22 February 2010

True story. When teenager Harry Ward heard master pianist Gerard Willems play at a major concert, he thought out loud: 'I want to have what he's having.' Or words to that affect.

That was two years ago. Now the 13-year-old from Killara is about to see his wish come true.

On Tuesday night he will be a star turn at the Dean's Gala at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music - playing his beloved violin in a duet with Willems in a performance of Tchaikovsky's Meditation, Opus 42.

The Year 8 student, a member of the Conservatorium's Open Academy-Rising Stars program, normally concentrates on Bach and Brahms, but says he jumped at the chance to join forces with the internationally acclaimed Willems.

'I saw Gerard play a solo Beethoven piece a couple of years ago and thought it was awesome. It was like, 'I've got to do this, too,' comments Ward, whose parents Melissa and Peter were once members of rock and roll band 'Amazing Woolloomoolosers.'

It was his older brother Ben's love of the double bass that got him started on classical music.

Ward admits he could barely pronounce the names of composers when he started out as a 10 year old, but can now talk the talk with Willems, who is one of Australia's finest concert pianists and leading Beethoven scholars.

Not that performing difficult pieces in such senior company is anything new for Harry, whose signature look of hat, odd socks and twin coloured leather shoes will be to the fore during the Gala performance.

The youngster has a track record of playing in orchestras- in China (seven times), Mexico, Singapore and Poland, just to name four overseas locations.

Ward will travel to Russia for an International violin competition in April and has been asked to play with the Beecroft Symphony Orchestra in September. Then it will be down to The Rocks for springtime busking gigs.

Associate Professor Willems, a multi ARIA winner for his Beethoven Sonatas, is equally no stranger to playing at the highest level.

Born in Holland, he emigrated to Australia in 1958 and went onto graduate with distinction from The Con; winning a range of national competitions along the way and debuting in London in 1974.

Willems, who has appeared with all the major orchestras, played with many ensembles and toured across Australia, Europe, Asia and New Zealand, was the Chair of the The Con's Keyboard Unit until 2008.

He has numerous recordings to his credit; his concerto repertoire ranges from the classical works of Mozart and Beethoven through to 20th century works such as Bernstein's 'Age of Anxiety' and Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue; he was the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Music Scholar, and is a recipient of the Centenary Medal for Services to Music.

He recently completed a major set of recordings for ABC Classic FM and in July will do a solo concert tour of Norway.

Contact: Mick Le Moignan

Phone: 02 9351 1385

Email: 460a3158161c2929265f0f0526592d164b015a203a6b0f232c7a0d25