Words and photography by: Liam Heitmann-Ryce-LeMercier

Concert Highlights:

  • Breathtaking guest solo from oboist/ cor anglais supremo Leanne Glover, marking her debut performance with WACO
  • Surprise seat placement right next to Glover’s husband – and then next to Glover herself for concert’s second half
  • Audience holds breath between two rousing movements of FERDE GROFÉ’s Grand Canyon Suite
  • JULIE GIROUX’s Blue Marble Symphony pairing with visual projection provides stellar concert-closer

In a week that saw reports of record heatwaves across much of western Europe, as major cities in Spain, Italy, and France expect to see temperatures cross the 40-degree mark, it seems our planet is trying to tell us something. As much as we may believe the skies and seas are ours to command, Mother Earth does not take kindly to having her lungs clogged with jet vapours and her land buried under garbage.

The planet we call home – as enormous and wondrous as it may be – is nevertheless extremely precious: it needs to be protected and respected. Such was the mission statement affirmed in the Western Australian Charity Orchestra’s concert Planet Earth: Our World in Music, a selection of works chosen to reflect the beauty and delicacy of the natural world.

The variety of musical landscapes on display at the Perth Concert Hall last Saturday came from distinctly Australian and American perspectives, such is their shared status as huge continents romanticised for their open spaces. Under the exuberant baton of conductor Samuel Parry, the choice of Australian composer Iain Grandage’s All That Glisters as the opener set the tone appropriately: a shining, quivering piece that seemed to draw in sound a limitless blanket of starlight over the entire auditorium.

A strong companion piece was that of American composer Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, a musical portrait of the eponymous landmark vividly brought to life by the West Coast Philharmonic Orchestra. The two pieces chosen – the closing movements, IV: “Sunset” and V: “Cloudburst” – were perhaps the most rousing, muscular performances of the night, injecting the programme with the glamorous bravado of a Bernstein fanfare.

Most notably, the charged hush present between movements – the thrilling quiet which eclipsed a repeating two-note refrain of harp as the fourth movement softened into silence – was a unique moment of suspended awe. At no other point did it feel as though the audience were holding its breath quite so intently.

But the star of the night was undoubtedly Leanne Glover, a legend of Australian classical music, seen here on cor anglais in a performance that drew many in the audience to tears. Providing the guiding voice at the heart of Australian composer Ella Macens’s Glass Ocean – receiving its Western Australian premiere that evening – her rolling, dreamy performance atop the glistening strings and percussive elements of Macens’ portrait of life beneath the sea had the effect of transfixing the audience, bringing those seated beside one another to lace their hands together and shuffle their legs tightly beside each other.

By sheer blind coincidence, my seat was directly next to that of Glover’s husband, with whom I chatted before the show started.

The profundity of joy that radiated from this man, the physical aura of effusive, rose-red pride that gushed out of this man’s heart, was unlike any other experience of ambient emotion I have ever experienced.

Throughout the entirety of Glover’s soulful performance – standing in thigh-high boots and a rockstar’s minidress of baby blue crushed velvet, sporting a rakish pixie cut of stunning silver hair – the man sat beside me did not once relax his face into an expression anywhere less than that of beaming, crinkle-eyed elation.

It was a silent moment of warm magic to have met the proudest man in the world, as his heart burst with joy less than a foot away from me.

An added bonus, however, came in the second half when Leanne’s husband then introduced me to the toast of the night, where her starlight-shimmer dress shone just as brightly as the plume of excitable contentedness emanating from husband and wife as they took their seat together.

The finale of the night came in the form of American composer Julie Giroux’s Blue Marble Symphony, an ode to nature and its capacity to both inspire and destroy, as accompanied by a video montage of the world in various states of serenity and unrest.

Beautifully interpreted by the Western Australian Wind Symphony, in the second WA premiere of the evening, the piece fused pre-recorded sounds – bird calls and Amazonian wildlife for the aptly titled second movement, “Voices in Green” – and video footage of diverse global environments in a brilliant accompaniment to Giroux’s expansive composition.

Encompassing so much of the natural world in a globe-spanning selection of pieces, Planet Earth: Our World in Music did wonders to highlight both the fragile beauty and tremendous power of the wonderful world we call home.   


Did you miss this concert? A digital copy of the programme notes can be viewed here, providing a comprehensive listener’s guide for each of the selected pieces.

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