Tag Archives: The Concourse Chatswood


Violinist Alexandre Da Costa..Pic Lawrence Lebat

A marvellous concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, energetically led by Dr Nicholas Milton. The Orchestra was in fine, robust form.

Beethoven’s powerful Egmont Overture, op. 84 was first ,with its strong blaring opening and strident strings. It was volcanically emphatic and passionate with its spinning melody and crashing turbulence, that was at one point balanced by a lilting two sided conversation between the various elements of the Orchestra. Also important is to note how the horns and trumpets were featured. Next year the Orchestra will be celebrating 250 years since Beethoven’s birth and this was a taster. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : TITAN @ THE CONCOURSE

Willoughby Theatre Company Fiddler on the Roof


Welcome to Anatevka .
Willoughby Theatre Company have brought us a magnificent production of this classic much loved musical . Directed by Andrew Beson , it was streamlined and most effectively staged , some parts of the show rather minimally , others with the various parts of the set that slid in/out/unfolded .
The cast was terrific (there are over 50 members of the ensemble) led superbly by Dennis Clements as Tevye.
While the show is now over half a century old the issues surrounding the story of a Jewish community in pre-revolutionary Russia are still vitally relevant today – the plight of refugees, enforced displacement and racism , and questioning one’s faith among others.
With its main character of Tevye the village milkman, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF asks why do innocent people suffer and depicts both the good and bad in life – we see how poverty and persecution (the rumours of pogroms, the intrusion and destruction at the wedding and all the people being driven from the village) are contrasted with love ( the weddings , Now I have everything ) and happiness.
New ideas as proposed by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein are circulating and the world as Tevye knows it, overshadowed by chaos and war , is in turmoil and constantly changing. . Will Tevye and his family be able to adapt? Tevye is also shown as questioning his faith and being cold and implacable when he disowns his daughter Chava for marrying a gentile.
Act I , while rather long , incorporates some of the shows best-known songs including the exuberant Tradition, three of the daughter’s Matchmaker, the buoyant , show stopping If I Were a Rich Man and the haunting Sunrise, Sunset. In the shorter Act II the mood darkens noticeably as the community we have joined is unwillingly dispersed . Musically at times the show could be regarded as operatic, at other times perhaps liturgical (eg the beautiful celebration of the Sabbath prayer).
Step Edmonds choreography, based on that of Jerome Robbins , was tightly , crisply performed. It included circle dances, some Russian folk dance steps , traditional Jewish dances and social dances of the period and some showbiz/Broadway style moments.See if you can spot the allusions to West Side Story!
Dennis Clements as Tevye the milkman, who acts as our narrator and Everyman was fabulous , charismatic and captivating , performing with great delight . His inspired daydreaming If I Were A Rich Man stops the show. A leader of the community, he is an affectionate but rigorous husband and father, a humble yet honourable man embroiled in unexpected turmoil beyond his control. He also has a significant relationship with his God, talking to Him and at times questioning his (Tevye’s) faith.
As Tevye’s wife Golde Belinda Delaney was an impressive, respected tender matriarch delivering a strong performance and in terrific voice.
Their Do You Love Me in Act 2 was tender hesitant and delightful. , while The Dream in Act 1 with the rather terrifying Grandma Tzeitel looming and the ghost like ensemble was terrifically done.
Luke Holland was most engaging as Motel, the mild-mannered tailor who introduces a sewing machine to the village – then the latest in modern technology- and has the elated Miracle of Miracles to sing.
Imogen Abba (Tzeitel), Dylan Hayley (Hodel) and Mikaela Dane (Chava) as well as Katie McPherson (Shprintze) and Chloe McDonell (Bielke) gave impressive performances as the loving but determined to lead their own lives daughters and were thorough and eloquent throughout , with Hayley spirited and determined in Far From the Home I Love..The three would be suitors – Luke Holland (Motel), Matt Hourigan (Perchik), Aleksander Justin (Fyedka) – were all most effective in their roles and the chemistry between the various couples appeared convincing.. As the affluent village butcher Lazar Wolfe , who seeks a wife Clive Hobson was most distinguished.
Barbara Hannan’s matchmaker Yente was finely nuanced , we see how resilient she is . While she is generous and compassionate there is also a hidden . possibly cloudy side to her..
A most impressive version of this much loved musical now regarded as a classic.
Willoughby Theatre Company’s FIDDLER ON THE ROOF runs at The Concourse Chatswood October 18 – 27, 2019.

