Australian Chamber Orchestra 2024 season, featuring a


“I really enjoyed it because it was funny and brought Jimmy’s audience into the Opera House, but he [Barnes] was really pissed off because he was just about to sing this beautiful Randy Newman song and he wanted to enjoy the almost sacred silence of a classical music concert,” Tognetti says, with a chuckle.


Shibe and his electric guitar are not the only drawcards for potential new audiences: the season features six other national tours, including a collaboration with Sydney Dance Company; and a live concert of the orchestra’s ARIA-nominated score for the documentary River.

The orchestra last worked with Sydney Dance Company in 2012. Now that both companies operate out of the arts precinct at Sydney’s Pier 2/3, it seemed like a perfect time to reconnect.

Tognetti thinks the show, Silence & Rapture, will entice new audiences to learn about classical music: “We’re accessing an audience who wouldn’t normally turn up to a classical music concert, but we’re going to be giving them a good diet of J.S. Bach, the greatest composer who ever lived, and Arvo Part, the godfather of meditative minimalism.”

The River concert, meanwhile, will invite people to listen to artists from Bach to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Kalkadunga didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton, who will perform with the orchestra. “With William’s wonderful voice and inspiring improvisatory style, you get this sense of flow,” says Tognetti. “It’s not like we’ve just dammed every river, in both senses of the word. It finishes with a sense of renewal.”

The ACO perform River in Sydney in 2022.

The ACO perform River in Sydney in 2022.Credit: Nic Walker

While there is a sense of renewal throughout the season, the orchestra still faces major challenges. One is shared with much of the performing arts industry: a pandemic-induced skills shortage, of both artists and technical staff. While industry bodies had advocated for a targeted skills package for arts workers, it was not part of this year’s National Cultural Policy.

“I know so many people who gave up their career, and we should talk about that,” Tognetti says. “Anyone who gives up pursuing an artistic career, it’s a loss for us … We need to do something about it, and encourage people to be artists.”

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