Willoughby Symphony reconnects with audiences at COVID safe concert
On August 22nd Willoughby Symphony Orchestra bravely ventured back onto the stage to joyful whoops from its loyal audiences in three delightful COVID-safe performances – and now the hour long performance has been made available in a special online format.
The concert featured the Willoughby Symphony strings section and piano, led by chief conductor and artistic director Dr Nick Milton AM, with singers from Pacific Opera, became one of the first Australian orchestras to perform on stage to a live audience since the pandemic.
Dr Nicholas Milton said, “I am incredibly proud that Willoughby Symphony Orchestra was one of the first Australian orchestras to take up the challenge of performing in the ‘new normal’ as we learn to live with the pandemic. Willoughby City Council has been tirelessly supporting musicians and music lovers during an incredibly difficult time for arts through its virtual performances. We were thrilled that they had the innovation to enable us to once again share the joy of live music with our cherished community.”
The concert, at The Concourse in Chatswood, Sydney, was called A Mozart Celebration. The Pacific Opera singers, widely spaced, under the artistic direction of the inimitable Peter Coleman-Wright AO with Music Director Bradley Gilchrist, delighted patrons with beautiful arias and crowd favourites from some of the master’s most exquisite operatic creations including selections from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. The concert was a happy affair with many humorous touches such as the padlock on Papageno’s mouth being replaced by a surgical mask in The Magic Flute excerpt and Nick Milton’s ‘virtuosic’ Glockenspiel solo in Strauss’s Pizzicato Polka (which he described as ‘fiendishly difficult’) turning out to be a single note.
The concerts also featured Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry (Londonderry Air) and popular string works by Grieg and Tchaikovsky.
I was at the concert and it was definitely a new and sometime confronting experience for audiences, (as well as for the musicians, performers and support staff) with COVID safe check-in processes, strict one hour timing and physically distanced seating.
The musicians and singers were also physically distanced on stage and wind instruments were replaced by a piano reduction deftly handled by Bradley Gilchrist. Usually performing to a packed concert hall, the orchestra played to 20% of the venue’s capacity, a lucky 150 people and the venue was extensively cleaned between performances.
A recording of the concert premiered on the Willoughby Symphony’s Facebook page on Sunday October 11.
An icon on Sydney’s North Shore, Willoughby Symphony is proudly managed by Willoughby City Council. Based at Chatswood’s performing arts centre The Concourse, the orchestra plays an important role in developing the arts and culture on Sydney’s North Shore. It performs a full program of rich and diverse
concerts each year and is proud to provide education and development opportunities for the next generation of musicians and composers. It was a finalist in the recent APRA AMCOS 10th Art Music Awards for Work of the Year: Large Ensemble.
All the singers in this concert were part of the Pacific Opera Young Artist Program which supports young singers through an educational program comprising of artistic training, performance opportunities and professional skills development. This was the first opportunity the 2020 cohort had to sing to an audience all year and they certainly gave it all they had. Well done to all!
You can see the full concert on facebook here.
Pandemic pending, WSO is planning a special Christmas concert, let’s hope they can make it happen!