In 2015, local musicians Leonie Thompson and Nick Slaney were looking for an affordable performance space with a grand piano in Melbourne's inner northwest. Upon stumbling across St. George’s Church, they realised that it was the perfect performance space - good acoustics, function hall attached, quiet leafy suburb - except that it had a twangy 100 year old upright piano.
Working together with St George's, the pair held a series of fundraising concerts to replace the old piano, and as part of the vision to establish St. George’s as a new musical venue in Melbourne’s inner northwest. The possibilities for higher level concerts (and thereby faster fundraising) improved, however, when a beautiful grand piano was found at Lyra Piano Store, and the director supported the project by delivering it ahead of purchase.
The successful 2016 concerts were in line with Leonie and Nick’s vision to bring professional and vibrant music concerts to the community, with $12,000 going toward the wonderful new grand piano within 5 months, and capacity audiences.
During their 2 years overseas in Germany, the spirit of establishing the beautiful church as a performance venue continued under the name of Friends of Music Series (FOMS), led by pianist Natasha Lin and a growing team of volunteers. Now in it's third year, FOMS has an increasing network of emerging musicians and supporters, and holds a special place in the heart of the local community.
The spirit of fundraising continues each year, and St. George's has a continuing role providing music in the community. All FOMS performers receive a stipend and funds raised go toward venue optimisation, performance assets or professional development for the emerging musicians.
Pictured: Nick Slaney, Leonie Thompson, Reverend Duncan Reid and the new Yamaha G1E (2016)
Reverend Duncan's Story:
"I was delighted several years ago when Leonie Thompson and Nick Slaney, who were preparing for their final exams at the Conservatorium at the time, offered to give several recitals at St George's, on our elderly and rather worse-for-wear upright piano. Later they remarked on the wonderful acoustics of the church, recommended the space to a number of their friends, and proposed a bold plan. The plan was to acquire a concert piano that could turn St George's into an artistic and musical hub for the Travancore-Flemington area, for the benefit of the local community and other young musicians in need of playing time in front of live audiences. Leonie found the piano that would meet our needs and which we could pay off in instalments, and planned a series of concerts for early 2016 that would both raise funds and suitably recompense the musicians. For the small inner-city congregation at St George's, this is a bit of a gamble, but a very exciting one. For the musicians who have offered to play and those who will come to hear them, I hope the experience turns out to be as fulfilling and enjoyable as it promises to be. For Travancore-Flemington, come and visit your new artistic-musical hub!"
(Rev Dr) Duncan Reid Vicar, St George's Anglican Church Flemington
Pictured: Nick Slaney with the new Yamaha G1E baby grand piano on the day it arrived at St. George's (2016)
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