Following the opening of My First Ballet: Swan Lake in London last week, hear from one of its stars, English National Ballet School student Chloe Keneally. She performs the iconic role of Odette in this version of the classic ballet for young children.
What or who inspired you to take up ballet? Can you remember the first lesson or performance you attended?
My older sister danced which made me want to. I started aged 4 and loved it, I enjoyed the freedom. I saw Sleeping Beauty first and loved it, it became my favourite ballet.
What did it mean to you to get a place at English National Ballet School?
It is a sacrifice being away from my family back home in Australia, but being here is a dream come true. Everything I’d been working for paid off. I loved the school, it was the only one I auditioned for.
What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to dance in My First Ballet: Swan Lake?
Amazing. It feels like the first steps into the rest of our lives, it shows us what we can do in the future. The artistic team are very supportive which is great.
Tell us about the role you have been rehearsing – what are the best bits and the challenges?
I’m rehearsing Odette – it’s my dream role. It’s hard to remember it all but I’m embracing the challenge. I’m loving doing an entire ballet and building the character. I feel like I can relate to this character – falling in love, learning about trust and vulnerability.
We are delighted to publicly release the video recording of Dame Joan Sutherland’s 70th Birthday Gala at Australia House, London 1996 to celebrate her birthday today.
The event was a joint production of the Australian Music Foundation, then celebrating its 21st year, and the 4-year-old Tait Memorial Trust. We hope you enjoy watching this magical moment from 21 years ago.
The gala event was creatively directed by Jan Black. Jan has worked closely with us to bring this archive recording in memory of Dame Joan Sutherland to you.
It was a great opportunity to bring together Dame Joan and Maestro Bonynge’s love of the Operetta repertoire with all the extraordinary Australian generation of singers who were living in London at that time, in a beautiful Viennese Christmas Gala concert and dinner.
It was a challenging trying to co-ordinate everyone as well as Dame Joan and Richard, to all be in London on that night as everyone had very busy international careers. We turned the fabulous exhibition hall at Australia House on its side and used the marble columns as a proscenium. Dickie Lowe’s exquisite stage design which featured commedia dell’arte masks was the perfect complement to the musical performances. It all worked amazingly well and thanks to all the hard work of Jan and the rest of the Committee, the evening was a great financial and artistic success and Dame Joan looked so happy. Also a wonderful tribute to the beautiful late Deborah Riedel.
Entitled, ‘A Viennese Christmas Gala’ the concert was conducted by Richard Bonynge with the Britten Sinfonia, and featured Australian artists, Yvonne Kenny, Deborah Riedel, Jeffrey Black, Julian Gavin, Anne-Maree McDonald, Glenn Winslade, Paul Ferris, Christina Wilson, Liane Keegan & Joanna Cole who stepped in for an indisposed Amanda Thane. It was a fabulous night that we will never forget.
The events principal sponsors were Mercury Asset Management, Hartley Poynton Ltd, Qantas, R.T.Z plc & The Lynn Foundation. The generosity of all of the donors was extraordinary. You can find their names in the credits of the concert video.
Special mention must be made of HE The Hon. Neal Blewett AC who graciously allowed us to use the then recently refurbished Australia House. It was a great night to be an Australian.
Happy Birthday Dame Joan from us all at the Tait Trust.
We are delighted to confirm that Connor D’Netto is to be our 3rd Tait Scholarat the Royal College of Music, a generous award sponsored by the Julian Baring family. We wish him all the very best and look forward to working with him as he aspires to reach the very top of the musical world.
Being awarded the title of the Tait Scholar means so much to me. It’s incredibly encouraging to have this support as I take this next big step in my career, moving to London and beginning to really establish myself in the International music scene. Studying at the Royal College of Music is an important part of this, and it mightn’t have been possible without the generous support of the Tait Memorial Trust.
Connor D’Netto | June 2017
I have been selected as a fellow of the prolific American new-music ensemble Bang On A Can. As part of my fellowship, I have been invited to take part in an intensive three-week residence as part of their Summer Music Festival, held this July at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts. My new work summer / summer, a concerto of sorts for saxophone, two voices, and chamber orchestra, will be premiered by the ensemble
as a feature in the Festival.
I am the artistic director and co-founder of Argo, a contemporary classical music concert series based in Brisbane, Australian. Argo has four concerts left in 2017, collaborating with the likes of Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, the Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo (Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg), soprano Merlyn Quaife, violinist Monica Curro, pianist Stefan Cassomenos, Opera Queensland, the Queensland Music Festival and the Queensland
Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, and presenting four newly commissioned works by young local composers, including new work by me, as well as multiple Australian premieres.
