PSO Christmas Pop Ups!

Throughout December, various Perth Symphony ensembles will be popping up in the morning and over lunchtimes across various locations around Brookfield Place in the city.

We at PSO absolutely love sending orchestra members out into the public to bring a little Christmas Cheer to your busy days, and this will be the third year running we have done this!

Why not take a little time away from the Christmas shopping rush and come listen to some music? Look out for us at BHP Billiton and EY lobbies, cafés and at Heritage Square in the run-up to Christmas!

PSO’s Executive Director Bourby Webster visits Dallas Opera

PSO’s Executive Director Bourby Webster recently visited The Dallas Opera in Dallas, USA to explore their programs developing women in Opera. Here’s what she had to say about her inspiring trip:

What was the purpose of your trip to Dallas?
My recent trip to Dallas was at the invitation of the CEO, Keith Cerny. Keith has created two groundbreaking programs to develop women in Opera – an Institute of Women Conductors and an Institute of Women Administrators. The Conductors program is in its third year, however this is the first year they have been joined by up and coming female administrators from across the USA. As a passionate educator (I teach business skills every year at WAAPA to sometimes over 100 music students a year) and strong supporter of women, I was very curious to learn more about the programs – how they are structured, who is involved, what are the outcomes? Following a skype hook with Keith, he invited me to see for myself with a view to determining whether or not something similar was appropriate here in Australia and could add value to what we are doing already at PSO. I am eternally grateful for Darryl Mack and Helen Taylor for their support in helping me fund the flight to be able to go. I learned a huge amount, and also gained a lot of confidence that we are doing so much right here at PSO HQ as a company.
I did feel that the time isn’t yet right to commence a similar institute, despite my desire to do so, as the pressure on my current team to deliver is already so high. The Dallas Opera has around 35 staff, 10 of whom are focused on development (bringing in money from gifts, patrons, donors, sponsors and more) and they have over 150 members on their board, all of whom are constantly promoting The Dallas Opera and working together to bring in financial and other support. As PSO has only three full time staff (and around five FTE) and six board members, we have our job cut out just existing. But the whole trip has confirmed that arts companies full of inspiring professionals have a role to play in developing the next generation, and I cannot wait until we have enough funding and resources to be able to create a similar program of our own – hopefully in the next 3-5 years.
What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
Spending time with one of the world’s leading opera companies was in itself mind-blowing. To see a company that at its core functions like PSO, but on such a huge scale, was just so inspiring for me. I could see how the admin side interlinks with the orchestra, the conductor and the singers, and how, when each element is the best it can be, it results in a life-changing performance. The Dallas Opera invited several outstanding young singers to perform in concert at the end of the course, and being close to them, the orchestra and the conductors in rehearsal was just incredible. The power of the human voice cannot be underestimated. It is hard to pinpoint one highlight, as the week unfolded, inspiration came from all angles, but having one-on-one time with Keith, the CEO, was extremely beneficial to hear his thoughts and ideas and how they might apply to PSO.
Who was the most inspiring person you met on your trip?
Watching the phenomenal world-renowned conductor, Marin Alsop (pictured) work with the six young female conductors on the podium in front of The Dallas Opera Orchestra gave me a new-found respect for just how hard it is to conduct – it is truly an incredibly physical and emotional skill that clearly takes years of knowledge, study and talent to master. It made me even more proud of our Chief Conductor Jessica Gethin, as it was clear to me she is a world-class talent. Marin isn’t just a world-class conductor, she is a world-class educator. It made me want to learn to be the best educator I can be as young people depend on having incredibly inspiring educators to lead them to the next level. Also Keith Cerny the CEO is remarkable. His vision, passion, broad range of skills, and strong business acumen are what drives the company. The fact he is so involved in the artistic side of the company was in some ways a relief, as I love being part of the creative vision of PSO, but often the CEO or General Manager leaves all artistic decisions to the Artistic or Music Director, but his input, and the success that comes from it, gave me confidence to continue playing a strong role in leading the artistic side of PSO with Jessica and Paul Wright our Concertmaster. I hope I get to return one day to spend more time with Keith and his team. I shall be eternally grateful the amount of time he gave me, and the unique opportunity I had to see the inner workings of a major institution in my industry. I am looking forward to keeping in touch with Keith and The Dallas Opera into the future.
We look forward to drawing on the inspiration Bourby gained in Dallas and seeing that help PSO grow!

PSO to perform Faith & Freedom: The Music of George Michael at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

We are excited to announce that following its sell-out success at The Astor Theatre, we will be performing Faith & Freedom: The Music of George Michael once again at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre on March 3rd, 2018.

To celebrate the launch of Mandjar Art Awards 2018, join us for the art preview (all welcome!) and round off your evening with a ticket to one of the most hotly anticipated shows at ManPAC!  This is an evening guaranteed to inspire and uplift you – join us for the party!

– Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

Read more about the show and purchase tickets HERE.

Scotch College headmaster Alec O’Connell receives WA’s highest teaching honour

PSO Board member and the man behind our home Scotch College, Alec O’Connell, has received WA’s highest teaching honour, the Australian College of Educators Medal.

Geoff Hutchison at ABC News had the following to say:

Scotch College Headmaster Dr Alec O’Connell feels we should be looking at creating a more flexible and less structured school environment.

Earlier this week Dr O’Connell received the prestigious Australian College of Educators Medal.

The award recognises his passion for teaching over almost four decades and he’s still as driven as the first day he started teaching.

You can read the full news story and listen to Geoff’s interview with Alec here.

“As PSO has benefited from his vision and leadership we couldn’t be more delighted for Alec. This recognition is wholly deserved.” 

said Bourby Webster, PSO Exec Director.

PSO Community & Education Coordinator Bronwyn Ife elected councillor for Town of Victoria Park

We are excited to announce that our Community & Education Coordinator, Bronwyn Ife, has been elected as a councillor for the Town of Victoria Park! Here’s what she had to say about it:

After hearing of plans that threatened my local park, home to mature Tuart trees and endangered red-tailed black cockatoos, I was inspired to run for council, on a platform of protecting precious community green spaces and better public consultation. 
I was the only woman candidate in a field of six in Jarrah Ward, and was elected for a four year term for my ward.  I received the most votes – 1792, from 3734 ballot papers. 
With the results in both wards electing 3 women (a total of 4 positions were elected), we have taken the Town of Victoria Park Council from 3 women and 6 men to 6 women and 3 men.
We’re thrilled for Bronwyn and wish her all the best of luck with her time as a councillor! We’re sure she will bring as much positivity, creativeness and fun to Victoria Park as she does in our office!

Perth Symphony Orchestra engaged by South32 to perform at TEDxPerth Event

We are excited to announce that we will be collaborating with South32, a second year sponsor of TEDx Perth 2017, to entertain and engage the audience at this event designed to share ideas worth spreading.

A lively and fun percussion duo will perform during morning break to make sure everyone is awake and ready for the day ahead, with a brass quintet blasting out a variety of tunes during lunch – proving there need not be any barriers between classical instruments and contemporary songs.

Bourby Webster, our Executive Director said:

“We are very grateful to South32 for this amazing opportunity. We challenge ourselves to dare to be different across our performances and the way our organisation works. TEDxPerth is a great opportunity to showcase how we can contribute new ideas, new experience and innovation.”

South32 is a global diversified mining and metals company, and like PSO, is committed to innovation and technology to support their operations.

A Perth Symphony string quartet has been working with Professor Alan Harvey and Andrew Price to prepare a TEDx Talk which shows music’s effect on the brain following a collaboration we did earlier this year with the team at Scitech. Alan’s studies in neuroscience include trauma, transplantation, gene therapy and regeneration. His research has helped understand how nervous systems can be protected and repaired after injury. In collaboration with Andrew Price and Perth Symphony Orchestra, Alan will show the audience what’s going on in their brains, live on stage.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organised TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organised. This annual event, in its sixth year, is the second-largest TEDx event in Australia and sells out quickly.

TEDx Perth 2017 will take place at Perth Concert Hall on November 11.

CLICK HERE for tickets.

PSO members to accompany Noongar poetry readings in Northam

We are delighted to announce that three members of Perth Symphony Orchestra will accompany the Bilya Kep Waagnkiny Nyoongar poetry readings at the Link Theatre in Northam on Sunday November 5 at 2pm.

Music director and didgeridoo player Ian Willkes said the event is a one-of-a-kind show.

“It’s going to be an exciting collaboration for the group, complementing the poetry with traditional music fused with classical sounds from the orchestra,” he said.

The event will include poems that tell of the Stolen Generation, Noongar soldiers in the Vietnam war and trips through Country by new and established poets, the event maps a compelling range of local stories and history.

You can read more about the poetry readings here and here.

The event is free but seats are limited. Tickets can be booked online at Eventbrite at or by calling 9226 2422.

Goodbye to Peach & Pineapple!

As all good things must come to an end, so did the partnership between PSO and Peach & Pineapple.  Perth Symphony has been lucky enough to have this amazing power duo as it’s official Publicist for 5 years.

Executive Director Bourby Webster noted:

“Caitlin Irving of Peach & Pineapple has supported PSO as our publicist since before our first concert. I’ll never forgot seeing an image in the paper talking about the first concert thanks to Caitlin. It was finally real” She said. “We’ve seen her grow into Peach and Pineapple working with Zara and together they’ve become a powerhouse in Perth. We will of course miss working with them as they have both been so supportive of PSO and me personally. We wish nothing but the best to them both as they take on new clients that will see them grow into one of the leading PR firms in Australia. And we, of course, will be keeping in touch.”