Grant Leslie Photography – WWilloughby Theatre Company – Fiddler on the Roof


BRAVURA indeed with an astonishing ,breathtaking performance by the Willoughby Symphony with their latest concert BRAVURA and guest star Tony Lee on piano . Dr Nicholas Milton conducted energetically and enthusiastically yet was extremely precise .The orchestra gave a crisp , polished performance that was inspired, fiery and passionate where required with a rich well – rounded tone.

First we heard Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta , a set of Hungarian dances based on traditional Gypsy themes . Horns blare then the exuberant dances begin with their whirling , infectious melodies , with slithering sensuous clarinet ,shimmering , quivering strings and insistent woodwind leading to the fiery , explosive conclusion .

For this reviewer the major highlight was Franz Lizst’s Piano Concerto No 2 in A , S 125 in four movements with multi award-winning Australian Lee as soloist. It began at a moderate pace with flowing woodwind which were joined by rich strings. Lee on piano at first played delicately, like crystal water drops. It then became shimmering and cascading , changing to fiery and emphatic , insisting listen to me! .There was an almost martial atmosphere at this point , strings a strong undercurrent . Lee on piano suddenly leaps and bounds, with scurrying strings.

The piano returns to whirling and leaping with a sudden change back to shimmering crystal . Pulsating throbbing strings rumble while the piano floats into a lyrical, flowing solo ‘aria’ which then changes to an emphatic, spiky dialogue – almost confrontation – with the Orchestra before a return to calmer waters. But then Lee on piano suddenly darts and jumps leading to the crashing , tumultuous ending , leaving everyone gasping.

For an encore Lee treated us to a volcanic ,insistent solo performance of the last movement of Prokofiev’s 7th Sonata that took us to interval.

After interval came a strong, impassioned performance of Brahms’ Symphony No 4 in E Minor Op 98., the last of his four symphonies. It is very complex and an immaculate example of symphonic construction , finely nuanced and with great attention to phrasing and balance.

The piece  had a rich multilayered opening with a sweeping luxurious waltz like melody followed by vibrant woodwind with delicate pizzicato from the strings. The woodwind become emphatic and then there are flowing strings and woodwind sections leading to the stirring ending with crashing drums.

The second movement begins with the horns blaring the melody after which the strings limpidly , richly flow , interwoven with the woodwind. There is a measured, thoughtful passing around the various sections of the orchestra development of the melody which become brisk and animated but then slows back to a calmer mood with a throbbing undertone of strings.

The third movement opens with an explosive BANG – a tumultuous start .The orchestra is very strong and emphatic – it is a thunderous, galloping ,boisterous discussion between the various sections. And listen out for the triangle!

The final fourth movement had a powerful dramatic opening , and there was snaky woodwind and repetition of a circling melody featuring elegant strings and haunting insistent woodwind .the mood changed to steely , with scurrying strings and darting woodwind leading to the throbbing wall of sound for the conclusion.

Running time two hours including interval


Willoughby Symphony’s BRAVURA played  at The Concourse , Chatswood 21 and 22 September 2019



The latest in this year’s series of concerts by Willoughby Symphony Orchestra , entitled DISCOVERY opened on a sombre note with Dr Nicholas Milton making the sad announcement of the passing of legendary inspirational conductor and educator Richard Gill.
Tributes and very moving short speeches were made .

Dr Milton conducted energetically and precisely and the Orchestra was in magnificent, glowing form.

The concert opened with Composer in Residence Nigel Westlake’s Cudmirrah Fanfare which listeners might be familiar with from the 1980’s when it was used as the theme music for ABC Radio National. It was flowing and vibrant with its stirring, surging melody. The Orchestra was large in number, and there was an augmented percussion section for this piece.

The bulk of the first half was the striking Brahms Double concerto – Concerto in A minor for violin, cello and orchestra in 3 movements with guest stars Dimity Hall on violin and Julian Smiles on cello in a passionate, most moving and powerful performance.



Opera star Peter Coleman-Wright

A most striking and unusual concert. part of the Live at Lunch series, ,Jane Rutter’s guests this time were the amazing Nexas Saxophone Quartet ( Michael Duke on soprano saxophone , Andrew Smith on alto saxophone , Nathan Henshaw on tenor Saxophone and Jay Byrnes on baritone Saxophone together with opera star Peter Coleman-Wright. The noteworthy rather unconventional arrangements were generally for the saxophone quartet and sometimes included Coleman-Wright on piano.