Connor D’Netto (b. 1994) is a Brisbane based composer of contemporary classical music, described as “the model contemporary Australian composer” by ABC Classic FM. Throughout his works, Connor balances the quasi-neoclassical with post-minimal influences, combining
them with contemporary performance practices, unique one-off concerts and performances, and the delicate incorporation of electronic music elements and production techniques. His music combines driving post-minimal rhythmic elements with heartfelt lyrical expression drawn from his extensive performance experience as a classically trained bass baritone, contrasted with textural devices that push the expectations of an instrument’s capabilities without confronting the audience. Connor’s music has been commissioned and performed across Australia and abroad, including commissions from ensembles such the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Queensland’s Camerata and new music specialists PLEXUS, and performers such as Katie Noonan, Karin Schaupp and Claire Edwards.
In 2017, Connor has been selected as a fellow of Bang On A Can. As part, his music will be featured at Bang On A Can’s Summer Music Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MASS MoCA) in July, and will travel to the USA to take part in a three-week residency with the ensemble. In 2015, Connor was named winner of Chamber Music Australia’s Australian New Works Award. His winning work, String Quartet No. 2 in E minor, became the set work for the 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and received premieres by three internationally chosen finalist ensembles at the Melbourne Recital Centre. He has also been awarded a Brisbane Arts and Cultural Innovation Award 2017 for his contribution to the Arts, the Percy Brier Memorial Composition Prize 2016 for his Texture No. 1 for Orchestra, and the Donald Tugby Musicology Prize and Scholarship 2015 by the University of Queensland for exceptional contribution to the field of music research.
Connor is the artistic director, producer, and co-founder of the successful contemporary classical music concert series and collective Argo. Founded in 2015, Argo creates immersive art music experiences bending the boundaries of genre and artform, combining contemporary classical music with electronic music, live-visuals, and fostering creative collaborations between artists of various mediums. Its focus is on creating experiential and concept driven events that fuse classical instruments and ensembles with contemporary influences and new
modes of musical expression.
As a performer, Connor is a trained classical bass, having previously studied with Shaun Brown. Connor is also a talented photographer, videographer and visual-artist, creating and shooting not only material for his music, but also for a number of other local artists and musicians. Currently Connor is working on his PhD through the University of Queensland, having completed a Bachelor of Music (Honours) at the University of Queensland, graduating with First-Class Honours in 2016. In September, Connor moves to London, where (while continuing his PhD) he will study his Masters of Music at the Royal College of Music.
We are delighted to confirm that Samantha Crawford has been awarded the 2017 Julian Baring Award. The Julian Baring award winner is selected personally by our Chairman, Isla Baring OAM, it is one of the Trust’s most prestigious awards. This summer Samantha will debut at the Bayreuther Festspiele in concert and perform Agathe DER FREISCHÜTZ for Blackheath Opera.
This year we are thrilled to announce that awards to the value of £47,100 are to be offered to young performing artists from Australia and New Zealand. This is an increase of 22% compared to last year’s awards, awards growth has been an outstanding 362% in the past 5 years. We will be announcing our other music award recipients in the coming weeks. This growth is due to the incredibly generous support of our Friends and our Principal Partner, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Thank you!
Samantha graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Opera Course, where she studied with Yvonne Kenny AM as a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar. Samantha is the winner of the Golden Medal with Honours at the 2017 inaugural Berliner International Music Competition, First Prize and President’s Prize at the 2016 Wagner Society Singing Competition and Royal Philharmonic Society Chilcott Award finalist.
Equally at home on stage singing in opera or concert, Samantha has performed at Glyndebourne, Edinburgh Festival, Scottish Opera, Aldeburgh Festival, Garsington Opera,
Opera Holland Park, Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Wales Millennium Centre and Schlosstheater
Schönbrunn. She received critical acclaim for her recent performances of Rosalinde DIE
FLEDERMAUS, Contessa LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Donna Elvira DON GIOVANNI, Micaela
CARMEN, Erste Dame DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE and Mrs. Coyle OWEN WINGRAVE. Her
performances have been broadcast on live cinema relay in Europe, on television and radio for the BBC and filmed for DVD (Sony).
Recent engagements include Samantha’s debut at Teatro Real Madrid as a Blumenmädchen PARSIFAL under Semyon Bychkov, debut at the Bayreuther Festspiele in concert, Agathe DER FREISCHÜTZ for Blackheath Opera, title role in SOUR ANGELICA at Théâtre municipal de Fontainebleau, Fiordiligi COSI FAN TUTTE for Scottish Opera and Miss Jessel TURN OF THE SCREW for GTO covers. In concert, Chausson’s POÈME DE L’AMOUR ET DE LA MER at Barbican Milton Court, Mozart’s REQUIEM under Martyn Brabbins, Wagner’s WESENDONCK LIEDER for City of London Festival and Strauss’ VIER LETZTE LIEDER at Blackheath Halls.
