The OSO officially began in 1984. A collection of Orange musical enthusiasts, (many of whom had played in other musical groups prior), encouraged by newcomers Anne and Peter Stevens, gathered in Robin Thompson’s lounge room under the baton of Kinross Wolaroi School music director Robert Whyte.
They dubbed themselves the Orange Symphony Orchestra (OSO) in the hope that one day a real orchestra would develop from these humble beginnings.
And develop it did, firstly with Composer-in-Residence, Michael Barkl, then Musician-in-Residence, Robert Smallwood. Subsequent conductors were John Gould, Tom Woods, George Ellis, Laith Ismail & Graham Sattler.
In the ensuing years much joy was derived through involvement in Saturday afternoon rehearsals, concert performances, annual orchestral workshops, touring in regional areas and watching the Orange Youth Orchestra evolve.
One memorable OSO concert involved Lujia Zhang as the piano soloist in the Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto. After the applause died down, her fiancé came on stage and, on bent knee, proposed marriage. To the relief of the audience, she accepted!!!
Unfortunately in 2012, regular Saturday rehearsals for community players came to an end, owing to a lack of funds to pay conductors and other professionals.
Special mention should be made of the sponsors, benefactors and patrons who helped establish the OSO. In the early days, the orchestra benefitted hugely from the incredible drive, vision and generosity of Narelle Nelson and Mary Turner, as well as ongoing support from Gordon Craig, Rod Lander, Graham Ridley of Peter Fisher Real Estate, the Orange Rotary Club, Val & Bob Taylor, Rita & Bill Baker, Jim Willis of Kelly’s Bakery and, of course, the Godfrey-Turner Memorial Music Trust (GTMMT), the Orange City Council and the Orange Regional Arts Foundation (ORAF).
We are particularly grateful to ORAF, who were instrumental in acquiring our original grant from the Australia Council in 1986 and who are now generously supporting us again, in our efforts to re-establish the OSO in 2017.
The first official OSO performance is the Mozart Requiem, on Sunday 19th November 2017 under the baton of Ben Macpherson OAM.
More of the OSO story is to be found in Bill Marshall’s “A Cultural Portrait of Orange”, copies of which can be found at the Orange City Library.