Bellingen High cellist helps reinvent Romeo and Juliet

Students with composer Paul Rissmann
Students with composer Paul Rissmann

High school students from across NSW have been given the chance to reimagine the great love story Romeo and Juliet, but unfortunately there is still no happy ending for the star cross’d lovers.

Cellist and singer Matthew Borgert from Bellingen High School was among 34 public school musicians and 12 dance students invited to work with internationally renowned composer Paul Rissmann to help reinvent the great orchestral work of Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet.

The musicians travelled to Sydney for the five-day workshop from May 5 that deconstructed the Russian ballet score and worked collaboratively to compose 20-25 minutes of music.

On Tuesday last week they were joined by the dance students who choreographed a routine to the new score.  The students then performed the pieces on Saturday (May 12) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Matthew, who is in year 8, said Paul Rissman was a brilliant, inspiring and engaging mentor for the week. 

Matthew Borgert

Matthew Borgert

Rissmann, an acclaimed music educator who has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and many of the world’s other great orchestras, said he was excited by the opportunity to work with the students.

“It’s always such a pleasure to work with young musicians in Australia, challenging them to create and perform their own group composition,” he said.

“The work is intense, time is tight, but the results are always so rewarding. I am continually impressed by the high standard of musicianship and openness of the young musicians here in New South Wales.”

NSW Department of Education's Arts, Sports and Initiatives Unit director Rosemary Davis said the workshops were a wonderful experience for the students.

“Being part of a collaboration with an internationally recognised composer is a special opportunity regardless of where in NSW you live,” Ms Davis said.

“But for those young musicians and dancers  who have travelled from outside Sydney it is also a wonderful chance to experience the city and work collaboratively with like-minded students.”

Here’s a link to an excerpt of their final performance.