As we head towards the pointy end of the year, most of us are looking to wrap things up in readiness for the festive season and the hope of a bright and shiny new year ahead in 2016. And, I must say, we Queenslanders really know how to put on a spectacular Grand Finale.
Photo courtesy Happy Christmas via Photopin and Creative Commons
Who can forget the 2015 National Rugby League (NRL) grand final played on Sunday 4 October at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium between the two Queensland teams: the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys? A history-making match watched by an 83,000 strong crowd that culminated in a kick from the sideline by Johnathan Thurston who is now enshrined as the sport’s biggest superstar. It is considered by most as the one of the greatest Grand Finals in NRL history – well done Johnathan Thurston and all of the North Queensland Cowboys!
Equally as breathtaking and unforgettable was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s season finale concert presentation in partnership with Musica Viva Australia, and featuring world renowned violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov. I had the pleasure of attending this wonderful concert at the QPAC Concert Hall on Saturday 28 November 2015.
Photo credit: Courtesy kathROSE and associates
Maxim Vengerov and Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) conductor, Nicholas Carter, led the orchestra in a spectacular program: JS Bach: Chaconne (for solo violin); Sibelius: Violin Concerto (original 1903/04 version); and Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique.
What superlatives can I use to describe Maxim Vengerov? The fact that he is widely considered the greatest living string player in the world today says it all! A child prodigy, Vengerov began learning at four, and by the time he was 10 he was touring abroad and winning international competitions.
But this does not mean that Vengerov has stopped learning. In addition to the baroque violin, he has studied the viola and conducting. Maxim Vengerov has held the position of Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London since 2005, and has the distinction of becoming the first classical musician to be appointed International Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in 1997.
The Chaconne was a rich and layered experience for all. True Bach aficionados understand the complexity and nuances of the piece, and the great dexterity required of the artist, but even those with a limited musical education (such as me) were awe-struck and felt privileged to be able to listen to a 15-minute violin solo without an orchestra. Vengerov’s performance brought about a collective stamping of feet (quite a sound given the wooden floors of the QPAC Concert Hall), and a standing ovation from the majority of the audience.
Vengerov has charisma – he conducts with every fibre of his being and certainly knows how to be ‘in the moment’. He was finely attuned to every musician in the orchestra, bestowing a particular type of magic to bring out their very best performances, and connect emotionally with the audience. And it was with great humility that at the end of the program, Vengerov made sure that each individual musician received due applause for their contribution to the performance.
Photo credit: Courtesy kathROSE and associates
I was lucky enough to be invited to the after-party where champagne (and other beverages) flowed, h’orderves were conveniently stationed around the room, and guests got to mingle with members of the orchestra.
I met these two sartorially attired brothers: Dr Bruce Tsu Chun Chau and his medical student brother, Allan Tsu Chun Chau. Both are violinists of more than 20 years standing (they play Bach together) and travelled a great distance to attend the performance. Bruce was lucky enough to get the night off and drove down from Toowoomba, and Allan flew in from Sydney.
I heard another man refer to himself as ‘a self-confessed Sibelius nut’, who said he had travelled from Melbourne to attend the concert and was very pleased that he had made the journey.
And as a testament to Maxim Vengerov’s generosity, he took the time out to speak to guests, and happily posed for photographs.
And, of course, I took advantage of the photo opportunity!
QSO Chair, Greg Wanchap announced the program for next year, and it promises to be another year of transformative moments and powerful experiences – from the serene to the vibrant, the exhilarating to the breathtakingly beautiful. And best of all, Vengerov will again feature in the Season Finale – a choice of two dates for your diary – a matinee on Tuesday 29 or an evening performance on Wednesday 30 November 2016.
Don’t miss out on the 2016 Grand Finale!
At the after-party, I met the extremely hard-working and dedicated Terry Hughes, who works for the award-winning community radio station, 4MBS Classic FM. Terry told me about Silver Memories – a new radio service for residents of aged care facilities, isolated members of the community, and in fact, all lovers of musical nostalgia.
With a strong emphasis on music of the 1920s through to the 1950s, Silver Memories broadcasts the great musicals, big bands, swing and other popular music of the past. There are sing-a-long sessions, birthday calls, old radio serials, comedy spots, special highlights, requests and many other features to make Silver Memories a service with genuine community interaction.
What a wonderful initiative!