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11 March 2024

Muses Trio: Celebrating ten years

Muses Trio: Christa Powell, Therese Milanovic, and Louise King Image: Muses Trio: Christa Powell, Therese Milanovic, and Louise King  

Muses Trio are known as one of Australia's leading ensembles in contemporary classical music. More than their deft and skilful performances, they have a mission in celebrating music composed by women, performed by women, and delivering underrepresented - yet deserving - music to audiences. This year, Muses Trio celebrate their tenth anniversary, marking the occasion with a new album release which coincided with International Women's Day on 8 March.

The trio have come a long way over the past ten years. Describing the beginnings of the ensemble, pianist Therese Milanovic (piano) told us, "A friend and supporter of mine, Barry Gorman, approached me about programming a work by women composers in 2013, and together with his wife Jeanne offered to pay venue hire to make sure it happened. At the time, I confess that I had had a steady musical diet of the Western white male canon and didn't know where to start in even finding music to play."

The ignited interest in exploring a new body of repertoire coincided with a new collaboration between three instrumentalists. "I had worked with Christa Powell (violin) through Topology for some years already and had always wanted to play with Louise King (Cello Dreaming)," Therese said. "We had a good musical and personal connection, and so it began! Since then, I have absolutely loved the process of uncovering gems from the past that deserve to be showcased, finding new music, and also commissioning new works for the Muses."

Their work has extended beyond the curation and programming of music by female composers, but to also make that music accessible to audiences. "We love bringing this gorgeous music to non-traditional spaces to increase accessibility to curious music lovers, and one highlight for me was definitely the release of our debut album, The Spirit and the Maiden, in Boggo Road Gaol (formerly a women's prison) as a signature event for the Anywhere Festival in 2016," Therese said. "Other highlights have been cultivating beautiful relationships with women composers across Australia who are both superb at their craft and amazing human beings, supporting each other, and helping bring stunning music to life in performances and studio recordings."

Naturally, the latest Muses Trio album, 10 Years, features new works by Australian women composers: Nat Bartsch, Ella Macens, Sally Greenaway, Elena Kats-Chernin, and Louise Denson.

"I always take a lot of time curating a program or album, and then there is a moment when it clicks into place and it feels right, you know you have it," reflected Therese.

Her description of the process of selecting composers and commissioning of their work is dotted with happy coincidences and some sense of organic cosmic alignment though, pragmatically, builds on the personal and working relationships that the trio had actively nurtured. "We were fortunate that Louise Denson gave us a gift of her three Sketches. Another stroke of serendipity was Nat Bartsch telling us that Ella Macens was looking for a group to do the Australian premiere of her work The Brightest Star in the Night, which completely resonated with us. We had worked with Nat Bartsch through the Fire Dances project, commissioned by the ABC Fresh Start Fund, along with one composer from each state and territory to reflect on the 2019/2020 Bushfires. Another set of stars aligning was approaching Sally Greenaway to write her first every piano trio, for us, and for another couple to do the same, so we ended up with a pair of works that could be performed together."

"Finally, my mother, Mary Milanovic, was curious about what was involved in commissioning, and as she has always loved Elena Kats-Chernin's music, asked if Elena might consider being commissioned by her. Solitudes is one of Elena's most colourful and stunning works to me, and having that personal connection is incredible. We had a very memorable meeting of the Muses, Elena and my Mum which we will always look back fondly upon."

The works themselves carry personal stories. The commissions prompted each composer to reflect on specific memories and lived experiences and draw from their own introspection and personal life-shaping events, people, and emotions to create their music.

In their ten years, Muses Trio are not just representing female composers and contributing new work to the repertoire. They've also found a true forte in in building connections where women creatives can support each other and own a safe space to showcase strength and vulnerability in their work.

Muses Trio's album 10 Years is out now. Listen and buy on Bandcamp.
Find out more about the album via the AMC catalogue.


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