Music for Our Country raises over $83,000

Music For Our Country raises over $83,000 for bushfire relief

The moving concert at City Recital Hall, one of many organised around the country to raise funds for those affected by the fires, brought together 200 musicians from across Sydney’s classical music scene.

by Angus McPherson on January 31, 2020

Last night’s Music For Our Country concert at City Recital Hall, which was broadcast live on ABC Classic, raised $83,052.05 for bushfire relief, the Sydney venue has announced. The sold-out concert – one of many around the country, and even overseas, organised to raise funds for people and animals affected by this summer’s devastating fires – was put together in a matter of weeks.

Opening with Heartland, a poignant and beautiful Acknowledgement of Country by didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton and violinist Véronique Serret, the concert brought together 200 musicians from across Sydney’s classical music scene, from organisations including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Cantillation, Musica Viva Australia, Pinchgut Opera, Selby & Friends, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and more.

Every one of the musicians waived their fees, as did the technical staff and suppliers, meaning 100 percent of ticket and bar sales could be donated, with the final number also including donations taken on the night. The donations are to be split across several charities, including 40 percent to the Australian Red Cross, 40 percent to WIRES Wildlife Rescue and 20 percent to other charities.

“Last night was a showcase of the immeasurable value and power of music in speaking in a universal language that needs no translation,” City Recital Hall’s CEO Elaine Chia told Limelight.

The concert featured plenty of moving moments, such as the revelation by presenter Margaret Throsby that Sally Whitwell’s soaring 2011 piece Road Trip – performed by the composer and flautist Sally Walker – was inspired in part by mountainous bushland between Sydney and Newcastle that has since been blackened by the fires, or the moving performance of the Dona Nobis Pacem from Bach’s B Minor Mass performed by the combined orchestra, conducted by Erin Helyard, and a choir that filled the aisles of the auditorium.

Luke Byrne conducted his new choral work Earth Rise – which Sydney Philharmonia Choirs premiered on the steps of the Sydney Opera House a little over ten days earlier at its Dawn Chorus concert – while Elena Kats-Chernin and Tamara-Anna Cislowska performed two of Kats-Chernin’s piano duets, The Rain Puzzle and Dance of the Paper Umbrellas. Pianist Kathryn Selby was joined by a quartet of string friends for the fourth movement of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet, while a period instrument outfit gave us Monteverdi’s Chiome d’oro duet – with sopranos Taryn Fiebig and Josie Ryan as soloists – and Rameau’s Forêts Paisibles from Les Indes Galantes, for which Fiebig and Ryan were joined by tenor Koen van Stade and bass Andrew O’Connor. Between the two baroque works was Brooke Green’s recently premiered Phoenix Chaconne, a melancholy dance bookended by Alicia Crossley’s slithering recorder. Helyard conducted the orchestra, led by the ACO’s Helena Rathbone, in the idyllic optimism of Peter Sculthorpe’s Small Town, with wistful oboe solo by the SSO’s Shefali Pryor giving way to the crying Last Post of the trumpets, in tribute to the Australian towns devastated by the fires, before James Burke joined the orchestra for a bright rendition of the third movement from Mozart’s beloved Clarinet Concerto.

While the gravity of the cause for which the musicians gathered was never far from mind, there were some lighter moments, such as Christine Johnston’s wonderful impressions of Australian birds as the quirky Madame Lark, bittersweet in light of the countless birds and animals lost.

Music For Our Country is just one of many concerts and arts events around the country raising money for those affected by the fires, with ensembles large and small putting on benefit concerts, as well as orchestras, opera companies, theatre companies and blockbuster musicals all pitching in to raise funds at their events. Among them, The Chamber Project recently announced it has raised some $20,000 for the NSW Rural Fire Service, across two concerts and donations, while overseas a concert conducted by Simone Young and featuring a formidable line-up of Australian musicians will raise money in London in March. Meanwhile, the Resound program is matching donated musical instruments with musicians affected by the bushfires.

The concert at City Recital Hall came to a close with an ethereal performance of Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ unaccompanied choral setting of the Lux Aeterna and, with the orchestra, the Bach.

“A packed house of over 1200 and countless others across Australia and beyond listened enraptured as our best artists took us on a journey across our country – small town, countryside, landscapes, birdsongs, and finally, a parting sound of peace and unity,” Chia said. “I feel privileged to have been there.”

If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to the concert on ABC Classic.