A mix of Celtic harp and piano originals, Australian musician Elizabeth Sutherland has recently released her debut EP, titled 'Forest Dreams', which also features her Mum on two songs.
Mostly instrumental music that offers a relaxing, chilled and reflective mood, Elizabeth is a performer, composer and educator based in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.
The floor is yours; tell us about your debut EP 'Forest Dreams' – did you have a concrete idea of what you wanted to explore with the songs?
This EP is a collection of pieces that have been written over a long period of time. However, they all seem to come from the same inspirations of nature, Celtic myth, and a sense of calm and warmth.
The songs came together while you were in lockdown; how did the livestream events you did shape the direction and sound of the songs on 'Forest Dreams'?
I was fortunate to be able to debut many of these pieces through weekly livestreams on A Guide To Cardinia. I then got to hone them through playing for virtual events like the Virtual Highland Games and Keep It Live Festival.
The lockdown also inspired you to create relaxing music to counter the stressful time we were all facing; how does music allow you to find your happy place and leave the stresses of the world to one side, even for a moment or two?
When I play I go in my 'flow', I am taken away mentally which is really necessary for me sometimes. Life can be stressful, especially after 2020.
A couple of the songs, your own composition 'Moonlight In The Ruins' and a cover of 'The Skye Boat Song', feature your Mum on vocals; that must've been a special moment to capture, record and share with the world?
I really wanted to record mum on this EP. She has been an inspiration for me both musically and in life. Mum is such a beautiful singer and I wanted to share it with the world. She has a wealth of performance experience and currently teaches singing.
Given the popularity of 'Game Of Thrones', have you found there's being a surge of support for medieval-inspired classical music?
Definitely. GoT and 'Outlander' have been great for popularity. I've always been a bit of a fantasy geek, so I'm happy with this.
The Celtic harp is not your usual musical instrument of choice; what attracted you to it originally?
It's such a beautiful sound, and so gosh, darn relaxing! I was first inspired when I attended a Lost Trades Fair and saw a harp maker there. I went home and looked up harp teachers, and it's really not stopped since then.
Mastering the Celtic harp; how many hours, weeks are involved learning the intricacies of the instrument?
I come from a background in piano, and I have a BMus/BEd already. I started lever harp five years ago and having this prior knowledge certainly helped me.
You have a background with Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education qualifications; your roles as a music and piano teacher – do you see these as separate to your own creative endeavours or an extension of your own compositions?
In some ways they are separate, but often it really is an extension. I'm always 'performing' to my classes. I used to write little piano pieces for my students.
Your backyard is the Dandenong Ranges; how does this location and environment influence, shape your own creative endeavours?
A beautiful green wonderland is just across the road. It is peaceful and gorgeous to look at every day, and certainly inspired several pieces on the EP, in particular 'Forest Dreams' itself.
Some fun questions: Which fictional character best describes your personality?
Daria? Ha ha. If not Daria, I’d say Claire from 'Outlander'. I'd be very happy with popping back in time to Scotland.
Last show you binge-watched?
I have binged several recently from start to finish, including 'Men In Kilts' (documentary series) and '30 Rock'.
If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us?
Cheeseboard and wine, then spaghetti puttanesca (and wine), then chocolate mousse (and more wine).
If you had to live in a city abroad, where would you choose and why?
Obviously somewhere in Scotland. I loved Durness, so wild and free. Otherwise, I'd be very happy in Tokyo.
Elizabeth will accompany on piano for Singularity Choir's 'The Mikado' concert series (Melbourne) of weekend afternoon performances (30 May, 5-6 June, 19-20 June and 26-27 June) at various locations. She also plays piano with the Casey Philharmonic Orchestra for their Star Wars Extravaganza concert at Kingston City Hall (Melbourne) 10 July and Bunjil Place (Melbourne) 11 July.