Orchestra Musicians Never Fail To Amaze Me


I had the great pleasure last weekend of working with an essentially ‘scratch’ orchestra comprised predominantly of musicians teaching instrumental music in Schools in Melbourne and regional areas; including some musicians from the ADO roster, all of whom gave so generously of their time.

The ADO, through Managing Director, Janine Hanrahan, and Artistic Administrator, Briony Buys, was asked to curate this concert for the inaugural Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) Arts Learning Festival. I was delighted to return to Melbourne to work with the orchestra on a program of music specifically composed for Children.

We really need to celebrate the capacity of orchestra musicians who live in Australia: their willingness to tackle difficult music – with far too little rehearsal time; an undaunted enthusiasm for the task of finding their musical way through a barrage of notes, rhythms, dynamics and endlessly shifting tempi and, ultimately, their conviction that they can “pull it off” when the moment really counts – the concert!

We underestimate and under-appreciate orchestra musicians generally.  I believe this is true in most places in the world with very few exceptions. What is asked of them – in terms of the minutely exacting technical and artistic expectations  – is a continuing feat of human dexterity and skill-level that belies any general understanding of what they individually and collectively accomplish in the process of making music.

This is hard enough to achieve in a full-time, permanent, orchestra ensemble but to watch a group of players come together from disparate backgrounds and unite around the common need to do the very best they can to create a compelling experience for an audience – and simultaneously to serve the creative intention of the person who wrote the music they are charged to perform – is really something to see.

The fact that each player also has to bend their musical will to the whims of the stick-waver (that would be me in this case); their individual musical insight being as good, if not better, than same said stick-waiver’s on any day, makes their contribution at the very least – startling!

In a creative-consumer world where we are ever increasingly led to applaud the lesser talents of a vast array of commercial music product and created artist personas, it would be good if we could just sometimes remember that playing an Oboe, a Timpani, a Glockenspiel, a Piccolo, a Violin, a Tuba … any instrument that requires years and years of dedication to master (and they all do) represent the efforts of people who bring something very special to our lives – and to our children who learn most by observing the world they experience.

We should seriously extend our appreciation to them far more often that we actually do, because we actually do not appreciate them anywhere near enough!

So I’ll begin.

To the wonderful group of musicians who made up the ISV Arts Learning Festival Orchestra – and who played so wonderfully under tremendous pressure – our heartfelt thanks for what you so amazingly do.

Kind regards,

Kevin Purcell
Principal Conductor
Australian Discovery Orchestra