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Orchestra's perfect dress rehearsal for a starring role at AFL grand final

Culture

Amid speculation about who will perform the pre-match entertainment for the AFL grand final at the Gabba next month, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra wants to let organisers know it’s ready to add more strings to its bow.

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The QSO yesterday released two videos of members of the orchestra performing arrangements of both the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns anthems from Kangaroo Point cliffs.  QSO chief executive Craig Whitehead told InQueensland he wanted organisers  to know “we’re ready and we’re available” to perform before the first bounce at Gabba on October 24.

“And please have a look at our audition tape online,” Whitehead said of the orchestral renditions of the anthems, which have been uploaded to the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns and QSO social media channels.

It was the first time the orchestra had performed an AFL anthem and the recordings – which were recorded under the baton of emerging conductor Stefanie Smith – were filmed and edited over a few days from the top of Kangaroo Point Cliffs.

The showcase of local pride was commissioned by the orchestra to mark Wednesday night’s QClash game between the Lions and the Suns, which will take place a short distance away at the Gabba.

“This is our audition tape,” Whitehead said, “so we’ll be making sure we send it off to the organisers and to the AFL.”

Whitehead said the organisation considered itself to be “Queensland’s orchestra and we want to be involved in key Queensland events”.

“We’d love to be involved,” he said. “It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Queensland to host the AFL grand final and we’d love to be there in any way and in any capacity that we possibly could be.

“Certainly we will be expressing that to government, and it would be wonderful for us to be a part of it.”

Since the lockdown and social restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic first came into place in March, the QSO has put a renewed emphasis on its online content and Whitehead said he hoped these videos would further help with efforts to reach new audiences.

“The one positive, if you can find a positive out of COVID-19, is it has provided us the time to really focus on digital content and getting our orchestra playing in that space and musicians have embraced it incredibly well,” Whitehead said.

He also said the AFL had a longstanding musical tradition built into the game and with Queensland becoming the undisputed home of AFL in 2020, QSO was happy to play its part in keeping that tradition alive.

“One of the bright things to emerge from 2020 has been seeing Queensland become the home of the AFL,” he said. “Even though the AFL is a sport, there is also a long-standing musical tradition built into the game. As any red-blooded AFL team supporter knows, there is no more exhilarating moment than roaring out your team’s anthem to celebrate victory.

“As Queensland’s largest musical team, we wanted to celebrate this musical connection and cheer our on our two Queensland teams – the Gold Coast Suns and the Brisbane Lions – by performing a rousing rendition of each team’s anthem, especially arranged for the glory and splendour of orchestral instruments.”

Although the Brisbane Lions’ anthem ‘The Pride or Brisbane Town’ is a derivation of the French national anthem, Whitehead said adapting both it and the Gold Coast’s ‘Suns of the Gold Coast Sky’ for the 21-piece ensemble took a lot of work, and he said the end result was a testament to orchestrator Nicholas Buc’s efforts.

“Nic, the orchestrator, was focusing on building it for a particular-sized ensemble and a particular group of instruments for both the Lions and the Suns’ songs,” he said.

“That orchestration didn’t exist, so you essentially start with the tune and then recreate it in keeping with the essence of the song but make it suit the instrumentation and the size of the ensemble that’s going to play. ”

Whitehead is a self-professed “mad-keen AFL supporter” and in addition to offering the QSO’s services to perform the Australian national anthem before the grand final, he said he was also holding out hope that the Lions’ anthem might get another airing or two on the big day.

“As a member of the Brisbane Lions and a mad keen AFL supporter, hopefully we’ll be playing the Lions club song on that day -and hopefully at the very end of the day, as well, when they hold the trophy.”

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