LACO’s “Australia à la carte” Gala Brings Two Nations Together

(L-R) LACO musicians Susan Rishik, violin; Connie Kupka, violin; LACO Executive Director Scott Harrison; Australia's Consul General, the Honorable Chelsey Martin; LACO Associate Principal Viola, Victoria Miskolczy; and Giovanna Clayton, cello, at Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's "Australia à la carte," held at the Consul General's beautiful Brentwood residence. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Now in its 50th season, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) has earned a stellar reputation as a community-supported (and supporting) entity that, through the transformative power of classical music, is able to partner with, and shine a light on, other regions of the world.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Associate Principal Viola Victoria Miskolczy (right) performs with LACO musicians (L-R) Susan Rishik, violin, Connie Kupka, violin, and Giovanna Clayton, cello, at “Australia à la carte.” Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Music truly does bring people together, and LACO’s à la carte series, which is thriving in its ninth year, has collaborated with consul generals at their residences throughout Southern California to celebrate LACO’s artists, and its supporters, in an internationally-friendly and rewarding setting.

The Australia à la carte gala, which took place on the brisk evening of May 3rd, on the lawn of the beautiful Brentwood home of the Honorable Chelsey Martin, was the first of three à la carte events this spring, which will be followed by Turkey à la carte on May 11th in Hancock Park and China à la carte on June 5th in Pasadena.

The three-hour Australian-themed occasion was an enjoyable one catered by The Spot, which saw authentic Australian Shiraz wine and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc handsomely poured, in addition to gratifying appetizers like sausage rolls and meat pies, and a sumptuous dinner highlighted by ribeye, risotto, and steamed veggies.

The Honorable Martin, who was joined by her supportive husband and children, has cheerfully and proactively represented her home country, as a resident of Brentwood, for the past two years (she is scheduled for two more years). She not only finds a comfort in the similarities between Australia and Southern California – such as the beach, the warm weather, the diversity of the landscape, and even the eucalyptus trees – but in being able to find common artistic ground between Australians and Angelenos.

There is more to this synergy than one may think, which LACO was more than happy to help support and encourage on this night. An all-female string quartet, led by Australian viola player, and a graduate of the Sidney Conservatory of Music, Victoria Miskolczy, along with violinists Connie Kupka and Susan Rishik, as well as cellist Giovanna Clayton, paid homage to not only one of the iconic boundary-transcendent greats in Beethoven, but Australian composers Percy Grainger (1882-1961) and Elena Kats-Chernin.

Guests enjoy dinner at Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “Australia à la carte,” held at the Australia Consul General’s beautiful Brentwood residence. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Following Connie Kupka’s passionate introduction about the significance of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18, No. 1 in F Major, including how it’s organized in the four-movement sonata-allegro form, she and her string-proficient peers proceeded with the first movement, “Allegro con brio.” The four women played the notes soothingly, with honeyed and restful pitches blending seamlessly with some interspersed drama by Clayton’s cello before reverting to the previous effervescence. However, the second section, “Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato” is when Beethoven, as Kukpa previously alluded to, examines his existential crisis, amid his deteriorating hearing. It is a narrative that was told poignantly, grabbing and not letting go, as it climaxed with bouts of rage before resigning itself to a surrendered silence. The bellows of Clayton’s cello, juxtaposed against the mellifluous cries of the violins and viola, yielded a profound response. The third movement, “Scherzo: Allegro molto,” was a return to normalcy, inclusive of flurried sounds that cavorted charmingly and even flirtatiously. Lastly, in the final recapitulation — “Allegro” — the virtuosos entertained with a rainbow of resplendence in a dazzling display of harmonies and heightened joy.

Playing Beethoven first was appropriate as it delineated the global confluence of musical undertakings and the evolution thereof in continents such as Australia – the focus of the gala. Australia has certainly staked its claim in the domain, with maestros like Grainger, who left an indelible legacy. The quartet honored him by playing a rousing rendition of the folk song, Molly on the Shore, taking solo turns with their instruments before coalescing into a terrific tempo.

The surprise of the event, though, was listening to five cinematic score-pieces by one of Australia’s esteemed daughters, Elena Kats-Chernin. For instance, Russian Rag echoed with a joyous declaration not dissimilar from conventional ragtime; Blue Rose sounded bitter-sweetly triumphant in its timbre, as if two lovers were being reunited after several decades; and Eliza Aria (arguably Kats-Chernin’s best known work) expressed a dynamism via its skillfully plucked viola notes by Miskolczy that counterbalanced sustained violin swoops to create a pensiveness about the future. Furthermore, Pink Breasted Robin brimmed robustly with the bass of Clayton’s cello that slowly stalked Rishik and Kupka’s lilting flourishes; and Grotesk reverberated even more powerfully with a full-fledged and nail-biting suspense wherein rays of hope raised through the cracks of doubt.

Guests enjoy dinner at Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “Australia à la carte.” Photo credit: Jamie Pham

The collective interpretation of works by Beethoven, Grainger, and especially Kats-Chernin’s modern selections, as manifested by four expert musicians in Miskolczy, Kupka, Rishik, and Clayton, proved not only the development of music along a multigenerational continuum, but the influences and interconnected associations now integral to it.

In other words, the past’s happenings have made the present so much richer in a world where its countries and cultures are better off being in a state of thriving harmony with one another. This is how we learn and grow.

For Australia and the United States, this fellowship was established in the staunchest of faith almost exactly a century ago — which the Honorable Chelsey Martin compellingly recounted — in the midst of the first World War on July, 4, 1918, at the Battle of Hamel. Lieutenant General Sir John Monash of Australia turned to U.S. troops for aid to fend off the Germans at the Le Hamel village in Northern France.

“United States soldiers took of their jackets and put Australian uniforms on. Since then, the U.S. and Australia have fought side by side in other spheres like technology, as part of major cultural institutions, and in music,” Martin beamed.

For more information about the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and future à la carte events, please visit


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