CSO Mixtape: Doreen Cumming
Doreen started violin studies at the Canberra School of Music at six years of age, with renowned Julliard graduate Vincent Edwards. Over the following nine years, Doreen studied with some of the country’s finest pedagogues including Charmian Gadd, Larry Sitsky AO, FAHA, and John Painter AM.
Doreen’s performance career started in 1984 with her first professional appearance with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra at the age of thirteen. During her career, which spans over thirty-six years, Doreen has played with most of the symphony orchestras around Australia, including holding a full-time position with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). She has also been regularly invited to play with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney Philharmonia, and the Opera Australia Orchestra. Doreen has toured extensively around Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In 2002, she held a contract with the Orquesta Sinfónica De Galicia in the north of Spain.
Doreen also studied conducting with TSO’s chief conductor, David Porcelain. After being a finalist in the Westfield Young Conductors competition, Doreen went on to conduct professionally with the TSO, touring and recording for ABC television and the ABC label.
Doreen currently works in Orange, New South Wales as the Founder/Director of Strings On Sampson. She ss the Principal Second Violin with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. More about Doreen
Selected listening notes
Everyone has those moments that seem to freeze time, all-consuming moments of our lives that live like YouTube links in our minds.
We are shaped by them, stories told time and time again. They never change, preserved for life by the emotional print they forged in us.
Like most musicians, many of my vivid memories are formed by music. For as long as I can remember, I have fully succumbed to particular journeys composers and musicians intended to lead me on, inextricably drawn to their depiction of a time, a place, a situation, a person. The following captures just a few of these moments, music I have either heard or played that has left its mark on my life.
In compiling this list, I noticed an undeniable trend towards dark, unsettling works. I’ve always known these are the pieces that really captivate me; compiling this mixtape gave me the opportunity to think about why. I’m not a particularly tortured soul – quite the opposite! The more I thought about it, and tried to understand what it was that drew me to these deeply emotional works, the more I understood my obsession with them. Rather than focusing on the subject matter, I focused on what the composer was trying to relay.
The fathomless compassion and empathy these composers felt inspired them to capture the devastation they witnessed, or were affected by. This is really what we are consumed with as our emotions are tested by a haunting phrase or a jarring harmony. They allow us a rare insight into history, far more powerful than any written reference. An unforgettable slice of empathy, a reminder of humanity, that we can hopefully call upon should a similar event rear its ugly head.
The other works in my mixtape paint such detailed pictures of a country – the landscape, temperature, light, flora and fauna, even the culture. Far beyond widely recognisable folk music, these works evoke an image, a feeling, all with transient sound. A passport to the world.
I would like to dedicate this playlist to my wonderful CSO Principal Second Violin chair sponsor, Ms Joanne Frederiksen.
The Bonnie Lass O’ Bon Accord
This gorgeous Scottish air is a favourite of my parents. I have played it for almost as long as I can remember. Recently, however, it has become a bit of a musical signature of mine: the encore after a performance, a demonstration piece, a farewell to friends that have left us, a light switch to the past. I got as close as I’ve ever been to my heart exploding with joy when my father, who has dementia, looked up and sang along as I played this piece for him.
Max BRUCH Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 – Adagio On Hebrew Melodies For Cello And Orchestra (Adagio ma non troppo)
This piece represents one of the most powerful turning points in my musical journey. I knew that playing music as a profession was my future during the first few bars of learning this piece with my teacher, Vincent Edwards. The transition to the major section cemented my calling. I have played and taught this piece many times over the years and it still gives me goosebumps.
Richard STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung Op. 24, TrV 158
This tone poem takes us through the the final moments of a man’s life. The pain is palpable as it racks the dying man, interrupted by reminiscent ponderings of happier days. Laboured breathing is beautifully threaded throughout the piece up to the moment he lets go and his soul leaves his body. The “transfiguration” is achingly divine.
Igor STRAVINSKY Le sacre du printemps
From the first notes of this epic piece in the Disney movie Fantasia – with the dinosaurs and volcanic eruptions – to the thrill of performing it, I have loved The Rite Of Spring. I feel immense privilege being a part of music like this, so close to such greatness.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Op. 110, String Quartet No. 8
My parents gave me a boxed record set of the Borodin String Quartet playing the Shostakovich quartets for my thirteenth birthday, it was not long before my father had to transfer them to cassette for fear I’d wear out the records. I wore out the cassettes!
The eighth quartet is the foundational cornerstone of my love of music. The terrifying, repeated three-note motif can be heard in the fourth movement, an achingly mournful Jewish violin melody finishes this movement. The highlight for me, however, is the cello solo in the final movement. It brings tears to my eyes every time.
Max BRUCH Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, op. 46 I. Introduction: Grave, Adagio cantabile
This is another favourite of the Cumming clan and one of the first concertos I played as a student.
