Australian Miniseries: Distant Solo (Elena Kats-Chernin)


Elena Kats-Chernin AO Composer
Veronica Bailey Vibraphone

Distant Solo was commissioned by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra soon after the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia. It forms part of the online Australian Miniseries, a collection of 15 new works for solo instrument. Amid concert cancellations, this project was a sign of hope for composers, performers, listeners, music makers and facilitators behind the scenes.

I wrote this piece for solo vibraphone over a few weeks in July / August 2020. I workshopped the piece with Veronica Bailey, CSO Principal Percussion, in the only way possible – from a distance. I sent her my handwritten drafts, later typeset with some red pen markings. She sent back recordings. I asked her which version of the piece she preferred (there were several at the start!), and which kinds of mallets she thought would be best suited to the piece (the answer = soft mallets). She suggested a particular pedalling technique which I really like, so it got notated in the score. Some of our discussion was about the nature and the length of the transition from the opening, slower texture into the more active section. The overall mood of the piece is of haunted subduedness and atmospheric mystery.

Distant Solo is very much a result of Veronica’s input. I am very grateful for her talent and the time she gave me so generously over the course of composing this miniature.

 – Elena Kats-Chernin AO

Distant Solo was premiered online on 16 October 2020.

Elena Kats-Chernin AO, composer (Image: Steven Godbee)

Elena Kats-Chernin was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She studied music in Yaroslavl and Moscow, and subsequently studied composition with Richard Toop at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover and Stuttgart, Germany with the support of the DAAD Scholarship.

Elena’s vibrant and distinctive music featured at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Popular compositions include Eliza Aria, from her ballet suite Wild Swans, and Russian Rag – both have been used as the theme for ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live program.

Elena’s work has been performed by all the major orchestras in Australia, as well as the City of London Sinfonia, the BBC Orchestra, the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, among others. She has also been programmed at numerous festivals including Musica Nova (Helsinki), Soundstream (Toronto), Cabrillo (Santa Cruz) and Other Minds (San Francisco).

Elena’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Veronica Bailey playing a gong in the Nishi Building in Canberra
Veronica Bailey, Principal Percussion (Image: Martin Ollman)

Veronica is Principal Percussionist with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. She lives in Canberra with her husband, CSO trombonist Michael Bailey, and their two sons.

Veronica has a Bachelor of Music from the Australian National University (ANU), and a master’s degree focusing on percussion pedagogy. She also studied at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University in 2007.

Veronica is a passionate educator and has been the classical percussion teacher at the ANU School of Music since 2018 and the ANU Open School since 2010. A number of her students have won prizes nationally, participated in Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) programs, and been awarded scholarships to study at the ANU, Sydney Conservatorium of Music and other universities.

Veronica is also a core member of Looking Glass Percussion, along with CSO Percussionist John Dewhurst.


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