20 October 2014

Flinders Quartet: Over a skinny latté IV

Richard Gubbins and Peter Kingsbury
ANAM and St Michael’s Church
9 May 2014, 6 July 2014

The fourth in a series of interviews about Flinders Quartet.
First published in Flinders Quartet:October update 2014

A pair of old friends, both with a long-standing love of music, agreed to commission Paul Dean to write the piece for Flinders Quartet. They discussed why they are doing it.

 Twenty years ago Andrew Ford on Classic FM talked about the idea of people forming a group to commission compositions. That idea stuck in Richard’s mind until he was able to commission Calvin Bowman’s The Curly Pyjama Letters for Flinders Quartet. The Paul Dean string quartet is a larger scale commission that emerged from a lunch with Paul, Richard and Richard’s dentist, Peter Kingsbury. ‘It involved an inheritance from my mother’ Richard said, ‘and I have burnt all that.’

Peter Kingsbury

For Peter, commissioning music is not about leaving a memorium; nobody remembers the sponsor. His motivation is about fostering an Australian idiom – how we as Australians see music as part of culture. ‘There are lots of wonderful new composers that need support,’ he says. ‘They don’t write for nothing. Mozart found out to his great horror that we die if we don’t get enough sustenance.’

Richard says he was far too slack to have learned an instrument. ‘I had the opportunity as a child. My parents acquired a piano from Allen’s on hire-purchase but it had to be returned.’ He sang first bass with Melbourne Chorale for 15 years and he loves the march in Beethoven’s Ninth because of its lovely tessitura. He thinks it is great fun to sing, and exhilarating. He loves Vaughan Williams’ Sea symphony. ‘It’s beautiful. It starts off with “the sea itself” and you feel the waves of sound.’ ‘My taste is catholic’ he says,’ but others might say I’m just a prostitute – a musical prostitute; I don’t understand most contemporary music.

Richard Gubbins

Peter used to play, very badly, the recorder in third grade at Cheltenham East State School. ‘I gave up because I couldn’t get past ‘Merrily, we roll along.’

For him, a commission is not about fame or immortality. It’s about trying to say, “this is how Australia was and how Paul Dean interpreted Australia and how Flinders Quartet interpreted Australia at the beginning of the 21st century”. So Paul has artistic carte blanche.

Peter sums it up, ‘it should speak to my emotions otherwise I don’t think the piece of music will survive’.

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