Reflecting upon our 5th Tait Winter Prom and our rapidly approaching quarter century, I feel overwhelmed by the wonderful support and goodwill we had for this event, as for all of them since our very first concert with Liane Keegan at Australia House in 1992. A major Australian scholarship holder, Liane‘s arrival in the UK in that year prompted me to think about how we might set about trying to help talented young Australians arriving to study and work in Europe, and thus the Tait Memorial Trust was born.
2016 was another big and busy year for us, with three successful events, in addition to the Winter Prom. In the 2016/17 UK academic year 19 young artists will receive assistance from us, of awards totalling £40,000, which is more than triple the sum of only three years ago. Especially pleasing is the support of young dancers through the Leanne Benjamin Awards, and we look forward to extending our relationships with individuals and corporations who recognise the challenges facing very young Australian dancers leaving home and family to follow their dreams.
We also acknowledge a generous bequest from the Estate of Lady Mackerras, which will guarantee a ten year sponsorship of an orchestral chair for an Australian musician, in the Southbank Sinfonia, in the name of Sir Charles Mackerras. Heartfelt thanks to their daughter, Cathy, for appreciating and continuing the encouragement her father and mother always warmly extended to us.
The Trust has been honoured with such generous and continuing support and friendship from HE The Hon. Alexander Downer, High Commissioner for Australia, and his wife Nicola, who were our guests of honour at the Prom. With the help of a new enthusiastic and hard-working Tait Artistic Planning Committee, we again formed a near all-Australian chamber orchestra, a number of whom have been supported by the Trust in their studies. Our conductor Jessica Cottis, who is chairing this committee, is fast gaining recognition internationally for her work, and we are so very lucky to have her inspirational guidance as we continue to support the next generation of talented young Australians who come here to complete their studies.
We dedicated our first work, Mozart‘s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra K364 to our much loved Patron, The Dowager Countess of Harewood, on the occasion of her 90th Birthday. Once a professional violinist herself, this has special meaning for her. We are so grateful for Lady Harewood’s patronage over much of our 25 years – that she has wanted to share our cause has been very gratifying, and immensely helpful to us. A very happy 90th Birthday!
We are also deeply indebted to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, who have been our Principal Partner for the past three years. We hope, as they see the important work we do for the young Australians in this highly competitive arts marketplace here, that their very welcome support will continue.
Chevalier Richard Gunter has once again generously sponsored our venue, this time the marvellous St John‘s Smith Square, and to our many individual sponsors and loyal supporters, all of whom we gratefully acknowledge below: we are so pleased to see your sponsorship growing year-on-year – we can‘t do without you!
Please continue to help us in any way you can (Click here for further information). Next year is our 25th anniversary and our work goes on! Happy Christmas, we look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Isla Baring OAM
The Tait Memorial Trust
Tait Winter Prom Angels
Chev. Richard Gunter (Hire of the Hall)
The Hon. Sarah Joiner (Programme printing)
Mrs Jan Gowrie-Smith (Conductor)
The Linbury Trust
The Bernays Trust
Mr Kerry Rubie
Lady Rosa Lipworth CBE
Dame Norma Major DBE
Mrs Pamela Le Couter
Mr Patrick Kennedy
Mrs Lyn Robertson
Mr & Mrs J Bryant
Mr Christin Odey
Supported the Orchestra
Mr Peter Box
Mrs Katherine Scholfield
Mrs Lynette Braithwaite
The Hon. Susan Baring OBE
Mrs June Mendoza AM OBE
Countess of Portsmouth
Mr Henry Lumley
The Hon. Mrs Patricia Wyndham
Australia Day Foundation
Royal Over-Seas League
Australian Women‘s Club, London
The Cook Society
Roses Only UK
Raffle Prize donors
West Green Opera
Bobby Williams, Video
Hannan Images, Photo
Artistic Planning Committee
The Tait Chamber Orchestra
The Tait Committee
The Sidney Nolan Trust
We are very grateful for the support that we receive from
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Tait Grainger Patron £10,000+
Julian Baring Family*
The Estate of Lady Mackerras*
Tait Sutherland Benefactor £5,000+
Sir David & Lady Higgins*
Mr John Frost AM*
Tait Bonynge Partner £3,000+
The Estate of Peggy Haim
Tait Helpmann Circle £1,000+
Mrs Jan Gowrie-Smith
Chevalier Richard Gunter
Mr & Mrs David Hunter
Mr Albert Kwok & Mrs Stephanie McGregor
Mr Andrew Loewenthal & Ms Eugenie White*
The Thornton Foundation
Mrs Margaret Rodgers
Mrs Jacqueline Thompson & Mr Damian Walsh
Mr Michael Whalley
