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Undetected Melodies: what ballet and classical music might give each other

Some years ago, I heard a concert in which the work in the second half was a panoramic symphony, gripping in its almost-documentary sweep. It was preceded by a ballet which, to my mind, never quite got out of gravity’s pull. And it occurred to me to ask if there is a difference between conducting […]

A broader spread: Repertoire in US orchestral seasons next year

2019-20 seasons are about to begin in the States so I thought I’d browse US orchestral brochures to see what I might want to go to. I once joked to the artistic administrator of an Australian orchestra that devising orchestral programs could be done with three spinning-wheels labelled ‘overture’, ‘concerto’, and ‘symphony’, each containing 25 […]

To ‘have a piece of my true self onstage’ – diversity in recent opera and orchestral music

My inspiration for this article came from a blog on the Los Angeles Opera website headed Seven Black Opera Singers Who Are Currently Dominating The Game. The blog cited folk such as mezzo J’Nai Bridges seen recently in LA Opera’s Satyagraha, Russell Thomas who has recently finished a season as Titus in Mozart’s La clemenza […]

When music matters – the political image of an orchestra

  I’ve been wondering how much classical music is suitable for political occasions. One Friday evening in July 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted world leaders of the G20 to a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Why? Partly because Beethoven’s Ninth is an important artifact of German history, but also, according to […]

Antony Ernst in Copenhagen

The last article I wrote for this publication was about my then-new position as head of production and artistic planning at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. Almost seven years later I have moved on, and in January started as Orchestra Director of the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen. Then, I was looking forward to coming […]

Sounds of the Bush

Some years ago, I saw a yellowing piece of paper in an artist’s itinerary file in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s archives. It’s hard to remember it verbatim now, but the gist of this note from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) employee to the agent of a stellar European artist was, ‘Yes, recitals in Wonthaggi , Wagga Wagga and Warracknabeal […]

Just a Fad? – Film Screenings with Live Orchestra

Have film screenings with live orchestra really been around so long? Jon Burlingame writing in Variety in 2013[1], cites a 1987 live screening of Eisenstein and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the ‘light bulb’ moment when Steven Linder of IMG Artists realised these could be a thing. Thirty years! Is it […]

Kim Waldock and the Royal Opera House

In 2015, Kim Waldock, at that time Director of Learning and Engagement for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, was appointed by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to be its new General Manager of the Learning and Participation team. Two years later, how has she found working in another environment and what lessons has she learned? […]

Pockets everywhere: Australian music overseas

I was watching Suicide Squad when I heard ACDC underneath the opening sequence. It’s not the first time I’ve heard ‘Dirty Deeds’ in a film soundtrack but it was the first time that it occurred to me that this might be the most famous piece of Australian music in all the world. Actually I soon […]

The inspirations of place

One of the key moments for me in thinking about the relationship between music and place occurred when I was providing performance histories for works to be played by the former ABC orchestras in Australia. I realised that whereas the first performances of earlier repertoire might have taken place in Munich or Mannheim, they could […]

Offshore Perspectives

Australia’s orchestras have always had visits from international artists but, since the mid-1990s, the country’s artistic administrators have increasingly come from Europe or America – and gone back. I wanted to talk to people who have worked with Australian orchestras and see if I could gain a sense – from their international perspective – of […]

Letter from LA

Things I have discovered since the last edition of The Podium: In the same period that I began reading Kevin Starr’s series of Californian histories and continued my usual round of musical and other activities, I also finally visited Yosemite and the gold country and other Californian sights. As some friends and I travelled down […]

Coffee Break at the Coffee Bean – sitting down with Pearl Kaufman

I recently met up with Pearl Kaufman at a Coffee Bean on the corner of Santa Monica and Beverly Glen Blvds in West Los Angeles. Pearl Kaufman is a pianist who has worked with many of the great names of 20th century music, premiering works by Berio, Ginastera, and Shapero, and appearing on the legendary […]

Think like Thalberg: What Classical Music can learn from the movies and vice-versa

