Byline: Musica Viva

Making Australia a more musical place is Musica Viva's mission, and one ensemble that shares this goal is Arcadia Winds. 

The Melbourne-based group, made up of friends Lloyd Van't Hoff, Kiran Phatak, David Reichelt, Rachel Shaw and Matthew Kneale, have been performing as Arcadia Winds since 2013, and were Musica Viva's inaugural FutureMakers from 2015-17. From there, they have built a long standing connection with Musica Viva, performing all around Australia as part of regional tours, Musica Viva In Schools, Sessions events and more.

On Tuesday 4 May, Arcadia Winds will perform for Melbourne Morning Masters. In late 2020, we took this opportunity to speak with one of the members, Kiran Phatak to learn more about the group's history, their experience as Musica Viva FutureMakers, and their passion for supporting Australian music! Tickets are available now here.

Arcadia Winds. Where does the name come from, and tell us about the formation of the ensemble?

We formed Arcadia Winds at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM), in 2013, when we were all studying there. We had known each other in various combinations for many years before that, but we finally all came together as friends and colleagues in that year, and have never looked back.

The origin of the name “Arcadia Winds” was inspired by a moment from our studies at ANAM, where a visiting flautist, Emily Beynon, quoted the Danish composer Carl Nielsen talking about the flute: “you can take the flute out of Arcadia, but you can never take Arcadia out of the flute.” We thought this was such a fantastic way to describe not only the flute, but wind instruments in general. Arcadia is the mythical Greek heaven-on-earth, where Pan, god of wine and music, frolics about with nymphs, fauns an satyrs. We thought—yes, the string quartets and trios can be up in the clouds being angelic and serious—but we’re down here on the ground, playing our hearts out and having a ragingly good time!

You were Musica Viva's inaugural FutureMakers. Can you describe how that program benefitted Arcadia Winds over those two years?

It’s hard to sum up just how much we benefitted from our time in FutureMakers, but in a word, it was transformative. It was a radically ambitious program that was willing to provide the tools, skills, training, networks and opportunities for us to go from five students who enjoyed playing together and had dreams for the future, to a professionally run ensemble who have now had our music broadcast all over the world, regularly perform around the country with world-class chamber musicians, developed an education show that has been seen by thousands of children around the country, and commissioned and recorded dozens of new works by Australian composers.

You're passionate about supporting Australian voices, as in addition to commissioning individual composers, you've developed the Arcadia Winds Digital Australian Music Portal, and run an annual composition competition. Why is this so important to you and what have you learned by developing these projects?

Australian music and musicians are central to what we do as an ensemble. We are convinced that for our music and industry to survive and thrive, it needs to be a living tradition, that is constantly stimulated and carried forward by new creators. Not only is being involved in the creation of new Australian art stimulating and fulfilling, it is often the most powerful and relevant for our audiences as well. We have learned all sorts of things about how to collaborate with other creators in a way that results in a great piece of music, and how to value, respect and promote their work in the most appropriate ways.

Tell us about your program for 2021. What aspect of live performance did you miss the most in 2020, and are looking forward to?

Our program for 2021 is chock-a-block with concerts. Most of them are still under wraps right now, but keep a beady eye out for some exciting announcements very soon! One of the things we’ve missed the most (apart from actually playing with each other, which we haven’t got to do for so long!), is playing music live for people again. The unspoken communication between audience and performer, the sound of listening ears, even the crinkling of lolly wrappers and the occasional coughs, sniffs and sneezes—all will be music to our ears (pun intended) in 2021.

You also have an hour long program called 'The Air I Breathe' that you tour as a part of Musica Viva in Schools. Can you tell us about the development and idea behind that show, and is music education something the group consciously prioritises?

‘The Air I Breathe’ has been an enormously exciting and rewarding project over the last few years. The idea behind the show is demonstrating, and involving children in, the magical transformation of breath into music. It’s something that we do every day when we’re playing our instruments, but it’s an endlessly fascinating and delightful process that we have a lot of fun sharing with kids all over the country.

Music education is something we consciously prioritise for several reasons, but the main one actually comes up frequently after our Musica Viva in Schools shows, during question time. Often, the children will ask us, why did you start playing music? And we will answer: because of our music teachers. Each one of us had wonderful, creative, selfless schoolteachers who kindled our passions for music and supported us through the sometimes difficult process of learning an instrument. Without teachers, there is no music.

Arcadia Winds will be performing on Tuesday 4 May for Melbourne Morning Masters. Tickets are available now.