Ms Karen Goldie-Morrison*
Ms Louise Worthington*
VEC Acorn Trust
TMT Frank & Viola Friends £500+
Mr Julian Agnew
Mr & Mrs Christopher Braithwaite
Mr Hugh Bayne
Tait Amis Supporter £250+
Mr John Coke
The Hon. Sarah Joiner
Mrs Anne Longdon
Mr & Mrs Jan Pethick
Mr Kerry Rubie
The Hon. Sir R. Storey Bt CBE
TMT Friends £75+
Miss Marylyn Abbott
Mr Eric Adler
Mrs June Allison
Ms Ariadne Jane Baring
The Hon. Mark Baring
The Hon. Susan Baring OBE
Mrs Nina Bialoguski
Mr Lindsay Birrell
Ms Sue Bradbury
Viscountess Harriet Bridgeman
Mrs Diana Burley
Mrs Lorraine Buckland
Mrs Jane Butter
Mr Marcus Clapham
Mrs Sandra Clapham
Mr John Crisp
Ms Fay Curtin
Mr Roger Davenport
Mrs Anne Davidson
Mrs Celeste Ekerick
Mr Edward Field
Dr Rodney Foale
Miss Rosemary Frischer
Mr Phillip Hart
Dr John Keets
Mr Patrick Kennedy
Mr Martin Kramer
Mrs Wendy Kramer
Lady Rosa Lipworth CBE
Mr Henry Lumley
Miss Joanna McCallum
Ms Sue McGregor
Ms Lisa Orlov
Ms Mary Rayner
Mr John Rendall
Ms Jacqueline Rowlands
Ms Katherine Scholfield
Mr Ian Tegner
Mrs Annette Thorp
Rev John Wates OBE
*Adopt a Performer
The Australian Charity Art Auction is an event that will be taking place at Australia House on 28 February 2017. We are delighted to be supporting the event. Both before and at the event more than 50 Australian artworks will be auctioned in aid of a number of much loved and very worthwhile UK based charities that have Australian connections.
There will be an on-line silent auction over the two weeks leading up to the event (starting on Wednesday 15 February) and a live auction conducted by a Christie’s auctioneer at the event itself.
The event will also feature a reception and a concert performed by some wonderful Australian singers, musicians and music scholars.
Jakab Kaufmann is a successful bassoonist from Sydney now based in Europe. He trained as an orchestral musician and a conductor in Sydney before moving to Basel where he studied early music at the renowned Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
Now living in Bern, he has established himself as a freelance musician working with ensembles and orchestras in Switzerland, Germany and the UK, playing on both modern and historical instruments. One of his upcoming ventures is a new, innovative production of Rameau’s Pygmalion with his colleagues in the London-based Ensemble Molière. Speaking to Jakab, I asked him about his work and this exciting new project:
How does an orchestral musician make the leap to specialising in early music, particularly after studying to be a conductor?
While I was studying conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium, I was asked to play baroque bassoon for the early music ensemble’s performance of Gluck’s “The Pilgrims to Mecca.” I’d never played this instrument before and I thought it sounded horrible but once I braved the potential embarrassment of playing in front of other people, I discovered the incredible resonance within an ensemble. I started playing more and more and learned to love the difficulties of playing such a different instrument. There seemed to be so much to learn and enjoy from playing music on an instrument so distantly related to the one I’d previously dedicated my life to.
Like so many Australian musicians you decided to move overseas. I am interested to know why you chose Switzerland? Was it your first choice?
I decided a long time ago that I wanted to move to the German speaking world and in 2011, I attended a summer school at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I spent a month there improving my German and I still have a soft spot for that city. My path changed however and whilst I still entertain the idea of returning to conducting someday, my goal quickly re-focussed on being a well-rounded musician in whatever form it took. I flew to Europe in 2013 and travelled around, doing masterclasses on both modern and baroque bassoons, and visiting different teachers until I decided on Basel and its famous Schola were perfect for me. It’s a very international school with a great balance of academic research and performance-based projects. The community is very positive and creative, which lead to some great friendships and fantastic opportunities.
The UK can be quite a distant world to the continent without the right connections. How did you began to work here?
I attended the Dartington International Summer School’s Baroque Orchestra Programme with a scholarship in 2013. The environment there is so open and relaxed that it’s conducive to amazing opportunities. I made friends with many different musicians there, including established professional musicians who have been able to organise projects with me. In addition to various audition processes, I’ve also reconnected with a lot of friends from Sydney who have moved to the UK. The life of a freelance musician is very much dependant on who you know and luckily, some lovely people have helped me get my name out there.
