Australian Violinist revives historical improvisation in classical music

14 Aug 2023

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Australian violinist Simone Slattery has embarked on a transformative European journey to revive historical violin performance. Awarded the Dame Roma Mitchell Churchill Fellowship in 2018, Simone’s mission was to infuse historical improvisation into contemporary teaching and performance. This endeavour culminated in innovative solo performances across Australia, merging classical repertoire with fresh improvisational elements. Simone’s insightful workshops now pave the way for a new generation of musicians to explore historically informed performance, breathing new life into timeless music traditions.

Simone travelled to France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to explore and develop new specialised skills in historical violin performance as both a performer and educator, after being awarded the Dame Roma Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to focus on the study of Historical Improvisation from a performance and pedagogical perspective and to investigate ways to incorporate improvisation into current performance and teaching practices.

“As an artists and performer I am always searching for new ways to engage audiences, to keep my creative field fresh and exciting for listeners, and to engage younger generations of musicians in this same quest,” Ms Slattery said.

Adam Davey, CEO of the Winston Churchill Trust congratulated Simone on her Fellowship.  “Simone is considered one Australia’s most versatile young musicians and performers of her generation and she has a passion for music that extends across many eras,” said Mr Davey.

Simone’s Churchill Fellowship report in an Australian context covers:

  • Improvisation, a crucial element of Historically Informed Performance, can be reinstated by utilising historical pedagogical and performance techniques in contemporary teaching environments and can yield extraordinary results.
  • Having a base to experiment with ideas for high quality improvisation, breathes fresh life into old repertoire and may inspire a new generation to do the same.
  • Organising of a series of solo performances across regional Australia that incorporates extensive improvised elements, and plans are developing for a series of education workshops based around Historically Informed Performance improvisation techniques in various locations around Australia.

“One of the great pleasures since returning from my trip has been sharing my research findings with musical friends and colleagues and experimenting with some of the exercises and techniques gathered on my travels,” Ms Slattery said.

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