Music Makers: In discussion with alum Justin Beere (clarinet, 2014)


Tell us about your musical activities since leaving ANAM?

The initial years post-ANAM were somewhat chaotic; balancing work with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO), and Orchestra Victoria (OV), while maintaining a teaching role in a school and playing with the awesome people at Rubiks Collective.

In 2017, I was honoured to be offered the role of Associate Principal Clarinet with Orchestra Victoria. That appointment in many ways has served as a springboard, enabling me to travel to Europe on the Robert and Elizabeth Albert professional development scholarship — where I received lessons from the principal clarinettists in Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Paris Opera orchestras. Additionally, I've had the joy (and terror) of playing with the Australian World Orchestra and continued working with the MSO.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now almost 10 years since my time at ANAM. But I’ve enjoyed lots of fantastic collaborations with fellow ANAM alumni in chamber music ensembles, orchestras, and chamber music festivals. We’ve performed together in great concert halls and art galleries to aged-care homes, trams in Bendigo and even underground mineshafts.

A particular highlight of this time has been the opportunity to premiere many new works by preeminent Australian composers and founding the Melbourne Chamber Players with oboist Steph Dixon.

You have been involved with the Continuo project for a while now. Tell us about Continuo – how it started, what’s its goals, objectives and why this unique community is needed?

Continuo Community is the brainchild of Helen Vorrath who is an avid concertgoer and supporter of chamber music. I first met Helen during my time at ANAM, who had a great interest in the clarinet and would attend all our recitals. Towards the end of my time at ANAM, Helen had decided that she wanted to take up playing the clarinet again and asked if I’d be her teacher.

It was at this time that I began to understand the level of commitment and enthusiasm Helen had for chamber music and a desire to be involved. Over many years of lessons, we would talk about all things music (often at the expense of the technical work I was setting), but it would lead to lengthy discussions about the challenges associated with running a chamber ensemble – like commissioning new music, funding and building an audience. This was partly fuelled by the fact that I was in the early days of setting up the Melbourne Chamber Players, but also Helen’s love for chamber music and her many years as an ANAM supporter, ANAMate and committee member for Musica Viva Victoria. We’d also play duets of course – the winning combination of Mozart duos and pseudo-jazz!

Anyway, fast-forward a few years and we were faced with the pandemic. With no end in sight, Helen focused her time (all of it) on establishing the non-for-profit organisation we now know as Continuo. A volunteer organisation that is committed to nurturing local composers, ensembles and promoting chamber music events.

There are certainly other chamber music societies, event-listing websites, and crowdfunding/charitable bodies but Continuo has the capacity to provide all those things in one place: a ‘one-stop-shop’ for chamber music in Victoria.

Continuo has been crucial in the commissioning of new chamber music. Why is this an important activity in the current arts climate and how does Continuo achieve these commissions?

In a world where commissioning is largely moderated by funding bodies with very targeted social agendas, I felt it was important that there was an initiative that provided an avenue for commissioning music for music’s sake. Richard Gill once asked us in his brilliant choral class at ANAM, “Why do we make music? You could see the class deeply over-thinking this - including myself. “Because it’s inherently good”, he exclaimed.

This has stayed with me in everything that I do. It’s also why I feel commissioning new music is important for our community, if not every community.

The Continuo Commissioning Circle is about removing the noise from the commissioning process and inviting audiences in to take part. It’s also about supporting composers based on the merit of their ideas and skillset whilst minimising some of the financial pressures on chamber ensembles in their efforts to commission new work. What we’ve found is that there are so many Victorian-based composers and ensembles with brilliant ideas and stories to tell. My only wish is that our initiative could support them all.

What is next on the cards for Continuo?

We are eagerly anticipating the premiere of two new works by Kim Dillon and Melody Eötvös and looking forward to announcing our 2024 Commissioning Circle soon. As we look forward however, we intend to expand our efforts in supporting the creation of new chamber music and continue building upon our vibrant community of chamber music enthusiasts, philanthropists, and creators who have joined us thus far.

You maintain a busy career as both orchestral musician, soloist, and teaching artist, how do you balance these busy and demanding activities?

I’m not sure that things are always in balance, but I feel this is unavoidable as a musician - particularly when your freelance life intertwines with a full-time job. I like to be busy however, and I can’t imagine not performing or not teaching - they are intrinsically linked for me. Each area of my working life generally inspires the other.

Out of the rich clarinet repertoire, pick 3 of your ‘tropical island’ pieces.

In all honesty, if I only had three works that I could listen to on a tropical island I probably wouldn’t choose clarinet repertoire. But if it’s restricted to works for the clarinet, I’ll have to pick pieces that wouldn't drive me coconuts! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

First, it would have to be Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A major because it's the piña colada of clarinet repertoire – timelessly refreshing and you can never have too much.

Secondly, Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B minor; it's like a good hammock – supports you in all the right places.

And lastly, I'd go for Francis Poulenc's Clarinet Sonata because I couldn’t think of a better eulogy than the beautiful slow movement – assuming my survival skills are not as good as I’d hope they are.

Do you have anything you’d like to plug?

Continuo! - go check it out. Join the mailing list, become a member or if you’re feeling inspired join the next Continuo Commissioning Circle. For musicians and composers, we offer complimentary concert listings both on our website and within our weekly newsletter. We also provide a personal landing page for composers and ensembles without their own website - or even if you already have an online presence. Additionally, Continuo can extend its support by promoting your Australian Cultural Fund or crowdfunding campaigns via our weekly newsletters, social media, the website and directly with our loyal members.

Or better yet, become a volunteer! It’s a good-hearted non-for-profit organisation with the aim of supporting music-makers, informing concertgoers, and providing a platform for chamber music enthusiasts to continue sharing their appreciation for great chamber music.

Photo by Cameron Jamieson

An excerpt was first published in volume 50 of Music Makers.

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