Chopin personified

Phillip Aughey
Phillip Aughey

WHEN the Hunter’s Phillip Aughey was performing at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe he managed to see two concerts of works by his favourite composer, Frederic Chopin.

The recitals attracted big and appreciative audiences, and set Aughey thinking about doing a show on Chopin.

He began writing one after returning to Australia in late August and the work,  Chopin’s Last Tour, has been accepted for the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Aughey will  return to Scotland  at the end of this month, presenting 25 performances of the show between August 7 and 31.

Hunter audiences will have the chance to preview Chopin’s Last Tour when Aughey performs it at Newcastle’s The Royal Exchange on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.

 Chopin’s Last Tour is set in Scotland in October, 1848, a year before Chopin died, with the composer playing a selection of his works while recalling events from his life.

Aughey, an accomplished pianist, is the show’s sole performer.

Frederic Chopin, a Polish composer living in Paris, was invited in 1848 by an attractive Scottish woman, Jane Stirling, to come to Britain and perform there.

Stirling had become one of his piano students six years earlier in Paris. 

Although Chopin was suffering from tuberculosis, and his health was worsening, he needed the money that Stirling offered him to make the tour. She was attracted to Chopin and the composer appreciated her interest in him and dedicated two of his last works to her. 

But he was wary of becoming involved in a new romance, after the break-up in 1847 of his nine-year liaison with novelist George Sand, a woman who had adopted that male name to successfully avoid the lack of interest publishers and book buyers then had in female writers.

As Aughey notes, Sand wrote a novel after the break-up which had as its central character a count who is sickly, selfish and overbearing, with  readers assuming they were qualities shared by Chopin.

Yet, while a close relationship did not develop between Chopin and Stirling, she cared for him through the last year of his life, and paid for his funeral when he died in October, 1849, at the age of 39.

Aughey has included in the show 15minutes of music drawn from six of Chopin’s works that relate to events and people in his life: his family, his health, his nationalistic feelings for his home country, Poland, and his liaison with George Sand.

Chopin, while an acclaimed composer and pianist, only did 30 performances before large audiences in his life. He preferred the intimacy of playing in salons, so Aughey has written the show with small venues in mind.

The performances of Chopin’s Last Tour at The Royal Exchange, in Bolton Street, Newcastle, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week begin at 8pm. Tickets are $20, and can be booked through trybooking.com.

Phillip Aughey’s experiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year led him to inaugurate a Newcastle Fringe Festival that will be held from January 28 to February 6, 2016.

The festival will be held in nine venues, with eight already booked, including The Royal Exchange, the Civic Playhouse, two auditoriums at Newcastle Panthers, Newcastle Leagues Club, Christchurch Cathedral, The Unorthodox Church of Groove, and the Newcastle Community Arts Centre Black Box.

Aughey has received interest from overseas performers coming to Australia for the Sydney Festival in January and the Adelaide Fringe in February.

The closing date for entries is October 1, with the program to be announced on November 1.

Phillip Aughey can be contacted by emailing phillipaughey@yahoo.com, or by phone on 0447381989.