but what we are missing is making music in real time with another person. It felt surreal and grounding at the same time to play music with another human and a dear friend.

Katie and I first worked together back in 2004 in a show for Brisbane Festival. Since then we have recorded together, played in each other's productions and festivals, and found ways to keep the collaboration and connection going. We support each other's creative practice.

Right now, that has never been more important as we are both independent artists choosing to live in a regional area away from the city-centric art scene. Sharing our music with an online audience is exciting as friends and family from overseas and interstate have been able to share the concert online with us. This is the amazing gift of technology – it can bring us together in a virtual space.

Do you have any plans to release new music this year?
Yes. I am about to record strings on Andrea Kirwin's new album and my classical contemporary piano trio, Muses, is finishing an ABC Classics album featuring brand-new works by female composers – I am a big advocate for women in music.

We were in the middle of recording that album when the pandemic hit and lockdown happened. We are busting to get back into ABC to finish it. That trio is also recording new works by Sydney-based composer Natalie Nicolas, who writes music for calm and quietude to help patients in treatment settings. I love the idea that music can help people at times of distress or discomfort.

I have three original albums I want to record and release. The first album is with a Berlin-based composer, arranger, pianist and singer-songwriter Paul Hankinson – his music is so intensely beautiful. The second album is with David Jones; a drummer and percussionist in Melbourne. We both adore ambient soundscapes and the spontaneity of improvisation. The third album is my own original music for cello and looping, which has been germinating for two years.

You're the Artistic Director of Cello Dreaming; a private teaching studio. You're also a tutor for Australian and Queensland Youth Orchestras. How much enjoyment do you draw from the educational aspect of your career?
Sharing your passion and your craft is an essential part of understanding your point of difference and aesthetic as a musician, and one I have a great love for.

I fell into teaching at the age of 15. I had no idea what I was doing! Now though, I am on a pause with my teaching practice. It's been 30 years of investment into other people's dreams and musical aspirations.

I know that to continue to inspire others and lead students through this difficult time for the arts, I am needing to pause, reflect and rejuvenate my own creative practice; developing new ways to download my knowledge into micro-courses, a methodology and online resources is where I am now heading.

What other music projects do you have in the works atm?
For our Sunshine Coast community, I have been thinking on how to bring people together to share music again in intimate, non-traditional venues, with global diversity at its core in the programming. So I am busy planning the inaugural chamber music festival for the Sunshine Coast region – it's going to be BIG and I can't wait to see that dream come into fruition.

Three people you'd like to invite around for a dinner party?
Joseph Tawadros, oud extraordinaire, quirkiest humour and he plays a mean raja by the dinner table; author Margaret Atwood because I am obsessed with 'The Handmaid's Tale'; and Danny Elfman as I think his film-score writing is truly magical.

If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us?
Slow-cooked osso bucco with a creamy saffron and parmesan risotto with a parsley gremolata, followed by my infamous passionfruit cheesecake – eaten outside next to our fire pit under the stars. One good thing about isolation is my cooking adventures.

What's the one chore you dislike the most?
Cleaning the bathroom. So not fun. I do live with three males.

Do you have any phobias?
No phobias. Despite being surrounded by men, I am the one in the family called to tackle hairy spiders in the shower, who moves our resident carpet python off the road in case it gets run over, and called on to deal with scary things. I am surprisingly cool as a cucumber in a drama.

For more information about Horizon Festival's 2020 programme, click here.

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