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by Sonia de Freitas
posted 16/03/2021

Shout Sister Shout: Loretta Palmeiro (IWD 2021)

Approx. 6 minute read

My next interviewee in the Shout Sister Shout series, Loretta Palmeiro, brings a sense of boundless energy to her work. Working as an in-demand session musician, she is constantly bouncing around the city from jazz venue to theatre to recording studio much like a pinball darting around the playfield – if you’ve been to a show in Sydney in recent years it is likely that you have heard her perform. Loretta is a member (and in many instances a founding member) of ensembles such as the Spyglass Gypsies, Alma Orquestra, Pharos and The Divergence Jazz Orchestra to name a few. In between all of this activity, she managed to squeeze in setting an Australian record for the longest real-time performance composition with her collaborator, Mark Isaacs.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer, Loretta Palmeiro

Sonia de Freitas: Hi Loretta, how are you and where does our interview find you today?

Loretta Palmeiro: Hi Sonia, today I’m off to the stunning State Theatre to play in Bohemian Symphony, an orchestrated tribute to the music of Queen.

SdF: Can you tell me about your journey in music? When did you know that you were going to make music your career?

LP: As far back as I can remember I was enchanted by the beauty and mystery of music and music making. I fell in love with the piano first and dreamt that I would grow up to be a concert pianist or a conductor. When I was 12 years old I heard a saxophone for the first time and was immediately captivated by the sound of it. I was very lucky to be able to borrow a school instrument and joined a local concert band and stage band, which was very formative for me.

All Who Travel With Us by Loretta Palmeiro & Mark Isaacs

SdF: One of your most recent albums is called All Who Travel With Us. On it you perform with Mark Isaacs. I love how the two of you communicate with each other in your improvisations. Your playing is so uninhibited- it’s an engaging listen! Can you tell me about your creative process when producing this work? Is there anything particular you do that is special to your creative process?

LP: Thank you Sonia, I’m so happy that you like it! I’m really glad you hear our music on this album as uninhibited. Mark and I didn’t speak in advance about what we are going to play, in fact one of our often employed descriptors about what we do when playing music together is that there are no road maps, we have no plan. Working with Mark has been an incredible journey that has provided me with a wonderful opportunity for musical growth. This has eventuated over 8 years of playing together, through consciously listening to and building trust in one another, and developing a safe space to be able to musically explore and take risks together. The music comes from this place and we do our best to let it flow and to not get in its way.

SdF: Who is your sounding board? There must be someone that you trust to give you brutally honest feedback on your music. How do they fit into the process?

LP: Mark has been a great mentor to me and has given me much in the way of constructive criticism as well as positive feedback. My partner Tony is another person that provides me with much support and although he doesn’t work as a professional musician he is musically trained and has a very perceptive and discerning ear. I often ask him for his opinion and am grateful for his honest feedback.


SdF: What was the first song that you remember making an impact in your life and why was/is it so important?

LP: When I was about 13 years old I heard Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme By Thomas Tallis for the first time. I thought it was a transcending and incredibly beautifully written piece of music and have often revisited it throughout my life. I love the shape and emotional journey of this piece as it gradually evolves and climbs to a powerful and poignant peak, before subsiding and coming to a gentle resolution and conclusion.

SdF: Have you experienced particular challenges as a female musician? How did you overcome these challenges and what do you think needs to change for others to avoid these challenges in the future?

LP: It’s true that women are still under-represented in the jazz world but it is great to see that this has already started to change towards greater equilibrium. I think having role models in any given field makes it possible for others who identify with those role models to also picture themselves there. I myself have been fortunate in the sense that throughout my life I have been supported and encouraged by my teachers, mentors, colleagues and peers, regardless of their gender, and have rarely felt that my own gender has been an obstacle in terms of providing me with opportunities to make music. I have always been so driven by my passion to create and to connect with others through this medium and because of this when I have encountered obstacles I have tended to keep striving and seeking out opportunities, or to create new ones for myself where I could.

SdF: So, what’s on the horizon for you? Any projects you’re working on or new releases to share?

LP: A few years ago a wonderful singer/violinist named Mandie Vieira and I started a band named Alma Orquestra. We play Portuguese traditional and popular music infused with jazz and improvisation, and we also write our own original music. Mandie and I wanted this to be a means of expressing a connection to our Portuguese heritage, and this has been a fantastic way to do that. We plan to record our original songs this year so as to enable us our share our music with a wider audience. Later this year (November 15th) Mark and I are playing at the Melbourne Recital Centre, I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also very much looking forward to recording some more original music this year with The Divergence Jazz Orchestra with whom I play lead alto saxophone.

            Voyager by The Spyglass Gypsies

SdF: Musicians come in many “flavours” vocalists, trumpeters, bassists… ; if you weren’t a saxophonist, clarinetist, flautist and composer (quadruple scoop), what flavour musician would you want to be and why?

LP: I love the medium of song and think that in another lifetime I might be a fado* singer. Either that or the cello, it is an instrument with such expressive scope.

*Fado is a traditional song style from Portugal where the singer conveys a deep sense of longing or saudade.

SdF: What advice would you give to any aspiring musicians out there?

LP: I can’t imagine my life without music in it – if music is calling you too follow your heart and don’t turn your back on it! You will always find people that you like making music with and vice versa, make sure that you find them and don’t miss this opportunity enrich your life.


To learn more about Loretta Palmeiro visit: spyglassgypsies.com almaorquestra.com

To buy Loretta Palmeiro’s music visit: markisaacslorettapalmeiro.bandcamp.com/releases spyglassgypsies.bandcamp.com/album/voyages

For more information on International Women’s Day visit: internationalwomensday.com 


Keep an eye out for my next interview in the Shout Sister Shout series where I interview Emily-Rose Šárkova.

Did you miss the previous Shout Sister Shout instalment? Read Susie Bishop’s interview here.