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Newsletter No 1: 2010 Season

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From the President

We are delighted to launch this inaugural newsletter to share exciting Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra news with you. We are committed to the highest of standards under the masterful leadership of our newly appointed Artistic Director, Mark Shiell, and Concertmaster, Mary Johnston. We are engaging exceptionally talented soloists and have forged a strong relationship with 3MBS which should see them broadcasting many of our concerts. We are also devoting more energy to supporting emerging players, conductors and composers.

I hope that these initiatives and the wonderful programs ahead will tempt you to share the rest of this season with us.

Allison Summers

3MBS and Zelman Symphony Forge Mutual Support Links

3MBS FM and Zelman Symphony have recently become mutual “Proud Supporters.” 3MBS will make it a priority to record and broadcast our concerts with the help of their wonderful volunteer recordists. But that’s not all! 3MBS will promote our concerts, interview our key people in the lead-up and broadcast promotions at community rates. Listen for our on-air promos read so mellifluously by retired ABC personality, Michael Taft. Listen also for a chance to win free seats to our concerts.

From Mark Shiell, our new Artistic Director

Pictured with Concertmaster, Mary Johnston

In the past two decades Melbourne has undergone an amazing transformation into a city full of varied, vibrant and excellent chamber music. With the leadership of musicians such as Marco Van Pagee and William Hennessy, it has become a vital avenue for musicians to explore and potentially find their musical homes. Melbourne now boasts groups such as the Tin Alley Quartet (Winners of the recent Banff International String Quartet Competition) the Hamer Quartet, Ensemble Liaison, Seraphim Trio, Yarra Trio and others.

I believe that the time has come for community orchestras to emerge ever more strongly as vital and dynamic members of our musical life here in this city. Melbourne has many community orchestras and none with a prouder history than the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra. Our 104 year history, and connection with the foundation of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is a very special aspect of what makes this a unique ensemble in Melbourne.

I have had the pleasure of working with the Zelman Symphony on many occasions over almost a decade. We trust each other and I have always loved working with them. Now we are beginning a new phase together. Our commitment to raising our standards is now front and centre with many initiatives including the introduction of intensive sectional rehearsals as a standard feature of our preparation for each concert. To forge our place in the future, we are actively enlisting new players who are excited about joining this dynamic group.

People ask me why I am willing to travel at least 6 hours each way every week of rehearsal. My answer is simple: I am excited by this orchestra. I love making music with people who love making music. With this orchestra that is what I get to do every week!

As well as my excitement about this concert season, I am especially gratified that Mary Johnston is leading the orchestra. We go way back and I am thrilled to be working with her again. The partnership between Conductor and Concertmaster is key and I could not wish to be working with one finer.

In addition to working with the ZMSO, I am working closely as principal conductor with the Canberra Chamber Orchestra and Macquarie Philharmonia in Bathurst. The Macquarie is in a very exciting position as it looks like becoming the first professional Australian Orchestra outside a capital city.

Emerging Composer Program

Zelman Symphony has recently become an even more vital part of Melbourne’s music scene by developing a valuable relationship with the composition department at Melbourne University. This Mark Shiell initiative will see us commissioning an outstanding emerging composer each year to write a work specifically for us. The composer will be selected by Head of Composition, Dr Stuart Greenbaum, to compose a work which will be workshopped with us through the year. It will then be premiered in our final concert of the season. This year’s composer has already been nominated – watch this space for the announcement of his name and the work he is writing.

From our Concertmaster: Mary Johnston

I spent my formative years in London where I worked with renowned conductors including Simon Rattle, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Groves, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Colin Davis, Sir John Elliot Gardner, Vernon Handley and Gennady Rozhdestvensky.

After working with the Iceland, West Australian and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras over many years, I am now heavily involved with teaching young musicians. I conduct the Melbourne Youth Strings at Melbourne Youth Music, the Symphony Orchestra at MacRobertson Girls' High School and hold the post of Head of Strings at Melbourne Girls Grammar School. I am also Concertmaster of the Camberwell Camerata Orchestra, play baroque violin with The Australian Baroque Ensemble, adjudicate at eisteddfoddau and play in 'Take Two String Duo' with cellist Willem van der Vis. This year I have been invited to play in and mentor the University of Tasmania Discovery Orchestra.

Several years ago, Mark and I met as tutors of the Percy Grainger Youth Orchestra. At the time he was interested in learning about string bowing techniques in a Beethoven symphony. So we met for a coffee and 4 hours later were still debating enthusiastically about musical details and had become firm friends. We then worked together on several projects with me leading the orchestra. We discovered we were a productive team and could get excellent results as well as thoroughly enjoying making music together.

I had worked with Zelman the previous year so when Mark asked me to lead for his concerts, I was more than delighted, especially after the experience we had a few years ago in Daylesford with Brahms 2nd symphony. He and I were both astounded at the level the orchestra had attained musically and were particularly impressed with the positive response to tutorials and readiness to embrace new techniques for improvement. Working with the Zelman Orchestra is challenging and very rewarding.

Player Profile: Don Hancock, 64 years with ZMSO!!!

When I was in third grade, we were told that a music teacher was coming to teach the ukelele. I told my father that I wanted to learn. He wisely suggested the violin. I was sent to a very gracious lady, Miss Ivy Easton, who took me successfully through the AMEB grades.

I joined the orchestra as a teenager in 1946 playing in the back desk of the 2nd violins under conductor Herbert Davis and leader Connie Ziebell. I vividly recall wonderful performances of the Messiah in the Melbourne Town Hall with the Malvern Choral Society and leading soloists Elsie Morrison and William Herbert.

In 1982, I was appointed leader and after some memorable years under conductor Philip Carrington, I stepped down in 2000.

A highlight of this period was the 50th Anniversary Concert held on 21st November 1983 when we played the Schubert Unfinished Symphony and Mozart’s Concertone for two violins with Paul McDermott and Leon La Gruta as soloists.

Another memorable performance was an all Beethoven concert given on 24th November 1986. This featured Carl Pini as soloist in the Violin Concerto, attracting a capacity audience at Camberwell Civic Centre.

I totally support the current policy of appointing a professional concertmaster and I believe the orchestra, with its proud tradition, will take its rightful place as a leading community orchestra.

The Rest of our Exciting 2010 Season

Sunday 30th May 2.00pm, Hawthorn Town Hall Boroondara Eisteddfod Piano Concerto Award Final (free concert). Mark Shiell directs the Zelman Symphony with three Piano Concerto Competition finalists, in a concert that also includes overtures by Weber and Mozart.

Saturday 4th September 8.00pm, MLC A Concert of Energy, Grace and Passion! Beethoven - Symphony No. 4; Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro Overture; Rawlings - Snow Rising; and Bottesini - Passione Amorosa, for two double bass soloists.

As a new initiative, Mark Shiell will give a free pre-concert talk in the auditorium at 7:30. Come early and learn more about the music.

Saturday 20 November, 8.00pm, MLC Our final concert is a celebration! Mahler's sunniest and shortest symphony will help us celebrate his 150th birthday. The absolutely gorgeous Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss will introduce us to the wonderful voice of Australian soprano, Helen Barnett. We will also play the new work especially commissioned by the orchestra. This is a concert not to be missed!!

Friends of Zelman: Join free to stay in touch. Receive concert notices, flyers and newsletters. Email or write to Friends of Zelman, PO Box 408, Kew East, 3102.

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