How Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s 70th anniversary is driving its future

Richard Watts

The dynamic program of concerts and events programmed for the anniversary year also celebrates a new era for the orchestra.
How Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s 70th anniversary is driving its future

QSO's Music Director, Alondra de la Parra, photographed by David Kelly

Anniversaries can be a dangerous business. Some companies risk miring themselves in the past as they celebrate former glories. Not so for Queensland Symphony Orchestra, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary with a vibrant season of works curated by Music Director Alondra de la Parra.

A conductor par excellence, 2017 marks de la Parra’s first year with the Orchestra as Music Director. Notably, this is the first time an Australian orchestra has created such a position.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Chief Executive, David Pratt, said de la Parra has responded to QSO’s 70th anniversary with a season that acknowledges the past while looking very much to the future.

‘It’s the individuals and the music that’s influenced or had a tremendous impact on this organisation over the last 70 years that are really highlighted during this season,’ he said.   

‘But in celebrating 70 years, we’re really celebrating a new era for the Orchestra with this change from Chief Conductor to Music Director, and me as the new Chief Executive. You’ve basically got two new leaders of the organisation in its 70th year who are committed to traditions but also to creating what I call “the orchestra of the 21st century”.’

Former QSO Chief Conductor, Muhai Tang. Image supplied.

Of the many events programmed for 2017, Pratt points to an upcoming concert on 10 June, QSO with Muhai Tang, as one with special appeal.

‘One of our previous Chief Conductors, Muhai Tang, will be back with us in a couple of weeks for that performance; he made his impact back in the 90s and is beloved by the Orchestra and the music community,’ Pratt said.  

Click here to receive a 20% discount on tickets to QSO with Muhai Tang

As well as conducting a program ranging from Brahms’ masterpiece Symphony No.1 to Palimpsest, a work composed by Australian jazz pianist Joe Chindamo, Tang will appear at an in-conversation event the day prior; a valuable opportunity to gain insights into the music he will be conducting.

‘People want to be communicated to and educated so they understand what the piece of music is about, and it is our role to ensure that we do that,’ said Pratt.

A concert on 5 August – QSO, Alondra and Duo Lechner Tiempo – is representative of the diversity of Alondra de la Parra’s programming.

‘Coming up in August there’s some music that’s definitely from her neck of the woods, you could say; some quintessential music from Latin America – Revueltas’ The Night of the Mayas is just a tremendous piece,’ Pratt said.

Devotees of the classical canon are also catered for in 2017 with concerts such as QSO Plays the Romantics in September, featuring 19th century works by Berlioz and Tchaikovsky, conducted by Darrell Ang.

Such concerts allow the Orchestra to display its skills to the utmost, Pratt explained.

‘There’s this absolute 100% commitment to their craft and this absolute pride in what they do from the musicians of the Orchestra. I’ve seen it time and time again – and I’ve only been here about nine months. Musicians going above and beyond the call of duty to get the best possible result for a performance, and I can’t ask any more than that from artists,’ he said.

‘They are absolutely loved by this community and when I say “community,” I mean the entire state of Queensland. They have a long history of regional touring, they tell famous stories about the old train trips they used to take up and down the coast with musicians cooking on the back of trains – just fantastic stories. They are extraordinary.’

To receive a 20% discount on tickets to QSO with Muhai Tang please click here.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre, on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging, and on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel. He is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts