Saturday night, a loyal audience of Dunedin ‘regulars’ and parents was rewarded with an exuberant performance at the Uni by the DYO. Players and listeners were as one, rejoicing in the public return of live music! 

One imagines that the challenge of organizing, rehearsing and mounting this concert in difficult times must have been gargantuan and near insurmountable. These efforts and this concert were a success and must feel like a victory to all those concerned – students, pros who helped fill out the orchestra, conductor, parents and the indefatigable Kirsten McAuley and her crew of friends and helpers.

The programme had good variety from beginning to end. No one present at the concert will ever listen to the opening of Mozart’s Overture to Die Zauberflöte again without thinking of Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa … Pageno.

Sophie shone in the Saint-Saëns, although the orchestra balance was not unfailingly solicitous (a result of excessive exuberance? acoustic? limited time as a group?) but for the most part the balance was decent and the performance convincing.

Má Vlast was the musical and emotional high point of the concert for me. The degree of commitment to the music and love for the music was palpable and succeeded in bringing it to life with wonderful vitality.

Parihaka was well done too, communicating its message of respectful, sad remembering nicely. Danzón was very strong, verging on harsh at times, but bursting with high energy. (Of course, life in Cuba was very harsh in the 50’s so we could say this dimension added a realistic edge!) It would be chancy to play that way in a structure not constructed to withstand an earthquake … lol

For me, ‘empowerment’ in relationship to this concert related to the many faces that used to be visible further back in their sections now at the forefront as leaders and mentors to younger players. Some of these are students I may have taught, accompanied or tutored in their chamber music groups; Cam and Rose leading, with Skyla in support, Serenity having the experience of playing in a brass section with the best, Sarah, Sebastian, Cindy, Louis, Lucy. 

David Burchell let drop that Caroline was given her bass drum part the night before the concert and that her bit was never rehearsed(!). That’s true grit and musicianship right there! 

Lovely to see mother and daughter playing bass side by side too and the sizeable, strong cello section. 

This orchestra is a healthy family, growing, learning and accomplishing!

Well done all! 

-Review by John van Buskirk (music teacher and pianist)

John van Buskirk

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