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.
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
PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE ACTIVITY
Adelaide University Choral Society Conductor 1965 and 1990
Adelaide Choral Society
Guest conductor 1977
State Opera South Australia
Hin und Zuruck & Gargoyles 1973 : Ivor Novello & Kleine Mahagonny 1974 : Cosi fan tutte [touring]
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
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
Pagliacci Singapore 2004 4
Don Giovanni SE Asia 2006 13
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
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]
SUMMARY CONTRIBUTION TO AUSTRALIAN CULTURAL LIFE
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.
- 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]