A few weeks ago, I had a chat with Emma Knights of Emma Knights Productions who is curating the Adelaide Fringe program at the National Wine Centre. She is putting on two French themed shows: Floating Melodies: Chansons D’Amour (this one has already passed but look out for a similar show for Bastille Day) and Stravinsky & Chanel, which is on at the National Wine Centre on 24 and 28 February and 13 March.
Tell us about the show Stravinsky & Chanel
I’m a piano player myself and I’ve got this set of books called the composers and their love lives. That sort of stuff both interests and terrifies me at the same time! Some of them had very interesting tastes. So I’m curating for the Wine Centre, I was looking at a few different ideas of things I could add to the program. I thought that could be something that is really cool. What I wanted to do was incorporate a bit more of an immersive feel so it’s actually being done in really dim lighting and we are going to have the scent of Chanel No. 5 in the room while they are playing the piece. They definitely lived together and they were living together when she came up with the scent of Chanel No. 5 and he rewrote The Rite of Spring and they were both each of their biggest successes. It’s a kind of look at the inspiration that they had on each other by putting them in the same setting in an immersive, unusual experience.
So will it be story telling or music of Stravinsky played?
We are doing The Rite of Spring as the piano duet version and I also have a couple of unaccompanied clarinet works by Stravinsky. It will mostly be music. People can grab a wine when they come in and enjoy the music with the scents coming through.
How are you making the scents come through? Getting someone to randomly spray perfume in the corner?
Pretty much, haha. Yeah so we will have a few sprays in the room and some scent cards around as well. It’s also inspired by a wine to music matching concert and the idea of how the arts and our senses can play together and it’s playing on that sort of idea as well. It unlocks a different part of your brain while you’re listening. Being a musician myself, I go to concerts and think “ah it’s good but uhhh” and I think in today’s society we want a bit more.
Anything else to tell me about the Stravinsky and Chanel show?
It’s all local classical musicians. I did a bit of a call out to all of my mates in the classical side of the music scene and had interest from people who said “I love Stravinsky but I don’t get to play him”.
When did you start the production company, Emma Knights Productions?
4 and a half years. I celebrate my 5th anniversary in June, which is a bit exciting.
Why did you start the company?
On the first day of university they tell you “if you want to make money you’re doing the wrong thing.” The second thing they tell you is “if you do want to make money you need to move away from Adelaide.” I did and I went and studied in Perth. My first professional contract was in Queensland touring around. I’ve been an audition and accompanist pianist for a long time and I look at all the talent that we have here that auditions to move interstate or decide to move interstate because that’s where it’s all happening and I thought “well there’s so much talent in the Eastern States that is from here so why can’t we set something up”. There’s also audiences here because we have some of the biggest festivals in the Southern Hemisphere and why aren’t we making more of that.
So when I came back from that contract, I decided I would try and start up some things happening here. My first thing was actually to do some fundraising. I thought I’d do some concerts but I didn’t want to do them in a hall so I did them on the Popeye. I went oh well I will get some opera friends and thought cheese and wine goes with opera so I got some local businesses involved. I called it Floating Melodies. It was only meant to be 3 concerts and that’s my longest running thing now!
The other show you have on during the Fringe and which was also on during the Adelaide French Festival is Floating Melodies?
I’ve done a French theme every year since 2014 when I’ve done a Bastille Day cruise. It’s always gone really well and that’s kind of how I got in with Panaché, who wanted to do a Valentine’s Day one. The French Festival was great – we sold out within a couple of days – two performances so that was excellent. So that’s kind of how it came about.
So the Floating Melodies idea came about purely when you were doing the fundraising?
I did the three initial concerts and I still had some wine and cheese left over so I thought I’ll do another one and people thought “this is a really great idea” so I kept doing them. That was June of 2013.
Who was the fundraising for?
It was for a children’s opera I was bringing. The contract I had in Queensland was accompanying a children’s opera show. At the end of the 3 months they were going to dump it all as they didn’t have funding to store it so that’s why I asked them how much they wanted for it because no one is really doing that here in the opera world. They gave me a really good price so I thought “alright, I will give it a whirl”. So I did the fundraising hence why they were opera concerts to start with.
How did you get the word out about them?
So initially they were part of the Cabaret Fringe Festival which has its own marketing. I can only fit 48 on the boat so it was a lot of friends of the performers and friends of mine to begin with. I was on SA Life I think the following year and that gave it a really good boost. I then went into the tourism awards and last time was a Silver… So it’s kind of been word of mouth. It has moved probably slower than some bigger companies that have lots of money because everything I do is funded by myself. I come from a middle class. There’s no family trust fund or whatever. So it’s just been bumbling along on that. I am also on Tripadvisor now, which is great and we are getting higher on the list of things to do in Adelaide on that.
How I got the French Festival thing, I tried to tie in with other events that have much bigger marketing budgets. I’ve been a part of the OzAsia Festival in 2014. I did the Cellar Door Festival launch on the boat.
You said earlier you curated a bunch of shows for the National Wine Centre. So did they come to you and say “bring us Fringe shows”? How did that work?
Yeah so last year I curated for the Adelaide Oval for their Live on 5 and they decided they didn’t want to do anything this year so I contacted the Fringe and asked if they knew of anyone else looking to do anything and they said “the wine Centre is looking for someone to help them with shows”. So I contacted them and we worked from there. We’ve got 45 shows all up happening in the centre which is good. We filtered through the applications of people that wanted to do shows and curated a program of shows that complement each other but has enough variety. There’s a few of my shows in there in that mix.
Why should people come to see the Stravinsky and Chanel?
It’s a very unique experience. I don’t believe it’s been done in this way anywhere else before. It’s supporting local musicians which is always great. If you love The Rite of Spring, that’s a big bonus as that’s a big portion of the show. Again, anyone who is looking for something different more than just going and seeing a concert. It will be much more of an experience that will stay with you for a while.
Do you like Stravinsky’s music and Chanel’s perfume? Have you ever been to a show like this?