Alban Gerhardt In Perth


Over the past decade, Germany’s Alban Gerhardt has established himself among the greatest cellists of our time. He’s in Perth with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra for their Masters Series, performing tomorrow and Saturday evenings, as well as performing a recital on Monday.

Of particular concern for Alban is his desire to help audiences break with old listening and concert habits and to open classical music to a younger audience. I spoke to him this morning during my radio program. He was even kind enough to play a short piece on his 303 year old cello. It was an honour to watch and hear him play.

Classical music can sometimes be thought of as elitist or old fashioned but Alban is convinced that the kind of music he loves and plays can be appreciated by everyone.

I played all Bach’s Cello Suites in 2010 in an ‘alternative’ Berlin performance venue, in front of an audience that had not had much experience with classical music. I was amazed how well they listened and I realized that this old, rather intellectual music can be understood by everybody.

That same year I embarked on a so-called radio tour: travelling in Northern Germany for a week to different radio stations and giving a free concert of the Bach suites, only the listeners had to call in and suggest the venue and provide the audience! I ended up playing at a maternity ward, a fitness studio, a café, the headquarters of some anti-nuclear waste protesters in a pub in the middle of nowhere. When I suggested it to the Cleveland Orchestra they set up a Bach concert at a local supermarket. People reacted incredibly well; people who had never heard a single piece by Bach listened to the entire Suites (including all repeats!). Now I am convinced that although Bach wrote the bible for us cellists, his genius can be understood and appreciated by everybody.

On the train home after the last performance of this radio tour, I saw a musical performance of some kind in the main train station in Berlin. Immediately I thought of the idea of performing Bach there. A year later, amplified only by a small, portable sound system, I played all the suites there and the success was huge: hundreds of people came, stopped by, listened and were touched. One lady even claimed that she had never listened so intensely to any music; in concerts she often dozes off, but during that performance at the train station, because of all the distracting noises by trains and other disturbances, in order to focus on the music, she had to listen so carefully and concentrate so hard, that she got more out of it than during a normal concert in a normal hall. Bach’s music transformed the train station into a concert hall.

You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

Alban will play at Perth’s underground train station tomorrow afternoon before his WASO concert.

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WASO and the Lord of the Rings


Peter Jackson’s epic movie version of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is supported by some of the greatest film music of all time. Howard Shore’s Academy Award-winning score helps to capture the film’s sweeping emotion and thrilling scenery.

Next month, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra will be turning down the movie soundtrack and providing the music live through the power of a full symphony orchestra and the massed voices of the WASO Chorus and St George’s Cathedral Choristers at their Lord of the Rings performances.

Following the success of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s concert version of The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, WASO presents film director Peter Jackson’s vision of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This epic event features the entire film on screen accompanied live by WASO, the WASO Chorus and St George’s Cathedral Choristers.

The Academy Award-winning score by Howard Shore is instantly recognisable to film aficionados and music lovers alike; and magically captures the film’s sweeping emotion, spell-binding visuals and the danger-filled adventures of Frodo Baggins and his cohorts in their quest to end the reign of the Dark Lord and save Middle Earth.

The venue for this event, the Riverside Theatre, has been chosen, in part, to accommodate the 6 metre by 14.5 metre screen required for the projection of the film above the full orchestra on stage. This has required some adaptation by the orchestra as well – because stage lighting would interfere with the projection of the film, individual lights are attached to each music stand so the players can read the music in the otherwise dark auditorium.

Swiss-born conductor, Ludwig Wicki, is ideally suited to lead with WASO through this towering soundtrack. He and Howard Shore are long-term collaborators; and Wicki conducted the world premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2008.

David Cotgreave is the Production and Technical Manager with WASO and he dropped in for a chat on my radio program today to talk about just how such a major project comes together. You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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Paul Daniel Previews WASO 2012

Paul Daniel became Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) in 2009.

He was Music Director of English National Opera from 1997 until 2005. He has worked with London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and far too many others to mention around the world. He’s conducted the internationally televised Last Night of the Proms in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1998 he received a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera and was awarded the CBE in the 2000 Honours List.

