In recent days, we have lost a remarkable and unique Canberra institution in the person of the inimitable and extraordinary Betty Beaver.
I came to know Betty through my love for her equally remarkable sister, Della Woods, who was the wife of my wonderful violin teacher, Harry Curby. After I returned to Australia from studies abroad to lead the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Della – who knew of my conducting aspirations – told me I must immediately contact her sister Betty to see if she could help introduce me to some people at the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. I did so, and those first conversations marked the beginning of our long and deep friendship. I would never have been part of the joyful CSO family were it not for Betty’s encouragement and support, from my first appearance as conductor to my appointment as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, and beyond. I could never thank Betty enough for having been instrumental in bringing to my life, through our terrific, beloved orchestra, so much joy and so many unforgettable and magical musical moments.
Betty’s love for music her passion for supporting the arts in all of its guises in the Canberra community was legendary. She was a frequent CSO concertgoer – in fact, it’s hard for me to recall a performance without one of her post-concert comments attached to it. She loved her Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Sibelius and Dvorak, but her inquisitiveness peaked with freshly composed music. She was never shy about encouraging me to be more daring in my programming and her tastes in music were the opposite of what I would call conservative. She liked shocking and brash; she wanted to splash new musical colours on a sonic canvas, shake everything up and see what intriguing musical cocktail would delight her ever curious tastebuds.
Betty was long the most fervent and progressive voice in Canberra for supporting, encouraging and demanding opportunities for female composers. I also know she was absolutely delighted by the CSO’s Australian Series and our organisation’s ever-expanding initiatives to support the next generation of Australian composers.
I don’t think it’s at all surprising that distinguished Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin titled her 2012 composition dedicated to Betty The Beaver Blaze. Betty Beaver was truly a trailblazer – an original who recognised the value of the arts in our Australian culture and devoted her life to encouraging and supporting it. She was a magnificent, wonderful and beloved friend, and will be sorely missed by all of her CSO family. On behalf of our musicians, management and the CSO Board, I express our deepest condolences to Betty’s family on their loss.
DR NICHOLAS MILTON AM
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director