May 2021 Canberra Times
Canberra Symphony Orchestra bassoonist and audiologist Kristen Sutcliffe performs as part of the Rediscovering Music program
After a hiatus of more than a year, a music program designed specifically for people with a hearing loss has started performances once again. Run by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, the Rediscovering Music program aims to support people looking to rediscover music after losing small or large parts of their hearing. Each performance is centred on familiar pieces of music with a small number of performers from the orchestra in order to help boost active listening skills. Three concerts are scheduled to take place this year, after concerts were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The program was set up by audiologist and orchestra bassoonist Kristen Sutcliffe, who said the concerts were a way for people with a hearing loss to help get used to listening to live music while having a hearing device or cochlear implant. "It gives people the building blocks to enjoy music again," Ms Sutcliffe said. "It's multifaceted, and part of it is to build confidence to go to a concert that isn't too loud or difficult for people with devices, because a lot of people with a hearing loss report that sometimes concerts do get painfully loud. Being able to have a concert where it's not overpowering and having familiar music gives ideas of what people can listen to at home and enjoy."
The first concert back since the pandemic focused on double-reed instruments such as oboes, bassoons and the cor anglais. Among the pieces featured were selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, Haydn's Serenade and even a live premiere of a piece commissioned by the orchestra in 2020, which gave a musical representation of Beethoven undergoing a modern-day hearing test. While many different instruments have been featured as part of Rediscovering Music, Ms Sutcliffe said a concert showcasing her own instrument had been requested by concertgoers for some time. "The concert with double reeds was put on because people have been asking whether I could play," she said. "I do like to bring a wide variety of music and people do come in with different backgrounds and musical tastes as well."
Previous concerts as part of the program have focused on jazz, African drumming, folk music, as well as instruments from the brass and string sections. "It may sound strange, but percussion instruments work best for people with a hearing loss because rhythms are really well transmitted through hearing aids," Ms Sutcliffe said.
A further two performances are planned for later in the year as part of the Rediscovering Music program. Ms Sutcliffe said she hoped the initiative had the potential to expand as live music was able to be performed again following Covid.