In conversation with Calvin Bowman

    Described as “a uniquely talented musician” by Philip Glass, Calvin Bowman is one of Australia’s most accomplished organists. He has presented the complete JS BACH organ works twice, including a single 17- hour sitting, for which he was nominated for a Helpmann Award. He has appeared as keyboard soloist with many Australian orchestras, and has premiered major keyboard works by Philip Glass, Peter Sculthorpe and Andrew Schultz, as well as being a reputed composer himself.

    We caught up with Calvin for a quick chat about his recent experience at Mona’s Dark Mofo and his upcoming performance at our keynote event Music in the Round.  

    Recently you performed at Hobart’s Dark Mofo Festival as part of their Midnight Concert series. As a performer, how was this experience for you? 
    It was a wonderful experience. St David’s Cathedral was full, and the audience was one of the most respectful I’d ever played for. At the end of the first piece, in an all Buxtehude program, one could have heard a pin drop. The applause at the conclusion of the recital was generous, and many people stayed behind to talk about the repertoire and the performance.

    How is being part of a contemporary art festival different to performing with a symphony orchestra or an individual recital?
    It was a different experience in that my role was defined as being one of the only classical performers in the entire festival. I think this gave the event an edge it may not have had otherwise. Although it’s good to do individual recitals, I still love playing in ensembles large and small, and very few experiences beat playing keyboard with a full symphony orchestra!

    Do you think choice of venue can inform experience, both as an audience member and musician?
    The choice of venue is critical with regards to organ playing, because the building is part of the instrument itself. Of course, the aesthetics of the surroundings themselves also play an important part in the experience for both audience and performer.

    You performed last year in Abbotsford Convent’s Music in the Round, and you will feature in the upcoming program as well. Can you tell us a bit about your experience of performing at the Convent?
    I remember being part of the original Music in the Round (Originally, Music in the Round was the Australian Musicians' Guild (AMG) annual showcase for Australian chamber musicians and began in 1972) series as an undergraduate student. I think the feelings from those times have been transported into the new series  enthusiastic audiences, committed performers and interesting repertoire. Playing at the Convent is a most pleasurable experience – a lovely little organ in a ‘divine’ space!

    You are presenting music that you composed yourself. Can you tell us briefly about it?
    ‘Vexilla Regis’, a piece based on the plainchant of the same name, was written in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the founding of Monash University. The two movements I’m presenting, which are taken from the entire four movement work, suit the instrument at the Convent well –  being movements for lighter registrations.

    Catch Calvin perform a selection of organ works in the magnificent Good Shepard Chapel this Father’s Day, Sunday 6 September as part of Music in the Round

    View the full program here

    Music in the Round
    6 September, 11am – 5.30pm
    Tickets $85 full/ $65 conc.