When was the last time you went to see a local community orchestra perform? How about a gig with no booze? How about a concert at a local school?

The North Sydney Symphony Orchestra did just that on the weekend and perhaps it was the best* live and local collaborative event in the city on Saturday night. 100’s of punters of all ages and persuasions. This group no how to bring locals together.

Featuring 19yr old pianist Bo An Lu, the winner of the 102.5FM Young Performer of the Year. Celebrating the centenary of Australian composer Dulcie Holland who was one of the founders of the orchestra. The orchestra put together an outstanding show. Marion Arnold from ABC Classic FM hosted the event sponsored by Fine Music 102.5.

This event was a massive not-for-profit community effort in celebration of live and local music. Isn’t that exactly what our city planners are searching for?

With Steven Hillinger holding the stick and Shuti Huang leading the string section this tight-nit diverse group of musicians performed an epic program; HOLLAND Summer’s End, LISZT Piano Concerto No.1 and SCHUBERT Symphony No.9. Great live music with a full house at Smith Auditorium Shore School Blue Street, North Sydney.

“Basically, the NSSO is DIY. We have to fend almost entirely for our own survival. The new venues have increased our costs by tenfold. The only way we will remain viable is to grow our audience. For this concert, we undertook our biggest publicity campaign ever, including our volunteering members doing a letterbox drop of 15,000 leaflets.”
– Dr Antony Lau, NSSO President.

What struck me about this performance by the NSSO was how well this large group of different musicians work together. Local councils, Lord Mayor of North Sydney Jilly Gibson , the City of Sydney, Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, State and National Governments have a challenge. They regularly hold ‘seminars’ focused on discussing ways by which we can use the arts to create a well integrated and socially progressive community. I think the NSSO might have part of a solution.

“The North Sydney Symphony Orchestra is one of the better community orchestras I’ve played with. There are some wonderful players, and the concertmaster Steven Hillinger is from the Sydney Symphony himself.”
– Simon Tedeschi

When the NSSO, and the other community orchestras across Australia, hold an event they do something special. They offer something the major performing arts organisations can’t. These volunteer family facilitated local music collaborative events brings 100’s of musicians, creatives, friends and families together in a positive, educational and culturally open way. Isn’t that exactly what our council members are looking for?!

60 artists performing together in harmony. 60 people working towards a common goal for the pleasure of others. Classical music might not be your sort of thing but at least it’s better than nothing.

If our local councils, state, and national governments are serious about supporting the arts they should consider putting a little more into the various local community orchestra. They have the cash to start providing better rehearsal spaces and concert venues.

The City of Sydney is working hard to find new ways to spend millions of dollars on events and culturally rich projects that fuel an alcohol free night time economy. Perhaps they should take a good hard look at the substantial opportunity these local orchestras provide. I’d be happy to put together a report if that helps. I know the local restaurants and cafes put on extra staff to cater for the extra business.

But what about contemporary music?
Excellent question. And something we will continue to discuss. But for now…

If you can show me a contemporary music collaborative that brings together 60 diverse musicians for a cross cultural family friendly audience that perform in a local accessible public space for less than $30 then let’s get behind that too!

Shouldn’t our arts and culture tax dollars be spent on artistic projects that involve large numbers of artists? It’s not a matter of genre or style. It’s a matter of shared cultural vibrancy. Sixty people playing classical music is more culturally vibrant than one person playing rock in a pub. It gives larger numbers of people the opportunity to practice, connect, perform and expand artistically. The pay-off benefits more artists.