This being the age of social media, friends and followers are more likely to hear of a death on their iPads or mobiles before the newspapers catch up a day or so later. So it was overnight that the very sad news of conductor Richard Divall’s passing reached us through FaceBook contact Dr David Ian Kram, a conductor, lecturer, arts manager, pianist and composer. Much like Richard Divall himself! At about 11pm last night Dr Kram wrote this tribute:
“Richard Divall made an enormous musical contribution to music in Victoria and, not just music per se; he raised Victoria’s standing as an operatic state to international esteem. Not only that: Richard Divall was an outstanding teacher, who generously and passionately shared his expertise and research with the next generations. His post-VSO career was no less distinguished, contributing richly in music and philanthropy. May his memory be a blessing and may his legacy continue to inform Victoria as a centre for cultural excellence.”
It struck a chord in the musical world with well over 100 responding by the time morning broke. However, for those less cognisant of Richard Divall’s importance to the music world, particularly in Victoria, there was of course, Wikipedia, whose updating was timely:
“Richard Sydney Divall AO OBE (9 September 1945 – 15 January 2017) was an Australian conductor and musicologist. After nine years as a music producer at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, from 1972 on the invitation of Dame Joan Hammond he became the music director of the Victoria State Opera in Melbourne, where he remained for twenty-five years. A further five years were spent as Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia. His teachers included Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Reginald Goodall and Wolfgang Wagner.’’
A more detailed account of the scope of Divall’s achievements is given in a biography provided by Monash University.
|“Eminent composer, conductor and musicologist Richard Divall’s career has encompassed roles as a music producer with the ABC, Music Director of the Victorian State Opera and Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia. He has conducted many concerts, ballets and more than 150 operas. As a musicologist, he has edited over 150 works of early Maltese Music and more than 200 works by early Australian composers. Richard is a Knight of Malta in Solemn Religious Profession and is active in hospitaller works. Richard was a member of the fundraising committee for the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and also assisted in mentoring and teaching at the School.”|
Further information is provided in links to The University of Melbourne or the University of Divinity, which awarded Richard Divall a Doctorate in 2014.
One of his more recent achievements was to conduct Anna Boleyn for Melbourne Opera, as Heather Leviston recorded in her review for Classic Melbourne.
“Before the curtain was raised, however, producer and conductor Greg Hocking stepped forward to make a couple of announcements. One was to acknowledge the contributions of Richard Divall, who had conducted MO’s Maria Stuarda and prepared the English translation and performing edition of this Anna Bolena.
Many of those attending the Herald Sun Aria the previous week might have been shocked to see Maestro Divall come onto the stage in a wheelchair rather than striding on as usual, baton in hand. A diminished figure, his smile and wave of greeting to the audience immediately transformed him into the enthusiastic person who has given so generously of himself to support singers and the musical life of Australia, particularly Melbourne’s. He was in the audience and, despite health issues, still very much a valuable and cherished part of proceedings.”
Many will want to have their say about the importance of Divall to their lives. The Choir of Hard Knocks’ director Jonathon Welch said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of Richard Divall’s passing today – he gave me and so many singers our first opportunities on the operatic stage with Victorian State Opera and was a champion of the arts. RIP dear Richard – we will never forget you.”
Also on FaceBook came a lengthy tribute from conductor Andrew Wailes, touring with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic currently in Krakow. Classic Melbourne endorses the sentiments expressed, and with Dr Wailes’ permission, joins in this tribute to a great musician.
“It is with great sadness that the RMP records the passing of its patron Frà Professor Richard Divall AO OBE after a courageous battle with cancer.
Conductor, musicologist and for thirty years Music Director of the Victorian State Opera, and for a time a Principal Conductor of the Australian Opera, Richard Divall’s contribution to Australian music will long be remembered.
Richard Divall made many recordings and conducted over one hundred and fifty operas throughout his career, and apart from his role as a patron of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, held many posts including Chairman of the Marshall-Hall Trust; Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow; and was a Visiting Professor of Music at King’s College, London.
“Professor Divall had up until very recently been editing for publication, performing and recording many works by early Australian composers, including symphonic, chamber and solo instrumental works by Charles Edward Horsley from the RMP’s Colonial music collection; orchestral, chamber and vocal works by Fritz Hart; and works by Carl Linger, Alberto Zelman Snr, Leon Caron, Ernest Truman, Ernest Hutchinson.
“Maestro Divall held a PhD in eighteenth-century sacred music from the University of Divinity, and Honorary Doctorates from Monash University (1992), and Australian Catholic University (2004). He was an Associate Professor of Music at The University of Melbourne and a Visiting Professor at The University of Malta.
“Professor Divall was a Knight of Malta in Solemn Religious Profession, and undertook various charitable works with medical research – especially in Palliative Care, and with the sick and the homeless.
“Richard Divall will long be remembered as a champion of music in Melbourne and the RMP joins the wider musical community in mourning his passing.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen”.