The concert specifically looked at cabaret works by composers from the Weimar Era to WWII, putting the works and the turbulence of the era in context and looking at how many of the Weimar composers, such as Weill, were driven into exile in the USA and the quartet played the role of various composers, introducing the audience members to their life stories and works – Henshaw evoked Franz Schreker, Byrnes became Hans Eisler, Smith portrayed Bertolt Brecht, while Duke was Robert Stolz. The quartet played with great energy and smooth precision full of virtuosity and fine ensemble work. Continue reading LIVE AT LUNCH : COMPOSERS IN EXILE


The Willoughby Symphony and Choir combined to bring us an absolutely superb concert , the first of this year’s season, simply entitled GALA .  They were precisely and energetically conducted by the inspirational Dr Nicholas Milton who also introduced the various pieces and the soloists . The Choir is directed by Chorus Master Peter Ellis The program had an Italian opera theme with works by Puccini ,Rossini , Verdi etc. and the excellent soloists were from Pacific Opera. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY AND CHOIR : OPENS 2018 WITH A GLORIOUS GALA


Production photography by Grant Leslie.

Meow. Aurilophiles rejoice! The Concourse at Chatswood at the moment is alive with cats – oozing rivers of them, exploring, crawling , stretching, entwining around your feet…

Yes, this is the much loved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on TS Elliot’s poems in a very impressive staging. The cast perform with power, passion and commitment. Cameron Boxall and Kira Nelson’s choreography is based on and generally sticks to the original; snazzy, tight,  and demanding. Continue reading PACKEMIN PRESENTS CATS @ THE CONCOURSE, CHATSWOOD


Featured photo – Pianist Kathy Selby.

For the latest concert combining the marvelous talents of the Willoughby Symphony and Choir, the concert hall at the Concourse was packed to the rafters and we were privileged to hear some ravishing, glorious playing and singing.

The program opened with a delightful , somewhat boisterous rendition of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture Op.80. Written for the University of Breslau, the piece was given a brisk, dynamic reading. Rather lighthearted, Brahms develops and expands the melodies of four well known student drinking songs and the piece features triumphant horns.

The audience loved the work and the orchestra was obviously enjoying itself under the very energetic direction of Dr Nicholas Milton. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR PRESENT A CONCERT FULL OF JOY


Matt Hourigan as Bert


Michaela Leisk as Mary
Michaela Leisk as Mary

Willoughy Theatre presented the now-standard much loved Disney/Cameron Macintosh version, with small adjustments from the London version which was seen here at the Capitol several years ago.Matthew Bourne’s choreography is not retained but rather altered and adapted by Declan Moore and Janina Hamerlok .

Set in Edwardian times, the ever popular MARY POPPINS is based on the books by Australian author P.L.Travers, and narrates the tale of the rather dysfunctional Banks family, whose lives are changed completely and unexpectedly with the arrival of a new nanny, Mary Poppins. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS MARY POPPINS @ THE CONCOURSE CHATSWOOD


Harry Bennett
Guest violonist Harry Bennetts

The first piece in this wonderful program was Matthew Hindson’s short , shimmering and witty Boom Box (1999) which featured among other things extremely energetic and enthusiastic drum playing and a siren like sound from the glittering strings. It was originally written for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s education concerts.

The main bulk of the first half was the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 47 featuring guest artist Harry Bennetts who has toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as a 2015 Emerging Artist and is currently at the Australian National Academy of Music under Dr Robin Wilson .He has just won a place in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy under a new ANAM International partnership Programme and will begin a two year residency with the orchestra in September. He was introduced by Dr Milton and his impassioned ,elegant playing dazzled and transported .

The first movement opened very softly then Bennetts on his violin sparkled and sang in a dialogue with the emphatic orchestra. In the extended virtuoso cadenza at times the violin darted like a butterfly at others it swirled passionately with gypsy-like rhythms. The orchestra was thunderous , then withdrew for a soft , floating violin passage backed by the pulsating orchestra .In the second movement there were woodwinds and stormy strings and in the third there were an under-layer of strings yet again for Bennett’s fiery violin solo that dazzled.

There was well deserved thunderous applause .

After interval was the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, op. 64.in four movements. It was a lush, rich , Romantically flavoured and many layered performance. In the first movement the woodwind state the theme and rich strings take it and develop it and it is passed to various sections of the orchestra. There are some hints of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music especially Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. There is a short oboe solo and a crashing wave of sound at one point.Ominous drums bring the movement to a tense conclusion. The second movement begins with soft , shimmering , yearning strings, there is a horn solo and the orchestra reminds us at one point that Tchaikovsky also wrote the towering 1812 Overture .Pizzicato strings are contrasted with a giant twirling tone and there is a dramatic section similar to the Caraboose leitmotif in Sleeping Beauty.

