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Orchestra Collective rehearse and play Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in one day at Churchlands

A heroic project to match a heroic work, the Orchestra Collective will rehearse and perform Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 “Eroica” in one day at Churchlands Concert Hall.

Conductor John Keene, who founded the group last year to bring emerging musicians and professionals together, said the Symphony in a Day concept was common in the Eastern States, challenging participants to bring a piece up to concert standard in a short period.

“It is unusual for Australian orchestras to rehearse and perform a full symphony in such a short amount of time, and this is what adds to its intrigue,” Keene says.

“However, it is not an impossible task — many English orchestras perform concerts with very little rehearsal time, and so the concert actually can provide excellent training for any student musician wishing to perhaps perform in English orchestras one day.”

John Keene.
Camera IconJohn Keene. Credit: Nik Babic

Leonard Bernstein described the opening chords of the Eroica as “whiplashes that shattered the elegant formality of the 18th century”.

“It is both challenging but enjoyable to play, and Beethoven has written interesting parts for every single instrument, even down to the timpani, for example, with its military drum rolls in the second movement,” Keene says.

“It is also a thrilling symphony for audiences. There is also the metaphoric element — achieving this Symphony in a Day will be a heroic feat!”

Audiences were starved of the Romantic composer last year, the 250th anniversary of his birth, and the appeal remains strong.

“Beethoven is so enduring because he is so incredibly distinct and eccentric,” Keene says.

“His music was highly disruptive in its time, and I believe it is both this disruptive element as well as his adhesion to the Classical period aesthetic that creates a unique, almost stand-alone, sub-genre of music.

“His music is both enjoyable and fun to listen to but is also quirky enough to perk up the listener’s ear when Beethoven has written in something crazy and out-there.”

The Orchestra Collective was founded last year amid COVID curbs to provide a transitional experience for students moving into an orchestral career, sitting them side-by-side with professionals.

The inaugural concert included a dynamic rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, sometimes known as “the apotheosis of the dance”, and expectations run high.

“There seems to be widespread interest among university, and even now secondary, music students, for future OC programs,” Keene says.

“Many of them were grateful for the opportunity and feedback from the first concert was excellent. Many students said it was an invaluable learning opportunity and that it was the best orchestral concert they’ve played in.

“The professionals really enjoyed playing in the first concert and are excited to mentor the students in future concerts.”

One more concert for the year will feature Shaun Lee-Chen, concertmaster of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and UWA lecturer, as soloist.

Symphony in a Day is on Sunday, May 23, 3pm to 4pm, at Churchlands Concert Hall.

Tickets from www.trybooking.com/BPSBW.

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