When I moved to Sydney in 1987 I got to know the city by memorizing its coves and bays. In Los Angeles since 2013, I’ve memorized where the studios are located. After all, locals often think of Los Angeles and Hollywood synonymously. Paramount is only a $10 cab fare away; Warner Bros is in the […]

The Pop of Vox: the rise of voice

March 2012: I was visiting the Savannah Arts Academy, a specialist high school on Washington Avenue in that small Atlantic Coast city. Artists from Sherrill Milnes’ VOICExperience had just finished a demonstration of operatic arias and duets. ‘Who would like to thank our visitors?’ asked the teacher. Up jumped four teenage boys and launched into….No, […]

Orchestras in our time and place: the League of American Orchestras’ conference, Seattle, 2014

League of American Orchestras conferences are inspirational affairs. It’s not just the wealth of sessions or the chance to hear orchestras and ensembles you might not otherwise hear; it’s the chance to run into colleagues, including former employees of Australian orchestras who now work, say, in Atlanta or Dallas. Mostly, it’s those moments sitting in […]

Score reading in Studio City – Getting ‘under the hood’

The cabaret room of Vitello’s in Studio City (the same suburb where Mack Sennett built his film lot in 1927; where The Brady Bunch lived in the early 1970s) is not the sort of place you’d expect to find composer activity on a Friday morning. But once a month, of a Friday, 50+ LA composers […]

Making use of the arsenal – orchestras in video game music

Music journalist Rebecca Armstrong observed back in 2011 that video game music has come a long way from the sort of music you heard in the early days, ‘a series of bleeps accompanying pixilated figures on screen’. You can believe it when you hear the sort of full-blown orchestral score that is excerpted in video […]

A Postcard from Asia’s World City and its Orchestra

China is undoubtedly the place to be for classical music. Since I arrived in Hong Kong three years ago, barely a month has passed without the news of some major strategic alliance between a western music institution and a Chinese one. The touring traffic of great orchestras and artists seems more like a flood, as […]

Experimental City – Los Angeles’ operatic dimensions

When people think Los Angeles, they often think Hollywood and ‘Hollywood’ tends to be a byword for glitz and superficiality. But Los Angeles is also a home to musical experimentation. The groundbreaking Monday Evening Concerts that started on the roof of Peter Yates’ home in Silver Lake in 1939 are still going strong (though no […]

A Culture in Exile – Classical Musicians in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s

by Gordon Kalton Williams A number of times over the past few years, the contemporary German film director Werner Herzog has described Los Angeles as the most culturally substantial city in the United States. It’s why he and his wife decided to move here he will say, often citing the number of writers, philosophers, and […]

Notes from the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras (AAPRO) Summit, November 2012, Macau.

Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the AAPRO Summit in Macau, from 3-6 November 2012.  The report that follows notes some important themes that gleaned from the various speakers at the event – it is not an accurate transcription of what was said (unless indicated) and reflects only the notes that she took […]

‘A Natural Fit’ – an opera company and its community in western North Carolina

Asheville Lyric Opera (ALO) is a small, regional company situated in a small city nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, about 334 miles or 537 ½ kms from the Atlantic coast. It presents a season each year in the intimate 500-seat Diana Wortham Theater and has been getting stronger since its inception in 1999.

Philosophical questions and other practical considerations – My first year at the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg.

Antony Ernst recently moved to Europe to take up a position with the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg after terms as CEO of Sydney Youth Orchestras and Manager of Artistic Planning for the Auckland Philharmonia. He reflects on what he has learnt in his first year in France.

League Of American Orchestras Conference, June 2012

Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the League of American Orchestras conference, 6-8 June, 2012, held in Dallas, Texas.  Colleague Gordon Williams came along to assist with the marketing of the Goodear Acoustic Shield, featured in the Exhibit Hall. The report that follows is not an accurate transcription of any conference sessions or […]

‘Doing all of it’? Savannah and the performing arts

Elegant Victorian villas and gaslit streets lined with Live Oaks draped with Spanish Moss – downtown Savannah is as beautiful as the travel literature leads you to expect. Savannah, established by philanthropist Sir James Oglethorpe in 1733, was intended to be safe up on its bluff, a functional British bulwark against Spanish Florida and French […]

Creating youth with resilience. A music school in Kabul

Melbourne oboist Anne Gilby recently taught at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music which was established by Ahmad Sarmast in Kabul in 2010. Gordon Williams spoke to her of her experience. In Polly Watkin’s recently-released documentary Dr Sarmast’s Music School [check out the Sydney Film Festival’s blurb], we see students practising in sound-proofed rooms, or […]

Walking with stars

I spent Christmas/New Year in Los Angeles. It’s my other favourite city. Lest you think I’m mad, let me say why. I don’t focus on the cars and freeways. I notice coyotes in the hills, snow-capped peaks, citrus, sun and birdsong. I see the boundaries of old ranches on the street maps. Mostly, I see […]

Orchestral Summit in Melbourne

On 2-3 November 2011, Symphony Services International hosted its second annual Orchestral Summit in Melbourne.  Featuring guest speakers Paul Hogle (Executive Vice President, Detroit Symphony Orchestra) and Frankie Airey (Director, Philanthropy Squared), the event was a great success.  Read below for various reports on sections of the Summit, and to view the PowerPoint presentations by […]

Noblesse oblige – arts philanthropy in US classical music

You have only to walk a few blocks in many places in the US to get a sense of the scale of philanthropy here. Just pick a city. In Charleston, for example, within a five-minute walk, you can pass the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Center, and Stiles and Virginia Harper Student Services Center…In Savannah, you can stand inside the Richard and Judy Eckburg Atrium, the impressive entranceway to the Jepson Center, one of the Telfair Museums of Art. Philanthropy is pervasive. Sponsorship also is part of life. Is everything sponsored? The ‘please turn off your cellphone’ message before the curtain at San Diego Opera is sponsored by the Sycuan Casino, that is: a business run by a Native American tribe, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

Notes from Singapore Live! Conference

From 1-3 June 2011, CEO Kate Lidbetter attended the Singapore Live! Global Performing Arts Exchange.  Symphony Services International took a trade booth at this event to feature our Goodear Acoustic Shield and other products. 

Notes From League Of American Orchestras Conference – 6-9 June 2011

From 6-9 June the annual League of American Orchestras conference was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Kate Lidbetter and Gordon Williams represented Symphony Services International at both the conference and in the trade hall.

Doors slamming shut? – where to, for American opera

‘Crisis’. That’s the word you most often hear when someone in the US describes the state of opera in America these days. ‘Our donors are going gray’; ‘We’re one donor from disaster!’ And then they recount the companies that have collapsed in the recent past – Orlando, Baltimore, Opera Pacific, Connecticut, Berkshire – and you start to share their feeling of rising panic. Could the same thing happen in our part of the world?

East Side Story

Gordon Kalton Williams writes from San Francisco You’d almost expect musical innovation in the East Bay area of San Francisco. Harry Partch, who conceived music with 43 tones to the octave, was born in Oakland in 1901 and, though a hobo for much of his life, regarded the Oakland/East Bay area as his preferred stomping […]

AAPRO rundown: Notes from the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras conference

Notes from the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras conference, Hong Kong, October 2010 – Kate Lidbetter Chief Executive Officer Kate Lidbetter attended the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras (AAPRO) conference in Hong Kong from 14-17 October 2010.  She delivered a speech on Audience Development which can be read here, and provides […]

Institute of Musical Research, University of London – David Garrett

From 1-3 July 2010, our colleague David Garrett attended a conference hosted by the Institute of Musical Research, University of London, titled The Symphony Orchestra as Cultural Phenomenon.  David kindly agreed to provide us with a report on the sessions he attended. The full program of the conference can be accessed at: http://music.sas.ac.uk/imr-events/imr-conferences-colloquia-performance-events/the-symphony-orchestra-as-cultural-phenomenon.html#c1420 David presented […]