The third movement begins with waltz-like strings .There is a sense that the Orchestra is tense and nervously tumbling – yet the scurrying strings turn lush and Romantic. There is a military band sound that takes us to the crashing finale of the movement.The fourth and final movement opens with rich strident strings , horns and rolling drums interrupt – blisteringly fast strings cut across them in a tearing hurry. There is another waltz like theme stated , the orchestra goes full throttle and we are breathlessly taken to the fast imposing end with the horns and woodwind. All stylishly played with precision ,clarity and great excitement.

The audience was very delighted.

Running time 2 hours.

Destiny by the Willoughby Symphony was at the Concourse Chatswood 30 & 21 July 2016
Hindson Boom Box (1999)
Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 47
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, op. 64




Last Thursday evening a smiling Greg Khoury, Executive Director of The Concourse Performing Arts Centre at Chatswood, welcomed myself and fellow UPSTAGE members with a short familiarisation speech, after which we were treated to a complimentary champagne buffet dinner. Whilst dining, I mingled with other members who, like myself, simply love going out to the theatre.

In an effort to publicise this wonderful entertainment venue, the UPSTAGE scheme was set up by Development Manager, Zoe Davies, who spoke about the history of the scheme.

“The membership scheme was set up just over a year ago to let people know that the Concourse was up and running, and was doing incredibly well, having the second largest venue after the Opera House. But we really wanted to get to know our audience more. UPSTAGE is not a money-making scheme by any means. In fact, the cost of staging our many events throughout the year far outweighs the membership fee.

“For the small outlay of $50 dollars per year, members are initially given two free tickets to any show at the Concourse in the first year of membership. They are also given free drink vouchers, discounted parking, and advance notice of upcoming functions. It’s all about giving our loyal patrons who come here all the time something more. But of course it’s really about the events. We set it up firstly to entice people to come to the venue, and once they’ve been here, we know they will want to come back again and again. Continue reading THE UPSTAGE MEMBERSHIP SCHEME @ THE CONCOURSE CHATSWOOD


Legally Blonde-inset

Oh My God you guys, it’s PINK!

Yes, bright pink is the signature colour of this show from the very beginning. Excellently directed by Courtney Cassar, this show is high octane energy. Whilst seeming to be superficial this show does look at contemporary issues such as chauvinism, gender politics and the law.

Based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name, this musical tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority student who enrolls at Harvard Law School, complete with purse pooch, in an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. She grows and changes as she discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial. No one really has faith in Elle Woods throughout the show, but she manages to surprise them when she defies their superficial expectations and transforms from law school embarrassment to valedictorian. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS LEGALLY BLONDE @ THE CONCOURSE CHATSWOOD


These wonderful photos of Mirusia are by Karl Neilson
These wonderful photos of Mirusia are by Karl Neilson

Tickets went on sale this morning for Brisbane-born soprano Mirusia’s first concert tour back home, her first national tour. For the past nine years Mirusia (family name is Louwerse), the thirty year old Australian of Dutch background, described as the angel of Australia, has toured extensively around the globe as the Star soprano for André Rieu.

She has come a long way since studying opera at the Queensland Conservatorium, when, at the age of 21, she became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Dame Joan Sutherland Opera Award.

Marusia returns to home shores to present her program entitled THIS TIME TOMORROW, promoting her songs from her new album of the same name, will be a two hour  classical-crossover program where she will sing backed by her own Chamber Orchestra. The concert will include standards such as Ave Maria, Romanza,  Memory,Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, All I Ask Of You, as well as some of her own compositions. Continue reading MIRUSIA ANNOUNCES HER FIRST TOUR OF AUSTRALIA

Willoughby Symphony Orchestra: West Side Story @ The Concourse

Inset pic- Violinst Doretta Balkizas. Featured pic-Dr Nicholas Milton
Inset pic- Violinst Doretta Balkizas. Featured pic-Dr Nicholas Milton

The latest Willoughby Symphony concert had an American theme with an Australian link.

Emphatically, passionately led by Dr Nicholas Milton the Willoughby Symphony gave a magnificent performance with fine ensemble work. As ever, the acoustics in the Concert Hall were excellent with a rich, vibrant sound.

First on the programme was Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story : Selections for Orchestra’ arranged by Jack Mason. Played with relish by the Orchestra, the subtle nuances and changes of mood and tempo for the various selections were well handled. Aching strings for ‘One hand , one heart’ were contrasted with the tense, spiky rhythms of ‘Cool’ that featured brass and strings.  Continue reading Willoughby Symphony Orchestra: West Side Story @ The Concourse

Rhapsody In Blue with the WSO

Trisha Crowe. Featured pic Hoang Pham
Trisha Crowe. Above Trisha, Hoang Pham

I am not sure who enjoyed this concert more , the audience or the orchestra .We all had a marvelous time with some of the lilting ,deliciously infectious melodies of the great American popular composer George Gershwin. Under the inspired , refined and energetic baton of Maestro Dr Nicholas Milton , with a crash of drums and violins in full fettle , the concert opened with the overture to ‘Girl Crazy;’ which includes ‘I got Rhythm ‘ and the waltz like ‘Embraceable You’ mixed in with toe tapping jazz.

Dr Milton then praised and thanked the wonderful orchestra before dynamically leading into the overture for ‘Strike Up the Band’ with full parade ground band effects , lush lyrical strings and insistent full orchestra. There was also a very hot clarinet solo.

We then were introduced to singing star classical pop soprano Trisha Crowe who for this first set of songs wore a beautiful delicate outfit of pale pink with a white detachable overcoat , silver detailing at her waist and hair. Crowe has a luminous dazzling smile and sings gloriously. ’By Strauss’ was deliciously witty and fun .Her ‘Someone to watch over me’ ( in French) was enchanting .Her ‘Foggy Day’ (an evocation of London )caught the atmosphere just right .

We were then treated to ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (which with its blisteringly hot clarinet ‘bend’ opening was first performed in 1924) with special soloist Hoang Pham on piano. Pham is a Melbourne based concert pianist .Dr Milton stood behind the open piano so that the orchestra could see him. Pham was dazzling in a gleaming tuxedo . His solo was full of dazzling virtuosity , crystal clarity and fiery intensity , his hands like darting butterflies up and down the keyboard. Dubbed a ‘jazz concerto’ this blends both ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ in an immediately accessible work that speaks to all of us.

For an encore to take us to interval Pham played the dramatic , impassioned Chopin Polonaise in A flat major op 53 that had the audience in raptures,

Back to Gershwin and after interval first was the 1932 ‘Cuban Overture’ in which the percussion section is extremely busy ! Maraccas , car horns , bongos, claves ( two wooden rods struck together) and guiros ( an open gourd scraped with a stick) are all used among other instruments many of which were new to Americans at the time .It also features a sultry steamy clarinet in the energetic and vibrant , sharp and spiky Cuban dance rhythms .

Crowe reappeared – this time in a startling frothy confection of a red gown and she had much fun in ‘S Wonderful ‘ followed by the flirtatious ‘The Man I Love’ ( given a nightclub atmosphere with soft drums , and Dr Milton on piano ) . Then came a steamy sultry rendition of ‘Summertime ‘ from Porgy and Bess ‘ ( which I am afraid did not quite work for me ) .

The concert finished with a showy , jaunty full on version of ‘An American in Paris’ full of the wonderful dynamic, scurrying rhythms and leading to the powerful , exultant ending .

For the encore both Pham and Crowe (Crowe now in lovely yellow gown) were featured in a catchy , fluid version of ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ which had the audience thrilled and clapping along .

This concert was a sell out.

It might be a very good idea to subscribe to next year’s very exciting season by the WSO if you haven’t already.

Running time 2 hours 20 (approx) including one interval 

Continue reading Rhapsody In Blue with the WSO

A Conversation

Mark Lee and Merran Doyle in the current revival of David Williamson's A CONVERSATION. Pics Clare Hawley
Mark Lee and Merran Doyle in the current revival of David Williamson’s A CONVERSATION. Pics Clare Hawley

A murder and rape is the catalyst for the community justice forum portrayed in the second part of David Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy, A CONVERSATION

This play follows a similar format to the first part of the trilogy, Face to Face, although the subject matter is significantly darker and extremely unpleasant. Members of the victim’s family and of the now imprisoned criminal’s family meet in a facilitated conference in an attempt to resolve their grief, anguish and remorse. Scott, the criminal, has been imprisoned for life. Scott’s mother has initiated the conference to apologise Barbara and Derek, the parents of the horrifically murdered Donna. Continue reading A Conversation


Live at Lunch

The packed house absolutely adored this concert , the latest in the Live at Lunch series as devised, curated and performed in by internationally renowned flautist Jane Rutter.

