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MARK SIMEON FERGUSON   

Composer/song-writer/arranger/pianist/musical director Mark Simeon Ferguson was born into a musical family in Whyalla, South Australia and raised in Clare. He was a finalist in the National Jazz Awards in 1999 and in the same year he completed a Master of Music in Jazz Performance at the University of Adelaide (where he is currently Head of Jazz).


His commissions for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra include:

  • ASO Does Latin with the Marmalade Man (a concert of his own latin jazz works arranged for orchestra)

  •  Herman and Rosie (a children’s show based on Gus Gordon’s book of the same name)

  • Gospel Messiah (a revision of Handel’s Messiah)

  • The Bush Concert (a children’s show based on Helga Visser’s book of the same name). The Bush Concert has also been performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Sydney Opera House, the Melbourne Youth Orchestra in the Recital Centre and the ASO in Harbin, China (after translation into Mandarin)

  •  the elegy ‘For the Lost’ written in response to the devastating 2020 bushfires, which the ASO performed in three concerts in February 2020

  • The ASO's Welcome to Country 'Pudnanthi, Padninthi' composed by Kaurna men Jack Buckskin and Jamie Goldsmith and arranged and orchestrated by Ferguson. 


Mark created the song cycles The Moral of the Story (2013) and Next Stop North Terrace (2018) for the SA Public Primary Schools Music Festival with each work performed by over 8000 children in the Adelaide Festival Theatre. Mark’s world jazz ensemble Marmalade Circus recorded five albums and performed at the Manly and Thredbo Jazz Festivals and the Sydney Festival. He also has a family band, Marmalade Five with his wife Susan and their three children, performing his many children’s songs.


As a pianist Mark has performed with artists across many genres including Rufus Wainwright, Nancye Hayes, Paul Capsis, Lady Rizo, Mark Murphy and Ray Vega. He has been Musical Director for shows for Tina Arena, Johanna Allen, Camille O’Sullivan, Rhonda Burchmore, Rachael Beck, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival (2022, 2021, 2018, 2017 galas),  UNSUNG, the Backstage Club, and for the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Walk of Fame Gala and Her Majesty’s Closing (and reopening) galas. He was Musical Director and pianist for QPAC’s 2019 Songs of Hope and Healing in the Brisbane Concert Hall and he was co-curator of the 2018 International Jazz Day celebrations for the Adelaide Festival Centre.

 

MARMALADE CIRCUS

Mark formed his Mark Ferguson Quintet in 1997 with trombonist Nick Mulder, the late alto saxophonist Scott Griffiths, bassist Tim Bowen and drummer John McDermott. They performed as emerging artists in the 1998 Adelaide Festival with the late tenor saxophonist Mike Stewart replacing Griffiths. Later that year the group was renamed Marmalade Circus and performed at the Glenelg Jazz Festival with Dusty Cox joining on lead alto. The group performed at the Thredbo and Manly Jazz Festivals in 2001 and the 2002 Sydney Festival's Jazz in the Domain concert. 

They recorded their first album, the live CD Tropical Fruit Chunks in 2001, followed by and then there were ten in 2005 and Yup! in 2009. In the Adelaide Review Robert Dunstan said that 'YUP…is a classy album—world class in fact…” In the Australian the late John McBeath wrote that Ferguson is '... a composer of considerable ability.' 

Over the years the group has varied in size from a sextet to tentet. Leading Adelaide jazz players have been regular members of the ensemble including reed players Adam Page, Chris Soole, Tom Pulford, Mike Stewart, Dusty Cox and Jon Hunt, trumpet players Warren Heading, Pat Thiele and Chris Weber, trombonists Nick Mulder, Gareth Davis, Alex Taylor and Tom Voss, bassists Shireen Khemlani, Tim Bowen and Ross McHenry, drummers John McDermott, Ben Todd, Gilli Atkinson and Jarrad Payne, and percussionist Steve Todd.

In 2014 Ferguson expanded the ensemble into the 20-piece latin jazz orchestra Orquesta Mermelada featuring Fabian Hevia on percussion and Christian Cifuentes on vocals and percussion.

Marmalade Circus went on hiatus from 2013-2018, but returned for the Umbrella Winterfest in July 2019.

marmalade circus-photo by Andy Rasheed h
 

ORCHESTRAL WRITING

Ferguson's first substantial orchestral writing was his 2007 revision of Handel's Messiah, Gospel Messiah, for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO), featuring Doug Parkinson, Paulini, Trace and James Morrison. In The Australian Graham Strahle wrote “It is a brilliantly swinging and uplifting take on Handel's score… Ferguson has come up with an absolute winner” while Rodney Smith in The Advertiser described the work as “a kaleidoscope of strikingly crafted Gospel arrangements from Ferguson’s fertile pen.”

