Meg Washington sings with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (file)
Meg Washington is playing five dates with the Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmanian symphony orchestras. Image by HANDOUT/SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • arts, culture and entertainment

Meg Washington makes waves with summer orchestral tour

Liz Hobday January 13, 2024

The closest thing to singing with a symphony orchestra, according to Meg Washington, is surfing a really, really big wave.

“Just the sheer kinetic energy of so many incredible musicians all playing as one organism … it’s nature and energy, and you’re just part of something huge,” she told AAP.

The three-time ARIA award winner is catching that wave in February, playing with the Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmanian symphony orchestras across a five-date tour.

The singer, songwriter and (most lately) scriptwriter and film producer will premiere songs from her upcoming album due for release in 2024, and play much-loved hits including Catherine Wheel, Kiss Me Like You’re Going to Die and Skeleton Key.

It’s not the first time Washington has performed with a full orchestra, having sung with the Sydney Symphony in 2017.

But this time around, she was organising the tour at the same time as making a feature film.

That was an “interesting challenge”, said Washington, who described hiding in tents to take whispered phone calls on the set of the Paul Kelly-inspired How To Make Gravy.

The film will be the first original feature for the streaming channel Binge, starring Daniel Henshall and Hugo Weaving, with cameos from the likes of Adam Briggs.

Based on Kelly’s iconic tune about a man who can’t get home for Christmas because he’s in prison, Washington penned the script with her partner, filmmaker Nick Waterman.

They tried to extract every detail from the lyrics to shape the story, well aware that diehard fans of the song would scrutinise every detail.

But they found much of the song’s power came from what was left unsaid, and not even Paul Kelly, who supported the project, had all the answers – it wasn’t even clear where exactly the film should be set.

Shooting on the Gold Coast finished at the start of summer and How To Make Gravy is now in post production.

There are, of course, several other projects: Washington continues to voice the character of Calypso for the hit cartoon Bluey, and in 2022 she finished composing the music for Rebel Wilson’s new film The Deb.

All this varied work does not feel compartmentalised, said Washington, who sees it as an exercise in composition, regardless of the medium.

“I think it’s the same sort of muscle, which is just, ‘this feels good, we’ll try that’.”

Meg Washington plays with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at Wrest Point Entertainment Centre January 30, with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Town Hall February 2 and 3, and the Melbourne Symphony at Hamer Hall, February 8 and 9.