13 November 2015

9 reasons to go to the symphony tonight

| Charlotte
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Henry Laska, Clare Edwardes and Sarah Kimball.

Look, I know you have ironing to do, dishes to stack, washing to sort, people to see, places to be. But I’d strongly advise you to drop them all and book yourself a ticket for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s final concert of the year tonight instead. I went to their second last performance for the year last night, so am well qualified to present these nine reasons why you should head to Llewellyn Hall this evening.

Toy piano

The opener is so cracking good you’ll be ready to sign up for a 2016 Canberra Symphony Orchestra subscription on the spot. It’s a rhythmic Latin dance with Cuban, Haitian and African roots that is so toe-tapping most members of the orchestra looked as though they might throw aside their instruments at any moment to dance. That guy on the French horn especially. Woohoo.

You’ll hear cowbells (see picture below). Swiss cowbells, or Almglocken, that originally hung around the neck of cows but are now tuned in a little Swiss town so that they can be played together in correct octaves. The hills are alive … wait, no, that was Austria.

There are toy pianos (pictured above). You have to see these little red numbers these in action. Every big kid will want one. I do.

You’ll hear corrugated iron. There is a big chunk of it hanging up where the percussionists hang out and it makes some very cool music when struck by the right hands in the right way.

A waterphone will mesmerise you (see picture below). This is a spiked metal contraption containing water in its base allowing a bow to cause it to resonate with all sorts of intriguing sounds and named for its water but also its designer, Richard Waters.

Internationally acclaimed percussion soloist Clare Edwardes (top, centre) will play 2. through 5. plus a vibraphone and crotales (antique cymbols) and a whopping great drum during a dazzling performance of Golden Kitsch. It’s a percussion concerto (and waltz) that was written for Edwardes and with her input and it shows. Also, she shimmers as she shimmies between her instruments.

There will be flying tambourines (see last picture below). Because the CSO’s charismatic and hugely entertaining chief conductor and artistic director, Nicholas Milton, is that kind of guy.

It’s the last concert on the watch of humble but brilliant CEO Henry Laska (top, left, with incoming CEO Sarah Kimball at right) and his orchestra won’t let him go quietly (see 7.). Laska has steered this group of symphony musicians to become the most successful city orchestra in the country. Truly. The subscription renewal rate for the CSO is 98%, compared to 72-78% for equivalent orchestras elsewhere. How lucky are we to have them?

There’s a pub in Llewellyn Hall now, so you can have a beer or vino before and after the symphony (as well as one in the concert hall foyer at interval or half-time as we like to call it). Maybe that’s why the average age of symphony goers looks to have dropped by about 30 years. Or maybe it’s because we Canberrans are all grown up now and know a world class night out when we see one.


I didn’t even mention Rachmaninov, and the concert is named for him. The second half is an all-Rachmaninav symphonic dances extravaganza. My favourite was the second of the three, Andante con moto (Tempo di valse). Don’t forget to save your clapping till the end of the third.

Finally, here’s a useless piece of trivia for you about Rachmaninav. In the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation, Willy Wonka plays a musical code on a keyboard to unlock the door to his chocolate factory. Mike Teevee’s mum declares the tune to be Rachmaninov. It is in fact the start of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.


Rachmaninov: Llewellyn Series/04
When: 7.30pm, Thursday November 5
Where: Llewellyn Hall, ANU School of Music
Phone: 6262 6772
Website: cso.org.au
Tickets: From $53 via Ticketek
Subscriptions: Available via the CSO website or by phone from November 9.


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