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A message from the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director: CSO 2020 digital programming

To all members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra family

I know I write on behalf of all of the CSO’s dedicated musicians, as well as the CSO Board and management team, when I express to you how much all of us are missing the magical moments we have shared performing for you.

Most importantly, we send you our very best wishes. We hope and trust you are all well and staying healthy. COVID-19, has had, and continues to have, a devastating impact on the lives of billions of people throughout the world. Our hearts go out to those who are enduring unbearable hardships, to those who have succumbed to this dreadful disease and to the families and friends left behind.

Now, more than ever, music can play an important part in our lives. It brings us joy and it lifts our spirits. It is a beacon of comfort and hope during these times. It is nourishment for our souls.

In the words of Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

All of us at the CSO hope you will, despite these difficult times, continue to make music an important part of your life, by listening and engaging with the wonderful universe of music that is fortunately available to us – on the radio, online, and in your own CD collections.

It remains incredibly important for us at the CSO to stay connected with you, our loyal audience, even while physically distant. Therefore, over the past few weeks, the CSO team has been working behind the scenes, in consultation with our musicians and CSO partners, to develop alternate, ‘virtual’ programming for this period. Our aim is to produce and present a variety of music and CSO-related content for you to enjoy and to help keep you connected with our tight-knit family. Without minimising the gravity of these circumstances for the entire creative and performing arts sector, we are embracing the opportunity to try some new things, and we trust that these initiatives will assist us to stay connected with you.

Programming Australian music is central to our artistic mission, not only at our mainstage events, but also through the dedicated Australian Series, presented by Singapore Airlines in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery. Curated by my dear friend, Professor Matthew Hindson, the Australian Series is one of the most important platforms for Australian music in our national cultural and orchestral landscape.

We are going to continue our important work through a virtual Australian Miniseries. The CSO will be commissioning fourteen short, Australian solo works, to be recorded by CSO musicians and premiered on CSO channels. This series will be co-curated by Matthew Hindson and Australian conductor Jessica Cottis. Jessica was to conduct our second Llewellyn Series concert in May, presented by PwC Australia. While that concert has sadly been cancelled, it’s wonderful to be able to engage with such a dynamic musical personality on this exciting project.

When I was last in Canberra in March of this year, the orchestra had had less than one day together before we learned that we would be unable to perform our opening Llewellyn Series concert – Llewellyn One: Organ Symphony, presented by PwC Australia – for an audience. So, on one rehearsal with the full orchestra, we recorded the Saint-Säens Organ Symphony to an empty Llewellyn Hall and posted it on our YouTube channel. The feedback from that performance has been overwhelming, and we thank you for your amazing support and comments. We are touched that this performance, coming as it did right at the outset of social distancing, had such a positive and hopeful impact on so many lives within our community.

Over the next weeks and months, the CSO will be embarking on a series of Virtual Orchestra performances, some of which will invite collaboration from the wider musical community. One of these, announced recently with the ANU School of Music, will be a Side by Side, Byte Size orchestra project that will give students the opportunity to play ‘alongside’ CSO musicians in a short virtual performance. Another Virtual Orchestra event will invite you, the community, to record and submit your own parts – we will be encouraging you to participate, and hope you will find joy in playing music at home.

We will also be presenting a virtual Recital Series, showcasing incredible soloists, starting with the CSO’s Principal Clarinet Alan Vivian.

Finally, we’ll be bringing you regular CSO Playlists that we hope you’ll enjoy while you’re socially distancing – whether you’re working from home, looking to unwind, or taking the time to explore some new music and broaden your musical horizons. Our musicians have eclectic tastes and a wide knowledge of the repertoire. I’m sure they will be revealing some unexpected surprises in an endless universe. We look forward to making all this content freely available, and we hope it will bring you joy and solace. We thank also the many subscribers and patrons who have made generous donations for us to be able to continue our work and create opportunities for our musicians.

All of us in the CSO family are committed to making and sharing music in 2020. I know, when the CSO returns in its full glory to perform heavenly symphonic music in our beautiful concert venue at Llewellyn Hall, the orchestra will make music with more intensity, beauty, devotion, and joy than ever before, so that the CSO may again open your hearts and enrich your souls with the wonder of music.

My thoughts remain with our musicians and our community in Canberra. Stay well and take good care.

Much love,

Dr Nicholas Milton AM
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director
Canberra Symphony Orchestra

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