The Magic of Community Music

Community music is a space that exists for people like us. It is a welcoming place where everyone can turn up and join in, learn something new and enjoy the results. Music teachers and conductors are like magicians waving wands around and allowing grown-ups to play instruments in the same room at the same time. It’s amazing, and who would have known that it was allowed, much less encouraged!

This Saturday 24th August our music-making leads to the Victorian Community Orchestra Gala Concert. The Victorian Community Orchestra Project is ambitious in its aims to create original works and arrangements for community orchestras to play in their concerts.

Patron Zoe Knighton sums up what this project is all about:

Playing music together is such an invigorating way of bringing a community together no matter how large or small. Ignited by the excitement of new music, this project is one that unites and celebrates the true riches that community music delivers.

The concert has prizes for the best original composition, best arrangement and a people’s choice award. We are excited about our works, Mark Viggiani’s arrangement of Bartok’s piano music ‘Of Tulips and Dragons’ and Nicholas Goulding’s ‘Overflow’.

Nicholas Goulding has composed for Squawkestra “Overflow”, an original work which we are proud to be premiering at the VCO Project Gala Concert.

Nicholas is a composer from Melbourne, Australia. Genres such as jazz, modern classical and dance music are included in his repertoire, whilst a passion for film scoring inspires a continued experimentation and discovery of new sounds. After studying Composition, Film-Scoring and Songwriting at Box Hill Institute of TAFE, he has scored numerous short films and he has been collaborating with other musicians on a variety of projects from the studio to the stage.

Bio Pic - Nick Goulding

Mark Viggiani has composed for Squawkestra “Of Tulips and Dragons”, an arrangement of five pieces taken from Béla Bartók’s piano music, which we are proud to be premiering at the VCO Project Gala Concert.

He has been active as a composer since the early 1990s. Amongst numerous awards and prizes most recently Viggiani won the 2014 Melbourne Conservatory of Music / Melbourne Recital Centre award, for which the work Cleopatra was commissioned for Ensemble Liaison and Greta Bradman; and the 2012 Zavod Classical/Jazz Fusion Composition Award for John the Revelator. This work was composed for and premiered by the Mons Kinky Pinky Orchestra at the 2011 Ars Musica Festival in Mons, Belgium.

Most recently Viggiani completed his first music theatre work Seven Deadly Sins, in conjunction with Opera Victoria. Other recent commissions include a new work for the Song Company’s 2015 Michael Leunig program, One Last Tango, performed by Orchestra Victoria under Richard Mills, Lomax Sketches for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra,  Aus Der Munitionsfabriken, which was premiered by Speak Percussion at the 2007 Big West Festival and a trio for the ensemble Syzygy.

Recognised as a more than capable classical guitarist himself, Viggiani has created a large body of music including solos, didactic works and mixed ensemble pieces. He released a CD of origional compositions The Rainmaker on Move Records to international critical acclaim, and has appeared at festivals including the Darwin International Guitar Festival, Brunswick Music Festival, and the Sydney Guitar Festival.

In 2013 Viggiani completed a Ph.D in Music Composition with at the University of Melbourne, during which time he received the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA, 2009-12). During his candidature he also undertook studies in Torino with Giulio Castagnoli and attended masterclasses at the Venice Biennale. More recently, he completed a residency at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts in Florida with composer Martin Bresnick.

In addition to his activities as a composer and performer, Viggiani has many years experience teaching guitar and music theory related subjects, at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. In 2017 he started the online publishing venture Trove Music, in order to disseminate his compositions and transcriptions for guitar.

Halfway to the Gala

We are halfway through our Composing Conversations Workshop Series! We have discussed with composers, patrons and conductors their inspirations, motivations and experiences, as well as honing our pieces to be premiered at the  Victorian Community Orchestra Project Gala Concert on Saturday 24 August.

Extra rehearsals and guest appearances in the Composing Conversation Workshop Series have been made possible with the financial assistance of an Australia Post Workforce Community Grant. We thank Australia Post helping us be the best we can be for the VCOP Gala Concert.