In 2021 Ferguson was commissioned by the ASO to arrange and orchestrate two songs by Kaurna men Jack Buckskin and Jamie Goldsmith to function like a Welcome to Country. The ASO first performed the combined work entitled 'Pudnanthi, Padninthi' in the Adelaide Festival Theatre in February 2021 and they have performed the work at the beginning of most concerts. 

In 2018 the ASO performed a 90 minute show of Ferguson's Latin compositions/arrangements as 'ASO does Latin with the Marmalade Man' (2018). In The Advertiser Pat Wilson wrote 'A night full of original material written by a single composer for his jazz band, then arranged by him for band plus orchestra, threatens monotony. This concert was anything but. In rich harmonic textures and rhythms...composer and pianist Mark Simeon Ferguson showed himself to be whimsically inventive, technically formidable and charmingly collaborative with both his jazz compadres and the orchestra itself....'

In 2014 he wrote a score for chamber ensemble to Helga Visser's book The Bush Concert, which he expanded in 2015 for full orchestra This work has been performed in the Sydney Opera House (SSO), the Melbourne Recital Centre (MYO) and by the ASO across SA and in Harbin, China after translation in to Mandarin.

In 2016 he wrote a score to Gus Gordon's book Herman and Rosie which the ASO have toured around SA.

In 2020 he was asked by the ASO to write an elegy For the Lost, as a response to the devastating bushfires which they performed at the Grainger studios in three concerts in February 2020.

Ferguson regularly writes orchestral arrangements of pop, light classical and children's music for the ASO.

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MUSICAL DIRECTION or pianist-

selected cabaret/musical theatre

Alana Dawes and msferguson in the pit, 2
  • Musical Director/pianist/bv's, Lou BlackwellLove on the Left Bank, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, 2022

  • Musical Director/pianist/bv's,Tina Arena, Wendy Matthews, Lior, Sophie Koh, Thando, Jess Hitchcok Songs My Mother Taught Me Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022

  • Musical Director/pianist, Variety Gala, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022

  • Musical Director/pianist, Variety Opening Gala, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2021

  • Musical Director/pianist, A Right Royal Gala, reopening of Her Majesty's Theatre, 2020

  • Musical Director/pianist, Amelia Ryan/Libby O’Donovan, UNSUNGthe inaugural Frank Ford Commission for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, 2019, Adelaide Fringe 2021 (weekly Fringe Award winner)

  • Musical Director/pianist, Songs of Hope and Healing, Queensland Performing Art Centre, 2019

  • Musical Director/pianist, Johanna Allen, Cake, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2018

  • Musical Director/pianist, Her Majesty’s Theatre Closing Benefit Concert, 2018

  • Musical Director/pianist, Walk of Fame Gala, Adelaide Festival Centre, 2018

  • Musical Director/pianist, Closing Gala, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2017 and 2018

  • Musical Director/pianist, Johanna Allen, Euromash, Melbourne Recital Centre 2017, Adelaide Fringe 2021

  • Musical Director/pianist, Johanna Allen, The Songs that Got Away, Melbourne Recital Centre 2015, Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015, Glen Street Theatre 2016, 

  • Pianist, sometime Musical Director, Camille O’Sullivan, Changeling (and other shows), Helpmann Winner for Cabaret 2015

  • Pianist, Beccy Cole and Libby O’Donovan, The Cowgirl and the Showgirl, Helpmann Award Nominee for Cabaret 2015

  • Pianist, Lady Rizo, Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Festival of Voices 2016

  • Musical Director/pianist, Mother Wife and the Complicated Wife, Australian tours 2009-2015

  • Musical Director/pianist, Channel 9 TeamKids Easter Telethon, 2014.

  • Assistant Musical Director/pianist, Mother Wife and the Complicated Wife, New York Music Theatre Festival, 2013

  • Musical Director/pianist, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Gospel Messiah, Adelaide Festival Theatre, 2007

  • Musical Director/pianist, The Gospel According to Elvis Presley, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2005

  • Musical Director/pianist, The Fabulous Singlettes, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2005

 

CHILDREN'S MUSIC

In addition to his writing for the ASO (see The Bush Concert and Herman and Rosie in Orchestral Writing) Ferguson has spent much of his adult life writing and performing music for children. His first major tours (1993-95) were accompanying Australian children's legend Peter Combe. From 2001-2013 Ferguson led the latin-jazz group Marmalade Jam, performing over 400 shows across Australia and in Singapore for Musica Viva in Schools.

Ferguson has written many songs and arrangements for the SA Public Primary Schools Music Festival. He created the song cycles The Moral of the Story (2013) and Next Stop North Terrace (2018) for them with each work performed by over 8000 children (over 12 shows) in the Adelaide Festival Theatre.

He also leads the band Marmalade Five, which is comprised of Mark, his wife Susan and their three children. They perform Mark's songs regularly around Adelaide, including a spot at the 2019 Dream Big Festival.

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