President’s Report to 2018/2019 Annual General Meeting

The past year has been an interesting and busy one for the Barrier Reef Orchestra. The renovations at the Civic Theatre kept us out of that venue for the first two concerts last year and now the floods this year have again kept us out for our first two concerts in 2019. We are hoping things will have returned to normal to let us in there for our final 2019 concert.

At the time of our last AGM we were in rehearsal for two concerts, the first where we again partnered with the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and 1 RAR Band for the Families Concert in the lovely surrounds of Queen’s Gardens. We are most grateful to the Council for funding this popular event where nearly 5000 residents and visitors enjoy a balmy winter afternoon picnicking on the lawns and listening to great music.

As well as playing our own selection of music the orchestra accompanied an amazing Norwegian Trumpeter, Tine Thing Helspeth and the iconic English baritone, baritone, Roderick Williams.  The orchestra excelled themselves under the baton of Andrew Ryder. The concert was hosted by Mairi Nicolson. This concert was the first under the new Artistic Director, Kathryn Stott and providing a varied and exciting programme once again concluding with the 1812 Overture using keys and paper bags instead of cannons.

For our August concert, Sacred and Secular we tried a very different venue thanks to the generosity of Dean Rod McDonald and the Anglican Diocese. Dean Rod provided wonderful support and assistance through all the rehearsals and the concerts.

As conductor we welcomed back, Lt Colonel Craig Rogers who is the Head of Army Music in Australia. Craig conducted for us in 2016 and was excited at the idea of conducting in a cathedral. He brought with him a delightful Sydney Mezzo Soprano, Tanya Christensen. We had hoped to use the winner of the ACVC Vocal section from the previous year but she had an engagement in Brisbane.

We performed two concerts in St James Cathedral making use of their wonderful pipe organ. We took the opportunity to use a wonderful organist, Justin Ankus who was in Townsville for a number of years as Executive Director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. We had been wanting to use Justin’s skills for some time and only just managed it because he returned to Sydney very soon afterwards. We miss him still but have welcomed his successor Gavin Finlay who has played with us, both on the Tuba and percussion.

Our final concert for the year was another new venture. We returned to the newly refurbished Civic Theatre for Music from Stage and Screen in partnership with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. For this concert we welcomed Melbourne Conductor, Richard Davis who is one of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s conductors even though he resides in Melbourne. Richard came for a preliminary rehearsal with the orchestra and even though we were rehearsing in an unusually crowded venue both groups really clicked and Richard was a great hit with the orchestra and later the audience. Thirteen key Principals came north to play with us and as well as augmenting our players they gave a sectional workshop to each group. The whole exercise was a great success and the QSO is keen to do it again, hopefully on a regular basis. It was a great boost to the orchestra and the audience enjoyed a marvellous concert. Later we presented our Encouragement Awards and everyone enjoyed pizzas in the forecourt.

We held our launch again at the Pier Restaurant very much in the wake of the deluge. They looked after us extremely well and we were delighted that our Patron, Bill Tweddell, Gavin Finlay from the AFCM, Cris and Carol Dall ‘Osto from the ACVC and Dr Mark Smith from the Townsville Community Music Centre were able to be with us. Unfortunately, no Council dignitaries were able to attend but we were very thrilled that Mayor Jenny Hill managed to make a brief appearance during afternoon tea to wish us well at such a busy time. Steve Frewen-Lord put together a string ensemble plus Steve Sparrow on guitar. They entertained the guests with a medley of pieces, the final one was unusually appropriate, being the Beatles number. “Here Comes the Rain”

As soon as the flooding eased we were straight into rehearsals for our first concert and the arrival of our conductor, Theodore Kuchar, the founder and first Artistic Director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music for 17 years from 1991. We were quite amazed when more than a year ago Ted wrote and asked if he could come back to Townsville and conduct our orchestra. My original response was that there was no way we could afford him. His response was to ask what we paid our regular visiting conductors and said he would come for that amount because he really wanted to have a reason to come back to the place where he had spent half his working life. When I had to tell him that the Civic Theatre was flood-bound and we were looking for another venue his quick response was to use the Sir George Kneipp Auditorium which had been built during his tenure.

It was a great honour to have Ted conduct the orchestra and a great respect and rapport developed between the two groups. Before Ted’s arrival there had only been two rehearsals with Rianta Belford. Ted had suggested that the concert feature Dvorak’s Symphony from the New World. Thisbeautiful well known work delighted the audience.In the second half Ted  included a selection of 20th century South American music by Marquez, Ginastera and Moncayo which really had toes tapping and culminated in a standing ovation.

For the concert which Ted conducted we were delighted to have in the orchestra four previous recipients of the Ted Kuchar Scholarship which is offered annually by the AFCM. They were Emily McDonald this year’s current holder and Elena James, Florence Cappler- Shillington and Arabella Campbell.

The audience emerged thrilled with the conductor, the orchestra and the venue. This last is fortunate because that will be the venue for our July concert with visiting English conductor Dr Mark Eager.Mark will join us to conduct an intensive workshop, helped by funding from RADF grant in July for our orchestra and visiting players from around Australia and New Zealand. Our concert on 14 July at 4 pm in Sir George Kneipp named Tchaikovsky with be the culmination of this workshop. I look forward to seeing you all there.

We were successful again this year in receiving a grant from the Breakwater Trust for further instruments. This funding and grants from the Townsville City Council and our Benefactors are essential to keep us able to bring high quality music to the Townsville community.

In closing I must thank all the committee for the wonderful work they do to keep our orchestra functioning smoothly. There have been stresses for two of our committee this year, both Noel Price and Ron Piper have had major heart surgery and Ron also lost his wife, Joy. Our Orchestra Manager, Sally Frewen-Lord has again been a super wonder woman this year. In the middle of our third concert Sally lost her Mother but she managed to keep everything going smoothly. We were very honoured when the family decided that donations made at Joy’s funeral were to go to the orchestra.

The orchestra under our Concert-Master, Stephen Frewen Lord has shown great skill and dedication throughout the year. We lost a number of key players at the end of last year as they went away to further their careers but we have welcomed new ones to replace them

Judy Hunter, President, 19 May 2019