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CSO Gala, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes ACT


This is Ngunnawal Country. Today we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.

Thank you, Genevieve [Jacobs AM], and good evening everyone.

It is an absolute delight to be with you this evening. 

Linda and I take great joy from our association with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

The first reason, which I’ll come to in more detail shortly, is the inspirational work it does in our community, promoting the arts, championing our artists and creating pathways for the next generation.

The second, perhaps more selfish reason, is that like you we are unabashed and enthusiastic fans.

The CSO is a Canberra icon — an orchestra of which we Canberrans can all be proud.

I think that Australians like to think of ourselves punching above our weight — the CSO truly does.

That it continues to do so is to the absolute credit of its members, those behind the scenes and the supporters.

So, firstly, let me say thank you and well done to all involved.

I can’t tell you how saddened Linda and I were when the decision to cancel this year’s Summer Concert had to be made. Seeing the word 'cancelled' stamped on the CSO Events website was deflating.

Saddened and deflated at the loss of an opportunity to hear some wonderful music, but also at the loss of an opportunity to provide an uplifting and celebratory note in the lives of Canberrans after a difficult three years.

This experience of sadness underlines for me the importance of music in periods like we have just experienced and, indeed, still are in many areas. Some examples of the uplifting effect of music:

  • Fijian engineers in Bairnsdale
  • Fijian workers in Lismore
  • Musica Viva and Resound helping to replace instruments at the Northern Rivers Conservatorium
  • Cobargo Folk Festival

In good times and bad, music resonates with each of us on a personal level. It also brings people together. There is something deeply profound about experiencing music with others, something very human and vital to our community.

On that note, and to the purpose of the evening, it doesn’t just happen. It takes work and it is worth treasuring, supporting and investing in.

That is true generally and especially true in relation to the CSO.

I could spend all night extolling the virtues and achievements of the orchestra. Better, perhaps, to allow time for Jessica [Cottis] to speak and more wonderful ensemble performances.

Suffice to say that the presence of an innovative and vibrant orchestra creates a platform for influential projects such as:

  • The rediscovering music program for people with hearing loss, which brings together music and audiology expertise to help people at their most vulnerable.
  • Supporting young musicians with specialised training and mentorship and new commissions for Australian composers through the Kingsland Pathways Program, led by Concert Master Kirsten Williams. I know Kirsten is here tonight. Thank you, Kirsten, for what you are doing to ensure classical and art music remain a living art form.
  • Initiatives that make music accessible to more people, such as the CSO’s new program of autism-friendly performances in schools.
  • The longstanding collaboration with the Painting with Parkinson’s art therapy program. I know that there is a piece of original art created through Painting with Parkinson’s being auctioned tonight — a very visible sign of the therapeutic power of music.

Your support makes these life-changing programs and the orchestra’s unique and compelling concert series possible. Thank you for the support you have provided and your ongoing commitment.

If I can end with a commitment of my own. 

While we’ve been able to welcome CSO for smaller concerts at Government House in the last two years, a combination of the weather and the pandemic have prevented the annual Prom from being held.

I’m not going to tempt fate by saying we can guarantee good weather in 2023, but I can and will say that we are desperate to welcome thousands of Canberrans and the CSO back onto the grounds.

I’m an optimist by nature. We will make it work and welcome you all back onto the grounds. It will be bigger and better than ever and a true celebration of both the CSO and the power of music.

Enjoy the evening, thank you for your support of the CSO and we look forward to seeing you in 2023.