Did you know that in Regional Country Victoria classical orchestral music is alive and well, with admirable annual concerts enriching several communities? The task of selecting repertoire which won’t be seen as “challenging” or too demanding for audiences who may be new to the art, and at the same time be stimulating and encouraging for “non-professional” musicians, is not easy. In the country, a shifting professional population can mean that conductors, teachers and music students may come and go, so the balance and even presence of some instruments in the ensemble may be missing or imported from distant lands.
Resident conductor of Hamilton Symphony Orchestra, Angus Christie, who also conducts the Limestone Coast Orchestra, (founded in 2013), has thus widened a networking of musicians across the South West Region. He has provided soloists with more opportunities to play with an orchestra, and local composers are emerging and writing original scores to suit the instrumentations available, having the opportunity to hear them performed at any of these three orchestras’ annual concerts.
Instigated by prominent musician and piano teacher Robin Wright in 1988, the Warrnambool Symphony Orchestra has a solid core of dedicated players, providing weekly rehearsals for players to share fine music and delight the community with several annual concerts, including performances in the Primary school and Hospital.
The (11th) Annual Mother’ Day concert was held on 13thMay in the magnificent building and an enriching acoustic in St Joseph’s Church Warrnambool.
The opening piece was the World Premier of Raindrop Reverieby Ken Stott, a prolific local composer, whose fine music demonstrates deceptive simplicity in rhythm and harmony, but much effect and joy in sections of colour and beauty. Almost program music, the raindrops were felt in pizzicato strings, some heavy raindrops rather scattered at times through the bass section, and reflections arose in the floating flute passages. Another contemporary composition Steamby Michael Lofting was given its second public performance, which added a colourful pictorial soundscape complete with the resonance of a genuine anvil in the percussion.
Baroque trumpet soloist Gary Mansell then performed Stanley’s Trumpet Tune with finesse and precision, such a joy with his pure articulation and golden sound spreading to the high domes of the church.
Having recently become a local resident, young dedicated soprano Louise Keast demonstrated her high level of trained and professional delivery in four operatic arias, showing faultless technique and strength. Mozart, Puccini, Offenbach and Lehar favourites were presented with excellent projection, dramatic and dynamic expression, clarity and maturity.
A well-chosen work for this venue was Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Flutes, performed by Eleanor Donelan and Sarah Lim. The pair showed outstanding connection and balance in a gorgeous silvery partnership, producing sprightly first and third movements with delightful conversations. The second movement Adagio was another peak in today’s program, very beautifully performed, delicate and sensitive without losing flow. This was an impressive movement where the music produced connected with the soul.
As the SW Region grows in population, so the country orchestras gain string players and new instrumentalists, and today the ensemble of 24 strong strings with fairly balanced woodwind and brass sections provided admirable accompaniment to the soloists. The orchestra also charmed the audience with well-known arrangements of favourites, comprising marches by Verdi, Bizet and Wagner, and Trepak from The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky.
Perfect for this ensemble was the inclusion of lighter Baroque dance style suites – La Roi s’amuse by Delibes, and Clarke’s Dance Suite. Simply most satisfying.
Full credit must also go to conductor Angus Christie for raising the confidence of players of varying levels of musical interest and experience, being never more critical than with a subtle hint “I am sure we can do better”. Today’s concert certainly showed musicians at their very best.
Julie McErlain heard the Warrnambool Symphony Orchestra with Guest Conductor Angus Christie on May 13, 2018 at St Joseph’s Church, Warrnambool.