5 Minutes with Richard Willing

17 May 2021
  • Community
by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
5 Minutes with Richard Willing

A recent find in a farm shed uncovered ASO programs, ticket stubs and season passes from as early as 1942 – Richard Willing’s first year as an ASO audience member. Finding the decades old items, in pristine condition after being stored for 30+ years in a box brought back many ASO highlights and fond memories.

In 1945 it was still wartime, and for his birthday Richard’s relatives pitched in to give him 17 shillings (equal to $62.72 today) which he spent on a series of five concerts in the Symphony Orchestral Season. Richard recalls rows of cane chairs in the Adelaide Town Hall, standing to attention during ‘God Save the King’, and a shortage of paper during the war resulting in programs being printed on card. He particularly loved the magical experience of the Youth Concerts, which were the first concerts he attended. Some years later he took his now late wife, Gwen, on their first date to a piano recital by a then 15-year old Daniel Barenboim.

Conductor Otto Klemperer announcing the death of
Richard Strauss, Adelaide Town Hall, 9 September 1949

Some of the programs in the collection are autographed, which was something of a hobby when Richard was a teenager. He would engage the stage door security in conversation until they let him backstage, where he collected the autographs of alter Susskind, Lili Kraus, Eugene Goossens, Bernard Heinze, Merle Robertson, Solomon, and Szymon Goldberg.

In Richard’s impressive 79 year history of attending performances, his most memorable was a special occasion concert at the Adelaide Town Hall on 9 September 1949. At the start of the concert the Conductor, Otto Klemperer, announced the death of
Richard Strauss on the previous day, and the evening’s program was changed to include a tribute to Strauss.

As Richard went through the process of cataloguing his old programs, it occurred to him that, at the age of 90, he is older than the ASO itself yet still regularly and enthusiastically attends concerts.

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Recording courtesy of ABC Classic

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