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Minims, memories and mates as Hunter Wind Ensemble celebrates 20 years

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The Hunter Wind Ensemble (HWE) will commemorate two decades of entertaining others in a special performance this weekend.

To celebrate 20 years since being established, the outfit – which unites some of the region’s most aspiring brass, wind and percussion musicians under expert conductors – is staging an anniversary reunion concert, Aurora Pacifica, at Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday 24 June from 1pm.

The repertoire features favourites from previous HWE tours, both overseas and interstate, incorporating Gershwin to Percy Grainger (Children’s March), the iconic Man from Snowy River to the technically-challenging Abram’s Pursuit.

Another bonus is the fact that many Alumni members – including Scott Ryan (HWE founding director, artistic planning manager at Sydney Conservatorium of Music); Charissa Ferguson (MHS music teacher, Hunter Singers and Star Struck); music teacher Michael Jobson (Department of Education Arts unit, State Wind Band); and Steve Williams (one of Australia’s most versatile and respected conductors) – are returning to perform with the current line-up, comprising of senior members Eliza (clarinet), Thomas (trombone), Riley (percussion), Bilal (percussion), Charlotte (saxophone), Isobel (trumpet), Lucinda (trumpet) and Clare (French horn).

Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Adrienne Hanslow, a former Sydney Conservatorium of Music student, will showcase her talents on flute, piccolo and oboe in various pieces.

However, the highlight will be the world premiere of Aurora Pacifica, written especially for the anniversary concert by award-winning composer, Chris Williams.

His works have been performed throughout Australia, Europe, Britain and the United States by orchestras and ensembles including Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, London Musical Theatre Orchestra, Joyful Company of Singers, The Song Company, The Australian Voices, Cavaleri Quartet, Schola Cantorum, and Manchester Chamber Choir.

In 2022, Williams’ latest offering Pray The Sea, commissioned by The Song Company, premiered in Newcastle and toured to Sydney and Melbourne. 

His concerto Canticum Novi Mundi debuted in 2021, performed by Dinah Woods with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, to critical acclaim.

As well, on 24 June, Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Adrienne Hanslow, a former Sydney Conservatorium of Music student, will showcase her talents on flute, piccolo and oboe in various pieces.

One of the many tours, which the Hunter Wind Ensemble has embarked upon.

Created by the Arts Unit of the NSW Department of Education, the HWE is an opportunity for pupils, from public schools, to extend their performance skills.

In 2003, regional arts coordinator Lyn Cook met with young conductor and musician Scott Ryan to create a band that would provide elevated musical opportunities for students in the Hunter and Central Coast.

Their first rehearsal took place at the Newcastle Tennis Club and, within a month of formation, they performed their maiden concert at Christ Church Cathedral for Education Week.

Twenty years later, the HWE is still providing exceptional opportunities to the region, allowing pupils to come together from local schools to rehearse and perform significant works in the concert band repertoire.

The ensemble has had successes at regional, state, national and international levels.

It includes performances at the Sydney Opera House, Australian National Band Championships, National Eisteddfod in Canberra and Summa Cum Laude at the Musikverein in Vienna.

They’ve also embarked on many international tours, from performances at the Pacific Basin International Music Festival in Hawaii to Summa Cum Laude Festival in Vienna, Euro Disneyland in Paris and at Sister City celebrations in Ube, Japan.

In 2013, they visited the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago; they completed a successful tour of Spain and Portugal in 2018, and have travelled more than 8,000km to play in rural communities in the outback of Australia.

The Hunter Wind Ensemble.

“Ranging from Year 5 all the way to Year 12, they are united in their commitment to six-hour rehearsals twice a school term, finessing tricky music with the goal of being ready to entertain audiences across Australia and overseas,” manager Alison Tenorio said.

“While on tour, and out of their comfort zone, the students – who hail from Taree to Gosford, Maitland and Singleton to Newcastle – learn to work as a team, develop independence and self-confidence, responsibility and leadership… not to mention laundry skills nor losing their bags and instruments.

“Enduring friendships are forged, too.”

This weekend’s concert is open to the public and tickets – $20/$15 – can be purchased from https://www.trybooking.com/CICTI

HWE will also host a Bring A Friend Day at the Merewether High School campus on Saturday 29 July from 10am.

“We’re welcoming students from Years 5 to 12 in state public schools from Central Coast, Newcastle, Mid-North Coast and the greater Hunter,” Ms Tenorio said.

Further details can be found on the Arts Unit website at https://artsunit.nsw.edu.au/local-arts-programs/regional-north/hunter-wind-ensemble as well as the HWE Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hunterwindensemble/

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