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CSO Mixtape: Louis Sharpe

Portrait of Louis Sharpe

Louis Sharpe, CSO Timpanist / Percussionist (Image: Martin Ollman)

Louis Sharpe began playing the drums at the age of nine, exploring popular and jazz repertoire before taking up percussion studies at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School. Louis went on to gain a Bachelor of Music Performance in orchestral studies from the University of Melbourne, where he took every opportunity to gain orchestral performance experience.

While studying, Louis performed with the Melbourne Youth Orchestra, including a tour to New Zealand to perform with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. He subsequently gained valuable performance experience as part of the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Career highlights include performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and taking part in the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 gala performance in Sydney.

Louis is Principal Timpani with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. Based in Canberra, he also conducts the National Capital Orchestra and the James McCusker Orchestra and is a full-time CSO staff member. More about Louis

Selected listening notes

Download listening guide / profile (PDF 2MB)

In this mixtape, I’ll take you through works that have changed my musical life. I have a strong personal connection to each; I’m hoping that sharing these reminds us of how and why music and art has a true place in all of our lives.

Hello! My name is Louis, I play timpani and percussion in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. I live in the inner south of Canberra with my partner and fellow CSO player, Alina.

I hope you enjoy this varied mixtape, full of music that sits close to my heart. Each work is one I have a strong personal connection with, or has stuck with me ever since I first heard or played it.

ERIC COATES Dambuster’s March

This classic work is one you may know well – and it’s super fun to perform. This was the first piece I performed under our wonderful Dr Nicholas Milton, with his Sydney orchestra, Willoughby Symphony. Nick is not only my mentor, but a great friend – this one is dedicated to him.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C minor

I adore Mahler’s music. His second symphony is my favourite ever composed, a work that has stuck with me over the years and that I will never get sick of. I’ve included the final five minutes of the 90-minute work in this mixtape. In Christchurch, I played the timpani part. In Sydney, I played percussion and conducted the off stage brass. It’s my dream to perform this work in Canberra!

RAUTAVAARA The Fiddlers

Rautavaara is not a household name or one that you’ll hear regularly on Classic FM, but he was my introduction to a more contemporary style of harmony. This movement is short and sweet; from the get go, this work pushes the boundaries a little.

PROKOFIEV Cinderella Suite Final two movements

While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I think the final two movements from the Cinderella Suite are among the most prokofiev-esque ever written! It has a wonderful, magical ending – and a great glockenspiel part!

RAVEL Mother Goose Suite Final movement ‘Le jardin féerique’ (The Fairy Garden)

Continuing the fairytale theme for a moment, this final movement from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite is some of his most heartwarming, inspiring music. Like the Prokofiev, listen out for the glockenspiel part. It’s a joy to play!

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A major Final movement

This year marks 250 years since the birth of Beethoven, who represents something different to every musician and listener. Beethoven changed the way composers wrote for timpani; every timpanist loves to play his works. I first played this piece with Richard Tognetti at the Australian National Academy of Music. This was also part of my final recital for my Masters in Conducting at Sydney Conservatorium.

SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No. 2 Second movement

Written for his son’s birthday and premiered at his son’s graduation, this piece has a wondrous feeling. It’s possibly the darkest work in this mixtape but it’s full of emotion.

RESPIGHI Pines of Rome Final movement – The Pines of the Appian Way

Here’s a work that I’ve shared a number of moments with, from the last time I broke a timpani stick to my first concert in Melbourne Town Hall. The timpani part is simple but powerful, driving the orchestra throughout the movement. Try to imagine a distant army getting closer and closer.

JOHN ADAMS Hallelujah Junction Opening movement

John Adams has written some truly beautiful music. This work featured in the film Call Me by Your Name. I saw the film with my partner and we both agreed it had a particularly brilliantly, thoughtful soundtrack. This work is a perfect place to have a quick break from orchestral works and head into the closing section of this mixtape, a dedication to my family.

PIETRO MASCAGNI Cavalleria Rusticana – Intermezzo

My mother has always been a rock for me. She will always, without exception, start tearing up when she hears this piece. Whenever I get a chance to program this work, I do – for her. Here’s to you Mum!

THE BEATLES Day Tripper

My Dad is an old school rocker! He always wanted me to play the drums and it was through The Beatles that my Dad introduced me to really fine drumming. I may now be a drummer of a different kind, but this is song we’ll always rock out too together. This one’s for you Dad!

ELLA FITZGERALD How High the Moon

My sister and I played in a few jazz trios and bands together when I was younger. She always blew me away with her musicality and talent. Ella was an inspiration to her and this piece we performed many many times together. I still think my sister sings it better – here’s to you, Holly.

U2 City of Blinding Lights

A musician spends a lot of time travelling; I always listen to this song as I’m arriving into any city. It captures the excitement I feel about the possibility of new stories and memories one can create in any city. It’s inspiring writing, reminding us to look up, look ahead and take it all in without worries weighing us down. This and the following two pieces are dedicated to my partner in music and in life, Alina.

MUSE Starlight

Muse is one of those bands who take composition to a whole new level, influenced by many different classical and romantic composers. ‘Starlight’ is something Alina and I listen to on our drives to and from Sydney. The lyrics ‘you electrify my life’ ring so true.

ENESCU Romanian Rhapsody No. 1

The Romanian Rhapsody is the icing on the cake of the mixtape, an uplifting and playful work by Romanian composer Enescu. About four minutes into the work you will hear a little viola solo, Alina’s instrument. I always think of Alina when I listen to this work and I hope to perform it someday soon! You may want to get your dancing shoes on for the final section. This is dedicated to Alina and her family for sharing all things Romanian with me and showing me a remarkable culture full of passion!

Curator profile: Louis Sharpe

Download listening guide / profile (PDF 2MB)

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

It is so easy to take performing for an audience for granted. This year, after all the cancellations, the one thing I cannot wait to do is perform for an audience, to share that moment in time together!

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

I would tell the young Louis to just give everything a go, to keep trying new and exciting things, to go out into the world and experience life to its fullest. I’m doing that now and it’s working just fine!

What’s something you love doing that has nothing to do with music?

I just adore cooking. I could spend the whole day in the kitchen if I didn’t have to work. It’s a different type of art but creating a well balanced dish does have its similarities to creating a balanced performance for an audience!

Name a musician you admire and tell us why.

I will always admire the Italian maestro Claudio Abbado, sadly no longer with us. His recordings, particularly his Mahler, are full of joy and just so well balanced. I’ve spoken to some musicians that worked under Abbado: they always said he taught an orchestra how to listen, how to be with each other on stage and how to create chamber music in an orchestra. Each time I conduct, I try to do just that.

Name a composer you admire and tell us why.

I tend to go through phases where I’ll listen to just one composer to gain a better understanding of their work and their compositional language. However, I will always listen to Gustav Mahler. His symphonies contain the whole world in them and each is so different. He was also one of the greatest conductors to have lived.

If I were to add another of his works to this mixtape, it would be his ninth symphony, his final work. Listen to it with an open mind and an open heart, it’s an emotional journey!

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