When one reflects on the year that was 2020, across many aspects of life, it is very unlikely that the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will not feature. This was certainly the case for the Music Department, with the disappointment of many cancelled events, collaborations and opportunities in which the College usually participates throughout the year. I cannot help to think, however, that while some doors of opportunity were closed, many more were opened, giving the boys access to audiences across the world in numbers that we have never experienced. There can be no doubt that we have much to celebrate.
As usual, the musical year commenced with the traditional music camp over the first weekend back at school. It was not long after this that the world as we know it undertook a drastic change, with the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 resulting in the cancellation of all performances and events. Before Term 1 ended, students were sent home across the state and the world of music education and performance began to explore alternate options for creative music-making. Within a week, instrumental music lessons transitioned to an online format preceding what was to follow for all academic learning across the College.
In the first week of Term 2, modified performances began to take shape with musicians performing the Last Post in their front yards, as part of Anzac Day celebrations. Students were invited to send in a video recording that was then edited and posted to the College’s Social Media which received over six thousand views. This set the template for Term 2, with Wind Orchestra 1, Big Band 1, Chamber Strings and Marist Voices all producing online digital collaborations, receiving an online audience of over twenty-five thousand views in a very short period of time. This new paradigm of performance was equal to over eighty-three full-house performances at the Draney Theatre!
In late Term 2, students returned to the College with all ensemble rehearsals recommencing in modified formats. With restrictions still impeding parents and families from attending concerts, we again began to explore options for performance opportunities for the boys and a way of presenting music to the wider College community. Once again, a formula was established with Term 3 seeing all ensembles record performances as part of a Virtual Concert Series in the Draney Theatre. This new format presented the boys with some exciting opportunities, including Big Band 1 producing a high-quality studio recording of Matt Harris’ North Shore Morning. The most challenging genre of performance was undoubtedly Choral music, with groups having to adhere to stricter guidelines in relation to social distancing. Creative solutions were once again found, allowing students to continue rehearsing, performing and recording throughout the Term. These different situations included providing music for Champagnat Day Mass via live stream in the Draney Theatre, as well as culminating with a recorded performance of Panic at the Disco’s High Hopes, filmed around the renovated Tower Block. We were overwhelmed by the response of this performance, receiving over two hundred thousand views from across the world, on a variety of platforms - including a feature on the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Facebook page. This was a clear example of adversity resulting in amazing outcomes.
In Term 4 we entertained an audience of Year 12 families and friends for the 2020 Soiree featuring the first live performances since Term 1. The night provided an excellent forum to farewell our Senior musicians in a special night of high-quality music-making.
Special thanks to the Music Staff who have continued to bring their great talents to the department. Their input has been invaluable. Finally, a heartfelt thanks to all of the students, especially the Year 12 Class of 2020, who were involved in the Marist College Ashgrove Music Department this year. Without their dedication, talent and enthusiasm which they have displayed in rehearsals, concerts and recordings throughout a very challenging year, the successes that we have enjoyed would not have been possible. It has truly been a blessing to work with such an outstanding group of young men and boys.
Dr Andrew Butt
Head of Music