‘The Sound of Music’
‘Beecroft’s reputation for adventurous excursions into music making was undoubtedly enhanced by this concert and if Nigel Butterley as musical director can conjure up more programs as alive and entertaining as this one, Beecroft could become a mecca for those who regard music as a thing to be relished rather than endured,’ wrote Kenneth Robbins in the Bulletin, referring to a Bach and Jazz concert.
Another memorable comment came from Fred Blanks, the music critic for the S.M.H. about the Children’s Percussion Concert: ‘The noise the children made would chase all the devils out of Beecroft.’
Yes! Music was in the air in Beecroft in those days – between thirty and forty years ago.
It was born on 1st August 1967, christened the Beecroft Music Club, spent its infancy at St. John’s Church, and later moved to the Concert Hall of the Presbyterian Church. The change was indicative, one might say, of its pluralistic nature. It was robust from birth and was sustained, as Kenneth Robbins said, with programs ‘alive, adventurous and entertaining’. Those ‘alive, adventurous and entertaining’ programs each year comprised eight Pre-Concert Student Recitals, eight Chamber Music Series, and six Children’s Concert Series.
Then there were those concerts that, while under the auspices of the Club, were presented in venues outside Beecroft, one of them and perhaps the most ambitious, was that staged at Macquarie University by the Baroque Chamber Players, all of whom were professors of the University of Indiana. What was special and indeed memorable, besides the delightful personalities of each of the Players, was that the event comprised master classes during the afternoon for the Harpsichord, Flute, Oboe and Double Bass, followed by an evening workshop concert. The Players’ reputation preceded them. It was described as ‘nothing less than flawless’ by Harold Schonberg writing for the New York Times, and was indeed demonstrated both in performance and in master class.
Other highlights in which the Club was involved included its management of the first professional concert given by the Renaissance Players in the Cell Block Theatre, concerts given by musicians in the Club for the International Society of Contemporary Music in the same venue, a Vietnam Moratorium Concert in the Round House, University of N.S.W. and a ‘Bach and Jazz Concert’ in the courtyard of Macquarie University.
While these have been singled out as highlights, the Club’s standard programs of traditional and contemporary music were no less ‘alive, adventurous and entertaining’, the bulk of them presented by leading Australian artists, including first performances of works by Australian composers. These leading Australian Solo Artists and Ensembles included the Sydney Wind Soloists, the Don Burrows Quintet, Martin Wesley Smith, Frances Hillier, Nigel Butterley, Marilyn Richardson, James Christiansen, John Champ, the Sydney Baroque Soloists, Laira String Quartet, Donald Hazelwood, Marie Van Hove, the Austral Quartet, Carl Pini and the New Dance Theatre.
Australian composers included Martin Wesley Smith, Felix Werder, Nigel Butterley, Ian Farr, Peter Sculthorpe, Richard Meale and a group of young composers including Kim Williams, Nick Negerevich, Gavin Costelow, Richard Kefford and Ross Edwards.
Readers of this article who were members of the Beecroft Music Club and who attended its concerts will be aware that this is only a small selection of the artists who performed during the Club’s existence. Others might well ask, ‘Where is it now, this ‘alive, adventurous and entertaining’ Club? The answer! Well, that big building on Bennelong Point opened in 1974, and our lovers of music needed to sample what was on offer there. Perhaps those who administered the Club became a little weary. Maybe it was a combination of both. It is rather sad, but then again Beecroft has other compensations and it is still a good place to be.
The writer is James Hillier, who served as president of the Club and still resides in that ‘good place to be.’