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The Dean's Farewell Gala Concert & Dinner

17 November 2011
In the presence of the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC, CVO

Of all the thousands of concerts at The Con during Professor Kim Walker’s time as Dean and Principal, it would be hard to find one more rapturously received or more varied in content.
The students of the Tecchler Quartet opened proceedings with their extraordinary Lied ohne Worte (Song without Words), especially composed for the occasion by their 20-year-old leader, Jonathan Mui. This moving lament to mark the departure of the Dean featured a solo bassoon sounding mournful yet resilient amid anguished strings. A Bach sonata played by Daniel Yeadon and Neal Peres Da Costa on period cello and harpsichord followed, then Riley Lee’s haunting shakuhachi and Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance, performed by an amazing phalanx of bassoons.

There was more to come. The long-dead voice of Bennelong himself came back to life in Richard Green’s rendition of a song performed in London long ago by the Darug elder and transcribed at the time. Kevin Hunt’s jazz fusion accompaniment, composed for and played on the marvellous, 102-key, Australian-made Stuart piano, was a perfect complement to the almost unearthly vocals. Anna Da Silva Chen, The Con Open Academy’s latest meteoric Rising Star, played Dvorak on violin, followed by Paul Rickard- Ford and Natalia Sheludiakova’s dazzling piano duet, with fingers faster and more furious than the eye could follow. The Con’s partners in the recent Australian premiere at Sydney Town Hall of John Corigliano’s masterpiece, Circus Maximus, the Australian Army Band, brought the Verbrugghen Hall proceedings to a close with their rousing Scottish bagpipe medley and then, by way of an encore, piped the guests across Macquarie Street to the Ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel for Dinner.

MC Guy Noble encouraged all to boost the Kim Walker Scholarship Fund still further by bidding on a fine array of silent auction items and conducted his hilarious “Make an Opera” program with the help of three very game Con Opera students. Andrew Fairweather, Chair of the SCM Foundation, led the tributes to the Dean; Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence spoke of her “magical” bassoon; and there were filmed messages from Absent Friends, including Dame Janet Ritterman DBE, Maestro Imre Palló and Professors Alexa Still and Keith Howard.

This was an unforgettable evening when those who care most deeply about The Con gathered to thank and celebrate the retiring Dean.

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