Father [Lindsay] around 1923
BC aound 1944
the opposite extreme: withLyndall Hendrickson, Ibolya Mikajlo[R] and Ursula Gruszewski
Recorder Group Thebby Primary 1966
Wattle Park Teachers College 1960s
Mackenzie and Chatterton families, Brighton, UK, 1986
with Ralph Middenway perusing the Barossa score
in Paris 1969
Dad [Lindsay] and Mum [Joyce] ca. 1942

Contributions to Musical Life in Australia

Brian’s period of service as Head of Performing Arts at the SA College of Advanced Education and the University of Adelaide included several occasions when he was able to help facilitate the establishment of new musical instrumentalities, including…                                          

The Adelaide Connection   

Adelaide’s first and most distinguished Jazz Choir was formed under the musical direction of English Baritone, John McKenzie upon the amalgamation of the Salisbury CAE and the Adelaide CAE in 1982. Brian’s role was to identify resources necessary for this highly accomplished ensemble to operate at a professional level. Testimony that The Adelaide Connection was truly distinguished comes from the fact that between 1985 and 1991 three highly successful LP/CDs were recorded and distributed under the ABC Records label by the ensemble with associate artists Don Burrows, James Morrison and George Golla.                

The Australian String Quartet    

This ensemble was formed in 1986 as a resident professional ensemble at the SACAE. Leader, William Hennessey, had advised Brian two years earlier of his desire to form such an ensemble as soon as resources could be found. In 1986, as Head of School, Brian was able to offer founding members of the ASQ fractional teaching positions within the String program of the Bachelor of Music at the SACAE. This was the trigger for Mr Hennessey to seek and secure matching funds from Arts SA and thus form the ensemble resident at the SACAE. When the SACAE Performing Arts School merged with the Elder Conservatorium to become the Faculty of Performing Arts at the University of Adelaide in 1990, the Residency status of the ASQ was preserved in the combined institution, a privilege it still enjoys today.

Friday Lunch Hour Concerts        

Throughout his time as Head of Performing Arts at the SACAE, Brian was responsible for a rich program of public concert offerings to provide performance platforms for resident performance staff and distinguished students. Part of this program provided for weekly lunch hour concerts in the Hartley Concert Room. When the merger with the University of Adelaide occurred in 1990, this program was maintained. Lunch hour concerts had been a feature of Brian’s student years at the Elder Conservatorium but had lapsed for several years by 1990. They were re-instituted in 1991 and their popularity grew rapidly. By 1992 they had outgrown the Hartley Concert Room and were transferred to the Elder Hall. They are still offered today…..and normally only early birds are assured a seat.          

Jazz South Australia           

Since it offered the only formal jazz training program in SA it was logical that jazz interest groups would look to the SACAE for support in laying healthy foundations for coordinated jazz activity in Adelaide. In 1985 Brian served as Chair of a Steering Committee whose aim was to establish the Jazz Coordination Scheme of SA. This group had representation of around 8 diverse jazz interest groups from across wider Adelaide. Submissions were made to the State Government and the Federal Government for support to appoint a Jazz Coordinator. Funds were allocated and a person appointed to this position in 1985, resident at the SACAE.  The scheme in expanded form still operates today.

Barossa Pilgrimages          

For the 300th anniversary of the birth of JS Bach, the music staff of the SACAE looked for a suitable vehicle of celebration. It was the brainchild of South Australian “Living Treasure” Lyndall Hendrickson to celebrate the birth of this great composer with a Pilgrimage to the birthplace of Lutheranism in South Australia at the Barossa Valley. The idea of Barossa Pilgrimages was born. Under Brian’s chairmanship the organizing committee successfully mounted a day’s pilgrimage with multiple buses transporting multiple mobile audiences throughout the delightful Barossa countryside from small church to small church listening to instrumental and vocal mini-concerts accompanied by original 19th Century Lemke organs. It was a massive logistical exercise and its huge success demanded repetition several years later.

Adelaide Festival Youth Orchestra       

As part of the Adelaide Festival in 1988, Brian convened, coordinated and conducted in rehearsal the Adelaide Festival Youth Orchestra  which was formed especially to provide orchestral workshop opportunities for Adelaide’s instrumental students under Sir George Solti and Sir Michael Tilson Thomas who performed in the Adelaide Festival that year with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


                Australian Composers, ed Sir Frank Callaway [pub OUP] [chapter on Malcolm Williamson]

              Calling Me Home,     Graham Jenkins [pub SACAE] [MD of accompanying recordings]

                   A Decade of Music Education in SA           Australian Journal of Music Education, April 1977

                        Music History: What do we leave out?   Australian Journal of Music Education, October 1980




Adelaide University Choral Society Conductor       1965 and 1990

Adelaide Choral Society

Guest conductor       1977

State Opera South Australia

Musical Director

Hin und Zuruck & Gargoyles 1973 :   Ivor Novello & Kleine Mahagonny  1974 : Cosi fan tutte [touring]

Chorus Master

Coronation of Poppea  1976 : La Boheme 1977 :  Don Giovanni   1977  : Pirates of Penzance 1977               Midsummer Marriage [Tippett]  1978 

Musical Director Insight Program

Cosi fan tutte  1978 Don Pasquale  1979  : Barber of Seville  1980

SOSA publicity photo 1975
Grace Bawden as Cio Cio San, Butterfly 2014
Figaro in the Kurpark, Wiesbaden, 2012
Matthew Reardon [Ferrando] in Cosi of 2015

Co-Opera Incorporated

The formation of this Company in 1990 derived from two observations. First, that regional communities in Australia had a deep love of live opera performances, something Brian learned touring productions with the State Opera of South Australia in the 1970s. And, second, that emerging professional opera singers had a serious need to gain performance experience in the 10+ tender years after graduation before the voice is likely to be physically mature enough to “safely” sing for a living.

The founders of Co-Opera, David Cox, Tessa Bremner and Brian were acutely aware of these matters and considered that a company could benefit from the marriage of these forces. Brian was Musical Director from the beginning and added the General Manager’s responsibilities from 1995. 

For three years, performances were limited to small seasons in and around Adelaide but in 1993 the University of Adelaide Alumni Association awarded a $10,000 grant for Co-Opera to develop a touring production of Pagliacci [the archetypal touring opera]. This provided the springboard for Co-Opera’s remarkable tale of regional Australian opera touring that now has a 27 year un-interrupted history. The Pagliacci production was piloted at the Royal Adelaide Showground. It was viewed by the Arts Council of SA [now Country Arts SA] and this organization subsequently bought the show and toured it to many SA regional communities. A similar arrangement was struck up with a new production of The Magic Flute in 1994. These two SA tours provided the experience sufficient for the [then] new Federal Government performing arts tour funding scheme Playing Australia to support a Magic Flute tour to NSW and VIC in 1995.

The outstanding success of these tours meant that by 1998, Playing Australia was regularly funding Co-Opera to present its productions in all Australian States and Territories. The biggest change in 12 years of constant national touring is in the form of accompaniment. Until 2005 most performances were with Brian as musical director from the piano, whereas today it is mostly with 10 – 12 instrumentalists.

 In 2005, Co-Opera presented a world premiere season of a work Brian commissioned of South Australian composer, Bekky Llewellyn, entitled The Portait. Based on the life and work of Adelaide born painter, Stella Bowen, this music-theatre-cum-opera piece was also successfully toured to VIC and NSW in 2005, following the path of an exhibition of Stella’s paintings of two years earlier.

 Also in 2005, Co-Opera put its toe in the waters of international performance activity with a sell-out season of Pagliacci in the Recital Studio of the famous Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore. This was followed by a full-scale tour of 11 performances of Don Giovanni to Malaysia and Singapore in 2006 and a Highlights of La Traviata performance involving Malaysian and Australian singers and instrumentalists in Kuala Lumpur in 2008. In 2012 performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea were presented in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaka and Singapore.

 In 2009 Co-Opera was invited to present performances of The Magic Flute to audiences at the famous Maifestspiele in Wiesbaden. These performances were followed by seven regional performances in Germany and Switzerland. The extraordinary success of these performances can be gathered from the reviews of these performances appearing in the German daily press, copies of which can be accessed on Co-Opera’s web-site www.co-opera.com.au which also contains English translations of the reviews. Co-Opera appeared at the Maifestspiele in Wiesbaden again in 2012 with The Marriage of Figaro. Brian conducted of all these appearances


