Kaleidoscope – in verse, by Patrick Thomas (Wirripang 2011) ISBN 978-1-876829-24-7

Patrick Thomas MBE has been a conductor of international repute, but many do not know him as a writer. Several books have been authored by this great maestro showing an intellect of great capacity and a spirit of true imagination.

In this publication, Thomas reveals himself as a consumate poet with 71 poems ranging on subjects from the everyday to those with more profundity. He is enamoured by the world around us, seen in poems about flora and fauna, and further, makes comment on the sustainability of the Earth with its ever-expanding population.

Some poems have even been set to music, such as “Centaur” – an Australian hospital ship which was sunk by the Japanese in 1943 killing 268 people.

Many are imbued with thoughts of great depth about life (Reverie, Mortality, A Garden’s Never Finished, Bernie Banton – An Epitaph) whilst others have comic twists (The Local Butcher).

There are poems about Brisbane and his early life (Childhood Retrospective, Brisbane Trams, My Father’s Workshop, Towser) as well as other places. This poet’s strong fascination for flowers (Australia’s Floral Symphony, A World in One Country, English Wild Flowers, Nature’s Garden, and Transvaal’s Floral Carpet), as well as birds and dogs, has produced work of very pleasurable reading, filled with metaphor and at times luscious vocabulary and turns of phrase.

Behind the Scenes: A Conductor’s Anecdotes (Part 1), and A Visit to Russia – 1990 (Part 2), by Patrick Thomas MBE (Wirripang, 2011) ISBN 978-1-876829-25-4

The author, known to many as one of Australia’s finest conductors, can really tell a story, not only through music-making with orchestras on a stage, but in written form.

This book is in two parts: the first comprising the bulk of the book with recollections of his life and career dating back to the mid-1940s in Brisbane amidst war-time.  Thomas writes that the book of recollections is “unashamedly anecdotal and includes career experiences, stories of people who influenced me, backstage dramas, the perils of travel, and a range of incidents which occurred along the way.”

He reveals how as a young boy of 10 or 11, he was cpativated by music; a passion which would shape his whole life to come. How did this young Brisbane boy become a world recognised conductor? This account is full of stories which show a rich life, filled with extraordinary and contrasted episodes. There are moments of spectacular grandeur juxtaposed with the simplicity of concerts in the Australian outback, from monumental concerts with international orchestras through to humble childrens’ concerts.

Broken into small, very readable sections with titles like “ Mini Scores, Page Turns and Panic Attacks” and “ Christianity, Chalis and Cricket”, to “Conductros Rarely Win”, Patrick Thomas has had an amazing life, filled to the brim with events, people and music of such diversity. He expresses all this in this short addictive collection of stories in a way which is heart-felt, intimate and generous.

The second part of the book is an engaging diary account a a trip taken with pianist Geoofrey Tozer between 14-25 January in 1990 to Gorbachov’s Russia. At first this trip sounds like a disaster with poor air travel, hotel accommodation and not so pleasant food. There is sufficient detail as one might expect in a diary, from what one ate, heard in rehearsal, non-functioning bathrooms right through to the exchange of gifts. The contrasts were made well though between the first place visited, Voronezh and the second, Moscow.

There were comments also about the music performed the orchestras themselves and the success of the concerts, but it was the human glimpses of this great conductor as he went through his daily life in a foreign country that were illuminating.

MCA MEMBERS’ OCCASIONAL BULLETIN From the Executive Director, Music Council of Australia

Dear members,

Here is an update on a number of important (if slow!) developments in the music world, along with my cheery, optimistic comments.

The National Curriculum. This has quietly been renamed the Australian Curriculum. Maybe the PM’s continuing references to ‘our nation‘ made change desirable.

The first draft of the curriculum for music and the other arts is scheduled for publication around the end of May and comment will be invited–and no doubt forthcoming. MCA has an expert working group ready to go.

The curriculum will be given a test run in selected schools in the last half of the year and presumably will then be ready to be taught as of 2013. We are not expecting a lightning switch by the school systems. For one thing, as you know, at primary school level in most states, the classroom teachers have not been educated to teach this or any other music curriculum. We keep pointing this out but so far have not heard of any teacher training plans.

Spare a thought for the Curriculum Authority (ACARA), about whose work everyone including us has an opinion and turfs and politics and egos are all in glorious shouting discord.

Funding for university music schools and programs. As I have written to you before, there is no university music school in Australia known to us that does not run at a loss under the current funding rules. They cope by cutting and cutting programs and by internal rescue by their universities.

The Higher Education Base Funding Review seemed to recognise the problem, states that the ‘studio-based arts’ need more funding, says no more internal rescues and appears to act to give it to them, but in fact gives nothing. Unbelievable.

