AUSSIE expats will occasionally think fondly of their homeland, dreaming of the sun and the surf and planning visits to some of those world renowned spots, once taken for granted. Now conductor Matthew Wood will return home to do just that, in a most unique fashion.
This month, Wood heads to Australia to prepare to conduct the Darwin Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in the first ever symphonic concert at Australia’s most iconic landmark, Uluru.
“Part of [the DSO’s] ambition is to take the majesty of a symphony orchestra to places that would never usually have access to this art form,” explains Wood.
“It is tremendously exciting and is representative of everything we are about and what we wish to achieve.”
Wood returns to Australia to take up the post of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the DSO. Wood currently lives in London and is soon to wrap up his work with the Royal Ballet in La BayadÃ¨re.
Wood first made the decision to move to the UK in 2005 when he was offered the position of Conducting Fellow at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. He then worked with as Associate Conductor with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, followed by freelance work throughout the UK, Europe and Australia.
“The last few years of freelancing have been quite amazing, but what I started to miss was a sense of belonging,” says Wood.
“I always intended to return to Australia at some stage – it was just a question of ‘what for?’
“Then this position opened with the DSO. I came and met all the wonderful people who make up this orchestra and my question was answered.”
Wood claims he was struck by the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the orchestra, as well as the people of Darwin. He concedes that delivering classical music to the people of the NT will be a huge challenge, being a state six times the size of the United Kingdom.
“Darwin is growing rapidly and with it, its cultural diversity. The orchestra is already a central part of the community,” Wood explains.
“With this, however, comes a responsibility to remain relevant. Our goal is not just to present classical symphonic programmes, but to be representative of the diversity that surrounds us.”
The majestic red rock will serve as a backdrop to the evening concert in October, with what Wood describes as a diverse programme, ranging from music inspired by Australian indigenous culture through to Romantic Italian opera.
Joining the orchestra will be Opera Australia’s lyric soprano, Emma Matthews, and William Barton on the didgeridoo.
“My aim is not just to improve the orchestra and to develop its playing and quality, but to make the orchestra emblematic of the Territory and what it stands for,” he adds.
“I look forward to the challenges and excitement of bringing classical music to the people of the NT and beyond.”
The Uluru DSO concert will take place 18 and 19 October and is described by the group as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.