This time Rutter wore a stunning long sleeved slinky dark blue long dress with silver beading cascading down the front. The dress had slits very high on both sides to reveal elegant black trousers .

For a charming introduction Rutter played two two Renaissance Dances – a ‘Galliard’ by Dowland arranged for solo flute by Rutter , and ‘Ballet’ by de Moy arranged for solo piccolo by Rutter , accompanied by her friends the Acacia Quartet led by soloist Lisa Stewart. The first was poignant, lilting and melancholy, the second was more dramatic and Rutter was stamping the rhythms with her feet.

After this the Quartet was properly ‘ introduced’ to the audience and we were then treated to a sumptuous , delicious version of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons ‘ – all four of them ,not just the overused ‘ Spring’ , with Rutter as featured soloist on her gold performance flute for ‘Spring’. It was a dynamic , enchanting performance. Composed in 1725 ’The Four Seasons ‘ is one of Vivaldi’s most popular works . Vivaldi’s original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo – similar to the Acacia’s line up – helped to establish the form of the concerto in musical terms. “Winter” is dotted with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, making us think perhaps of icy rain and sleet whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, (which is why the movement is often called “Storm “ ).

Each season is developed in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones (and these movements likewise vary in mood and tempo among the seasons). In the ‘Summer ‘you could feel the heat and langour, in the ‘Winter’ movement the contrasts between fire and ice. The Spring movement was lyrical, one could almost say pastoral ,and you could hear the birds joyously calling. The Autumn section is meant to evoke the harvest and its celebrations. In the ’Winter’ movement there were shimmering , shivering sections for the violin .The finale was haunting and featured some ecstatic , soaring playing .

After that performance which was rapturously received, Rutter gave a short talk about the program and the narrative that Vivaldi proposed ( or , rather , ‘instructed’ ) for the work, highlighting the leitmotifs etc in each season to listen out for (eg the barking dog in the second movement of ‘Spring’ , in Summer the soporific feel , the dancing in Autumn for the harvest etc ) which was much fun.
Then came another Vivaldi piece ‘ Il Cardellino ‘ (‘The Goldfinch ‘) with Rutter on flute as the bird. It is in three movements, at first tweeting , exuberant and darting , the second was far slower and more melancholy , the violins being held rather like lutes or guitars and played pizzicato. In the third movement the flute was stronger again, shimmering.

Because of the rapturous reception, for an encore they repeated the slow movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons ‘Winter’, very passionately and eloquently played, this time with Rutter and Stewart sharing the melodic line.

The concert ran overtime and we adjourned for lunch, looking forward to the next in the series!
FOUR SEASONS AND A GOLDFINCH was a one off performance last Wednesday July 2 part of the Live at Lunch series at the Concourse Chatswood. Running time 90 minutes without interval.

For more about Live at Lunch : Four Seasons and a Goldfinch, visit http://www.theconcourse.com.au/event/vivaldi-four-seasons-and-goldfinch-live-lunch


Soloist Caroline Vercoe
Soloist Caroline Vercoe

Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliette is rarely performed as it requires such a big cast – a huge choir, a large orchestra and three top soloists.

First performed in November 1839 it is Berlioz’s tempestuous, dramatic distillation and reworking of the Shakespearean story in musical and choral terms. This work was a special favourite of Berlioz’s. It can be viewed as a homage to his own personal Juliet (his muse and eventual wife Harriet Smithson) and to his two great inspirations and mentors , Shakespeare and Beethoven. Dedicated to Paganini ( who unfortunately never heard it , to Berlioz’s regret ) ,it was inspired by a performance he attended in 1827 at the Odeon Theatre in Paris ,when he first saw Smithson as Juliet. (She also for example, inspired his ‘Symphonie Fantasique’). Richard Wagner was in the first night audience of Berlioz’s work and there are possible Wagnerian influences throughout as well . With libretto by Émile Deschamps it is regarded as one of Berlioz’s most comprehensive and detailed programmatic pieces.

Under the emphatic , precise, yet very enthusiastic and energetic direction of Nicholas Milton the Willoughby Symphony and choir gave a glorious performance. Milton introduced the work and at various points talked about the work and various sections and what to listen for etc. It is sung in French but with English translation available in the program .The choir was in magnificent form as followers of the two tempestuous warring houses, or the astonished crowds rushing to the church in the Finale for example.

