Tag Archives: Willoughby Symphony


For those of us lucky enough to attend, this was an absolutely glorious concert as part of the Willoughby Symphony Chamber series at the Zenith Theatre as directed by Daniel Dean .

First was a shimmering, exquisite rendition of Maurice Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for Harp Septet . (1907) After a delicate start by flute and clarinet, it was lush and limpid then darting , bubbling and scurrying. Soloist Will Nichols on the harp was superb passionate , authoritative yet fragile and delicate in his instrumental solos and the featured cadenza ,all leading to a scampering conclusion.

The we heard Carl Vine’s Inner World : Cello and Tape , with Liam Meany on solo cello. Vine apparently hand edited the sound score of the tape, which at times includes cascading piano, at one point has an insistent almost Flamenco like rhythm and at another time is very poignant. For one section towards the end it is as if the music is sort of revolving in circles .Meany’s live , passionate playing in an extraordinary bravura performance is at times dominant , sometimes fast and furious,  at others delicate or sometimes sharp and spiky . As Vine has written : ‘The performer is not only live, but also crystallised, dissected and re-arranged’ in a striking performance’. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHAMBER SERIES : SHATTERED RESTRAINTS


Those of us in the shamefully small audience (where was everyone?) were treated to a heavenly concert, the first of this year’s Willoughby Symphony Chamber series at the Zenith.

After a wonderfully successful first year, the Willoughby Symphony’s chamber music series returns for its second season with three exhilarating concert experiences in 2019. This year the Artistic Director for the Chamber series is Daniel Dean.

This  concert was full of fine ensemble playing which was rich textured and multi layered. First we heard Louise Farrenc’s Nonet in E-flat which brought her great acclaim and, perhaps more importantly, equal pay as a composer, in 1850. The first movement began with a rich, flowing opening for strings and woodwind. The nine magnificent players then entwined in an infectious melody with some bright rather bouncy sections contrasted with soaring lyrical segments and showy solos for some of the instruments. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHAMBER SERIES CONCERT 1


This spectacular opening concert for 2019 brought together the combined forces of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, the Choir and Pacific Opera in a delightful performance with an Austrian/Viennese theme with music by Mozart and Strauss . The hall was decorated with huge glorious garlands of flowers in celebratory mode.

Energetically and enthusiastically conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton , the concert began dynamically with the crashing, flurried Polka Schnell Op 324 “ Unter Bonner und Blitz” ( Thunder and Lightning ) by Johan Strauss.

Then we heard a selection of four pieces from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro , the Orchestra with artists from Pacific Opera .During the brisk overture the singers arrive ( dressed as if for a very posh party , the men in tuxedos the ladies in elegant evening gowns ) and make their way to the balconies .Sull’aria , che soave zeffretto ( the Countess Almavira dictating a note for Susanna to take to the Count) was an exquisite duet sung by Emma Nightingale and Michelle Ryan. Porgi , Amor , qualche ristoro another of the Countess’ arias was passionately sung by Hannah Greenshields from her balcony seat .( yes for each piece we had a different Countess) . Deh Vieni non tardar , Susanna’s aria, was splendidly sung by Emily Turner – on stage – with a glittering mask. It was lyrical and reflective. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY GALA CONCERT @ THE CONCOURSE


David Fung – Piano

PASSION : This latest marvellous concert by the Willoughby Symphony was passionately , energetically conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton was unusual as it began with the encores ( because of the atmosphere of  Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6 which was the second half of the concert).

So to start with , we heard a zippingly breathlessly  fast trepak from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at breakneck speed ( impossible to dance to at that tempo – almost impossible to play ! ) hugely enjoyed (and repeated) .

First was Shimmering Blue by this year’s Composer in Residence Nigel Westlake. It was written in 2003 for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s 75th birthday celebrations. It has a glittering pulsating opening , becomes turbulent and swelling , volcanically crashing towards the explosive finish. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY: PASSION – MARVELLOUS!


This image: Willoughby Symphony
Featured image: Courtenay Cleary

A most exciting concert by the wonderful Willoughby Symphony under the direction of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Dr Nicholas Milton AM –  FREEDOM.

Hotly anticipated was the Beethoven Violin Concerto with special guest artist the young Australian Courtenay Cleary, who catapulted onto the world stage of classical music in 2017 with a spectacular performance for the British Royal Family at Westminster Abbey.

The Beethoven Violin Concerto is now one of the earliest and most frequently performed of violin concerti on such a grand scale. It premiered in Vienna on December 23, 1806. Commissioned by violinist Franz Clement, It is Beethovens only concerto for violin, and it is often regarded as his most lyrical work. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY: FREEDOM. AT THE CONCOURSE


This image: Madeleine Retter                                                    Featured image: Alex McCracken

The second of the new chamber series of concerts by Willoughby Symphony at the Zenith Theatre at Chatswood was most exciting with some sensational performances and excellent ensemble work. The various short works were mostly presented in chronological order of composition .The program was introduced and led by Madeleine Retter of the WSO. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHAMBER SERIES – TALL TALES


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

Willoughby Symphony : Last Night of the Proms @ The Concourse

Cello soloist Benett Tsai.

Following in the grand tradition of Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, this was a quite British concert with several old favourites included and also featuring some Scandinavian music. Audience members attended the concert fully prepared to enjoy themselves and that they certainly did.

The concert, held at the Concourse, Chatswood where the WSO is the resident orchestra, featured huge cast of performers with the combined forces and talents of the Willoughby Symphony and the Willoughby Choir. The featured soloist this year was astonishing Benett Tsai on cello. Dr Nicholas Milton conducted with enormous panache and flair, and introduced the various works and soloists.

