All-star alumni celebrate Contest’s 50 years

01 July 2015 / News

Some of the most successful alumni of Chamber Music New Zealand’s iconic Chamber Music Contest formed the Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble to perform throughout New Zealand between 2 and 25 June 2015 in celebration of the Contest’s 50th Jubilee. Our violist Gillian Ansell - a participant in 1972 and regular contest adjudicator and coach – sent us a letter from the road to share the amazing experience of being part of this unique ensemble.

We're just past the halfway mark on this fabulous Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble Tour and I'm having such a huge amount of fun on it. The members are past participants from the contest over the 50 years of its history and for the first 6 concerts, the age span between oldest and youngest player was 46 years! Now we've lost our most junior member, who needed to return to university and he's been replaced by Euan Murdoch, whose idea this venture was while he was CEO of Chamber Music New Zealand. And for the second half of the tour, we'll be joined by fabulous flautist Bridget Douglas. 

Playing and touring with my old colleague Wilma Smith, (the original first violinist of the NZSQ) and my friend Justine Cormack (violinist in the NZTrio),has been wonderful. All the others are terrific players too -- Ashley Brown (cellist from the NZTrio), Vicky Jones (former NZSO double bassist), the young ones like Lara Hall (violin) and Victoria Simonsen (cello), Bryony Gibson-Cornish (viola), all ex- Adam Summer School students and the two new ones I hadn't met before, Natalie Lin (the only New Zealander to have reached the finals of the Michael Hill Violin Competition) and our baby, cellist Matthias Balzat, who is only 16.  

We have become like a very happy family, sharing lots of jokes, travelling on a bus driven for the first 12 days by lovely Geoff who entered into the spirit of it all, helping Vicky with moving her double bass and attending our concerts several times.  Justine and Ashley are our restaurant guides, getting recommendations for the best local eatery for lunch or on a rare night off.

Wilma and I had a nice surprise in New Plymouth. The very first NZSQ manager, Maureen Revell, who is now based there, attended the concert and joined us after for a wind down drink in Snug, a bar that fits its name.

We've all been involved in various outreach programmes around the country, going into schools to help with chamber groups, the orchestra or give master classes.  It's great to meet school music teachers (such a special bunch) and to try to offer useful information to the students. 

I've enjoyed all the concerts, playing this exuberant, joyous repertoire with such great players and wonderful people --  this tour is a one-off and will live long in my memory. 


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