Meet one of our longest subscribers – 73 years and counting!

2 Jun 2019
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Subscriber Stories
by Ashleigh McManus
Meet one of our longest subscribers – 73 years and counting!

87 year old ASO subscriber Richard Willing was just 14 years old when he attended the Beethoven festival in 1945 with his birthday money, and has been attending ASO concerts ever since. Here he tells us about his passion for music, his love of the ASO, that first passionate experience at the Beethoven Festival and how excited he is about seeing the Beethoven Concerto’s in June – an incredible 73 years on from that first performance that ignited his hunger for orchestral music.

ASO: Tell us how you came to attend the Beethoven Festival in 1945? Who did you attend the concert with, where was it held? How much was the ticket?
Richard: I was a Beethoven nut at quite an early age. It was my 14th birthday and it was still wartime and it was easier for extended family to give money rather than buy a present.  I had about 15 pounds and splurged most of it on the ticket to the Beethoven Festival. I attended the concerts on my own as I went to boarding school at 8 years of age and I always attended concerts with the school, so it wasn’t unusual for me to go to a concert on my own.  However it was the first time I had subscribed to a concert on my own.

Describe attending the concert?
It was such a memorable occasion over 4 weeks there were 6 concerts I found them exciting to watch the orchestra at work and hearing all of the music that Beethoven had written was very exciting for a 14year old.

What do you love most about Beethoven’s Music?
He was one of my favourite composers at the time, I guess the development from the music of Haydn and Mozart and then how Beethoven as he matured made his own musical imprint of the day.

If you could go back in time and ask Beethoven a question what would you ask him?
I would ask him if he’d like a cochlear implant. (Said with a cheeky grin) being serious I would ask him where his inspiration came from during his deaf years especially in relation to his late quartets.

What are you most looking forward to about seeing the Beethoven Concerto’s 73 years later?
Revisiting the orchestra as a much larger and much more professional outfit from when I saw them as 14 year old. I still love to hear an early Beethoven work and I’m sure it will bring back memories of seeing the Beethoven Festival so long ago.

Do you have a favourite Beethoven Concerto?
Number 4 in G because it’s different to the earlier pieces.

As an ASO subscriber how many concerts do you attend each year? And what do you love about the orchestra?
I attend all 10 of the Master Series Concerts with a few extra concerts thrown in. The ASO has been such a big part of my life for many decades and I love coming to a concert and seeing all of the familiar faces in the orchestra, they are like life-long friends and I love seeing them working hard and mostly enjoying themselves.  My dear late wife Gwen and I regularly subscribed all of our married life and orchestral music was there with us right from the start. My first date was when I took Gwen to see a piano recital by Daniel Barenboim who was only 15 years old at the time.

If you could inspire a young person today to attend a concert, how would you encourage them to see a performance?  
I’d start by manufacturing programs for teenagers using familiar music you hear in TV ads to get them excited by the music.  But I’m sure once you’ve got them to a concert they’d be hooked  because overall music is fun and I’d encourage them as once you experience live music it’s something you’ll always enjoy.

In your 73 year history of attending performances, what has been the most memorable?
It was a special occasion concert at the town hall in the late 40s and at the start of the concert the Conductor Otto Klemperer announced the death of Richard Strauss.  It was a very impressive evening as he changed the program to include a tribute to Strauss.

Favourite Conductor?
Nicholas Carter of course, Arvo was also a favourite but really any conductor that the orchestra responds well to. You can really hear how Nicholas coaxes the orchestra to excel on the stage and one never tires to see and hear him do so.

What do you love most about seeing the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra?
I said it before the familiar faces on stage at every concert; all the musicians working hard and enjoying themselves which in turn makes me enjoy myself! And live music is so much better than listening to a recording.

What are you most looking forward to in our 2019 season?
I am looking forward to the remainder of the Master Series.

You are a musical chair sponsor of ASO violinist Janet Anderson, what do you get out of the relationship?
Janet and I have known one another for quite a few years and she very kindly played at Gwen’s funeral which is almost 2 years ago so by sponsoring Janet it is memory of Gwen.

Get your tickets!

The Beethoven Piano Concertos are being performed at Elder Hall over four nights between Wed 5 June and Sat 15 June. Principal Conductor Nicholas Carter will lead the orchestra and piano virtuoso, Jayson Gillham, through all five concerti.

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