‘Symphony For Me’ was majestic.
The weather in Brisbane in September can sometimes be quite unpredictable, but the heavens were clear for Brisbane Festival and Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Symphony For Me’ at the Riverstage last Saturday. It was a perfect night to be outdoors with just enough cool in the air to be comfortable, and hundreds of people turned out to the free family event with their blankets and pillows. Led by conductor Guy Noble, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra performed crowd favourites with flawless technical skill, musical excellence and delightful humour.
‘Symphony For Me’ has been a feature of the Brisbane Festival for a number of years now and is a uniquely curated event. The public is invited to submit their favourite piece of orchestral music along with a personal story as to the significance of this piece in their lives. Those selected from the entries are then welcomed to share their story with the audience and are given the best seat in the house (on stage!) as the Queensland Symphony Orchestra plays that piece. For many of the “guest curators”, this was the first time they had heard the piece live and it was delightful to watch their faces as they enjoyed music that had special meaning to them played by a stunning orchestra.
Hosted by ABC’s Jenny Woodward, the evening commenced with a story of multi-cultural meetings and falling in love, leading to the well-known piece ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba’ by Handel. The first half of the concert also featured Debussy’s, ‘Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun’, the Second Movement of Dvořák’s, ‘New World Symphony’, and a personal highlight, the theme from ‘Jurassic Park’ by John Williams. The first Act ended with a bang with Rossini’s, ‘William Tell Overture’. Whilst beautiful, Debussy and Dvořák’s works were a touch slow and quiet for the very young audience members, many of whom took the opportunity to demonstrate the incredible acoustics within the sloped banks of the Riverstage.
The second half had a bit more kick to it, featuring Brahms’, ‘Hungarian Dance’ No 5, Beethoven’s, ‘Symphony No 8’ (Second movement) and Vangelis’ movie classic, ‘Chariots of Fire’. The youngest guest in the concert was an 8-year-old girl who submitted Haydn’s, ‘Surprise Symphony’ after her school music teacher played it for her in class. Rounding out the concert was the highlight of the evening, Tchaikovsky’s, ‘1812 Overture’.
The couple who submitted this piece told a story of attending an orchestral concert on their first date, and then taking their newborn daughter years later to a QSO concert in City Hall – the ‘1812 Overture’ closed this concert, too, and their baby slept all the way through enormous drums, cymbals and cannon fire! The crowd was not disappointed by QSO’s rendition this evening, either, with the percussion section working overtime to hit every single note in this famous piece.
Surprisingly, the sound was excellent in this venue, which often plays host to contemporary bands with multitudes of electrification. The balance of the orchestra’s sound was perfect, with every solo and quiet section heard clearly at the back of the arena. The use of a large screen and camera to zoom in on the performers and presenters was extremely useful and generally well-executed. During ‘Chariots of Fire’, conductor Guy Noble utilised the “conductor cam” in front of him to hold up his phone, which was playing the famous slow-motion running scene from the film with the same name. There was just enough banter between Noble and Woodward as they introduced the famous works and Noble warmly interacted with the guests after the conclusion of each piece.
The two-hour concert was perhaps a bit long and late for young families, some of whom left before the final number, however, being the first weekend of the school holidays gave many the opportunity to stay. The move of this event to the Riverstage has opened up classical music to a wider audience who may have been intimidated by the usual audience etiquette.
As a music teacher, it was really wonderful to see so many young children spellbound by the orchestra, and many families attending with multiple generations, sharing the magic and wonder that only music can bring. Well done to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Brisbane Festival for this musical tradition and experience.
For more events at the 2019 Brisbane Festival, visit Brisbane Festival’s Website. To follow the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and catch their next production, visit Queensland Symphony Orchestras Website.