In 1990, I was in the far north of Scotland staying with family. I found myself on a bench seat on Thurso beach at sunrise one morning after a particularly fun evening, watching the light skim over the choppy North Sea. It was like mercury and strawberry milk (no, I hadn’t taken anything illicit), with the colours changing to grey and deep green once the sun rose. I’ve always had that image in my mind as I played this movement.
Aaron COPLAND Appalachian Spring: Suite for Orchestra
Another wonderfully descriptive work, so accurately depicting the Appalachian mountains. I’ve never been there – I’ve flown over a few times – but I could paint you a picture from this piece…if I could paint!
Copland received a Pulitzer prize for creating this masterpiece, well deserved in my humble view.
Johannes BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 73: I. Allegro non troppo
I first played an excerpt from this piece for my audition for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. A few months later I was playing the full work, in the orchestra I loved, with a very sick Stuart Challender conducting. He passed away not long after this final visit to Tasmania. It was the only time I worked with him and the concerts for me were emotional rollercoasters.
Peter SCULTHORPE Irkanda IV
Sculthorpe was the Ken Done of music, unashamedly Australian and a great ambassador for this country. I have always enjoyed playing his music, creating the sounds of the outback with a healthy dose of seagulls. I was lucky enough to attend his eightieth birthday in Vienna whilst on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I think we were even sporting the Ken Done uniforms on that tour!
Jean SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 43 IV. Finale – Allegro moderato
When I play or hear this piece, I can’t help thinking this is what Finnish people must feel like when the long, dark winter is finally over and there are a few life-giving hours of sunny daylight to enjoy.
For me, this is such a satisfying work to perform, rousing and proud. It’s hard not to grin like a Cheshire cat once you finally reach the climactic D major section. What am I saying… I’ve never tried not to grin!
Curator profile: Doreen Cumming
Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re connected to the CSO.
My name is Doreen Cumming, Principal Second Violin in the CSO. I live in Orange, New South Wales.
My connection to the CSO began in 1984 when I was a student at the Canberra School of Music. I remember the rehearsals in Albert Hall, it was freezing in winter! Our conductor was Leonard Dommett OBE and Concertmaster Vincent Edwards. I was so privileged to play with some amazing musicians in the orchestra, it taught me so much about music and orchestral playing.
What’s your most treasured childhood memory related to music?
My parents were Scottish Country Dancers: my introduction to music was through their dancing and the wonderful Ceilidhs we attended and played at as children. We were dressed in white blouses with round collars, tartan kills, little white socks and shiny black shoes. Yes, there are photos. No, you can’t see them!
Name three careers you could see yourself in if you weren’t a musician (and tell us why).
I can see myself as a forensic scientist, a detective or a medical examiner – I love solving puzzles and riddles. As an avid reader of crime novels, I always wondered what it would be like to work in this field.
For what in life do you feel most grateful?
There are many, many things but I’d have to say living my somewhat colourful teenage and young adult life before social media.
Name three places in Canberra that hold some significance for you.
- My childhood home in Lyons – my mother still lives there after almost 60 years.
- Garema Place – In my youth orchestra days, we had Saturday rehearsals in the old Griffin Centre. At the break, we’d all run across to the takeaway for potato scallops and lollies. In my teenage years, Garema Place with the old carousel was a popular hang out.
- The Canberra School of Music – When I left school in Year 8, this became my second home. I spent every waking moment there, with the most incredible people who have remained lifelong friends. It was a tight-knit community: we practised, learned, made incredible music, and wandered in and out of the common room on level 6, sharing stories, forming relationships, participating in a rotating game of 500 that must have gone on for the best part of a decade. They say it takes a village to raise a child – this was my village. It was a spectacular place.
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Both. I love all animals. I have a doofus of a blue Great Dane called Monte Cristo, and three spoilt cats: Truffle, Sacha, and Saffron. Growing up, we had cats, dogs, chickens, a male pheasant, bee hives, a pet magpie, budgies, guinea pigs… It was a busy house.
What’s something you love doing that has nothing to do with music?
I am a trained chef. I LOVE to cook. It’s a kind of therapy for me to take on my Gordon Ramsay persona and crash around the kitchen yelling at inanimate objects. My family is quite used to it now, they know it’s harmless and they get to sample the spoils.
Name three people you’d like to invite to dinner, living or dead.
Antonio Stradivarius, Ernest Hemminway, Leonardo da Vinci.
Name a musician you admire (and tell us why).
I love listening to Itzak Perlman play. His joy of music comes through in every piece, across all genres. I have a record called A Different Kind of Blues= where Perlman teams up with Andre Previn, Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell to jam. It’s so inspiring to see a brilliant musician constantly expand his musical paradigm.
Name a composer you admire (and tell us why).
I’ve always loved the energy Bernstein brought to his compositions and conducting. The relentless activity is captivating. Bernstein said: “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
|THIS MONDAY MIXTAPE IS SUPPORTED BY PEPPERS GALLERY HOTEL