Media release: Adam Simmons + Afro Lankan Drumming System in world premiere of The Calling


Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★ Jessica Nicholas, The Age & Sydney Morning Herald
“… a deep philosophical – even existential – exploration of Simmons’ own identity and sense of belonging… the most personal of all the works he has produced for his Usefulness of Art series.”
“The most impactful – and poignant – passage arose when Simmons and Iyengar performed a semi-improvised duet. Standing behind Simmons, the dancer extended his hands gently around the saxophonist’s hips, allowing him to lean forward at a sharp angle as streams of sonorous beauty emerged from his soprano horn. It was arresting both musically and visually, reflecting the sense of empathy and shared experience that gives this work such a strong emotional resonance.”

Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★★ Raphael Solarsh, Arts Hub
“A lush and cinematic appeal to euphoria and melancholia of outer exploration, The Calling takes a more introspective turn, but does so with an unexpected fire and force… (a) sonic freefall into a raw and emotive tour de force.”
“Another masterpiece by Simmons and his collaborators, and further fires the imagination as to how this concert series will conclude. At home perhaps or onward on the journey?”

Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★+half Des Cowley, Australian Books and Arts Review
“In an age when the funding of the arts is always an open question, Simmons’s project is a rallying cry for the importance of art in our lives.”
“In a world rife with displacement, it (The Calling) questions where we truly belong, and argues for art as an integral means of bringing us together.”
“As with previous concerts in the series, Adam Simmons demonstrated jazz’s capacity to continually extend its horizons, drawing sustenance from an array of musical influences: world, classical, experimental. In looking for a parallel – and while acknowledging that the music is of an entirely different order – I was reminded of Duke Ellington’s masterpiece The Far East Suite, composed with Billy Strayhorn and inspired by their travels on tour through Mumbai, Calcutta, Colombo, Lahore, Tehran, Isfahan, and other locales in the early 1960s. Like Ellington, Simmons has chosen to recast his stories and journeys as an extended musical suite. On this occasion, the melding of the Afrolankan Drumming System with the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble was an astounding success. The performance, heightened by strong visual and theatrical elements, again evidenced Simmons’s far-reaching ambition for The Usefulness of Art program.

Adam Simmons and Vikram Iyengar in The Calling
Roger Mitchell,
“The strongest image, for me, was that of Simmons supported wholly by Iyengar, symbolising his finding of a connection.”
“It is impossible, and unnecessary, to compare The Calling with other concerts in The Usefulness of Art series. But this work of art well and truly passed the test of taking us somewhere, of prompting exploration.”

Acclaimed Melbourne composer, Adam Simmons, will perform the world premiere of his new work, The Calling, at fortyfive downstairs from May 3—6, 2018.
Featuring the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble together with the Afro Lankan Drumming System (Ray Pereira and Kanchana Karunaratna), The Calling concerts promise to be a thrilling treat for lovers of contemporary jazz, classical, avant garde and experimental music.
Inspired by sounds and experiences from Simmons’ first-time visit to Sri Lanka in 2016, this will be the most intensely personal of his works to date. While the main reason for his trip was to attend a drumming workshop led by Ray Pereira, he also spent time travelling through his mother’s homeland. An epiphany he experienced while visiting a Sri Lankan temple was a pivotal moment in his sense of belonging and understanding: “I felt like after growing up in Australia and my previous travels through Europe that it filled in the other half of who I am, where I’m from, and my identity as an Australian artist. I’ve never really expressed the Sri Lankan side of my heritage; until that trip I hadn’t felt the connection or the right to express it in a conscious way. But now I feel I can make some sense of it, and The Calling is really a reflection on my identity and heritage.”
The Calling will be the fourth in his acclaimed The Usefulness of Art concert series. Comprising five unique and original concerts over 2017-18, The Usefulness of Art is inspired by a Rodin quote, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
His first three concerts in the series have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including The Age’s Jessica Nicholas: “… another marvellously assured step in Simmons’ own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity.”
A 5-star review by Raphael Solarsh of Arts Hub effused: “Simmons’ music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail.”
Classical Reviewer Clive O’Connell wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment,” and Des Cowley, Australian Book Review, described the second concert as, “… a triumph in every way”.

A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art. He has a rare and uncanny ability to elicit the very best from the highly accomplished musicians he works with, as well as evoking spine-tingling emotion and rapturous applause from audiences.

His concerts are joyous, inspired cross-genre collaborations with virtuoso musicians and theatrical artists. Previous concerts have involved not only his eclectic Creative Music Ensemble (in which his father, Paul Simmons, plays saxophone) but also artists of the calibre of Michael Kieran Harvey, the Arcko Ensemble, and Diokno Pasilan.
For The Calling, the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble and the Afro Lankan Drumming System will be joined by Vikram Iyengar (choreographer), Jean Poole (visuals), Sally Blackwood (dramaturgy) and Christine Crawshaw (costumes) for an astounding theatrical and musical experience.

This project is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.

THE CALLING (by Adam Simmons)
Featuring: The Adam Simmons Creative Ensemble + The Afro Lankan Drumming System
With: Choreography by Vikram Iyengar, visuals Jean Poole, dramaturgy Sally Blackwood and costumes Christine Crawshaw
Dates: Thursday 3rd May to Sunday 6th May, 7.30pm each night except Sunday matinee at 3pm. Concert duration: 90 minutes.
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Ticket prices: Full $35, concession $30, Early Bird discount $30, children (under 12) free
Ticketing URL:
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Previous concerts in The Usefulness of Art concert series:
Concert #3: Travelling Tales (Adam Simmons with Arcko Ensemble)
Concert #2: Meditation on The Usefulness of Art is music for our times (The Usefulness of Art)
Concert #1: Unique concert series to explore The Usefulness of Art (Concerto for Piano & Toy Band)