Musically and structurally, ‘Roméo et Juliette ‘shows a lot of influence by Beethoven’s heavyweight 9th symphony – not just with the way choir and soloists are used , but for example in factors such as the weight of the vocal contribution being in the finale, and also in aspects of the orchestration such as the theme of the trombone recitative in the introduction. The characters of Roméo and Juliette are represented by the orchestra, and the chorus/narrative aspects by the voices .Like the Prokofiev ballet it opens with the warring houses of the Capulets and Montagues and the Prince of Verona being forced to intervene.

At the heart of the choral symphony, both emotionally and structurally, is the adagio in part2 , the wordless love scene, written for orchestra alone. Voices are never forgotten however – we hear them in the lyrical love scene , the songs of revellers on their way home from the ball floating softly across the stillness of the Capulets’ garden, and the funeral procession, two movements later, is partly choral. Voices and narrative are increasingly focused in preparation for the dramatic , seething choral finale, where the drama comes fully into the open and the feuds depicted orchestrally in the introduction are relived and then resolved.

The music is wonderfully rich in giving a lyrical, joyous sense of the magic and brevity of love, in “sounds and sweet airs” of various kinds: including the darting scherzo, representing not only Mercutio’s Queen Mab but the whole nimble-footed, comical-fantastic, fatally irrational element in the play.The grandly noble swell of the imposing extended melody which develops from the questioning phrases of “Romeo alone”, the haunting beauty of Juliet’s funeral procession; the thrilling unison of cor anglais, horn and four bassoons in Romeo’s invocation in the Capulet’s tomb and the violence of the lovers’ deaths (viewed as some of the most avant-garde music Berlioz ever wrote); the adagio’s deep-toned harmonies and spellbound arcs of melody, conjuring up the enchanted moonlit night and the wonder of the passion that blossoms in it were all given extraordinary performance.

Leonine tenor Warren Fisher in Act 1 was marvelous – in the Scherzetto when he is Mercutio and the exhilarating ‘Queen Mab ‘ aria . Rotund baritone David Woloszko as Friar Laurence in Act2 has a splendid, commanding voice. His explanation aria and his authoratively demanding that the Montagues and Capulets reconcile was tremendously done. Mezzo-soprano Caroline Vercoe was stunning in a bold full length red gown and was lyrical and striking as Shakespeare’s Chorus in the ‘ Prologue ‘, whizzing us through to the lush romantic balcony scene and the impassioned ‘Strophes’ , achingly recalling the dynamic love of Romeo and Juliet .

A stirring, passionate performance of this hugely demanding Romantic choral symphony that had the packed house wildly cheering and applauding at the end.

Running time 2 hours (approx) including one interval.

The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s concert of Berlioz’s ‘Romeo and Juliette’ was performed at the Concourse at Chatswood 21 and 22 June 2014. The Orchestra was conducted by Nicholas Milton with soloists Caroline Vercoe, Warren Fisher and David Woloszko.


This ravishing, superb concert had Amelia Farrugia channeling her inner Melba,Sutherland and Bronhill – three Australian great divas , combined with a touch of Callas perhaps?

Maestro Chris Carter, dapper in orchestral black, was tremendous as the accompanist and did a splendid job jumping between all the different styles of music.

International star Rutter , organiser of the Live at lunch series, was tres chic in a black and white ensemble with a Beardsley like print and floaty scarf around her neck. She welcomed us and introduced Farrugia and Carter and featured in several of the pieces.

Continue reading HOME! SWEET HOME!


Phantom1Lush, lavish, opulent and romantic this is a splendid version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s now classic musical .Willoughby Theatre Company have done it again with this enthralling ,extremely impressive ,dazzling , spectacular show .

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Lloyd-Webber’s musical based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux , opened in 1986 in London . By 2011 it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities in 27 countries, and it is one of the world’s most popular musicals. The main plot is set in the building of the Paris Opera – from its dizzying heights to its mysterious subterranean lake- and concern a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius , Erik, aka the Opera Ghost (the Phantom of the Opera) who is feared by all .

There are some slight changes to the gigantic stage version we know and love (eg no fake half elephant for ‘Hannibal’ and the huge staircase needed for ‘Masquerade’ is not really a huge staircase) but it is the’ Phantom’ we know and love from the standard ‘Really Useful ‘production with the boat, dry ice, pyrotechnics, the mysterious mirror, the plant like designs for the organ all magnificently done.

Supporting roles are more than handled capably and the ensemble under the excellent direction of Declan Moore is disciplined and wonderfully controlled. The superb costumes are stunning (especially for instance all the assorted ones for the ensemble in ‘Masquerade’ , and not forgetting the ancient Roman ones for’ Hannibal’) ! .

