CSO Mixtape: Musical memories

[blockquote author=”Lucy Macourt”]All the repertoire in this playlist relates to my musical journey. The pieces are tied in with memories of my early experiences with music, performances I’ve done and pieces that inspired me along the way”[/blockquote]

Lucy Macourt (Image: Martin Ollman)

Hailing from Sydney, violinist Lucy Macourt completed a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, studying with Dr Goetz Richter. She held the Matteson and Nancy Scholarship, the Kathleen and Allison Short Scholarship and a Sydney Scholars Award. Prior to her tertiary studies, Lucy was enrolled in the Conservatorium’s Rising Stars program, studying with Dr Evgeny Sorkin.

Lucy is an alumni of the Australian Youth Orchestra and National Music Camp, has interned with the Opera Australia Orchestra, performed with the Sydney Symphony fellows, and the Regional Youth Orchestra, encompassing workshops with the Staatskapelle Berlin. She has also performed in masterclasses for Andrea Gajic (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and Charles Stegeman (Concertmaster of Pittsburgh Opera Ballet Theatre).

Lucy is an experienced music educator, having conducted and tutored string ensembles at primary and secondary schools across Sydney, as well as running her own private studio. Lucy continues her teaching at Canberra Grammar School, the ACT Academy of Music, and her own private teaching studio. She also conducts the Sinfonietta ensemble at Music for Canberra.

This year sees Lucy join the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Kingsland Residency program, performing with the orchestra across the 2020/21 seasons. The Kingsland Residency offers outstanding emerging players an opportunity to gain professional experience in the areas of symphonic performance, ensemble performance, instrumental teaching and arts administration. The CSO thanks the Kingsland family and other generous supporters for making the program possible.


Suite no. 1 in G major for solo cello – Prelude

My mum used to play this amongst other things when my siblings and I were little. We love dancing along as she played. I love hearing the tension and release of the harmonies in this piece.

Lakmé – Flower Duet

This was the first piece I ever played live with opera singers. I was around 14 and had never really been a big fan of opera. I had listened to recordings in the past and to me it just sounded like they were warbling! I was preparing myself for a similar experience in the rehearsal. They were standing just behind me and you could feel the ground shake as they unleashed the full power and beauty of their voices. I was in awe! Safe to say I’ve loved opera ever since.

The Magic Flute – “Pa-pa-pa” – Papageno and Papagena

This was the first opera I ever watched live and the first full opera I played in at university. Papageno and Papagena are comedic characters, always playing pranks and teasing each other. I often find myself referring back to this opera and these two characters when I am playing any of the Mozart violin concertos, to help me come up with a story and make my phrasing more convincing.

Partita no. 2 in D minor for solo violin – Gigue

This was the first piece of solo Bach I ever played. I remember working for so long on this with my teacher at the time, Kerry Martin, finessing all of the phrasing and making sure I was playing in tune. I slowly fell in love with the piece and later got to play it at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It was amazing to play Bach in that building surrounded by all the beautiful artwork. The acoustic was so resonant because of the wood floors and high ceilings.

Carmina Burana – O Fortuna

At high school, I was introduced to the House Choir Competition, where we were separated into our houses and were taught how to sing two songs by our house captains (one own choice and the other a set work). The set work for that year was O Fortuna and it was such a powerful work to be welcomed into the school with. Later that year, we sang O Fortuna with a full orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, to mark the school’s 125th anniversary. I remember how excited everyone was and how long we practiced standing up and sitting down as a whole unit.

Violin concerto no. 1 in G minor 
First movement

There have been a few points throughout my violin career where I’ve questioned whether I wanted to continue. This concerto, for whatever reason, makes me want to keep playing. I feel like this piece conveys such a wide variety of emotions, from the dark brooding opening to a nostalgic second movement, closing with a bright, celebratory third movement.

Overture on Hebrew Themes

This was one of my first chamber music experiences and the first time I’d worked closely with Kirsten Williams, the CSO Concertmaster. Kirsten was setting up a chamber music tutoring project at the Independent Theatre; I’d seen some flyers and decided to audition. In the beginning, we had a random collection of instruments: me on violin, a violist, a cellist, a clarinettist and a pianist. It so happened that Elle Betts, one of the tutors, had the music for this piece in her car, almost completely matching the instrumentation we had! It’s such a great piece, with almost a klezmer feel to it.

Suite for violin, clarinet and piano 
Third movement

This was another piece that I learnt through Kirsten’s chamber music project with my friend Victoria. We had a few early morning tutorials with Kirsten in the music classrooms, which overlooked the agriculture yard. We kept hearing the chickens crowing and we all wondered whether they were enjoying their serenade.

“Sunrise” string quartet, op. 76, No. 4 
First movement

This quartet was the last piece I learned as part of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Rising Stars chamber music program. It was such a good little group and our tutor, James Wannan, was so much fun to work with. We spent so long working on the opening and getting it to sound like the sun slowly peeking over the horizon. I felt like we really achieved that when we performed it together at the end of the semester.