As a founding member of the young early music group, Ensemble Molière could you tell me about your work and the repertoire you play?
We first played together in this combination in 2014 at the Dartington International Summer School and the first piece we played was the “Deuxième récréation de musique” by Jean-Marie Leclair. That experience made us realise that we worked well as an ensemble and that we all wanted to play more French music. Since then we’ve gone on to perform concerts in Brighton, Graz, Bruges and Utrecht, as well as more regular concerts in London.
We were lucky enough to participate in the Brighton Early Music Festival’s Early Music Live! Scheme in 2015 and we were invited to return for our own concert in the 2016 Festival. We’ve expanded our repertoire and recorded our music and we’re always looking for opportunities to push the boundaries of the modern-concert programme.
French music retains an element of mystery today and I was curious as to why you think we don’t see enough of it on today’s concert programmes:
When you study music in English and German-speaking schools, French music before Debussy rarely gets a look in. The truth is, Paris has played a more important role in music than Vienna or London at various points throughout history. For example, in the Middle Ages, the French-speaking world was essentially the musical centre of Europe. That changed with the printing press, the migration of Netherlandish musicians to Italy, and of course, the reformation.
However, the French court at Versailles was an incredible force for artistic support and the “French Baroque” led to some of the most unique music this world has ever known. Because of the rivalry with the Italians and the influence of kings like Louis XIV, French musicians played very different instruments in a very different way. The wind instruments were built in another way, the string players used different bows, and the keyboard instruments had their own designs. The performers would also use very individual ornaments, which some composers like Couperin took the time to write down with full explanations. The music itself is sometimes harmonically dissimilar to the German high-baroque masters that people tend to think of and it can also feel more static than the repetitive patterns of the Venetians like Vivaldi. I think this is why performers have, in the past, neglected the nuanced and delicate sounds of France. The good news is that French music is constantly being rediscovered!
Your upcoming project at festivals in London and Brighton will see a new take on French Opera.Could you tell me a bit about the project’s background?
As our first large-scale project, we wanted to explore a genre that is not commonly addressed by chamber groups but is incredibly important to the French Baroque: Opera. Rameau’s greatest contributions to music include his solo keyboard works, his theoretical writings and his many operas. The forces required to perform them are so large that most opera companies don’t stage his works too often. As a result, his music doesn’t get heard often enough. We thought we would bring one of his shorter operas, at 45 minutes, to the people with a more accessible medium with a smaller ensemble on stage.
Rameau’s Pygmalion is based on the original Greek legend of a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation. Most people today would be more familiar with the George Bernard Shaw version which came much later, and led to the even-more popular “My Fair Lady.” We’ve teamed up with artist Kate Anderson and director Karolina Sofulak to present a live performance of the opera with animation and simplified surtitles, so as to make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
I would be interested to know about what stage the project is in? What are your plans for such an ambitious undertaking, how are they progressing and how can audiences can help?
We’re still at the funding stage which is looking very promising. We will be applying to the Arts Council for a grant to make the project happen once we’ve secured enough funding from other sources. We’ve started a crowdfunder to collect an initial investment of £3000 by 9th January. This would show the Arts Council that we have support from both the artistic and wider community for this project. We’ve been offering rewards ranging from Thank-You tweets right up to private concerts in peoples’ homes. If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder site with a video explaining the project can be found here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ensemble-moliere. Any help is always appreciated as we’re very passionate about getting this project off the ground and onto the stage.
As you can see, Jakab is dedicated to expanding the confines of the contemporary musical experience. We wish him and his ensemble all the best for this exciting project. We are thrilled to see Australian musicians like himself pushing the boundaries and we can’t wait to see where his career takes him next.
Please click hereif you would like to be a part of Rameau’s, Pygmalion, with Ensemble Molière
Viola, Lady Tait’s zest for life was an inspiration. These qualities remained with her always together with a remarkable memory, clarity of mind and youthful outlook. With a prodigious vocal talent she excelled in the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, beginning as a chorister with the Carl Rosa Company in the United Kingdom, graduating to the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and was given a year’s contract as principal soprano. Accepting a contract to tour Australia in 1940, she was to meet and marry her future husband, Frank Tait.
She was a champion of new and emerging talent, adjudicating for numerous scholarships and awards both in Australia and overseas. As an adjudicator for The Mobil Quest in 1950, Viola was instrumental in launching Joan Sutherland’s career. This passion for supporting young artists continued throughout her life, in 1992 she inspired her daughter, Isla Baring, to organise a fundraising concert in support of a young Australian singer, Liane Keegan, who was newly arrived in London. It kicked off with a Christmas Concert at Australia House. The concert was a great success and became the foundation of our yearly events. Liane went on to have a major international career, she sang Erda in the recent Opera Australia, Ring Cycle.
