Coming Together, Melbourne Recital Centre (VIC)

Adam Simmons and the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble offer an intimate exploration of the craft and beauty in a musical life.

Wang Zheng-Ting is that special kind of artist for whom their life and craft are inseparable. Along with the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble, which he founded, he celebrates 15 years of sharing this musical life and knowledge of Chinese traditional instruments. Each member of the group brings a mastery of their own but it is Wang whose vision and passion suffuses their playing with a sense of his journey.

Journey through music is something that must have bonded Wang and Adam Simmons – who joins with his trio Origami for the final piece – from early in their relationship. But more on this later. The program starts with the bright New Golden Mountain, composed by George Dreyfus AM. It’s a piece filled with hope and the promise of what is to come along with a healthy dose of naivety best enjoyed in hindsight.

Each of the following pieces showcased one of the instruments in the ensemble. First Wang himself with Yan Haideng’s The Beauty of the Peacock with its contrasts of intense vivid gazes and amorphous distraction. Zheng Hao picked up the pulsating Horserace by Huang Haihuan, a dazzle of bowmanship evoking the galloping hooves out of thin air. Dong Qiuming whisks us to Jiang Guoji’s Water Village with The Boat Song and finally Duan Boya delivered the vibrant spring mood with He Zhanhao’s Fragrance of the Jasmine Blossom.

Dropped in next, rather haphazardly was Ros Bandt’s Celebration. While an interesting composition in itself, it felt totally out of place with the intent and rhythm of the rest of the program. It’s use of field recording and other pre-recorded effects seemed to try and force the music to fit the concept rather than writing with the ample musical ability in mind.

But where Celebration felt overly top down, the final piece, Coming Together was quite simply sublime. The title fitted perfectly what was created in the magnificent fusion of Simmons’ signature jazz style with Wang and the ensemble’s unique palette of sound of colour. Coming Together was uplifting, inspiring and inspired, a fitting climax to 15 years of music making and living the musical life.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

Coming Together
Australian Chinese Music Ensemble
Zheng-Ting Wang, director
3 December 2019
Melbourne Recital Centre, Southbank VIC
Tickets $39

Raphael Solarsh
About the Author
Raphael Solarsh is writer from Melbourne whose work has appeared in The Guardian, on Writer’s Bloc and in a collection of short stories titled Outliers: Stories of Searching. When not seeing shows, he writes fiction and tweets at @RS_IndiLit.