Symphony No. 2 
Fourth movement

This was one of the first pieces I played as part of the Australian Youth Orchestra, and my first appearance on the Lewellyn Hall stage. It was so exciting to play a huge symphony like this and work with so many fantastic musicians and conductors. This movement reminds me a lot of Romeo and Juliet. You start off with a party, then suddenly you have this almost uncomfortable juxtaposition of more militaristic sounding music, representing the fight between the Montagues and Capulets. Later, a return to the party, followed by these incredibly lush melodies which sounds like Romeo and Juliet meeting each other for the first time. However, I think in this version Romeo and Juliet both survive.

Compassion – 7. Avinu Malkeinu

I played this in my second season with the Australian Youth Orchestra. Having Nigel Westlake conduct us alongside Lior’s amazing voice made this such a special experience. We learnt a bit about their partnership, including how hearing Lior helped Westlake want to compose again after the passing of his son. This context made the music even more powerful.

“London” Symphony No. 104
First movement

One of the concert experiences I really treasure as an audience member was when Steven Isserlis played the Shostakovich cello concerto with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The ACO also performed this Haydn symphony and it just spoke, you could hear different characters all engaging with each other. I had never really enjoyed or understood Haydn symphonies before then.

“When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago

The first musical I ever played in was Chicago with the Berowra Musical Society. I absolutely fell in love with this musical, and this song was one of my favourites to play. I had really been quite a strict classical-only musician and it was exciting to explore a different style of playing.

Sinfonia da Requiem 
First movement

I played this in my last orchestral studies program as part of my Bachelor of Music (Performance) at Sydney Conservatorium. Roger Benedict conducted us and really brought this piece to life. I remember how we just filled the Sydney Town Hall with such a massive sound, all of us moving together as one organism when we reached around 7:45 of the playlist recording.

Jandamarra – Sing for the Country – The land is healed: ban.garay!

We also played Paul Stanhope’s Jandamarra as part of my final orchestral studies program. It was inspiring to meet performers from the Bunuba people and watch them act out the story and play didgeridoo. I particularly enjoyed this moment in the cantata – we got to sit back and watch the choir sing. My favourite part is near the end where a soprano soloist soars over the rest of the choir.

“Summertime/A Woman is a Sometime Thing” from Porgy and Bess

I played this work in my final recital at university. It was tied to some special memories of a school music tour I went on to Europe in 2012, where two friends had played Summertime, one voice and one piano. Remembering their performance really inspired my interpretation.


You moved to Canberra to take up the residency with the CSO – and then COVID-19 happened. 

Tell us about the experience so far. 

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown I had a number of fantastic performance opportunities. One of my favourites was the Australian Series program titled Love, Kindness, Decency, presented in early March. It was a very demanding program, put together in a short amount of time and I was playing amongst some really fantastic players. I’m so glad we managed to record some of the pieces from that concert because it’s a nice reminder of a time before COVID-19.

Online teaching has presented a whole host of challenges, from learning how to use new platforms and dealing with technology lags and glitches to creating engaging digital content. Whilst there have been highs and lows, I believe in the long run I will be a better teacher for it. I’ve been forced to think more about how to describe movements and techniques to students and have seen how some platforms can enhance music learning in general. But I really miss seeing the kids I was teaching face-to-face! I’m looking forward to returning to regular teaching as soon as I can.

One unexpected experience as a result of COVID-19 was the opportunity to perform my first recital through Zoom for a 60th wedding anniversary. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do something like that! I was very worried about sound quality and whether or not the family would enjoy it. However, I found some very nice orchestral backing tracks for some of the pieces. I really enjoyed playing for an audience again and the family seemed to enjoy being able to access live music!

Describe a treasured childhood memory related to music.

One of my most treasured childhood memories would have to be the yearly musical evenings held at my primary school. I loved preparing for these, picking a piece I could perform solo and also getting something ready to play with the school’s string ensemble. On the day, I always admired how much work Mrs Yager, our music teacher, and her family put in to get the event off the ground.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

I’m definitely a cat person! My family has five cats: four British Shorthairs named Snow, Albus, Toffee, and Neptune and one Domestic Shorthair, Howdy.

Name three careers you could see yourself in if you weren’t a musician (and tell us why).

I’ve always seen myself in a sort of ‘caring’ profession because I love helping people. Maybe a doctor, or some kind of therapist – whether that’s occupational, speech or physio – or a teacher.  Really, I already am a teacher! I teach quite a few lovely young musicians here in Canberra.

How is this playlist best enjoyed while social distancing?

Best enjoyed in the sun outside or in front of a heater with a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate with a good quality speaker or headphones.

Name a musician you admire (and tell us why).

At the moment I’m really admiring all the work that Nicola Benedetti and her foundation are doing to keep kids inspired and motivated to practice and just keep music involved in their lives during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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