NSW Doctors Orchestra – medicinal balm for the soul

by | May 27, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts, Choirs, Orchestras

NSW Doctors Orchestra | The Space Between the Stars

26 May, 2024, Concourse Concert Hall, Chatswood, NSW

Conducted by Joanna Drimatis

There are a wealth of anecdotes about music being the best medicine, and the prescription to cure most ills, and the NSW Doctors Orchestra lives up to them all! Musicus Medicus, made up of medical students, professors, deans and doctors from across NSW boasts over 70 orchestral players. Its mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians by using the universal language of music to raise money for charities in medicine and the arts. 

All the members are dedicated volunteers and when you attend one of their concerts, you can see them selling tickets, handing out programs and then jumping into the orchestra to pick up their instruments. For their 21st annual charity concert event, the orchestra handed the Presidential baton over to clarinetist Eric White, who picked it up from founder and piccolo player Dr Cathy Fraser.  The concert supported the Sydney Eisteddfod’s Scholarships and the Daniel Ferguson LGMD Foundation. 

With Resident Conductor Joanna Drimatis and second-year medical student Ann Carew as Concertmaster, the concert took the audience on a journey stretched across the wide arc of classical music genres, starting with contemporary composer Ella Macens, vibrant pianist and composer Daniel Rojas, First Nations composer and sound designer James Henry, and finishing with a flourish of Bernstein.

Ella Macens’ hallmark melody and textural sensitivities were again on display in the opening piece of the concert’s title. As Macens said in an interview about the piece,  ‘I wanted to explore the delicate and graceful elements, such as the flickering lights, the beautiful tones and the soft smudge of a falling star, as well as the bold and triumphant concept of enormous constellations surrounding us.’ (1) 

The Space Between the Stars gave the Doctors Orchestra the opportunity to paint the sky with quivering violin notes as glistening stars, and then sweep into a full wave with romantic long lines. Sonorous solo oboe and viola transformed into a filmic and heroic world, transporting the audience to the wide open night sky. 

Snapping out of our sky-bound reverie, we experienced the immediate attack of Daniel Rojas at the Steinway Grand in his own Libertango Suite, an adaptation of popular tango pieces by Piazzolla and two brand new works written and adapted by Rojas himself. The Libertango Suite was first composed in 2019 for piano and string orchestra, and this concert premiered the arrangements for the second and third movements for a full orchestra. 

Masterful, switching from dance pulses to the romantic, Rojas brings an exciting physicality to the piano. The audience were enthralled as he took us through his rich interpretations of Latino tradition with punchy percussion, vibrant strings and stunning improvisations at the keyboard.

Catching our breath over interval, a change of pace saw two youth choirs on stage, the Evolution Vocal Ensembles and Northmead CAPA High School Choir with Natalie Gooneratne conducting. After a romp through the Musical ‘Six’ and ‘21 Guns’ the choir performed Yuwaalaraay man James Henry’s Murrgumurrgu (The Ibis) which takes its title from the Yuwaalaraay name for the bird that breeds on the Narran Lakes before coming to Sydney to find food! Henry’s mission was to generate compassion for the Ibis and give it another name in people’s minds other than Sydney’s famous ‘bin chicken.’ Written in 2023 the beautiful piece engages the whole choir in language and includes clapsticks and vocals in a powerful finish. 

We caught a jet plane from Narran Lakes to New York, with a collage of Leonard Bernstein’s famous West Side Story told in Symphonic Dances. Despite its first performance in 1961 over sixty years ago, it has remained intoxicating.  From the swoon moments of a French horn playing the melody of ‘There’s a place for us’  to the instant switch into swing and a full drum kit power, the piece brings the teenage street gang rivalries between the Jets and the Sharks in vibrant instrumental combinations and a huge percussion section. The Doctors Orchestra didn’t shy away from the requirements of the piece and delivered it in spades, with five players serving up the incredible list of percussion – bass drum, bongo, chimes, congas, cowbell, cymbals, drum set, finger cymbals, gong, guiro, maracas, bells, police whistle, tambourine, tenor drum, timbales, triangle, vibraphone, wood blocks, xylophone! 

Bravo to the NSW Doctors Orchestra.  The Space Between the Stars was just what the doctor ordered (couldn’t resist it!).

Catch the NSW Doctors Orchestra at the Sydney Eisteddfod Scholarship Final on 17 August, at Darlinghurst Theatre. More info here >> 


Note 1: https://www.zoneout.com/ella-macens-the-space-between-stars/#/

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

3 events,

4 events,

Pinchgut Opera | Dido and Aeneas

Event Series
Featured -

Camerata | in Concert – Monto

5 events,

7 events,

-

Sydney Con Jazz Festival

2 events,

4 events,

1 event,

3 events,

3 events,

Featured -

Camerata | in Concert – Biloela

3 events,

-

Soowon Seo | Piano on Film

3 events,

Featured -

ChorusOz  | The Armed Man

0 events,

1 event,

2 events,

Featured -

Sydney Eisteddfod | Choir Day

1 event,

3 events,

Featured -

BackStage Music | IMPOSTO

5 events,

9 events,

3 events,

1 event,

2 events,

-

Bicentenary Concert Series

0 events,

5 events,

Featured -

Salut! Baroque | The Historian

9 events,

7 events,

Featured -

Salut! Baroque | The Historian

1 event,

-

Alexander Melnikov | in Recital

1 event,

0 events,

2 events,

4 events,

8 events,

9 events,