Byline: Musica Viva

At Musica Viva, 2020 brought on a wave of change that reached all parts of the organisation.

A nationwide lockdown brought our much anticipated, 75th anniversary International Concert Season to a grinding halt, having completed only one full tour in February with pianist, Garrick Ohlsson. Our Musica Viva In Schools (MVIS) ensembles also found themselves at a stand-still, with a year's worth of in-school performances suddenly up in the air as to whether or not they could go ahead. A tough year to launch something new... which was exactly what happened with Strike A Chord - the national chamber music championship for high school ensembles.

But aside from the many hurdles we have faced in 2020, we're incredibly grateful for our positive outlook and incredible staff who have achieved so much during this turbulent time. Our state teams have taken some time to reflect and share a moment from the year that they cherish. For a year filled with uncertainity, the music did not stop!

Western Australia

Western Australia has been the lucky state. Although we were in lockdown at the start of the year and like all states we were forced to cancel schools visits and all our International Concert Series, as the year progressed, so our restrictions lifted.

The WA team were central to helping MVIS pivot to online performances, with our state coordinator Helen Dwyer realising her talent for producing, which resulted in many 5.30am starts producing 8.30am shows in the eastern states. Some of our other highlights have included a return to stage concert at Government House Ballroom, and a 5-day intensive residency with Adam Hall and the Velvet Players at the truly remote Laverton Primary School along with its tiny surrounding satellite schools (Laverton is 952kms north-east of Perth!).

The Honourable Governor Kim Beazley hosted an event at his house - Government House – as part of our anniversary celebrations where Strike A Chord entrants, The Milennium Trio performed. In Perth we wrapped up our musical year with a glorious Reconnect concert at Perth Concert Hall, featuring local star musicians, Sara Macliver and Joseph Nolan, recorded by ABC Classic and celebrating our 75th anniversary onstage after the show. 

- Fiona Campbell, WA State Manager


Despite two lockdowns, the Victorian Musica Viva team achieved a major milestone – the launch of Strike A Chord, the national chamber music championship for secondary students.

We originally planned to hold the Grand Final event live in Melbourne, but due to lockdown restrictions, the Final metamorphosed into a live streamed event with 12 ensembles performing from 5 locations around Australia, broadcast by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall and attracting an estimated audience of 3,000 at home viewers.

An additional later round, ‘Lockdown Legends’, provided opportunities to Victorian and NSW groups prevented from entering the first event, and overall 120 groups and over 550 students entered the two competitions.

- Anne Frankenberg, Deputy CEO

South Australia

In 2020, at Musica Viva SA, we distributed instruments donated through our Don’t Stop the Music campaign to regional schools 400 kms north of Adelaide.

Instrumental music staff from SA’s Department for Education are helping these schools to rebuild their music programs with the donated instruments.

Students at Ororroo, Peterborough and Hawker participate in school ensembles, with plans to create a large regional band in future. The donation of brass and woodwind instruments allowed more students to be included, with a greater choice of instruments to learn. These instruments helped to create one new band, the foundation of a future stage band, and expanded and balanced a third band in the region.

Thanks to Kate Retelsdorf, IM Teacher, for coordinating the instrument allocations through music programs in these schools.

- Emily Kelly, SA State Manager


During what has been a very difficult year for teachers, students and musicians alike, one of the rewarding things we did in Queensland was to stay connected with regional school communities despite the limitations of social distancing and travel restrictions.

In particular, we were able to deliver MVIS Online performances to several clusters of small schools in the Darling Downs and South West QLD regions, as well as the Longreach School of Distance Education. MVIS Online received fantastic feedback, both during the performance and afterwards, from the teachers involved about how engaged the students were.

Excitingly, the changes that we’ve implemented to adapt to this year’s challenges have helped us to identify potential areas of improvement in our program for reaching regional communities and diverse learners.

- Flora Wong, QLD State Coordinator

Australian Capital Territory

This year the Salon Society was established in Canberra when a wonderful donor approached us with her concerns about the plight of young musicians, and asked us to arrange monthly concerts in her home. This donor wanted to provide work for musicians, but even more than that, she wanted to give them hope.

She also wanted to be able to bring people together through music and build a stronger community to support us all as we face this difficult time and with whatever is to come. It has been a beautiful experience and one that has inspired others to do the same thing, so much so that we are now building a small network of people hosting concerts in their homes and sharing the joy of music with small groups of their friends and neighbours.

- Christina Cook, ACT State Manager

New South Wales

As with the rest of the country, New South Wales was forced to pivot their team this year and imagine new and innovative ways to bring live music to audiences around the state. Part of this innovation saw the introduction of the Discover Musica Viva series, featuring 3 live streamed concerts with one those concerts featuring the incredible pianist, Bernadette Harvey performing works from Chopin in a room surrounded by stunning artwork. The Discover series extended beyond recitals, with the introduction of our first-ever podcast, the ‘Chamber of Musical Curiosities’. This fascinating series hears our Artistic Director, Paul Kildea in conversation with a series of guests, reflecting upon creativity, their careers, and their passion for chamber music.

In amongst this strange year, another highlight was inviting the inaugural winners of the Strike A Chord competition, The Cousin Quartet, into Musica Viva House to accept their trophies, and perform for a small live audience. As anyone who heard their winning performance will attest, this is a group with a tremendous future. Then, it was an absolute joy to conclude the year by reconnecting with our Musica Viva audiences at the City Recital Hall (with many more joining online!). Audiences and critics alike gave a warm reception to the acclaimed harpsichordist Erin Helyard, his dear collaborator Baritone David Greco, and a handpicked ensemble of Australia’s finest early-music performers, when they delivered an engaging selection of Baroque gems in mid-November.

- Sascha Kelly, Media and Communications Coordinator

With 2020 nearly behind us, we look forward to seeing you all again in 2021 - a year that we hope brings with it a sense of normality and excitement. Learn about our upcoming 2021 concert season with an in-depth preview from Paul Kildea here and our Musica Viva In Schools program here.