President’s Report to 2016/2017 Annual General Meeting

I was honoured to have been elected as President of the Management Committee of the Barrier Reef Orchestra at our May AGM in 2016. I feel very humbled to be following the leadership of Simon McConnell and Andrew Ryder who have very ably lead the orchestra over recent years.  The orchestra has grown in skill and recognition in the community and we need to keep building on the high profile role. We have achieved recognition over the last few years from our co-operation and partnering with other arts groups in the city.

As a Management Committee we need to constantly assess just how much we can actually do each year without over stretching our musical capacity. All our players have either work or study commitments and this is their time to indulge their passion for playing good music. We greatly value the huge contribution our musicians make and we thank them most sincerely.
In July 2016 we welcomed Mario Doberning from Melbourne back to conduct Twilight Classics which also featured the 2015 Open Instrumental Winner from the Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition. Pianist, Arthur Athan was a great hit with the audience with his performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2. This opportunity to play with a full orchestra is a valued part of the ACVC winner’s prize. The winner of the Open Vocal section is afforded the same opportunity and we will feature the 2016 Vocal winner, Cassandra Wright, who grew up in Cairns in our October concert.

Immediately after that concert the orchestra was again a major part of the Families Concert for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Queens’s gardens. This gave the orchestra the opportunity to entertain over 4,000 people, both local and visitors as they enjoyed a delightful afternoon picnicking on the grass. The weather was perfect and Southern visitors could not believe that it was winter. The orchestra had the honour of accompanying two world renowned soloists, violinist Tasmin Little and Soprano, Valda Wilson and the players really rose to the occasion. After music from Vivaldi, Delibes, John Williams, Verdi and local composer, David Salisbury, the concert culminated in Tchaikovsky”s 1812 Overture where keys and paper bags were used in place of cannon fire, even though the 1RAR Band were playing in the concert.

We had to make late changes to our final concert. Plans to work with Paul Tabone, a vocalist from Ingham, now overseas, fell through when he had a better offer in Europe. We were more than happy with the changes. We welcomed a conductor new to the BRO but it proved a very successful relationship and I am sure we will see him back. Our Conductor, Lieutenant Craig Johnson was then the Commanding Officer and Chief Instructor of the Defence Force School of Music in Melbourne. During the rehearsal period he learned of his re-location for two years to Canberra as the Head of Army Music in Australia. As we had named the concert Barrier Reef Goes to the Opera we were delighted to welcome back Siobhan Patrick who grew up in Townsville. Siobhan is a soprano who has for several years been studying and singing in Vienna. Siobhan was joined by well-known local tenor Alex Thomas and the orchestra accompanied a wide range of numbers from classic opera and excerpts from 20th century stage musical hits. The orchestra accompanied both soloists and added a few music only numbers. To match the opera title many of the audience dressed to suit the scene. We were also delighted to welcome our Patron, Bill Tweddell, Chancellor of James Cook University and has wife, Chris to the concert. Our annual Encouragement Awards for committed young players were awarded during our Christmas celebrations after the concert. The 2016 winners were Elena James and Daniel Harley.

Our 2017 Season Launch was held at the Pier Restaurant on Sunday, 19th February. We welcomed Mayor Jenny Hill, Councillor Colleen Doyle and our Patron, Bill Tweddell. Jenny stressed the importance of our community orchestra in the Townsville cultural scene and Bill told the gathering something of his Townsville background before spending forty years in the Diplomatic Service. He then launched our 2017 season.

On that day we also launched our exciting new webpage, developed for us by Kayleen McLean. Visit us at The site is on all our literature and is linked to our Facebook page, which is another quick way of keeping up with what is happening.

In 2017 we are trying a new initiative. Instead of having a different conductor for each of our concerts, we contracted a popular previous Conductor, Mark Shiell to conduct our three main concerts. Both the Committee and Mark hoped that this initiative would develop a core player strength. We are maintaining all our previous conductor contacts and we will welcome them back in 2018.

We have also this year added section heads to assist our Concert Master and mentor newer players.  Unfortunately just this week we have learned that a shoulder problem which has plagued Mark for some time has flared to the stage where he must rest it completely and he has had to withdraw from this concert. He is still hoping to be able to conduct our October concert. Very kindly he has arranged for a colleague, Gyula Cseszko, known as Jules. He is also a protégé of the late, Professor John Hopkins and joins Raymond Yong, Mario Doberning as well as Mark who all studied under John.  Mark Shiell very ably conducted our first concert, Bohemian Classics which featured music by Dvorak, Brahms, Bartok and Enescu. The large audience enjoyed a great night of music and many lingered to eat after the performance. That concert was the occasion on which the orchestra first wore our new Barrier Reef Orchestra ties, made for us by Committee member, Billie Saint-Rang.

The orchestra had a well-earned break after Bohemian Classics but are now back in rehearsal for our concert with the AFCM and our August concert featuring James Dong, our 2016 ACVC winner.  We were sad to lose our Treasurer from last year Nadine Ziegenfusz who has moved to Brisbane for work commitments. I would sincerely like to thank Linda Taylor from Sturt Business Centre for all her support between Treasurers.

We are still searching for a home for some of our larger and more expensive instruments. We received a grant of $38,000 last year and these, with our previous collection mean that we now own over $100, 000 worth of instruments. If anyone knows of available space with a wide doorway could they please contact us. Our thanks go to Simon McConnell who is a very successful grant writer.

In closing, I must sincerely thank all the members of the committee for the wonderful job they have done in the past year. There is a lot of behind the scenes work to keep our orchestra going and they all give of their time very generously. And what can I say about our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Sally Frewen-Lord is a super woman. Every last detail is covered and she remains always cheerful. Of course I must thank all our players who give their time around school, study, work and family life. We could not exist without you.

Judy Hunter, President
21 May, 2017