This has been a summer that Australia will never forget in terms of the massive devastation bushfires have wrought on this continent. But equally, it has been a time that has seen an overwhelming goodwill and spirit of generosity being shown by musicians. The classical sector alone has been chock full of benefit concerts, donation drives and various other initiatives.
City Recital Hall in Sydney hosted to two big events. Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Noël! Noël! concerts there in December raised $7,478 in donations for the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and For Australian Wildlife Needing Aid (FAWNA) to help people and animals in need. Then on 30 January, an astonishing array of other classical artists came together for ‘Music for our Country’, a fundraiser that collected $83,000 for bushfire relief. Some 200 musicians participated, including members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Australian Chamber Orchestra, Kathryn Selby, Elena Kats-Chernin, Claire Edwardes, William Barton and Erin Helyard.
Meanwhile, the SSO’s Symphony Under the Stars in Parramatta Park on 18 January gathered donations for the Red Cross’s bushfire relief efforts, and Opera Australia contributed $10,000 towards the NSW Rural Fire Service from its New Year’s Eve gala. And members of Sydney Children’s Choir embarked on a heart-warming campaign to help their singer friend Gabriel Kam, whose family lost their house in the Balmoral fire – they raised over $23,000.
Coming up in Sydney are two additional concerts in the NSW Bushfire Fundraiser Concert Series at Soultrap Bar, Surry Hills. Taking place on 23 and 24 February, these will donate proceeds to WIRES (Wildlife Rescue, Information and Education Service). Joshua Batty (flute), Diana Doherty (oboe), James Burke (clarinet) and Evan Streater (piano) will perform new works especially written for the occasion by composers Andrew Howes and Harry Sdraulig. Other pieces in the program are by Deborah Cheetham, Madeleine Dring and Joseph Kosma. Two earlier events in the series in January saw funds being raised for the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Look out for rolling updates on the NSW Bushfire Fundraiser Concert Series on their Facebook page.
In Victoria, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra collected donations for the Australian Red Cross’s bushfire emergency efforts at its Sidney Myer Free Concert on 5 February. Works performed were Deborah Cheetham’s musical acknowledgement of country, Long time living here, and Matthew Hindson’s Violin Concerto ‘Australian Postcards’.
Also in Melbourne a Bushfire Charity Gala on 7 February at the Athenaeum Theatre included a host of leading singers including Antoinette Halloran Roxane Hislop, Rosamund Illing, Suzanne Johnston, Alexander Lewis and Adrian Tamburini. Proceeds also went to the Red Cross. In another event at Fed Square’s Deakin Edge, Trio Anima Mundi, Australian Welsh Male Choir and other Melbourne musicians raised donations for Wildlife Victoria, the Resound Bushfire Appeal and again the Red Cross.
In Queensland, the Badinerie players and members of Soirees Musicales Quintette hosted a Music for Fire Relief on 26 January at Old Government House, Brisbane. Proceeds went the Red Cross Fire Relief and the Animal Rescue Cooperative. In Ipswich, a Bushfire Relief Concert was held by the Ipswich City Symphony Orchestra in aid of the Rural Fire Service.
The impact of these fires on Australia’s ecology and wildlife has been extreme, and efforts to help animals of all species were a focus of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in an extra performance for The Bush Concert it staged in Grainger Studio on 1 February. Donations went to SAVEM.
Coming up in Adelaide is a Bushfire Appeal in St Peter’s Cathedral. Hosted by Greta Bradman, it includes members of the ASO and State Opera SA, Young Adelaide Voices, along with many other Adelaide classical musicians. Donations will go to the South Australian State Emergency Relief Fund. This concert happens on Sunday 16 February 2020 – see details here.
Also coming up is an Australian Bushfire Benefit concert in London on 1 March. An extraordinary effort is being put together by Australian classical musicians stationed in the UK including conductors Simone Young and Jessica Cottis, saxophonist Amy Dickson, soprano Helena Dix, soprano, tenor Samuel Sakker, and a full orchestra comprising Australian musicians in London. Money raised will go to Australia Bushfire relief charities. Find out about it here.
Another wonderful initiative that helps out musicians who have lost their instruments in the bushfires is Resound. It connects up donors who can pledge an instrument to musicians on its register. Resound also accepts donated instruments. For those wishing to participate in whatever capacity, visit their website here