Portrait © Joe Nick Selby
Locally based classical composer and conductor Vartan Melkonian recently recorded his latest symphony, Drake’s Passage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios.
As Patron of Consortium for Street Children (CSC) he hopes that the symphony will be performed across concert halls of the world raising awareness of the plight of street children everywhere.
“Every year I compose a couple of works but not always as long as a symphony! My composition Drake Passage is a symphonic poem (a term used by grand masters in late nineteenth century departing from usual form when composing), which is really another way of saying a non-conventional classic format.
Drake Passage is a treacherous stretch of ocean between the southern tip of South America (at Cape Horn) and north Antarctica the unpredictable and often brutal weather.
I was an orphan and in my teenage years worked on a Greek cargo ship so am familiar with the unpredictability of the sea, its dramatic moods and swells of the waves.
The symphony starts off with a serene sound that reflects the moonlight skipping over the sea then suddenly you hear an enormous rumble and a great crescendo and explosion and the boat rocks in the water. The whole orchestra performs nine bars and you think you are submerged in the ocean, you hear the waves rise then it suddenly becomes calm again, a solo cello comes in, followed by a string quintet, then the whole orchestra.
We had a seventy piece orchestra and did the whole recording in one session, working with renowned producer Anna Berry (of Royal Wedding fame) and it was later engineered by Neil Hutchinson
I am now working closely with one of UN agencies, International Labour Organisation (ILO) on raising awareness of the Global Music against Child Labour Initiative, launched by ILO,” I’m hoping that we could arrange a number of global concerts of Drake Passage, encouraging orchestras to raise this awareness as well. Major companies are looking to sponsoring it so now it might actually happen!”
The CSC was launched in November 1993 by Sir John Major with the aim of providing a voice for Street Children across the world.