In the latter part of 1991 Gary Stavrou approached some fifty amateur musicians with a view to creating a quality symphony orchestra, conducted by him, that would perform in the inner western suburbs of Sydney.
An incorporated association was created as the infrastructure of the orchestra. Gary Stavrou invited a group of seven people to act as a steering committee to form such an organisation. Balmain Sinfonia Inc. was the result, and it lent its name to the orchestra which would be called the Balmain Sinfonia.
Charmian Gadd, who was at the time Head of the String Department at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, was invited to become Patron, a position she holds to this day.
The first concert of Balmain Sinfonia was held on April 5, 1992 at the Recreation Hall of Rozelle Hospital, which is situated within the historic Kirkbride Buildings, to a capacity audience of nearly 300. The programme included the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto performed by Charmian Gadd and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The concertmaster was Tony Gault, who was the soloist in our following concert and has since been associate concertmaster of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
The Balmain Sinfonia Inc is an incorporated association registered with the Office of Fair Trading. Membership is open to any person of voting age who wishes to join and abide by the rules currently in force.
The stated objective of the Association is: “To provide the means whereby amateur musicians may come together for the rehearsal and public performance of orchestral music”.
The Association is basically a group of “friends of the orchestra”, who, through their elected Management Committee, provide support to the Orchestra in the many functions associated with putting on concerts.
The Association manages the financial affairs of the orchestra. Income is primarily collected from ticket sales, programs, the canteen and from various advertisers. No grants are received from Council or Government.
The Management Committee
The Management Committee consists of up to nine members of Balmain Sinfonia Inc. elected at each Annual General Meeting to carry out the objectives and functions of the Association for the coming year, as described in its rules. It is not a requirement that orchestral players be on the Management Committee, but it is not precluded.
Subcommittees are created as required to expedite the functions of the Management Committee.
The Management Committee normally meets once a quarter.
The Director of Music
The Director of Music is appointed by the Management Committee, but may be removed from the position only by the members at a General Meeting of the Association. This arrangement lends a degree of stability to the tenure of the Director of Music in contrast to the potential yearly change in the composition of the Management Committee.
The Committee determines the period of appointment and the duties of the Director of Music. He or she is normally also the conductor of the Orchestra. Currently the position is held by Gary Stavrou.
It is the prerogative of the Director of Music to choose the repertoire, soloists and orchestral players for each concert.
The Orchestra is known as Balmain Sinfonia. It is composed of some seventy musicians, gifted amateurs and professionals from all over Sydney, who give freely of their time in order to bring fine orchestral music to the community at affordable prices.
The Orchestra performs four concerts per year, normally in March/April, June, September and November/December, conducted by the Director of Music, Gary Stavrou.
Rehearsals are held on Sunday evenings from 7 pm to 10 pm. Each concert is preceded by seven or eight rehearsals. This is followed by the performance on the ninth week, the orchestra then enjoying a three to four week break.
At present, concerts are held at The Italian Forum in Leichhardt.
Compared to most amateur orchestras, there are certain significant differences in the running of Balmain Sinfonia:
- There are no permanent places held by orchestral players.
- Players are not required to commit themselves beyond the current concert.
- For each concert, the orchestra is reconstituted by the Director of Music, primarily from players who have indicated their availability, supplemented if necessary by others.
- The personnel for each concert and their positions within the orchestra are determined by the Director of Music, as is the repertoire.
The Richard Goldner Music Scholarship Fund
The Balmain Sinfonia Inc. recognizes the importance of developing the musical life of a nation by fostering young musical talent. To this end, the Sinfonia has created the Richard Goldner Music Scholarship Fund to encourage promising young musicians to pursue their profession.
The Fund is named after Richard Goldner, the late husband of our Patron, Charmian Gadd. Richard was an extraordinary man in so many ways, much more than a brilliant, intense professional musician; much more than a great teacher of principles and techniques. He was an explorer of possibilities in every direction that he looked. The world of the mind, of art, of music, of ideas provided him with endless inspiration.
Having arrived in Australia from war-torn Vienna during the Second World War, Richard soon became involved in the fledgling musical life that existed at the time, founding Musica Viva.
Into the Fund are placed ten per cent of all ticket sales from Balmain Sinfonia concerts. The Fund also attracts donations from other sources.
In 1993 Balmain Sinfonia bestowed the first Richard Goldner Award, the winner being chosen by a concerto competition.
Richard Goldner died on 27 September 1991, aged 83, in Balmain.
The principal method by which monies in the Fund were disbursed from 1993 to 2011 was in the form of a prize for the winner of a Concerto Competition. Competitions were held every two years for string players under the age of 24 years. The winner received a cash prize and the opportunity to perform the concerto with the orchestra in public.