On October 28th, DSO will take the stage for an incredible and immersive concert that will take audience members on an exciting and colourful journey through some of film, TV and gaming’s most iconic landscapes.

DSO Resident Conductor Stephen Pevely will guide the orchestra through a program of exciting, dramatic and moving works that will be instantly recognisable by audience members of all ages.

Stephen began his musical career in the UK before joining the Darwin Symphony Orchestra in 1989, quickly becoming Principal Clarinet soon after, under the baton of DSO founder Martin Jarvis.

“It was an exciting time to be there at the very start of the DSO as we traveled widely and did some amazing concerts throughout the Territory. I am happily married to Natalie (also a long-term DSO clarinetist), whom I first met in the DSO in late 1990, and we have two teenage boys (who also play clarinet), so you could say it has been a family affair.”

Stephen received a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance from CDU, and completed conducting studies with Martin Jarvis. In 2001, Stephen had his first opportunity to conduct the orchestra, before becoming DSO’s Resident Conductor in 2012.

Stephen most recently conducted ‘Pictures’ in 2021, a collaboration with Slide Youth Dance, and will be conducting Other Worlds later this month.

Stephen Pevely conducting ‘Pictures’ in 2021

How do you prepare to conduct a concert? How does this differ from the preparation you would normally do to get ready to play the clarinet in a concert?

Playing in the wind section requires learning your part (especially exposed technical moments) and knowing when you need to be heard or when you need to be part of the overall wind texture. In a simple and often-quoted summary by music educators: “regular private practice means you get to know your own part; by regularly attending rehearsals you get to know everyone else’s”.

As a conductor with multiple scores to learn (for Other Worlds it is 13), I mark up each score with a soft lead pencil with everything required to visualise the intent of the work (rehearsal markings, tempo, minimum/maximum dynamics, meter changes, instrument entries, phrasing) before the first rehearsal, thus maximising precious rehearsal time. Your best rehearsals are always the ones you are well prepared for and that are well attended! That’s when you and the players can really start to understand the score!

Other Worlds will feature incredible music from film, TV, and gaming, including John Williams’ ‘Superman March’ and ‘E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial’, as well as Ron Grainer’s groundbreaking ‘Doctor Who Theme’, and gaming tunes from ‘Super Mario Bros.’, ‘Halo’, and ‘Bounty Hunter’.

Which piece of music in this concert has been the most enjoyable to work on so far? Which has been the most challenging and why?

That’s a difficult question, as there are so many great melodies in the program! As I have immersed myself in the scores, there are two works that require both explicit direction and flexibility. One totally new work for me that stands out as the most challenging is the Symphonic Variations “Merry-Go-Round,” featuring music from the 2004 anime film Howl’s Moving Castle by Japanese composer and pianist Joe Hisaishi.

He has taken his famous whimsical waltz melody from the film, introduced by the piano, and created some wonderful variations that bring out so many orchestral colors and textures. The other is John Williams’ ‘E.T. – Adventures on Earth’. A very familiar tune to many and very difficult to conduct! The most immediately enjoyable is probably the ‘Superman’ march, as you get to direct the opening brass fanfares from our fabulous brass and French horn sections!

The most outrageous is the Looney Tunes Overture, which features all of the cartoon melodies that we all (or maybe just some of us older music lovers!) grew up with. It’s a complex and detailed score with subtle tempo changes and many sound effects – a testament to the talent and virtuosity of those composers, arrangers, and musicians who worked for animation film studios of the past.

We are expecting a number of new audience members to join us for their first-ever orchestra concert. What would you say to someone who is listening to classical music performed by an orchestra for the first time?

Don’t be intimidated by all the different instruments. Open your eyes and ears, and watch for the theatre of the various sections. The lights shining off raised trumpet and horn bells before the iconic opening fanfare of the Superman march; the beauty of a cello solo in the Blue Danube Waltz from 2001: A Space Odyssey; the other-worldly electronic sounds of the famous Doctor Who Theme by Australian composer Ron Grainer; the drama of our selection of video game music; the slapstick Looney Tunes Overture featuring our saxophone and trombone sections, and finally, to the music-box symphonic whimsy of the Hisaishi Merry-Go-Round, this is the concert to attend!

From a conductor’s perspective, what do you hope audience members will notice in this concert? Are there any beautiful musical moments, or anything of special note in this concert?

In such a varied program, with each work seeking to transport the listener directly into well-known and lesser-known soundscapes, I urge everyone to immerse themselves in the kaleidoscope of sound and color which I find so compelling about the Symphony Orchestra. Listen for the truly beautiful and tender moments from the finale of John Williams’ ‘E.T. Adventures on Earth’ score as E.T. and his young friends sadly say goodbye. A real tear-jerking moment in cinematic history realized by a cinematic musical genius!

What do you love about conducting an orchestra?

The unique palette of instrumental colors and the opportunity to influence and change those colors. From the pianissimo hush of sustained strings, the brilliance and sonority of the winds, the majestic declamatory power of horns and full brass to the dramatic punctuation of percussion, it’s a gripping medium. After years of playing under our many guest and chief conductors, absorbing the dos and don’ts of those performances from the back row of the wind section, I have the opportunity to realize my version of the score!

Don’t miss this truly incredible concert that will have you immersed in the colourful and exciting worlds of the best film, TV, and gaming music.

Saturday 28 October, 6.30pm // Darwin Entertainment Centre.