Lifestyle The Arts Rocking the Concert Hall
Rocking the Concert Hall
Written by Jan Hallam


The chorus is under the direction of Dr Margaret Pride, who manages to conjole the very best out of her volunteers and when you see the quality of professional musicians she has them perform with, there’s little wonder that the 100-strong chorus rises to every occasion.

Next month, Brahms magnificent German Requiem is on the play list and internationally renowned Sydney organist David Drury will be part of the orchestral ensemble accompanying the choir. As well as a soloist, David is also a composer, Director of Music at St Paul’s College, University of Sydney, he plays keyboard for the progressive band, Resonaxis and is director of the David Jones Staff Christmas Choir.

Medical Forum despatched a series of questions to David while he was on holiday and he kindly answered them for our deadline. He writes about his work and his love of the big sounds of the organ and what we can expect when he, Brahms and the PSC rock the Perth Concert Hall on September 23.

What led you to the organ and who inspired you?

My interest in the organ was a journey from being the son of a Methodist minister who discovered the music of J.S. Bach via a recording, then learning at Trinity Grammar School in Sydney. I had a great choirmaster/teacher at the school. We also had a chapel and a fine organ so they were my building blocks.

You have played on some of the world’s great cathedral organs … tell me what that feels like having such power at your touch? And equally playing such emotionally charged music?

This is reason you do it really. The architecture, the sheer size of the buildings, and the acoustics as well as the organs. Some of them are very powerful and fill the building with sound. When you practice in these spaces, you have to concentrate carefully after the initial thrill so that you control your emotions.

Playing in places such as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on a dazzling French instrument, or the very English sound of the organ in St Paul’s Cathedral, London are so different but equally exciting.

With Christian congregations waning … has church music (and the physical space) become something else to the modern listener?

If you go to an English Cathedral and hear the choir, you can be inspired by the music and get a spiritual experience which is broader than theology. They are also great concert spaces. Great buildings and spaces inspire people, both listeners and composers.

There is a growing hunger in the community to participate in choral singing – what’s the attraction do you think?

I think the attraction is in your question: Community. These days more people are looking for real connection. Food brings people together, so does music. Choirs are great when you have a good leader/teacher. Singing is also good for the brain as well as the lungs!

Great commitment is required to join a high-functioning choir, what qualities are needed to lead such a group?

Patience! If it is a really fine group of musicians, hand-picked or auditioned, then the sky is the limit. Your own passion and drive fuels their interest. Also, you need musicianship and experience over and above the average to lead them to great things.

Your musical interests are broad, tell us a little more about your various projects. What projects excite you?

At the moment I am preparing several recitals programs for Sydney – one in St Mary’s Cathedral this year and one in the Opera House next year as well as a Jewish music festival and a Victorian music hall show. I am also writing electronic dance music as well as some choral music. After Christmas I will be the organist for a choir travelling to sing in English cathedrals – 10 in 16 days to be precise! I will also be playing at Notre Dame again next June. I like diversity and I need it in both my performing as well as my leisure listening.

The organ is no stranger to popular music with the likes of Georgie Fame making it an essential part of the soundscape in the 70s, 80s … where do you see its role in the future?

I also love Rick Wakeman’s use of it in the rock group ‘Yes’ in the 1970s.

I hope the organ will be included by composers well into the future, both classical and fusion, but I do think the great sacred spaces in the world will continue and find a resurgence. No music is too good to introduce to children. We need good music education!

In regards to the Brahms concert with the Perth Symphonic Chorus – it is replacing the wind section of the orchestra. Is there anything it can’t do?

This will be interesting. The organ will be joined by strings, harp and tympani. My job is to make my contribution work well with the instruments and voices. With the right organ, anything is possible.

By Jan Hallam