Caitlin and Zara secured some amazing publicity for the Orchestra over this time, and we can’t thank them enough for coming on this crazy journey with us.

Unplugged: Nirvana Reimagined – ‘…the closest we will ever come to seeing Kurt live in concert’

Our Unplugged: Nirvana Reimagined concert was an amazing success, and here is what the reviewers are saying:

“This was no regular concert, this was an immersive experience. The vocals were outstanding. The crowd stomped and cheered their way through the duration of the encore wait. The curtain finally lifted to reveal Burford wearing a different band T-shirt and cardigan, however, the more exciting costume change was PSO members wearing sleeveless vests to reveal tattooed arms. The encore comprised three of Nirvana’s biggest mainstream hits, which were not originally included on the Unplugged setlist; Lithium, In Bloom, and Smells Like Teen Spirt. The crowd could no longer contain their excitement, with many leaping out of their seats to mosh. The excitement intensified when four girls in cheerleading outfits waving pom poms made their way to the front of the stage for the final song of the night. At this point, not even PSO musicians could contain themselves with many jumping up to dance while continuing to play their instruments. In full rockstar mode, one of the violinists took centre stage to smash her violin to pieces!

The performance left no doubt as to why this event sold-out well in advance. Burford and PSO did Kurt Cobain and Nirvana justice. Unsurprisingly, they received a well-deserved standing ovation for their efforts.”

– Amy Smith of The Music. Read the full review here.

“From the moment the concert started, everyone was in character as the show transported us back through time to November 18, 1993. “Is Kurt Cobain in the house? Please report to Studio One,” was heard over the speakers as the stage-hands inspired by the old MTV Unplugged set in New York rushed around putting the final touches in place.

End of Fashion frontman Justin Burford as Kurt Cobain finally came out, hair unkempt and wearing a baggy, knitted jumper – looking the part and indeed sounding very much like Kurt for most of the performance. Burford and the orchestra started with About A Girl and Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam, surprisingly breaking with the original album’s setlist order two tracks in. But if you closed your eyes, you could imagine that you were in the room with Kurt himself.

They managed to capture the souls of the songs in such a way that you just knew that Kurt would have been so happy with it and especially with the last three songs of the night – Lithium, In Bloom and Smells Like Teen Spirit – even ending the night with the violent smashing of a violin.”

– Karen Lowe of Xpress Magazine. Read the full review here.

Ash Gibson Greig’s arrangements of the original MTV Unplugged setlist (plus a few extra tracks) were the perfect blend between familiar recognition and refreshing originality. Greig truly rose to the challenge in translating the MTV Unplugged experience to an orchestral context. The instrumentation brought a variety of colours to successfully convey the messages of the songs, and I was particularly impressed with the woodwind writing. Who knew that Lake of Fire needed a bluesy bassoon solo? Or that the mournful oboe solo in Where Did You Sleep Last Night could make an already sad song even more heartbreaking?

But the star of the night was vocalist, actor, and associate music director Justin Burford. Burford was an incredible Kurt Cobain, capturing the talent, poignancy and humour of the late icon perfectly. His interactions with Gethin and the audience between songs were full of humour and warmth, and his stage manner was open, vulnerable and almost shy. When Burford performed Pennyroyal Tea sitting cross legged on the stage floor, I wanted to climb onto the stage, give him a big hug and tell him, “Everything’s going to be ok!”. His singing was clear yet with the appropriate amount of grit and intensity to do Cobain justice; the famous vocal climax of Where Did You Sleep Last Night was beautifully heart-stopping, a testament to the talent of both Cobain and himself.

– Laura Biemmi of CutCommon Magazine. Read the full review here.

PSO Director Bourby Webster finalist for Telstra WA Business Women’s Award

We are proud to announce that Perth Symphony Orchestra’s Founder and Executive Director Bourby Webster is a finalist for the Telstra WA Business Women’s Award of 2017.

Here’s what Telstra had to say about her:

Whether by igniting conversations about mental health or turning classical music on its head, the 21 finalists of the 2017 Telstra Western Australian Business Women’s Awards are striving to challenge some of the state’s most ingrained perceptions.

One such orchestrator of change is Bourby Webster. Royal College of Music alumni and the founder of the Perth Symphony Orchestra (PSO), Bourby has become a model entrepreneur for WA’s arts sector. Her belief that successfully bringing people together over classical music rests on breaking the rules, is what has driven Bourby to produce adventurous, alternative shows, like Steampunk Mozart and UNPLUGGED: Nirvana Reimagined.

You can read the full article, and find out about the other finalists here.