Published: 17 December 2020, by Sascha Kelly

His Excellency Governor-General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley hosted a reception for a small number of guests at Government HouseCanberra on Tuesday 15 December, in honour of Musica Viva’s 75th anniversary celebrations. CEO Hywel SimsArtistic Director Paul Kildea and guests were treated to a short performance from ACT cellist James Monro, a finalist in Musica Viva’s inaugural Strike A Chord, the National Chamber Music Competition for secondary school student ensembles.

Congratulating Musica Viva on their achievements, the Governor-General reflected on the importance of music and the arts in our community.

“For the last 75 years, Musica Viva has helped Australians connect with music. From leading concert halls to remote school auditoriums audiences they have inspired, provoked emotions and provided a powerful experience,” the Governor-General said.

“Musica Viva is to be commended for the innovation that they’ve shown this year – including shifting performances online in a matter of weeks and continuing to reach many thousands of young people. Equally they’ve shown a determination to bring music back to the stage in a sensible, safe way. I congratulate the entire team and their supporters and look forward to continuing to support them in years to come.”

Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley also made a charming addition to the order of events on the evening, with the presentation of a birthday song that she wrote and performed for guests. She was moved to add her personal thanks to the organisation, after becoming an avid supporter of Musica Viva through her first-hand experience of the Musica Viva In Schools program.

The composer Benjamin Britten puts it most succinctly, when he wrote, ‘music takes three important elements – the composer, the artist and the audience.’ CEO of Musica Viva Australia, Hywel Sims reflected on how these components can be traced to the formation of the organisation. “Musica Viva was founded 75 years ago by passionate, resilient Jewish refugees who missed the music of home.” The Romanian-born violinist and inventor Richard Goldner came to Australia to escape World War II and found employment as a jewellery designer and inventor. Upon learning of the death of his former teacher at Treblinka, Goldner organised a tribute concert – featuring the music of Beethoven and Mozart – at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and Musica Viva was born. 

Over the last seven decades, Musica Viva has enriched communities across Australia by making live chamber music accessible to everyone. Sims elaborates, “Since then we’ve dedicated that same resilience and passion to bringing great music to all part of Australia. Our Musica Viva In Schools program, started 40 years ago sparks life-long creativity in young Australians, ensuring a bright future for the country. We are committed to supporting artists at all stages of their careers, and especially in these difficult times. We are honoured that Their Excellencies were kind enough to host tonight’s reception, thank them both for their commitment to Australian musicians and look forward to welcoming them to our 76th season.”

Support from the wider Musica Viva community was essential in this anniversary year. As live performances were cancelled due to Covid 19 restrictions, audiences donated income from their tickets, leading to the formation of the Musica Viva Artist Development Fund. This enabled the company to embrace digital delivery of live performances, including the development of an online series, Discover Musica Viva. In the ACT, the local community welcomed the introduction of intimate salon performances in private homes, providing musicians with work at this critical time.