He’s now preparing for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 season and he joined me today on the Morning Café on 98.5 Sonshine FM. We talked about the very wide range of performances planned for the new year. Audiences are set to be taken on an incredible musical voyage.

Some people may think of classical music as pieces that were written hundreds of years ago, but WASO continues to premiere new works and be extremely innovative in taking their extraordinary talents to a wider audience.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) is Western Australia’s largest and busiest performing arts company. Established in 1928, WASO is the state’s only professional orchestra, playing a central role in the cultural life of Western Australia.

WASO’s vision is to touch souls and enrich lives through music. Each year the Orchestra reaches out into the community and gives people across Western Australia and beyond the opportunity to experience the magic of classical music through concert performances, touring, education programs, and other initiatives.

The Orchestra performs over 140 concerts each year with some of the world’s finest conductors and soloists to an audience in excess of 200,000. In addition to its own concerts, WASO regularly performs with the West Australian Opera and West Australian Ballet.

You can hear our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player below.


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WASO to Infinity and Beyond

Western Australia certainly has an incredible symphony orchestra. I’ve experienced the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in various settings and they never fail to impress.

I’ve seen them supporting acts like Human Nature and Glen Campbell through to playing for the West Australian Ballet and much more. They’re always superb.

Tonight was certainly no exception. Our family headed to the Perth Concert Hall for an amazing musical experience as guests of the orchestra.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra launched the audience on a journey to infinity and beyond with Space Classics.

They played classics such as Holst’s The Planets and the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as John Williams’ music from Superman, the Thunderbirds theme, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Conductor and presenter Anthony Inglis was superb with a wonderful mix of music and humour. I only wish that he was spending more time in Perth. I would have loved the opportunity to interview him on my morning radio programme.

I loved the mix of familiar movie music with some more unknown music (at least to me it was) like three movements from Holst’s The Planet’s Suite. One interesting side note was that while I was listening to Holst’s Jupiter from The Planets, I recognised part of the music. I had to think for a few seconds but then it hit me; it was Daddy Cool’s song Make Your Stash. (Ross Wilson was obviously influenced by Holst. Who would have guessed?)

I don’t know if tickets are still available for the Saturday night concert but if there are any left and in in Perth, grab some and get there.

Late last week I spoke with Marshall McGuire, Executive Manager, Artistic Planning with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra during my morning radio programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM about the concerts. Click the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post to hear more about Space Classics and other concerts coming up with WASO.


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Touching History

Last night I touched history.

I took Emily and James to Bugs Bunny at the Symphony and after the show the conductor and show’s creator, George Daugherty, invited us backstage for a few minutes. In the picture I’m holding the original Dobro slide guitar that was used in the Looney Tunes cartoons of the 30s and 40s. George even let James have a quick go at making one of the classic Looney Tunes sound effects with the guitar. (Click the photo for a much closer look.)

I wrote about the show a couple of days ago in my post Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. Last night we got to experience it … and oh what an experience.

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony has been described as a spectacular fusion of classic Warner Bros. cartoons projected on the big screen, accompanied by their original scores played live by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. It didn’t disappoint. The richness of the orchestra combined beautifully with the genious of those early cartoons. George gave the audience an entertaining thumbnail sketch of the cartoons’ history, highlighting the amazing musical talents of those who created the scores of the pieces we experienced.

We were kept entertained by the antics of the world’s most popular Looney Tunes characters including Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, and of course Bugs Bunny, featuring in classics such as What’s Opera, Doc?, The Rabbit of Seville, Long- Haired Hare, A Corny Concerto and many more favourites.

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony was performed at Burswood Theatre three times across Friday and Saturday.

Emmy Award winner George Daugherty has conducted almost every major American symphony orchestra as well as a long list of international ensembles. It was an absolute pleasure to catch up with him after the show. The invite to meet with him came after he was my special guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM several days ago. You can hear our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

I do hope that George makes it back to Perth sometime soon.

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