Musetta [Teresa La Rocca] and Al Cindoro [Tim Marks] with Schaunard [Peter Deane] onlooker: 1995
Tatiana [Sara Lambert] & Onegin [Nick Cannon]:2017
Lyn Harris [Rosalinde] in Die Fledermaus [Revenge of the Bat] 2013
Michelle Grootenboer as Cherubino
L - R, Sarah Pattichis, Kate Bright, Lisa Cannizzaro Figaro tour, 2011
Magic Flute at Roxby 2015
Rehearsing Figaro at Kurpark, Wiesbaden, 2012
Lenski [Branko Lovrinov] delivers king-hit at Eugene Onegin [Nick Cannnon]
Opera Highlights Concert in Sunway, KL, 2006



                                                                             Pagliacci             Singapore                 2004                  4

Don Giovanni      SE Asia                     2006                13

La Traviata          SE Asia                    2008                  2
The Magic Flute   Germany             2009                   9

The Marriage of Figaro  Germany   2012                  3
Acis and Galatea SE Asia                    2012                  4
Die Fledermaus  SE Asia                    2013                 5
Prince Gremin's Ball in Onegin 2017
Hotel Melakka
Lisa Cannizzaro, the Lawyer in Cosi
with legendary sculptor John Dowie
Dione Palmer, centre, as Suor Angelica with Emma Hills & Bethany Hill: 2012
Don G Singapore 2006
Flute Orcherstra 2015
with Pelham Andrews
Rod Schultz as Koko [Mikado] 2016

Co-Opera Alumni

After performing substantially with
Co-Opera, the following artists are now engaged in pursuing free-lance opera careers.


Grant Doyle                London                                  

Samantha Rubenhold                Australia

Imogen Roose                                            United Kingdom                                       

Nichola Lester                                      United KKingdom

Lindsey Day                                     United Kingdom                                        

Christopher  Fielding                              Australia

Deborah Johnson        Australia                                

James Homann                                       Germany

Teresa La Rocca                                       Australia                     

Catriona Barr                                             Australia

Phoenicia Johnson                                   Germany                               

Gerard Schneider                         UK/USA

Pelham Andrews                                       Australia                                

Bronwyn  Douglass                    Australia

Branko Lovrinov                                         Australia                                

Sara Lambert                                 Australia

Livia Brash                                                 Australia

 Joanna McWaters                                   Australia



Receiving the OAM
Foyer, Weisbaden, Staatstheater
Hans Henkell
Libby Ellis
Eddie Muliau
Teresa La Rocca & Grant Doyle at a Co-Opera performance in 2015Cosi
Figaro at Cumnock, 2011

 Musical Criticism

Advertiser Newspaper: Music reviewer 1972 – 1978

Australian Newspaper: Music reviewer 1979 – 1982

Adelaide Review: Music Reviewer 1984 – 1991

Opera Opera: Reviewer for SA             1986 – 1992    


  • Admitted to the Order of Australia with an Order of Australia Medal in 2000 for Services to Music Education and Co-Opera.
  • Awarded a Centennial Medal in 2001 for Services to Music.

 Support Network                 [through Co-Opera]

Hans and Petra Henkell [Melbourne-based German/Australian philanthropists]


David and Libby Ellis [Adelaide-based philanthropists]






There are two main areas of Brian’s contribution to broader cultural life in Australia, namely educational/administrative and performance-based activities.



  • Office-bearing positions with cultural societies and other organizations [eg, Board member, Youth Music Australia and  Patron, Eisteddfod Societies]
  • Organizational initiatives in Higher Education [eg, helping to form and nurture the Adelaide Connection, Jazz Choir, Australian String Quartet, Jazz SA]
  • Chairmanship of course development & course assessment committees [eg, Course Assessment Committee, WA Academy of Performing Arts]
  • General Manager responsibilities for Co-Opera, undertaken for the last 22 years.

 Performance-Based Activities

  • Musical Direction of professional opera companies [eg, SOSA in 1970s and Co-Opera for 27 years].
  • Musical Director of community music groups [eg, Gallery Singers, Mt Lofty Singers, Macclesfield Community Choir, Gilbert and Sullivan Society]
  • Musical Director of opera education productions [eg, State Opera SA production of Barber of Seville], Co-Opera productions of schools’ performances of 15 different popular operas over 18 years, formation and operation of Co-Opera’s INTERMEZZO SERIES]
  • Musical direction in higher education [eg, Flinders University production of The Fantasticks, SACAE  production of the opera Barossa, University of Adelaide production of The Little Prince]
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