I play double bass for the choir. Musician friends from another orchestra first invited me and I have been with Dante Musica Vivs for the past 10 years (I think). I like the music and the people and I enjoy finding the bass notes which go best with it. It’s clear to me that the Italians have all the good songs. I like the passion and joy the choir spread when they perform, recalling a time when everyone naturally danced and sang without a separation between spectators and entertainers.
My family moved from country New South Wales to Canberra when I was in primary school. We arrived about the same time as Lake Burley Griffin started to fill. Most of my childhood was in this town, becoming a city that rapidly rose out of open farmland. Here is where I also attended university, majoring in population genetics, paying for my education firstly through a year working and then playing in various bands for the course duration.
I have always loved music but actually playing came late. My mother was forced to learn piano as a child, which she hated, so would not have a musical instrument in her house. It was only after the Beatles and my adolescent ‘rebellion’ that a piano appeared and my earnest ambition to join the Beatles could be pursued. My younger sister and brother also took piano lessons but have never played music since.
As a young man I only ever wanted to play music and could hardly wait to finish this obligatory university nonsense, move to Sydney and join my friends who had already left and become part of the jazz scene there. Be careful what you wish for!
Life as a professional musician is tough. Only the very best, which I certainly wasn’t, ever make a comfortable living. I found myself facing the awful reality of professional music; studying jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium, playing RSL club gigs or anything else I could find and struggling to live, getting deeper and deeper in debt. Not fun any more. Thank goodness I could also find a ‘day job’. I stayed in Sydney working for seven years but hardly played a note again.
I have kept in touch with my musician friends. They have been musically successful, but life has different demands. An awesomely talented singer/ pianist has played bar mitzvahs and weddings for the past 30 years. The hottest item on the Sydney jazz scene teaches children clarinet for a living. Another close friend from then, now busks in Melbourne when he needs money.
As my children were nearly grown up and my ‘day job’ in the Public Service was drawing to a close, I found something was missing in my life. Thanks to an inquisitive friend and an encouraging wife and family, I discovered the missing element to be a double bass. My music deficiency has been overcome with regular doses of jazz groups, folk bands, orchestras and choir. Everyone needs a bass player but not many musicians want to play bass. I do.