In 1984, the Performing Arts Collection, housed at the then newly opened Victorian Arts Centre, received a significant donation from Lady Tait of 300 costume designs by leading European theatrical designers of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The designs had been imported for use in re-staging productions in Australasia by the commercial theatre management J.C. Williamson Ltd and its forerunners.
Another of her loves was writing and researching Australian theatrical history. She amassed a formidable collection of theatrical memorabilia and was the author of The Family of Brothers(1971), which chronicled the contribution of the Tait brothers to Australian theatre.
Her last book, Dames, Principal Boys and all that: A History of Pantomine in Australia (2001) was lavishly launched at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, the home of the Tait-Williamson empire. When Viola’s death was announced the illuminated sign outside the Theatre read “Farewell Lady Tait, Star”.
Viola Wilson (1938-39)
Source: The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive
[Born Pressburg, Austria-Hungary 1 Nov 1911, died Melbourne, Australia 6 Feb 2002]
Viola Wilson, whose real name was Viola Hogg, studied singing for six years at the Scottish National Academy of Music. In 1935 she was engaged by the Carl Rosa Opera Company and sang in the chorus of Die Fledermaus at the Lyceum Theatre, London. After tours of the British Isles and South Africa, she graduated to principal soprano.
Upon returning to London she auditioned with D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and was given a year’s contract as principal soprano, taking Viola Wilson (her maternal grandfather’s name) as her stage name at Rupert D’Oyly Carte’s suggestion. From May 1938 to June 1939 she appeared with the Company as Patience in Patience, Phyllis in Iolanthe, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, and Gianetta in The Gondoliers. Three of these parts were shared with other artists at various times: Patience and Phyllis with Ann Drummond-Grant until December 1938, and Gianetta with Helen Roberts. Miss Wilson also appeared on occasion in 1938-39 as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore and Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard. She left the D’Oyly Carte in June 1939.
Viola Wilson then accepted an offer from Nevin Tait, J. C. Williamson’s London director to tour Australia and New Zealand in the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In the 1940-42 Williamson tour she appeared as Aline in The Sorcerer, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Casilda in The Gondoliers, Princess Ida in Princess Ida, Rose, Patience, Phyllis, and Elsie. While in Australia, she met and married Frank Tait, later Sir Frank, the youngest of the five Tait brothers who were then running the Williamson Company. She retired as a singer in 1946 but remained involved with the Williamson Company, serving for a time as an artistic director.
Following Sir Frank Tait’s death in 1965, Lady Viola Tait, as she was then known, wrote an informal history of the Williamson-Tait partnership. In “A Family of Brothers: The Taits and J. C. Williamson; a Theatre History” (William Heinemann, Melbourne, 1971) she also provides a good deal of information about her own life and career.
Lady Tait retained her interest in the performing arts thoughout her life and was a patron of many arts organizations, including the Tait Memorial Trust. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Performing Arts Museum in Melbourne, and was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1990. In her later years she published a book on the history of pantomime in Australia, “Dames, Principal Boys…and All That” (Macmillan, Melbourne, 2001)
Wonderful article published in Limelight Magazine about Brian Castles-Onion’s quest to save and share the recordings from Australia’s operatic past. Volume 1 sold out (let’s hope they press some more CDs). These recordings have particular significance for the Trust as Isla Baring’s father, Sir Frank Tait, produced this tour as part of the JC Williamson/ Sutherland Opera Company. It was Sir Frank’s ambition to present Dame Joan Sutherland to the Australian public after her international acclaim. The Sutherland Williamson Opera Company was formed in 1963. Richard Bonynge as Artistic Director engaged a team of world renowned principals and internationally successful Australian artists. One of the principals was Luciano Pavarotti, a young tenor from Modena. The chorus was all Australian. There was no government subsidy and the fate of Williamson’s future rested on the success of the venture.
Sir Frank lived to see his ambition fulfilled. The triumphant Melbourne opening heralded the return of Dame Joan to her homeland. It was a season never to be forgotten. In Richard Bonynge’s words: “Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.”
Sir Frank died at the age of 81 after the Melbourne season finished and while the company were in Adelaide. It was the end of an era in the history of Australian theatre.
We are thrilled that Maestro Castles-Onion has produced a professionally mastered collection of recordings, not only of the Tour but also of Robert Allman, June Bronhill & Nance Grant. It truly is a remarkable achievement.
