The Report: Prism

The Report is a blog series created to showcase the Festival's Fashion Writing finalists. Writers are sent to Arts, Ideas and Independent Runway events, to take a closer look at the diverse program beyond the runway, and explore fashion that takes us to galleries, stage, screen and more.


Jessie Corne graduated from Leibler Yavneh College in 2015, completed a Certificate II in Applied Fashion Design and Technology through VET TAFE and is currently in second-year Fashion and Textile Merchandising at RMIT University. She is passionate about writing and sustainable fashion; and hopes to go into Product Development.



Gemma Turvey is the Artistic Director, Pianist and Composer of The New Palm Court Orchestra, and will be performing her original piece Prism alongside other classical pieces on the 7th March, as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. She has also recently been endorsed by Yamaha as a Yamaha artist. Carol Saffer is the current chair of The New Palm Court Orchestra’s board, having previously spent 27 years in the fashion industry.

Jessie: What do your day-to-day roles consist of?

Gemma: I am artistic director, as well as pianist and composer. At the moment, I am also executive director, so I have a whole suite of responsibilities. I am founder of the orchestra as well, so I’ve brought this upon myself basically!

I write and arrange all the music for the orchestra…if it’s not one of my compositions, often I’ve arranged it so we can play it. I do all the artist management within the orchestra, as well as scheduling the season. At the moment, I’m booking 2019. 

Carol: I made the analogy that it’s like planning a range– its doing your tear sheets and your fabrics, and having a huge collection and then culling it right back– that’s exactly what Gemma does for the orchestra. As chair of the board, I look after the directors and the governance of the operation.

Jessie: What inspired you to include elements of fashion into this piece?

(As a result of venue changes, the panel is no longer being held before the performance)

Gemma: The fashion element is more in a consistency of us presenting every year as part of the Fashion Festival, and we do have fashion partners (pearl company Paspaley), which we feel says [enough] in itself. I think it’s nice that the Fashion Festival presents this Arts Program, where we can really begin to look at how fashion influences and how it’s a language.

Carol: I also think there’s a lot of parallels between fashion and music from the inspirational side of it, like how the designer gets inspiration to do [a] particular theme of a range… we’ve always felt that that’s a really consistent meeting [point] of both fashion and music.

Jessie: “Prism” is described as dealing with themes such as illusion and perception– how do you think the performance explores these concepts?

Gemma: The actual Prism composition itself came about from a close friend of mine going through a very difficult period of her life, and whenever we’d talk I never felt like I was seeing the entire picture objectively. It was like looking at her through a prism, there were all these other judgements or problems or you couldn’t reach her. [So] when I started composing, all those emotions start to want to be articulated, and it’s like, where is the truth in all that, somewhere there’s a truth. I think we deal with that in everyday life, particularly with media. Everyone projects their own prisms.

[For] (Piazzolla’s) “Oblivion”, I definitely feel that [it has that] abyss of emotion. Some people just have such a depth of feeling that sometimes there is no bottom, [and] that’s definitely what I see [with “Oblivion”]– limitless love or limitless sadness.

Carol: I think the other thing about Prism is that it’s about how you view things through different lenses, so you could be looking at something that’s sort of fractured off the prims and it makes it look –or you perceive it as something– different, or someone else looks at that prism from another angle, and they see something totally different, so what we’ve often said about the orchestra is that we try and educate our audience through the language of music and I think Prism is part of that, it’s that perception of how you see it, say it, how you play it, it’s all sort of fractions of the prism.

Gemma: What I’m keenly aware of throughout my time as a pianist is that music is the medium, it’s the language, we’re not putting words to it, we have to communicate through the melody and through the harmony. So that is a responsibility on the performer, and I’ve always been so aware of that, but I’m also very determined that it can be done, and that audiences are eminently intelligent enough to understand that. It’s just giving them the options to listen to that music and make it accessible.

The New Palm Court Orchestra present Prism this Wednesday 7 March from 7 - 8PM at Yamaha Premium Piano Centre. Prism is a participant of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival's Arts Program.

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