It opened with the stirring yet stately Pomp and Circumstance Military March No.4 by Elgar, a Proms staple and an audience favourite. This was followed by the dramatic nationalistic tone poem Finlandia Op.26 by Sibelius with ominous horns and drums, scurrying strings and rumbling cellos and double bass. The Choir was strong and powerful in the penultimate Finland Awakes and was underscored by tremulous strings. Continue reading Willoughby Symphony : Last Night of the Proms @ The Concourse


Featured photo – Violinist Ji Won Kim.

The latest wonderful concert by the fabulous Willoughby Symphony Orchestra was entitled FANTASY, regarding stories of sorcery, storytelling and true love.

Conducted enthusiastically and energetically by Dr NIcholas Milton the Orchestra was in glorious form and dealt with the quite different styles of playing required for the various pieces excellently . It was a multilayered, beautifully nuanced elegantly precise performance that at times was explosively powerful.

First up was Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila Overture (1842) It was played at a fast and furious pace. An emphatic melody for winds, brass and timpani is connected by the surging violins in a tearing hurry. A dialogue develops between the creeping woodwinds and swirling strings, then the cellos sing lyrically with the melody being taken up by the violins and all ends in a tempestuous, breathless finale.

The bulk of the first half was Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat major for violin Viola and Orchestra K 364, as performed by two of Australia’s most exquisite instrumentalists, Ji Won Kim on violin and Caleb Wright on viola. Ji Won Kim wore a beautiful long pale ice green gown, Caleb Wright was in orchestral black.

Both soloists were given equal billing and dazzled in their solos and showy duets. The opening was brisk and emphatic and mostly the work was a dialogue between violin and viola with mini solos. Their playing was many textured and multilayered, full of exquisite delicacy and thoughtful phrasing .At times it was fiery and passionate, at others lustrous , fluid and shimmering. The middle adante movement began as an aching lament and the Orchestra pulsated underneath with a heartfelt shimmering duet for the two soloists. The third Presto section was in a far brighter and bouncier tone leading to the delicious conclusion.

There was thunderous prolonged applause and for an encore Kim and Wright performed Handel’s Passacaglia in G Minor for Violin and Viola in a jaw dropping version that was strikingly different in style to the previous Mozart piece. It began quite formally then dramatically changed – some parts were explosively powerful, others were lyrical and emotional (eg the rather reflective central variation).

The second half, an exotic Turkish delight, consisted of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral fantasy Scheherazade,( 1888 ) based on the tale of the storyteller princess who tricks a murderous Sultan into letting her live by telling him 1001 enchanting tales. Balletomanes might remember this was choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for the famous ballet by the Ballets Russes starring the legendary Nijinsky and Karsavina.

Both Kim and Wright joined the Orchestra, Kim leading the violins and shimmering as the ‘voice’ of the narrator Scheherazade, or Zobeide (if you are thinking of the ballet version).It was given a lush, dramatic and stirring performance full of fiery passion and sweeping melodies. Ji Won Kim dazzled in the delicate violin solos .The symphonic narrative is divided into four sections and Rimsky-Korsakov’s dazzling creation of being at sea and other luscious sounds is hypnotic .

The composer had originally given the four sections story titles but later changed this. The first section introduces Scheherazade and the Shah , with her tremulous , shimmering voice on violin and his stern, turbulent one and you can hear the ships and the sea .The second and third sections are circular in format with the beginning theme of each movement heard again at the conclusion, in the third movement woodwind have a dialogue with the strings , both ‘voices’ are featured , lush strings occur in the third movement and a crashing, tumultuous section and more brass fanfares lead to a restatement of the main melody and a hushed, lyrical conclusion.

There was great enthusiastic applause for this captivating concert .

Running time 2 hours including interval
Willoughby Symphony in Fantasy runs at The Concourse Chatswood 5-6 August 2017


Willoughby Symphony Orchestra presents Carmina Burana @ The Concourse, Chatswood

Soprano soloist Joelene Griffith’s solos were exquisite and floated with a pure tone

With House Full signs up at the front and the box office turning hundreds of people away hoping to book for this concert I would strongly suggest you book now for the rest of the season and next year’s wonderful programme by the Willoughby Symphony.

This concert started with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra under  the emphatic, enthusiastic direction of Dr Nicholas Milton performing a sizzling version of Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite.

This is the first ballet that Diaghilev commissioned from Stravinsky, based on a Russian fairytale, with choreography by Fokine, featuring the legendary Tamara Karsavina in the title role. This ballet was followed by Petrushka and Rite of Spring.

We heard the 1919 orchestral suite which was given a dazzling performance, with a large, rich, pulsating sound. The string section was huge and there was an Assyrian style designed beautiful harp. Continue reading Willoughby Symphony Orchestra presents Carmina Burana @ The Concourse, Chatswood

Willoughby Symphony Orchestra presents Bohemian Tango @ The Concourse CHATSWOOD

WSO 2015 Composer in Residence Elena Kats-Chernan

This was a superb afternoon spent enjoying the three fine music selections, chosen for the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, and presented as BOHEMIAN TANGO.

Energetically conducted by Warwick Potter, the first piece was a symphonic masterwork in five movements, composed by Elena Kats-Chernin, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Composer-in-Residence. ‘Recollecting ASTORoids’ provided a detailed and most magnificent tango experience, performed by the full symphony orchestra. If a CD recording of ‘Recollecting ASTORoids’ existed, its beautiful tango music would be a recommended purchase. Continue reading Willoughby Symphony Orchestra presents Bohemian Tango @ The Concourse CHATSWOOD


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.