‘I am the true me whenever I play on stage,’ says doublebass player Kirsty McCahon. ‘Sometimes I’m so tuned in to support a pianist in a chamber work I almost sit inside the piano.’
Double bass player Kirsty McCahon is making an enormous contribution to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. Just as well, performance is as essential as breathing to her. In the Festival’s opening concert, she played in a stunning reading of Schubert’s ‘Trout Quintet’ and in the Ray Golding Concert Series ‘Bach’s Cantata No.82.’
McCahon’s brain is a whirlpool of ideas for future projects and new performance horizons. And, she is a tireless ambassador for the bass and sees herself as a significant role model for women. Girls can learn the bass, which has traditionally been stereotyped as a ‘male instrument’ and succeed.
And she is a shining example of achievement having been the country’s only female Principal Bass, a position she held with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra for twenty years. She also contributes to the Australian World Orchestra, Music Festivals like the AFCM as well as appearances in top ranking orchestras overseas and nationwide. In 2013, The University of Melbourne awarded McCahon an Honorary Fellowship for her contribution to orchestral music and performance.
Shock waves rippled through the classical music industry when McCahon resigned from her demanding role as Principal Bass. It’s time for her to seek fresh horizons, a broader vista of repertoire and enjoy being a soloist and a chamber musician again she explains.
McCahon is gorgeous too, but miffed by people dwelling on her looks. She explains, ‘I just happen to come to come in this package.’ Much more significant for her is how well she plays. Her solo appearance in which she played Berio’s ‘Psy,’ a veritable juggernaut of ferocious virtuosity and interpretative challenge, was a spine-tingler.
‘I am hypercritical of myself but on this occasion I well and truly nailed it. I was thrilled when someone in the audience came up and said that ‘rocked.’
McCahon and her husband Kees Boersma, are the ‘Posh and Beck’ of the double bass. Boersma is Principal bass of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Recently, she and Boersma have produced a CD of duos. And, in the pipeline is a concerto, which Elena Kats-Chernin is writing bespoke for her. ‘It’s an exciting process Kats-Chernin values my input.’
The Australian Festival of Chamber Music plays until 6 August 2016. Visit www.afcm.com.au
Gillian is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch.