When words fail, music speaks
The 19th century fairytale-teller
She’s on the Advisory Council of the Harvard Business Review and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Three years ago she was a winner in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac Bank’s 100 Women of Influence Awards. Not bad for a foreign flautist, or flutist as they say in North America, her onetime home.
Its players have performed in Europe, the UK, the US, Singapore, New Zealand, China and Indonesia, focusing on Java’s artistic heartland.
The first visit to the Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta (Special Region of Yogyakarta) was in 2015. In that year Australia’s smallest mainland state (population 6.5 million) coupled with Indonesia’s second-smallest province (4 million) after Jakarta. Both see themselves as their nation’s cultural custodians.
Two years ago Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X asked the MSO to perform at the 9th century Hindu Prambanan Temple. It was the first foreign orchestra to play at the World Heritage site.
This August the MSO ran its fourth annual Youth Music Camp in Yogyakarta for 30 young and promising players, wrapping up with a concert before more than a thousand music lovers.
“The students are talented and determined,” said Galaise. “We ask them to practise and they do so overnight for hours, returning next day with improvements. Australian students might take a week.”
Most performers at the Yogyakarta concert were string players, but the stage was also shared by the bonang barong two-rack ten bronze gamelan drums played by Eunike Theresia Siahaan, 19, lifting the concert from its somber mood.
Cellist Longginus Alyandu 24, and the splendidly named violinist Elgar Putrandhra, 25, spent a month in Melbourne refining their repertoires, presented their own composition.
Galaise first heard the gamelan as a gifted three-year old from a musical family when taken to an exhibition in Canada. Later at university she encountered a gamelan orchestra.
After graduating she played her flute to several European orchestras before returning to Canada. English is her third language after French and German.
In 2013 she moved to Australia as the CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra where she boosted audiences and got an operational surplus before being recruited by the MSO three years ago.
“In Indonesia we’re also teaching arts administration in cultural management workshops,” said Galaise. “Getting an orchestra on stage requires a large number of organizational abilities that we want to pass on to Indonesians.”
The audience only sees the musos stroll on stage, do their bit, bow to applause and leave. But it takes months of planning, promoting, designing and assembling for just a two-hour show. Running an aircraft carrier might be easier – at least the sailors have to obey orders.
“Another project we hope to introduce to Indonesia is the Pizzicato Effect, a community music program we run in a Melbourne school, providing free string instrumental and musicianship tuition. “
It’s aligned with the principles of El Sistema; the internationally-celebrated music project which originated in Venezuela claims communal music-making enhances children’s development.
Similar programs are run in the US, the UK, Canada and several European nations, though so far not Indonesia. Some educators have been critical, claiming music should be studied for music’s sake and not to create social change.
Galaise said research at the University of Melbourne has shown the program enhanced academic performance and social-emotional well-being for participating children.
It sounds post modern, but Plato said it 2,400 years ago: ‘Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost soul and take strongest hold upon it.’
First published in The Jakarta Post 17 January 2020