Queensland Pops Orchestra: New Year’s Eve Masquerade Gala Concert

AAR-Queensland-Pops-OrchestraWhat a wonderful evening we had at the 10.00pm concert in the concert hall at QPAC on New Year’s Eve, 2020. A fitting farewell to world’s worst year, or, as our host conductor described it, ‘the year that wasn’t’.

As he combined introductory and conducting duties, the personable warmth and humour of Patrick Pickett CSM (LtCol retired) made the night feel more like a welcome than a farewell. His musical and military backgrounds are distinguished and he has conducted the Queensland Pops Orchestra since 2013.

Under his baton, varied classical and contemporary pieces were played in performance context and orchestral accompaniment of guest artists. Excluding the farewell songs, The Parting Glass and Auld Lang Syne, most works performed throughout the concert were composed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Principal guest artist was Kang Wang. This good-looking, accomplished, young tenor is globally established and greatly sought after. He sang for us, Franz Lehar’s song, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (You Are My Heart’s Delight). Whilst it was not listed in the program, we were privileged with his powerful performance and superb delivery of Nessun Dorma.

Guest artist, Katie Stenzel from Opera Queensland astounded us with the vast tessitura and trilling vocal agility which epitomises a classical coloratura soprano. She was also very lovely to look at with a gracious, graceful and elegant stage presence. Stenzel and Wang combined beautifully as ‘Rudolfo and Mimi’ to perform the romantic duet, O Soave Fanciulla from Puccini’s La Boheme. Dancers, Rhett and Emma Salmon were also a dazzling duo as they breezed through an exquisite waltz.

Prodigy violinist, Cherin Lee as guest artist and soloist, flawlessly played the complex and dramatic, Violin Concerto No 1 Rondo by Beethoven. This incredible, very young lady graduated as dux from Somerville House and is now a student at Harvard University studying English and pre-med. She is also concertmaster of Harvard’s symphony orchestra and completing her Master of Music in Violin Performance.

Principal Cellist, Trish Dean from Queensland Pops Orchestra poignantly performed the renowned cello solo, The Swan from Camille Saint-Saens’, Carnival of the Animals. Voices of Birralee were represented by their young choral ensemble, Resonance of Birralee and conducted by their own Paul Holley OAM.

I have known the guest piper, Bruce Grice since he was a teenager when I was a Queensland Irish Association dancer and he was a standout piper. He rose rapidly through the QIA pipe band ranks to become Pipe Major in 2008 and retains that position. Bruce Grice played the mournful but beautiful, Highland Cathedral and the rapid regimental march, Black Bear. It was wonderful to see once again the tartan of the QIA uniform.

Many attendees at the gala concert wore masquerade masks which added a Venetian atmosphere to our Queensland summertime humidity. Seating was normalised and we even had a hard copy program in our hands. As the concert concluded, the surprise ‘fireworks’ display and spray of streamers was a fun addition to the night plus a joyful reminder that the wretched year was actually ending. Well done to QPAC and all involved in bringing about such a wonderful and memorable concert.

Queensland Pops Orchestra: New Year’s Eve Masquerade Gala Concert
Concert Hall – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, Southbank (Brisbane)
Performance: Thursday 31 December 2020 – 10.00pm
Information: www.qpac.com.au or www.qldpops.com

Image: Queensland Pops Orchestra (supplied)

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan