Monthly Archives: September 2003

Australian Doctors’ Orchestra

Australian Doctors’ Orchestra

Winthrop Hall

 reviewed by Neville Cohn


This would have had to be one of the most novel concert experiences of the year: a performance by an orchestra made up entirely (well, not quite entirely) of medical doctors. (For form’s sake, let it be placed on the record that the ranks of the Australian Doctors’ Orchestra were on this occasion strategically strengthened with a handful of local worthies who are not medical people but very skilled instrumentalists).

These enterprising medical folk gather each year for their big symphonic bash in one or other of Australia’s larger cities. On even the most cursory examination, there’s little doubt that many of these medicos are as versatile as they are gifted, for much of the time as handy with a fiddle bow as a stethoscope. At the same time, it would be an exaggeration to suggest that this was a peerless effort. It wasn’t – and it would have been both unfair and unreasonable to expect it to be.

The word ‘amateur’ has lost much of its original meaning with its connotation of engagement in one or other pursuit purely for the pleasure of it and without expectation of remuneration – rather than current understanding of the word with its implications of the second-rate, the below-par endeavour. But there are still those who see ­ and are seen – as amateurs in the positive sense – and this was abundantly evident at the ADO performance.

It’s a splendid initiative, a once-yearly coming together of doctors to make music with all proceeds going to selected deserving causes. Since its inception in 1993, the ADO has raised funds for causes as worthy as research into cancer, neuroscience, melanoma and glaucoma as well as for Hobart’s Tascare Society for Children and the Fred Hollows Foundation.

The Perth concert – the first by the ADO on the west coast – benefits the Cancer Foundation of W.A.

Stars of the concert were mezzo soprano Elizabeth Campbell and bass Bruce Martin, the former polished as always in the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen and Softly Awakes My Heart from Saint Saens’ Samson and Delilah. Martin was in fine form in a Mozart aria ­ and both came up trumps in La ci darem, la mano from Don Giovanni. And in response to warm applause, brought the house down with that hilarious duet about the Indian doctor involved in healing in Darjeeling whether of halitosis, thrombosis or psychosis.

Smetana’s The Moldau from Ma Vlast is no pushover for any orchestra. I wondered how an ensemble that meets so infrequently would fare in this much-loved and difficult work. I’m happy to report that the ADO came through with most banners flying. There were some weakenings of concentration among the flutes and other fluffs here and there – but these were minor blemishes in an otherwise commendable effort.

© September 2003