As far as send-offs go, having five of the state’s most talented vocalists sing classic WA songs with a 20-piece orchestra is right up there. That they will perform in a hall more than 100 years old makes the event even more extraordinary. It’s the sort of farewell befitting the historic Western Australian Museum as it closes in June ahead of the site’s four-year redevelopment.
A joint project between the museum, RTRFM and the Perth Symphony Orchestra, A Moment in Time will celebrate both the building’s history and the state’s musical past.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit bunch, but it’s rare we get the chance to reflect on what shaped our sounds,” says long-time Perth performer Rachael Dease. Together with David Craft, Odette Mercy, Timothy Nelson and Mei Saraswati, Dease will be singing with the orchestra on the night.
She’ll perform Shark Fin Blues by the Drones, a band that Dease’s own band Schvendes has supported previously. While she’s excited by the prospect of reinterpreting the song, she’s also aware of how much it means to many West Australians.
“It felt like an anthem to the kind of people that need one more than anyone else,” she recalls of a memorable Drones performance in Bunbury. “The kind that can’t pull themselves out from that murky, lonely sludge that lives in their head, my head. Performing the songs in different ways to how they’re normally heard will allow listeners to comprehend how great they are.”
In addition to singing Shark Fin Blues alongside Dease, David Craft (Old Bears, Abbe May, Rabbit Island) will cover The Panics’ hit Don’t Fight It. He remembers listening to The Panics’ second record, Sleeps Like a Curse, as a teenager and daydreaming of a future in music.
“I imagined the band in a dingy apartment, recording and forgetting about the world,” he says. “That’s what I wanted to do.”
Timothy Nelson & The Infidels will rework their 2013 song Mary Lou. The band’s violinist Hayley-Jane Ayres is excited about working with the orchestra to include the strings she couldn’t get away with in the original.
“There’ll be quite a few obscure songs,” says Nelson. “Some that wouldn’t be considered huge exports from WA, but they mean something to us here.”
In a West Australian first, music researcher, archivist and musician Meg Travers will be playing a trautonium, one of the world’s first synthesisers and the instrument used for the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. As well as building her own replica of the long-forgotten instrument, Travers taught herself how to play it and will perform a piece she describes as a “dystopian, end-of-the-world piece, based on some writings from the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre”.
“I have videos of [composer] Oskar Sala playing but he knew the instrument so well he didn’t label any of his controls,” she says. “When he twists a knob, it’s like, ‘What is that? How can I make that sound?’ Our stories are bound up in music.”
A Moment in Time will also feature a silent disco hosted by RTRFM DJs, while the museum foyer will be taken over by the Perth Jazz Society.
A Moment in Time is on Friday June 3 at the WA Museum. Tickets start from $20 and are available at museum.wa.gov.au and on 1300 154 081.