A Distinguished Gentleman
Artistic director and co-founder of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir, Paul Dyer, was among the local LGBT people whose work was recognised with an Australia Day Honour. He speaks with Serkan Ozturk.
A master of the harpsichord, fortepiano and chamber organ, having – in his own words – chained himself to the instruments, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir co-founder and artistic director Paul Dyer is now reaping the rewards of such bondage with sold-out tours and lauding reviews for the ensemble’s unique take on the richly dramatic world of Baroque music. Having helped form the Orchestra in 1990 and then the Choir nine years later, the attention and praise heaped upon the groups has been truly humbling for Dyer, as it came out of a time when there was “no real early music scene” exploring the works of Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi and other greats.
Yet, perhaps the most humbling experience of Dyer’s remarkable musical journey came just over a week ago when he was awarded the prestigious Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) in this year’s Australia Day Honours List. The committee had commended Dyer for his “distinguished service to the performing arts, particularly orchestral music as a director, conductor and musician, through the promotion of educational programs and support for emerging artists”.
Dyer tells SX it’s an honour that has left him feeling extremely proud.
“Not only for myself,” he says. “But also because this acknowledges the brilliance and talent of the musicians and artists that I work with on a daily basis.”
Reflecting on how the Brandenburg ensembles have become a much-loved part of many a music lover’s lives over the past quarter of a century, Dyer says it is the same passion and energy he and his cohort of musicians display during their concerts night in and night out that got him to initially believe that the Orchestra could be a success.
“I threw myself into making this dream work because I really believed in it. I was pretty fearless at times,” he says.
“With my co-founder Bruce Applebaum – the Brandenburg General Manager – we enlisted the support and guidance of people in the arts and business worlds, and fortunately they believed in us too. It has been a very exciting ride.
“The musicians who joined us were all exceptional players, but had to learn new ways and a new approach. I’m pleased to say they were as excited as I was and rose to the challenge.”
For Dyer, it’s the Brandenburg’s “unique personality” that gives the vocalists and musicians the ability to challenge and win over audiences, both old and new.
“On a European tour we were asked why the musicians smiled so much on stage and I think that says a lot about us. There is a real joy in bringing this music to the stage and also in being together,” he says.
“These musicians are good mates from all over Australia who share a passion for this music – and the camaraderie shows. There isn’t the ‘stuffiness’ that some people associate with classical music events.”
Having reached the heights of classical music, Dyer credits his lifelong devotion to, and practice of, his favoured instruments as a big reason.
“I think that it is also important to surround yourself with people who are also similarly passionate and who you admire. There isn’t much to be gained by running at the back of the pack,” he says.
“Find yourself a mentor who understands where you want to be and the avenues for getting there.”
When asked what message the openly gay artist would give younger LGBT people, Dyer, who has been a staff member at various Conservatories throughout the world as well as patron of St Gabriel’s School for Hearing Impaired Children, says no one should ever be afraid to explore the energies that make them who they are.
“It is too easy for us to be held back by fear or denial – be it about your sexuality or about your belief in your talent. If we can live our lives comfortable in our own skin, we open ourselves to so many possibilities,” he says.
“This often isn’t easy to achieve, so draw strength and support from those around. Groups like The Pinnacle Foundation are so important in helping people achieve this. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community.”
[Image] Paul Dyer with Madeleine Easton. Photo: Steven Godbee
Here are other notable LGBT Aussies and straight allies of the LGBT community who received Australia Day honours.
The media icon who kick-started her long and storied career as a 15-year-old copy girl at the Australian Women’s Weekly, was acknowledged by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a ceremony in Canberra as the 2013 Australian of the Year for her trailblazing career as well as her continued willingness to champion serious social and health issues such as gay rights, marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, prostate cancer and breast cancer.
The founder of the Queensland branch of the Gay & Lesbian Immigration Task Force (GLITF) was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to human rights, particularly as an advocate for the gay and lesbian community. Robinson has been at the helm of Queensland’s GLITF since 1995.
Dr Jane Lomax-Smith
Recently retired South Australian Labor politician, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, was also made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to Parliament and the community. Lomax-Smith, who served as Adelaide Lord Mayor from 1997-2000 as well as in SA Parliament for almost ten years, has long been considered a strong ally of the state’s local LGBTI community.