Blue Mountains Orchestra rebuilds itself after COVID shutdown | Blue Mountain Gazette
It was as if a family was being reconstituted.
This is how longtime secretary and performer of the Blue Mountains Orchestra, Christine Bartlett, described the group’s slow transition to normal operations since its shutdown by COVID-19 in March of last year.
Talented music director Mal Hewitt had left at the end of 2019, and Bartlett took over while waiting for a new conductor.
“We had just started rehearsing for our big birthday party when we had to close in March 2020 due to COVID-19. It was a lot of hard work and encouragement to bring everyone together, but it is worth it worth it because we are back in force as a community orchestra.
The group currently has 36 members and is now under the direction of Music Director Robert van Gend.
“We started in September 2020 with five string players because winds and brass weren’t allowed to join us for rehearsals,” Bartlett said.
“I almost thought it wasn’t worth it, but they were so happy to be together again that I continued. Every week more and more players came back, and when the wind and the brass could join again, it was like a family meeting long absence.I loved it.
She said the orchestra is celebrating its 51st birthday, they are delighted to have a new conductor at the helm.
Robert van Gend, based in Penrith, is a talented musician and competent musical director who completed his LMusA in violin and then played viola with the Australian Youth Orchestra between 2015-2019.
In 2011, he was recitalist at the National Youth Concerto Competition, and he was a three-time recipient of the Harmer Memorial Fellowship for viola.
He holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree and graduated in 2014 with specializations in Philosophy, History and Latin. In 2018, he obtained a master’s degree in philosophy and is currently undertaking a doctorate. He describes himself as a violist, philosopher, teacher and gardener.
Bartlett said the orchestra is currently rehearsing for their next concert on October 30 and that there are vacancies in some string and woodwind sections. She was keen to let the community know that “someone of the caliber of Robert van Gend is now at the helm”.
“This is a great opportunity for local musicians to receive lessons and expert advice from this exciting new conductor.”
To inquire about joining the Blue Mountains Orchestra, contact Christine Bartlett on 0417 415157.