The opera conductor has taken on the task of ensuring that these Aussie greats are not forgotten.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by many singers of celebrity. These famous names were not only on record – having collected opera recordings from the age of four – but also personal friends. Over two decades ago, when I first realised the need to preserve old tapes to CD format, I wrote to four dozen singers who had performed in Australia in the decades since the 1940s, asking if they had any ‘recordings’ of themselves. Most of these Australian-born singers had never been offered the luxury of studio recordings and the only captures of their voices and artistry were from ‘live’ performances on tape. These primitive sound relics, which have lain silent for decades, hold a wealth of wonderful voices, which are our operatic history!
La Sonnambula from the Sutherland- Williamson Grand Opera Season of 1965. Photo from Brian Castles-Onion’s Private Collection
Three years ago, I commenced the Great Australian Voices series on Désirée Records in the hope that future generations would have the opportunity to hear how their musical ancestors sounded, what they sang, how they sang, who they sang with and what they thought about their roles.
So far, Nance Grant, Robert Allman and June Bronhill have each been honoured with 3CD sets. Nance and Bob were close friends for many years. Bob eventually became like an uncle and we spoke daily. I knew his thoughts and opinions on the world of opera – then and now – and he was the obvious choice for the premiere set of the series. He was the greatest Australian baritone of his era at a time when we boasted also the voices of John Shaw and Raymond Myers! His voice and art had not been captured in the recording studio… a profound oversight.
The first CD release set the format – a complete audio coverage from the earliest broadcasts in singing competitions to the ‘final’ stage performance; an accurate biography containing important casts and dates; personal thoughts on favourite roles and colleagues, with rare photographs on and off-stage. Even their favourite colour has been chosen for the cover and CD artwork! The Allman set was completed and came from the manufacturer two weeks before his untimely death. Bob had the pleasure of knowing that his operatic career had been preserved to be heard by future generations.
Nance Grant was one of the greatest of all Australian sopranos. Christian Thielemann told me personally that he considered her to be one of the three greatest Sieglindes he’s ever heard on record. (High praise for a singer who never had the opportunity to sing outside Australia!) Her final performance shows her shining on high Ds with a Nilsson-like brilliance in arrangements created for Joan Sutherland.
June Bronhill’s recording career was extensive but her ‘opera’ career had not been documented. Unlike the previous releases, I was unable to interview her in person because she died in 2004 and her autobiography does not show what I believe to be the ‘real’ Bronhill. Despite this, I contacted a dozen friends and colleagues who had known her and succeeded in producing what has been called the ‘definitive Bronhill biography’.
The long-awaited release of the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Season of 1965 has been enormously popular. The excerpts on this 4CD set, recorded in less-than-studio conditions, display the essence of Sutherland in full flight. Here is a full, healthy voice wedded to an immaculate vocal technique, innate musicality and a generosity of stage presence that personified ‘La Stupenda’. All the operas in the 1965 season are represented – with and without Sutherland. The original tapes range in audio quality from excellent (those recorded by ‘management’ from placed microphones on the proscenium) to those recorded by a hidden microphone in a coat lapel. These audience recordings capture the more unusual partnerships like Joan Sutherland and Alberto Remedios in Lucia, or Elizabeth Harwood and Luciano Pavarotti, also in Lucia.
Many more surprises are in the pipeline. Two sets will hit the shelves in the early part of 2017. One honouring Australia’s greatest ever soprano and the other an international star who had their career tragically cut short. But no more hints…
– See more at: http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/features/brian-castles-onion-preserving-la-stupenda#sthash.yRT4vLzI.dpuf
Concert at St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico
Monday, 23rd January at 7 for 7.30pm
This concert is dedicated to the memory of Janet Alstergren Webb (1944 – 2016), beloved friend of the Tait Family.
We are thrilled to confirm that ABC Classics Artists, Seraphim Trio, will perform for us on Monday the 23rd January at St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico. Join us as we venture into the Viennese salon of Beethoven and Schubert. Our program captures the explosion of Beethoven into Viennese life with his first publication and the devastating inner explorations of Schubert during his last year. Our journey promises to be an adventure of sound, emotion and conversation.
The proceeds from this concert will go towards our awards for 2017.
Beethoven Op. 1 No. 1 (25 mins)
2. Adagio cantabile
3. Scherzo: Allegro assai
4. Finale: Presto
Schubert trio in E flat Op. 100 (45 mins)
2. Andante con moto
3. Scherzando: Allegro moderato
4. Allegro moderato
Over the last two decades, Helen Ayres, Anna Goldsworthy and Tim Nankervis have remained steadfastly committed to chamber music – from building the contemporary repertoire, to developing new audiences and teaching the next generation of performers. Inspiring others through intelligent programming and a deep knowledge and love of chamber music, Seraphim Trio never fails to delight audiences.
