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The gift of time: Fellowship recipient Genevieve Lacey

Jun 27, 2013

For virtuoso recorder player Genevieve Lacey, a two year Australia Council Fellowship came in the nick of time. It was not because she was in any way short of work: quite the opposite. As one of the world’s leading players, Lacey was enjoying the life of a musician in demand, forever on a plane to the next gig or juggling diary dates.

‘This a very consuming business. I was dangerously on the edge of burn out. I knew that something had to happen, and this made what seemed necessary possible.’

Genevieve Lacey’s performance schedule takes her to London, Paris, Moscow, and all over Asia and Australia. She is an award-winning recording artist, is active on judging and advisory panels, and from 2010-2012 was artistic director of the Four Winds Festival . She knew she needed a change in pace but she did not realise how much.

‘That adrenalin-fuelled life is addictive in its own way – it’s glorious, no question about that – but I hadn’t realised myself how starved I was of time.’

The Fellowship allowed her to clear her diary for some deep creative thinking, writing, reading and just being.

‘To go with a gardening analogy, I was completely parched.’

Lacey describes herself as ‘a serial collaborator’, and she has spent the first year of her Fellowship developing new work with a huge range of artists from different parts of the creative spectrum. Right now, she is in the recording studio, where she and her colleagues, singer/songwriter Paul Kelly, performer / composer Jim Ledger and sound engineer Jim Atkins are putting the finishing touches to a recording of Conversations with Ghosts , a song cycle created in conjunction with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music  (ANAM).

Meanwhile, film-maker and artist Sophie Raymond is a co-conspirator with Lacey for a 30 minute animated docu-fantasy. Spinning out of Raymond’s Archibald Prize entry, a portrait of Lacey, it is story of a single-minded redhead who — you guessed – plays the recorder. Then there is a collaboration with composer Brett Dean and visual artist Heather Betts; ongoing relationships such as her trio, Three Lanes ; and a spot of hi-tech busking  on the streets of Sydney, with help from video artist Tim Gruchy and composer Damien Barbeler.

The Fellowship has also allowed Lacey to explore parts of herself that get neglected during intensive performing periods. Untuning the Sky  is a project with writer, broadcaster and composer Andrew Ford, commissioned by ABC Classic FM.

‘It looks like the outcome will be what we’re calling a radiophonic work that involves a combination of texts and music. Andy embodies that nexus between reading, writing, thinking and music, in both words and music,’ says Lacey. ‘That combination is a very big part of me.’

Many of these projects will come to fruition in 2013, as either performances, broadcasts, recordings or exhibitions. But that does not mean they are finished.

‘In an ideal scenario the concert is not the end. If it has had meaning you take some of that into whatever you do next. Whether it’s the people or an idea of the start of a language or the start of something else.’

All of which brings Lacey back to reflecting on what inspires her as an artist.

‘Music as the preservation of a cultural past is not what inspires me. While I love music and repertoire and ideas and art and thinking from many different times and cultures, I’m really interested in making art now, and communicating, whether it’s something from the seventeenth century or now, with an audience in the here and now. More and more my work, as it comes out, is about trying to create community.

‘To work in an indigenous community and then a prison and then a science laboratory and then a concert hall all in the same month is inspiring. If you can hold all that in your head and your body then that has such potential to influence one another.

‘It’s amazing what can grow when you take some time. [The Fellowship] is a most extraordinary gift.’

Genevieve Lacey received Fellowship funding from the Australia Council Music Board.