Generally the scene changes are cinematic and quite fluid with the use of snapping hanging drapes and flats for instance  in ‘ Music of the Night’ .

The orchestra under the excellent baton of Greg Jones played Lloyd Webber’s lush, lilting ‘Romantic’ score terrifically .The score possibly seems to have been ‘jazzed up’ a little at a couple of points and perhaps in a couple of places was messy , the complicated rhythms and leitmotivs jumbled. But overall, glorious. The corps de ballet girls were lovely often in white rehearsal tutus as in paintings by Degas.

Moore has been very lucky in his excellent leads and other casting What a splendid performance was given by Simon Greer as our tormented anti-hero the Phantom , brilliantly acted . He has a strong but possibly rather light tenor voice. He was dynamic and compelling , weaving his somniferous magic and controlling us and Christine in ‘Music of the Night ‘ and making us melancholy and pity him deeply when he reveals his secret , unrequited love for Christine.

In this version he wears a full dark hairpiece as well as the white half mask , making him sort of look like a Latino lover, very suave and sophisticated. It is only toward the end of Act 2 that we see his disfigured, ravaged face. When he appears as the Red Death in ‘Masquerade ‘ it is terrifying .

Our heroine, petite dark haired Sarah Brightman look alike Chloe McKenzie was tremendous as Christine Daae with her fresh coloratura soprano voice. She was delightful in Act 1 (‘Think of Me’ ) , tremulous when falling unexpectedly in love with Raoul ( ‘That’s All I Ask of You ‘ ) and stops the show with her heartbreaking rendition of ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ , mourning her father and torn between Raoul and the Phantom . And her ‘The Point of No Return’ was hypnotic and powerful .Like almost all of us she succumbs to the Phantom’s mesmerizing ‘Music of the Night’ .

Our earnest lovestruck young hero , Raoul , Comte de Chagny was terrifically played by Gavin Brightwell who has a charming ,rich baritone .He was strong , supportive and comforting of Christine , gallant and defiant when facing the Phantom. His duets with Christine were marvellous. Theirs is a most uneasy eternal triangle.

Christine’s rival at the Opera, the reigning temperamental ,scheming diva Carlotta Giudicelli was deliciously, wickedly played to the hilt in her fabulous costumes and makeup with much enjoyment by Georgia Kokkoris .David McKenzie has a great time supporting her as the rotund , egotistical Pavarotti like archetypical leading tenor Ubaldo Piangi.

Tall, stern Madame Giry, intimidating in black, was excellently performed by Virginia Natoli, and her very talented up dancer daughter Meg was charmingly played by Kate Ash. Mention must also be made of the two new managers of the Theatre Andrew Benson as Giles Andre and Andrew Castle as Richard Firman , driven to distraction by the Opera Ghost .

A sweeping, epic love story, a most splendid performance with spectacular visuals. And yes ,given the theatre, costs ,and circumstances the chandelier is most impressive.

And now for ‘Love Never Dies’ …

Willoughby Theatre Company’s magnificent production of Phantom of the Opera runs at the Concourse Chatswood until June 1. Running time 2 hours 45 (approx) including one interval


The first of this year’s ‘Live at Lunch’ concert series at the Concourse at Chatswood was superb. Jane Rutter and Simon Tedeschi’s playing was mesmerizing .The packed, thrilled audience loved it .

Rutter wore a striking off the shoulder, heavily embroidered, Chinese style dress that floated. Tedeschi was elegant in a dark suit and tie. Rutter wore her long curly hair free and at times posed and looked coquettishly over her shoulder at the audience whilst playing. Also  of note  was that both played at times barefoot, in homage to Satie, a ‘free spirit’.



Conductor Nicholas Martin flamboyantly led the orchestra through a night of Verdi treasures
Conductor Nicholas Milton flamboyantly led the orchestra through a night of Verdi treasures

On a dismal, soggy, grey and wet afternoon we in the sold out audience were treated to a glorious concert by the Willoughby Symphony celebrating Verdi.

Act 1 had excerpts mostly from ‘Rigoletto’ and Act 2 concentrated on ‘La Traviata’ with selections from ‘Aida, ’’Nabucco’ included in a thrilling concert.

Nicholas Milton the conductor who introduced each piece was having a great time,  and in a very playful mood, joking and teasing, bringing joy both to the orchestra and the delighted, enthusiastic audience. Milton’s conducting, watching the two star singers intently, was energetic and inspired and, at times, dramatic.