The Sydney Symphony Orchestra gathers at the Sydney Opera House tomorrow to pay tribute to Richard Gill in a concert that will be streamed around Australia and the world and broadcast on ABC Classic FM, Richard Gill: Celebration of a Life.

“With a career spanning decades, Richard’s achievements and talents were innumerable, ranging from conductor, musician, mentor and most notably, a fierce champion for the role that music plays in the education and development of young people,” the SSO’s CEO Emma Dunch tells Limelight. “He was Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Education Program for nearly two decades, and in that time, he worked with us to develop many new and innovative programs to foster and expand music education. Most notably, Richard established the Sydney Symphony Sinfonia, a training orchestra that provided young musicians with a bridge between education and professional practice, and developed our Discovery series of concert programs that provided musical knowledge in interesting and accessible ways for an adult audience. During his tenure, Richard worked with us to commission and premiere over 50 new works by Australian composers.”

Richard Gill, Sydney Symphony OrchestraRichard Gill. Photo © Brendan Read

Gill, of course, affected the lives of many in the orchestra. “Richard Gill was the nation’s first citizen of music and a passionate advocate for the role of music education in the lives of young people,” Dunch says. “He was an extraordinary communicator and the mentor of generations of Australian musicians, including many of ours. It was wonderful that so many of them, led by our Associate Principal Trumpet, Paul Goodchild, gathered in the street outside his house to play Richard’s favourite piece, The Dam Busters March on the day before he passed away. And all the musicians are volunteering their time to play the concert, because he was so well-loved by us all.”

The memorial concert has been organised in collaboration with Kim Williams, media executive, former student and lifelong friend of Gill’s. “We’ve worked closely with Kim, Richard’s family and everyone involved to bring this concert together,’ Dunch says. “It’s been ‘all hands on deck’ from the team, both on and off stage, and music-lovers will be able to unite and celebrate his legacy on Saturday 17 November.”

Dunch describes the response to the concert by the public as “overwhelming” with all the tickets, which were free, snapped up within 24 hours. “It’s a real testament to the mark that Richard Gill made on the music landscape, and how many people his passion influenced,” Dunch says. “As soon as we realised this, we fundraised to be able to also stream the concert live on the internet for the many people across Australia and around the world who wanted to be with us, but could not get a ticket. We hope everyone will tune in to watch and share what we hope will be a wonderful celebration through music, more than a sad occasion.”

This will be the second memorial concert for Gill held in Sydney, following the birthday concert earlier this month at City Recital Hall. In the concert at the Sydney Opera House, the SSO will be joined by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Chamber Choir and Conservatorium High School Chamber Choir in a concert spanning Ross Edwards to JS Bach.

“The program is full of music that had special meaning to Richard personally, curated in close conversation with Kim Williams and Richard’s family,” Dunch says. “Fittingly, it will finish with singing by all present, lifting Richard on the wings of our shared experience of singing together. Whether you are with us in the hall or watching at home, we hope you will join in the singing of Richard’s favourite hymn, Jerusalem, and keep him in your thoughts.”

“The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Chamber Choir, Sydney Conservatorium High School Chamber Choir, and conductor Nicholas Carter have all been profoundly inspired by working closely with Richard during his career, remembering him through music,” Dunch says. “The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s own tribute is the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – a work of tender remembrance which says more than words ever will.”

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra presents Richard Gill: Celebration of a Life at the Sydney Opera House on November 17. A free live stream of the concert begins at 11:30am

More Information

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine