By: Kevin Purcell
I am delighted to have been asked to write the first blog on the Australian Discovery Orchestra web site. As the ADO has yet to give a performance to share, the closest thing we have is an excerpt from a 2010 concert given by the Tasmania Discovery Orchestra conducted by the late, Myer Fredman.
This is fitting in several ways. Most importantly it shows the work of the British-born Maestro, in the twilight of an extraordinary life – notably as one of the finest Opera conductors Australia has seen – as well as providing the merest of glimpses of his consumate artistry during the ‘Indian Summer’ of his musical life. Myer passed away on July 4, 2014. He was 82 years young.
Secondly, the footage shows the depth of individual and collective talent of Australian orchestral musicians – notably spanning several decades – who came together from all across Australia up to four times per year (and sometimes even more) to perform masterworks from the orchestral repertoire mixed in with additional concerts of the American Songbook. With few exceptions (excluding the cast of professional Opera singers highlighted in this video) none of the TDO’s instrumentalists were engaged in full-time musical activities. Their musical commitment and resultant efforts are truly wonderful to hear and watch.
In 2016, the Australian Discovery Orchestra will pick up from where its ‘heyday’ activities left off under its previous (but different) guise, in the full knowledge that an orchestra like the ADO is a very much needed enterprise in the artistic life of Australia. The difference five years on is that computer and Internet technologies have advanced to a degree that the ADO is now able do things which, for all intent and purposes, were previously impractical (even in 2010).
For those musicians previously involved, much with the ADO will be familiar, but much too will be entirely new! Simply re-constituing or merely repeating the activities of the TDO was never going to be the raison d’être for instigating a new orchestra by the new management team. Any organisation with the will to do so could have already taken the knowledge of how the TDO was designed to operate, and then re-applied it to their own needs. But no-one did, or, has done so to my knowledge. Over the last several years, I have rightly or wrongly concluded that perhaps the primary philosophy behind the original TDO project eluded those who wished to place themselves ahead of the musicians? I wish this wasn’t so, because, if it was, it would mean that ample opportunities for the vast numbers of high-calibre orchestral musicians in Australia would already be well catered for. In which case, I could pursue other important projects including how to ensure Melbourne can win the AFL premiership in 2016; or how to get my golf handicap below 20!
The central focus of the ADO is, and will always remain, the players. They are the primary focus of the enterprise. I wouldn’t have agreed to be involved if this was not the case. Consequently, providing a suitable place to perform (paradoxically not open to the public) and with a mixture of compelling repertoire to explore, I know everyone involved with the Australian Discovery Orchestra will strive to provide compelling opportunities to show-off just how wonderful these musicians are.
Stay tuned – and importantly if you’re a player – I’d sign up early. It’s going to be a grand adventure!