In Rehearsal 2019_07_11

Guest Conductor Mark Shiell

Last rehearsal we played under the baton of Mark Shiell, our guest conductor.  Mark has studied and conducted both in Australia and Internationally, and has worked with some of Australia’s most celebrated composers and performers.  He shared with us his stories and experiences working with professional, student and community orchestras.

This week Mark will return to lead a sectional for wind & brass, along with Andrea Keeble, who will be leading the string sectional rehearsal.  Andrea is a renowned violinist in a number of Melbourne ensembles, educator, composer and long-time friend to Squawkestra.  We welcome them both back for another Composing Conversation.

Our Composing Conversation at last week’s workshop was with VCO Project founder Sally Burgess and patron Jenny Khafagi.

Sally Burgess is the Founder and the vision behind the VCO Project. Sally has a non music day job but a commitment and passion for community music and it’s participants. We heard about her vision for the VCO Project and the interest of promoting music, musicians and shepherding new sounds into the world – especially for community orchestras. We learnt how she she is making it happen with the help of some influential friends as well as the nitty-gritty of matchmaking composers with orchestras and sourcing music stands and percussion for the Gala concert!

Jenny Khafagi is a violinist and well known among Australia’s most respected orchestras, including Melbourne and Queensland Symphony Orchestras and ACO2 Collective (Australian Chamber Orchestra). As a full time career musician, Jenny is busy with performing, rehearsing and touring schedules as well as being active in supporting new music and community music and she is a highly regarded educator. We were especially lucky to have Jenny on hand to demonstrate to us new harmonics techniques the strings will use in Nick Goulding’s piece Overflow.

Composing Conversation 2019_07_11

Our first Composing Conversations workshop was a big success last week. We began work on Mark Viggiani’s piece Of Tulips and Dragons an arrangement of Bartok’s piano music for orchestra. Orchestra members received their part for Overflow, an original composition by Nick Goulding. There was much excitement as orchestra members delved into a new sonic world of discovery.

Our first composing conversation was with our resident composer, Nick Goulding. In our conversation with Nick we were given an introduction to the inner working behind his new piece. What a privilege it is to hear how a piece comes together. We heard about his influences and his vision and narrative for his work, Overflow. Orchestra members were encouraged to ask questions openly and candidly. There was much laughter shared and aligning of possibilities.

Composing Conversations LogoIt’s not too late to take part. Come along to the next rehearsal this Thursday 11 July and check out the the full workshop program!

Little Winter Music Concert

We’ve had our final rehearsal in preparation for this week’s Little Winter Music Concert, and are looking forward to sharing Mornings, Nights, Folk Songs and Dances with our audience.

It will also be an opportunity to learn more about our 9-week Composing Conversations Workshop Series.

Please join us on Thursday June 13th at 7:30 pm, at the AIDS Memorial Chapel, Melbourne Polytechnic – Fairfield campus, Yarra Bend Road Fairfield. Entry is by donation.

2019 Winter Concert

Squawkestra is excited to announce its upcoming workshop series “Composing Conversations”.

We will be exploring new works written especially for, and in collaboration with, Squawkestra across eight workshops and culminating in a performance at the Victorian Community Orchestra (VCO) Project Gala Concert.

Workshops will be conducted by Katrina Wilson O’Brien and include collaboration with VCO Project composers Mark Viggiani and Nicholas Goulding and conversations with VCO Project Patron Zoe Knighton and VCO Project Founder Sally Burgess.

Beginning Thursday June 27 at Northcote Senior Citizen’s Centre, 18A Bent St, Northcote. Participation is free for Squawkestra members, and $90/$70 Concession for new members.

Composing Conversations Banner (1)



With the temperature dropping and winter around the corner, rehearsals for our upcoming “Little Winter Music” concert are well advanced. Pieces we will perform include Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from Midsummer’s Night Dream, Robert Sheldon’s Appalachian Morning and a Purcell Air. See our 2019 Concerts page for details.