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25 February 2019

We're reviving an orchestra! ('It'll be fun', they said.)

Houston Dunleavy Image: Houston Dunleavy  

'Why don't you revive a professional orchestra?' they said. 'It'll be fun!' they said. 'It went really well the first few years, you should find it easy getting it going again', they said.

So I was tempted on board, and found out what I suspected was true - that reviving an orchestra is just as difficult as starting one.

The Southern Cross Philharmonia Orchestra was established as a professional orchestra by Gerald Gentry and Bianca Roonan in 2005. It was based in Melbourne, Australia, and provided a great environment for young, professional string players to ply their craft and start earning a bit of a living.

But Gerald Gentry's death in 2014 left the orchestra without artistic leadership for some time. Then, in 2018, the SCPO appointed me as the Artistic Director and gave me the task of getting the orchestra back on stage, performing with the virtuosity for which it had become renowned.

It's not easy. You have to convince sponsors, players, and audience alike that this is a brilliant idea and a going concern. And how do you establish an orchestra's mission? What would it play? More music by dead white men? Surely not?

Indeed not.

The orchestra will champion the music of Australian composers, the music of women composers and the music of Southern Hemisphere composers. It will bring the highest calibre of performance to these works to its Melbourne audiences.

That's the plan and we have the people to do it, with music by Eve Duncan, Christina Green, Andrian Pertout, Johanna Selleck, Peter Graham, Elizabeth Marsh, Wendy Hiscocks, and Houston Dunleavy all being premiered, as well as masterworks by Peter Tahourdin, Samuel Barber, and Antonín Dvořák.

The orchestra is also welcoming to our shores, again, American viola virtuoso, Brett Deubner, who, as part of his tour to Australia and New Zealand, will perform the world premiere of Houston Dunleavy's Moonburn - Concerto No. 2 for viola, strings and percussion.

All of this requires funding. The orchestra seeks to build on its base funding and provide marketing/promotion funds, and contribute to other orchestral expenses such as venue hire, travel costs for our soloist, and fees for composers and players. Ideally, the funding will be in place before our gala re-launching weekend on 17 May and 19 May 2019, when we will be able to celebrate our sponsors and donors, and present the orchestra to Melbourne and the world.

So we are fundraising. Along with private functions, we are running a 'gofundme' campaign if any of you are feeling moved to help this orchestra on its way, or have rich friends who would be happy to be involved. It's worthy of note that the SCPO is a not-for-profit organisation listed on the Australian Government Register of Cultural Organisations (ROCO) and endorsed as a deductible gift recipient.

So the opening concert weekend is planned, with new music and an exciting group of performers, an international soloist and a season of new music to come. What's missing? You are!

> For more information, please visit the SCPO's website at: www.scphil.com

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