Furthermore, taken as a whole, its recommendations could only be implemented if the Commonwealth gives an overall one third base funding increase to the university sector and how likely is that? No doubt a way would be found through that impasse but still, as things stand, music would receive additional funding only if the whole sector receives it.

National Cultural Policy. This has been three years in the making and there are hints that it will be published in late May. The MCA will hold one, maybe two, open meetings for public discussion of its effects on music. We cannot set a date until we know when the policy will be available, but our guess is June or July. You will be invited.

We expect that this policy is not going to deal only with matters under the direct control of the Arts Minister. While it is called a cultural policy, it probably will be an arts policy but one that covers whole of government. So for instance, what is the role of the arts in health, or regional development, social inclusion, exports? (And what is the role of the Australia Council under such a policy? That’s subject to a separate secret inquiry, already underway so presumably it takes regard to contents of the cultural policy that have already been decided before the policy is written. Well, never hold an inquiry unless you already know what outcomes you want.)

This could all be very positive except for one thing. We would not want to see the arts viewed, and used, only as a tool for other objectives. In any case, such a proposition would contain the seeds of its own failure. The arts have their own values, and people value the arts to the extent that they are grabbed by a direct and hopefully deep experience of the arts. Without that, who cares enough? Give at risk youth a genuine experience of arts and art-making if you want to make an arts-rescue. They already hear music on the radio and that didn’t help.

Music and Media Symposium. The Music Council is organising an expert Music and Media Symposium for April 19. The purpose is to figure out ways to ensure a strong showing of Australian music in the broadcast and online media. This has become a very complicated issue with the disruption of old certainties by the growth of availability of music online. Everyone knows that the recording industry has taken a beating. MCA is especially concerned with the effects on composers and musicians, without whom, after all…

Australian music has been programmed on commercial radio, on the face of it, only because of regulations requiring it. We don’t quite know why commercial stations are reluctant to broadcast Australian music tracks other than that they are not already international hits. The radio regulations have been called into question because it appears that they cannot be applied to music on the internet. The radio stations complain that this puts them at an unfair disadvantage. The Symposium will be looking for new solutions.

The Convergence Review. The report will be published, says the government, ‘by late April’. This review is very important for the future of music in the media and the Interim Report of the review was widely criticised by an audience that has reason to be a bit jumpy. That report was floating ideas such as disbandment of Australian content regulations to be replaced by government subsidies. But this is a government that is balancing its budget through cuts. What are the chances that it will add new financial responsibilities in the media?

1% case fails. Most radio depends almost entirely on music to fill its program day. Without music, we would have only talk shows, with two alternatives: turn off the radio, or serious self-harm.

Under legislation, commercial radio pays a royalty to record companies and performing musicians capped at 1% of income. The actual payment is less than 1% due to various wrinkles. Last year, commercial radio brought in over $1,000,000,000 and 1% of that is $10,000,000. $10,000,000 for use of music to keep almost all of the commercial radio stations in the country going, 365 days a year around the clock.

ARIA has been trying to get governments to rescind the legislation and allow the parties to negotiate a market-based price. Successive Attorneys-General have accepted the justice of the case but do not act. What government wants a bad friend in the media, after all? So in frustration, ARIA took a case to the High Court to have the legislation declared unconstitutional. That would relieve the government of any obligation to do anything that upsets the media. The case failed. Back to the drawing board.

Music Career website. If you or your loved one is building a career of any sort in music, there’s a lot of new information on this lively site. To the 150 job categories have been added some more for jobs in the digital arena. There also is a lot of other new information about current (this month? this year?) best practice in use of the internet for marketing music–a career essential. Alex Masso is in charge.musiccareer.com.au

musiceducation.edu.au is our dynamic site to support music teaching especially in schools. It has a sister site, moremusictoolkit.org.au to help you get more music into your school or the school your kids attend. Both of these are run by Pru Borgert, who welcomes your ideas.

The Music in Australia Knowledge Base has had a major infusion of new information. Editor Hans Hoegh-Guldberg is one of Australia’s top cultural economists and a great music lover to boot. He brings his knowledge to bear especially in the highly neglected area of music statistics. This is the site which brings all the stats together and gives them penetrating examination and explanation. Given that statistics may not get your blood racing, there is a mother lode of other information about how music works in Australia. You can reach the KB through mca.org.au. You will find it under MUSIC IN AUSTRALIA in the bar across the top of the home page.

Best regards

Dick Letts


Executive Director, Music Council of Australia, Past President, International Music Council
64/1 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia.Tel. +612 9251 3816