Thirty Year Celebration – 30th July 2023

Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky at Tweed Heads

By Madeleine Murray

THE BRILLIANT Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra (NRSO) is putting on a very special concert on Sunday, July 30.

All NRSO concerts are excellent, but this one is significant for two reasons. First, the NRSO has been giving Northern Rivers people outstanding classical music performances for 30 years.

And secondly, the romance between the conductor Marco Bellasi and solo pianist Ayesha Gough adds a special dimension.

Ayesha, 28, grew up in Murwillumbah, and has performed in Russia, China, Italy, Japan and around Australia.

“I suppose the most significant thing in my career lately is that I’ve decided to settle in the area, the Gold Coast actually, and start to build my musical life,” Ayesha told The Weekly.

“I was very lucky to meet Marco, at the right time for both of us, and we are happily intertwining our musical and romantic lives. So, performing the Rachmaninoff will be extra special, with Marco conducting!”

The performance of Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor OP.18 will be thrilling for the audience as well.

“The concerto is very special to me,” Ayesha said. “Before composing it, Rachmaninoff had suffered a psychological breakdown and depression that prevented him from composing for three years.

“It was the neurologist, Nikolai Dahl, who successfully treated him and to whom the concerto is dedicated. I myself, like so many other musicians, know what it is to withdraw from music – something that has been so dominant in your life – for various reasons, and to suffer a period in which you’re not sure of yourself and your career.

“It perhaps happens more than we talk about. In this concerto, I hear and feel all the struggle, the anguish, and also the redemption and life-affirmation that comes from such a period.

“The second piano concerto is not just a collection of beautiful melodies: it opens a door on all the complexity and nuance of human experience.”

Principal conductor and musical director Marco Bellasi is a dual citizen of Italy and Australia. Marco has worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble 10/10, the official chamber orchestra of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. 

The NRSO was founded by Barry Singh, who was its chief conductor and artistic director until 2012. 

Son of a local Indian banana farmer, music was not an encouraged part of his childhood, but Barry always had a wish to conduct his own orchestra one day. 

In October 1993, that dream became a reality. From its original 18 members, the NRSO now draws as many as 60 players from as far afield as Lismore, Brisbane and Toowoomba.

The Thirty Year Celebration concert is on at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 30 at the Tweed Heads Civic Centre.