“The benefits that well run community orchestras provide to their public cannot be exaggerated, and the Mosman Orchestra is no exception. It has enriched the lives of its immediate community and complemented the activities of the city’s major professional orchestras. It offers invaluable outlets for gifted musicians, including music graduates and music loving doctors, scientists, architects and a whole host of other professionals, who can commune and share the unique excitement of making fine music. If there is anything more enriching than exploring the genius of Mozart or Beethoven, I have yet to discover it.” – Conductor Patrick Thomas, MBE
The Mosman Orchestra has reinvented itself not once, but twice. For ten years it was the Lane Cove Symphony Orchestra; from 1985 the Lane Cove Orchestra; and finally it became the Mosman Orchestra in 1992. As well as three names, the orchestra has had 2 main venues, 3 musical directors and innumerable changes of personnel.
In 1975 a group of music teachers and residents in the Lane Cove area, headed by Sydney Symphony Orchestra bassoonist Richard Mcintyre and his wife Gillian, an ex-SSO violinist, formed a committee to set up and run the Lane Cove Symphony Orchestra. Leaflets were distributed thoughout the district to encourage musicians to join. Lane Cove Council offered good will, financial support was gathered from businesses and residents, auditions were held, players selected. the orchestra began its performing life with Richard McIntyre as musical director and chief conductor and Gillian McIntyre as concertmaster. The Masonic Hall in Longueville Rd became the venue for rehearsals.
The first concert was held on December 2nd, 1975 at the Lane Cove Town Hall. It was a program of popular works: Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, the Quantz Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with soloist Stephen Lloyd, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and Finlandia by Sibelius.
The orchestra gave 16 concerts between 1975 and 1979. The repertoire was mostly confined to classic orchestral works, especially those of the 18th and 19th centuries – though the LCSO also performed 20th century works by Prokofiev (Lieutenant Kije Suite) and Malcolm Williamson (The Stone Wall). A number of family groups played in the orchestra, including composer Ann Carr-Boyd and her 3 daughters Katrina, Xanthe and Susanna, and the MIlton family, all of whom went on to professional careers in music.
At the end of 1977, a very successful year for the orchestra, Richard McKintyre left to become Lecturer in Bassoon at the Canberra School of Music. In the following 2 years concerts were conducted by Paul Curtis and Christopher Nicholls, but the orchestra’s drive could not be maintained: Players left and by the end of 1979 the orchestra was disbanded.
Other musical life in Lane Cove continued to flourish, however and by 1984 Ann Carr-Boyd was convinced that there was considerable interest in re-establishing the orchestra. Financial assistance was obtained from the Commonwealth Employment program, providing for the engagement of a musical director and an administrator employed by the Council for long enough to get the orchestra under way, with the Council providing a performance hall.
Colin Piper, a professional musician newly resident in Lane Cove, offered assistance and advice in setting up the orchestra and choosing a suitable venue, which turned out to be the Lane Cove Town Hall. Colin accepted the post of musical director of the newly named Lane Cove Orchestra, which gave its inaugural performance on Sunday March 24th 1985. The program was Rossini’s Thieving Magpie Overture, Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, Peter Sculthorpe’s Sun Music III and the Trumpet Concerto by Haydn with SSO principal trumpet Daniel Mendelow as soloist.
Colin Piper believed that one function of a community orchestra was to give talented young local musicians the chance to perform with an orchestra. Adrian Bendt, Therese Raj, Nicholas Verne and Andrew Robinson were all school students when they performed solos with the LCO, in all cases to great audience acclaim. Colin also made a point of featuring well known soloists, who over the years included clarinet players Deborah de Graaf and Philip Arkenstall, and SSO concertmaster Donald Hazelwood.
Members of the orchestra were not asked to pay a subscription to belong, nor were there auditions for players. Colin believed that these impositions were not in the best interests of creating a truly community feeling in the group. Throughout his musical directorship the many stronger players supported those who were not quite so technically capable. The standard of the LCO, like that of similar groups, was variable; occasional excellent reviews in local newspapers were always encouraging. Player numbers also fluctuated, although membership received a boost when Warringah’s orchestra ceased to function in 1988.
The orchestra held annual family concerts in the Town Hall, which attracted good audiences, and sometimes gave performances in other venues in aid of various charities. There were free concerts in Lane Cove Plaza; the orchestra participated in Macquarie University’s ‘Music on Winter Sundays’ program; and performances were given at Croydon and St Stephen’s Chuch, Willoughby. Indeed the last performance the LCO gave was its ‘Mozart Marathon’ at Macquarie University in 19991.
By that year the Council’s administration was expanding, and the Lane Cove Town Hall was demolished and redesigned as a set of offices. There was a performance space in the new building which was unfortunately far too small for the LCO and, depite a thorough search, no other suitable performance space was available in the Lane Cove area.
Rahter than let their orchestra disappear for a second time, the members of the LCO voted to find a new home. Mosman Council jumped at the chance to have their own orchestra, and in February 1992 the Mosman Orchestra came into being, with headquarters in the new Mosman Art Gallery and Community Centre in Myahgah Rd. the Centre had formerly been a Uniting Church, and its spacious hall and high ceiling were well suited to the orchestra’s needs.
The first program of the newly named Mosman Orchestra took place on April 12th 1992. The program? Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, Autumn from the Four Seasons, and The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams with violin soloist Fiona Ziegler. Fiona’s mother, violin teacher Eva Kelly, had played the Lark in London in the presence of the composer.
In 1995 professional commitments meant that Colin Piper became increasingly unable to be present for concerts and a number of distinguished guest conductors appeared with the orchestra. Colin held on until 1997, when he made his final appearance with the orchestra at a concert in Scots Kirk, with Richard Pulley playing the Beethoven violin concerto. In his farewell he said, “My great hope is that you, the audience and the members of the orchestra, see my departure not so much as the end of an era as the beginning of another.”
Throughout 1997 and into 1998 the orchestra took the opportunity to reach out to the community by programming concerts in conjunction with local school music departments. Some of these concerts involved Murray Winton as conductor. But 1998 was a disruptive year. The hall was under renovation, so rehearsals and concerts had to be moved to various venues, including the public school, Scots Kirk and St Lukes in Ourimbah Rd.
In 1999 Andrew Del Riccio was officially appointed musical director. It was an easy transition, since Andrew had been involved with the orchestra as guest conductor. Since 1999, a committee has been elected each year to attend to administrative needs and to work with Andrew in planning the orchestra’s progress.
The orchestra’s aims as a community project remain consistent, though there have been some changes since the early days. The introduction of a guest conductor, usually for the 2nd concert each year, introduces the orchestra to another conducting style as well as giving Andrew some breathing space. The orchestra has also combined with the Queenwood School for Girls, usually in the first concert for the year. And members of the orchestra present 2 or 3 concerts a year at Bougainvillea Bay Resort Retirement Village in Neutral Bay: a commitment that everyone enjoys.
“One of my greatest satisfactions in the field of community music has been the privilege of leading the Mosman Orchestra. Over the past nine years I have repeatedly witnessed selfless individuals give their time and expertise to ensure the orchestra is well run and continues to develop. I know that the years ahead will be as fulfilling as the past has been.”
Andrew Del Riccio. Musical Director, Mosman Orchestra since 1999
Adapted and abridged from The Life and Life of Mosman Orchestra by Christine Bladwell, published in 2005 to celebrate the orchestra’s 30th anniversary.