Leanne Bear holding a violin

I was composing a scene of fluid and moonlit river Seine when, among many others around the globe, I stopped to watch in horror via internet as the spire collapsed.

LEANNE BEAR
AUSTRALIAN COMPOSER

Upon graduating from the University of Queensland, composer and violinist Leanne Bear travelled around Europe with violin and purple suit, performing her avant-garde works and learning from acclaimed teachers. Back in Australia, she married Tor Frømyhr and moved to Canberra in 1997.

Leanne has played in several Australian orchestras and chamber music ensembles. Memorable performances include with Pereira/ Australian String Quartet for the Leigh Warren and Dancers Quiver tour (1998); performing and tutoring at Mr Buller Chamber Music School (2003); and Taabinga chamber music schools and festivals. In 1999, Leanne played solo violin in Andrew Ford’s Furry Dance with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, where she is a core player.

Leanne has presented solo, mixed media shows such as Fluffy Purple Violins and INDI for two violins, percussion and landscape soundtrack. In 2012, she staged, conducted and performed Imaginessence, highlighting her established style of extended, early twentieth century tonality.

Other recent works include the premiere of Art Nouveau featuring Bernadette Harvey and Julian Smiles (2018); Pastorale suite for strings (2017); Auvergne for cello and piano (2016); and Postcards to Hungary (2015).

Marriage, three children and a property in the Yass Valley seems to be a vibrant environment for this versatile artist’s forest of inspiration.

Photo: Peter Hislop

PROGRAM NOTE

Leanne Bear
Nôtre Gothique (2019)
Trio for clarinet, violin and piano
PLEXUS commission

Originally intended as a ‘Paris Suite’ memorial for the bombings in 2015, this musical celebration of Parisian artistic life took a dramatic turn when the roof of Nôtre Dame cathedral burned down on April 15, 2019. I was composing a scene of fluid and moonlit river Seine when, among many others around the globe, I stopped to watch in horror via internet as the spire collapsed.

So many tragedies of various proportions are witnessed now through the media, and I guess we respond accordingly. My response is to write and make music. Truly moving, though, were images of the people of Paris gathered in vigil to mourn, pray and sing hymns for the monument that symbolises the heart of their city.

The scope of the damage was not clear then, but I knew that this is what my music would reflect, and Moonlit Seine became Nôtre Gothique. Lovers of history and art alike grieved for the magnificent stained glass ‘rose windows’, and the historic organ and other relics of age-old craftsmanship. Fortuitously, though, much was preserved.

Musical pillars of chords frame the ‘Rose’ leadlight vignettes of times past – plainsong, then fourteenth century ‘Ars Nova’, a Baroque canon of musical coloured shards. You can even hear a bar of Widor toccata being practised by the organist, as we hurtle past the nineteenth century to the twenty-first!

My conflicted feelings about the cathedral itself can also be heard in the music, a battle between God and graven image, as my research deepened into why monstrous gargoyles and grotesques are so numerous on the church roof. Surely a contradiction in a place of worship?

According to church historians they were a scare tactic in the Dark Ages to encourage the illiterate masses into church, protected from the evil outside. Yet these gruesome stone creatures depicting dragons and mythical beasts are a beloved landmark of Paris. So, the violin and clarinet dance together in a diabolical duel with the noble piano…

I first visited Paris in 2015, unfortunately arriving two days after the bombing disaster. Paris was in shock, the streets were empty and public venues were closed down. I wanted to do something to help, so I played my tiny ‘violet velvet violin’ performance art to the stoic artists in Montmartre. Beyond this small gesture, the PLEXUS commission seemed the ideal instrumentation for a memorial, and I have enjoyed composing for such wonderful musicians and the exciting textures of this instrumentation.

As to the Mime and Montmartre movements of Paris Suite, they are music ‘to be continued…’

© Leanne Bear, 2021

Nôtre Gothique was premiered at Melbourne Recital Centre by PLEXUS in June 2019. 

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