Stephen O’Connell (composer and saxophone player) is one of the most highly regarded and sought after saxophone players in Australia. Stephen has a broad background and training in classical music traditions and has specialized in the fields of jazz, blues, funk, rock and pop with extensive recording and live experience. He has toured, played and recorded with many well-known artists including Dorian Mode, Bob Henderson, Simon Tedeschi, Kevin Hunt, Ross Wilson, Phil Manning (Chain), Eugene Hideaway Bridges, Steve Arvey, Kamahl, Rolf Harris, Four Kinsmen and JW Jones.
Listen to Stephen O’Connell’s latest recording on Temby Saxello “Flying Fish”
Following a severe motorcycle accident in 2007, Stephen traveled with 14 artists to Tempe Downs Station, in Luritja Country Central Australia, to create visual art works and music. Camped at Illara, a sacred Aboriginal site, he created works of great beauty, spirituality and intensity. Stephen has returned to Tempe Downs Station annually since 2008 to compose music and discover more of the spirituality of this sacred Aboriginal country. Reacting to the intense isolation of the environment, Stephen created compositions that fused jazz and blues. These works were triggered by the unique characteristics of our ancient harsh land, its inhabitants and the creatures that live in Illara.
To Be There is a 35 minute work inspired by three caves on Tempe Downs Station, a sacred Aboriginal site. Together with Sid Palazzi, a visual artist on the trip, they filmed a rough sketch of the cliffs on a sketch pad in the desert dirt.
On his return Stephen shared the idea of a multi arts collaboration with a friend, Pru Goward, NSW Minister for Department of Communities and Women. Pru has also been a long serving journalist with the ABC and is a recipient of the Walkley Award. She was keen to be involved and created prose to be animated into a film of the final painting which is projected behind the band during live performances. Initially simply a medium to tie the three art forms together (music, visual art, prose), it became apparent as the project progressed that the film was becoming a fourth art form. Ten short films run seamlessly timed with the ten sections of the music.
The presentation consists of a short pre-concert talk followed by the music performed live (2 saxophones, guitar, drums, double bass) with the film projected.
The work has been performed for Grafton Regional Gallery/Clarence Valley Conservatorium, at the Albury Regional Gallery and is booked to present it at the Griffith Regional Gallery and various other venues including Jenolan Caves.