The Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) has found a way to personalise what sometimes might be regarded as an impersonal artform. It devised a unique programming idea called ‘Symphony For Me’ for the Brisbane Festival, in which ordinary listeners were chosen to talk on stage about their favourite orchestral works and then have them performed by the QSO.
Brisbane nurse Benazir Anwar spoke about how Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake helped her recover from a recent brain tumour. Angela Lathouras of Bundaberg chose Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte to honour a player in the Bundaberg Youth Orchestra who lost her life in a traffic accident. Retired psychologist Tom Walther said his reason for choosing Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony was that one of his former patients found that listening to it proved cathartic in her therapy.
In total, nine works and listeners’ personal stories surrounding them were performed in ‘Symphony For Me’. The free concert was conducted by the much-admired young Australian-born conductor Jessica Cottis and hosted by actor and TV personality Noni Hazelhurst.
It’s an idea that one suspects has legs if orchestras are to forge more personally meaningful connections with their audiences and enhance the social experiences listeners derive from concerts. They are ideas the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra found were important in audience-based research that the University of Sheffield undertook in 2010.