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MEETING AN OLDIE IS NOT SO PAINFUL. LINGER AND GIVE IT A GO
I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.
This is the story of Barry Singh, a banana farmer who became the conductor and artistic director of his own 70 piece symphony orchestra.
And of the threat that a dud cheque for $18,000 is posing to his dream.
Barry Singh - Source NRSO
The Northern Rivers Symphony began with just eighteen musicians fifteen years ago and is now renowned on the North Coast of New South Wales, drawing musicians from a huge regional/rural area stretching to Brisbane, Lismore and Toowoomba.
It has no government funding and depends on ticket sales for its existence.
The orchestra normally offers concerts on the Tweed and the Gold Coast but four years ago took a $38,000 risk to hire the Queensland Performing Arts Centre to hear themselves 'in a proper concert hall'. The venture was a big success, but ticket sales fell short, leaving a funding deficit.
It all began with this son of a violent father and a loving mother on a Tweed banana farm. The boy chipped weeds and cut bananas as soon as he could hold the necessary tools.
He told his mother at the age of six that one day he would play a violin and become the conductor of a symphony orchestra.
In high school in sleepy Murwillumbah Barry Singh got to play a violin for the first time - the only violin student there. He practiced in the packing shed against his father's wishes, but made his way via a scholarship to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
The student was doing well when his father died in the second year of his course and Barry returned to the farm to help his mother. They laboured together for twenty years beginning early and often finishing at eleven at night.
Barry never lost hold of his dream, gradually growing the orchestra to its present phenominal size. The community was always supportive but finance was always a struggle.
Rehearsals were held among small groups of players in various parts of the region, with full blown practice sessions fairly rare.
Sometimes the brass section might be a bit thin but gradually the gaps filled and the group has gained respect from the profession.
Last night's concert was held in a Tweed Heads Rugby League football club auditorium in the NRSO heartland.
Fifty musicians and four singers performed before a good appreciative crowd, but there were still many seats empty in the 1000 seat theatre.
The standard was astonishing for a group that has never had government funding and pays its way with ticket sales.
The programme was mainly French, ranging from the pot boiler Ravel's Bolero to Camille Saint-Seans Dance Bacchanale. In between there were excerpts from Delibes' Coppelia and Chopin's Les Sylphides, and many others.
Overall the quality was high, but I did notice that the orchestra got away from Barry during a rollicking version of Offenbach's Can Can, and that Barry simply laughed at the head violionist and carried on.
He'd have to deal with things that way with the mixture of experience among his players, although I notice that professionals are flocking more and more to be part of the NRSO scene - a tribute certainly.
The Duet from The Pearl Fishers of Bizet was superb and so was the Quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto.
The audience loved it all. Sometimes they clapped in the wrong places and Barry used every opportunity to explain the music. The orchestra has done a lot to educate a normally unsophisticated community that otherwise has little access to classical works.
As the final applause died down Barry Singh came towards the audience and asked that the house lights be lit. He wanted to chat face-to-face he said.
He told how the orchestra had been asked recently to perform with 70 players at a Byron Bay festival, for a payment of $18,000. This would meet performers' fees, associated expenses and produce a small profit.
However, when the cheque came, Barry said it was dishonoured at the bank, and the matter was in the hands of solicitors. There was an audible gasp from every member of the audience.
Now, Barry said, the entire future of the orchestra was in the balance. He appealed to the community to fill the auditorium at a benefit concert being planned for February. If this wasn't a success the end was nigh.
We can't wait to get all of our friends there. It will be a corker of a night and the orchestra will surely live on.
Currumbin Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
I'm past my 70th birthday and undaunted.
So far I can look back on probably a dozen different phases in my life, all producing deeply felt experience:
- A barefoot carefree childhood in an Australian seaside town
- Work as a young journalist in the days of hot metal and male chauvinism
- Dipping my toe into real life in Sydney the big city
- Marriage and precious motherhood
- A second career in corporate public relations management
- Another marriage and disillusion
- Battles for financial justice in the law courts
- Re-jigging a career
- At 60 my first university degree (Creative Writing and Australian History majors)
- Fighting sometimes lost causes
- Sneaky aches and pains of the approach of age
- Living on a pension.
All fodder for writing and a valuable background for the development of what could become one day an incisive point of view.
My blogs may become a way of answering the question: 'What's next?'