“…absolute sonic cohesion and uniform musical maturity…a masterclass in chamber music technique and ensemble.” The Australian
“One of Australia’s finest” ArtsHub
“It’s important to acknowledge technical achievement but this performance was about so much more. The Seraphims delivered Beethoven’s music with empathy, not just for the composer’s intention, but also for each other’s contribution to the work.” ArtsHub
Winners of the Piano Trio Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the Australian National Chamber Music Competition in 2001 (now the Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competition), Seraphim Trio has regularly performed at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, the Adelaide Festival of Arts, the Peninsular Summer Music Festival and in 2013, Opera Australia’s Ring Festival in Melbourne.
Alongside its acclaimed subscription series Seraphim Trio is frequently broadcast on ABC Classic FM and on the MBS network, and maintains a robust commissioning program, having recently premiered new works by Graeme Koehne, Andrew Ford, Elena Kats-Chernin, Calvin Bowman, Anne Boyd, Benjamin Martin, James Ledger. Seraphim frequently collaborates with Australia’s leading musicians: most recently with Diana Doherty, Paul Dean, Lisa Harper-Brown and David Elton.
The group has studied in Germany with Hatto Beyerle, and in Australia with William Hennessy, Eleonora Sivan, Mark Mogilevski, Ronald Farren-Price and Lois Simpson.
We are delighted to confirm that Helen Ayres has joined our Music Board. Helen is a Doctoral graduate from the University of Melbourne where she studied with Mark Mogilevsky and completed research into the music of the Romanian violinist and composer George Enescu, and served as Acting Head of Strings in 2007.
We were very lucky to have Helen as our concertmaster in our recent Tait Winter Prom, her experience and leadership was a pivotal part of the Tait Chamber Orchestra’s success. Helen is also a member of the internationally acclaimed, Seraphim Trio.
Their new CD, Beethoven Piano Trios is available to buy from the ABC online here
Helen is a Doctoral graduate from the University of Melbourne where she studied with Mark Mogilevsky and completed research into the music of the Romanian violinist and composer George Enescu, and served as Acting Head of Strings in 2007. She is a core member of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and its flagship ensemble, the Australian Octet.
Helen has previously held a full-time position with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared as guest principal with Orchestra Victoria and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
Helen has tutored for the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Young Australian Concert Artists and Young Symphonists programs, continuing a long association that started when she toured as concertmaster of the AYO to Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Europe and America.
As a regular chamber music recitalist and founding member of the Seraphim Trio, Helen is a guest of the Sydney International Piano competition and appears at music festivals throughout Australia.
Helen’s solo repertoire includes the Sibelius, Beethoven triple and Brahms double concertos. Her previous teachers have been Alice Waten, William Hennessy and Beryl Kimber. She currently lives in London where she performs as a member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and is undertaking a year of pedagogical observation at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Helen is delighted to have performed as Concertmaster of the Tait Chamber Orchestra.
Anna is a founding member of Seraphim Trio, and records for the ABC Classics label. She is currently a Lecturer at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Research Fellow at the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice at the University of Adelaide, and Kenneth Moore Memorial Music Scholar at Janet Clarke Hall. Described by The Australian as a ‘musical ambassador’, and the Sydney Morning Herald as “one of the very best young non-fiction writers in Australia”, Anna Goldsworthy is an award-winning pianist and writer. Her first book, Piano Lessons, is an Australian best-seller and has been released in the United States and Korea, adapted for the stage, and is currently in development as a film. Anna’s writing has appeared in The Monthly, The Age, The Australian, and Best Australian Essays. Her new memoir Welcome to Your New Life is now available and her Quarterly Essay was released in June 2013.
Timothy studied at the Australian Institute of Music with Lois Simpson, graduating with Honours in 1998. He was awarded a Big Brother scholarship in 1995 and travelled to London where he studied with William Pleeth and Raphael Wallfisch. In 1999, he took up a scholarship to study with Vadim Chervov at the Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music in Kiev.
He returned to Australia and completed his Master’s degree at the University of Melbourne in 2002, studying with Nelson Cooke. He has also studied with Georg Pedersen, Denise Lawrence and David Berlin and prior to his appointment with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, he was enrolled as a Doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne.
In 2000 he performed in a competition at the Australian National Academy of Music and was one of two musicians selected to perform as a soloist with Orchestra Victoria, playing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. Timothy Nankervis has won numerous awards for cello performance and chamber music and is a member of the acclaimed Seraphim Trio as well as performing with the Sydney Soloists and Linden String Trio. In 2004 and 2008, he performed with his colleague from the Seraphim Trio, violinist Helen Ayres, in the Sydney International Piano Competition to provide competitors with a piano trio for the chamber music component of the competition.
As a soloist, Timothy Nankervis has performed throughout Australia and has featured in numerous broadcasts for ABC Classic FM and 2MBS-FM.