The Dandenong Ranges Orchestra is a community orchestra dedicated to bringing music to the hills. The orchestra is comprised of local musicians of all ages, coming together to rehearse and perform a range of pieces.
B MUS (MOSCOW), MASTER OF MUSIC (MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY)
Alexander Vengerovski has been a professional musician all his life, training at the Russian Academy of Music in Moscow under professor Shteiman. Before that, he attended the Kharkov Special Music School in the Ukraine studying violin and percussion. Prior to his move to Australia in 1999, he was the principal percussionist of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Alexander has performed as a soloist and as a member of orchestras in more than fifty countries, and in 1998 was recognised with the Honoured Artist of Russia award. His orchestra involvement in Australia includes engagements with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Pops Orchestra and others. In May 2016 he completed a Master of Music (Conducting) at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (University of Melbourne) under Benjamin Northey, the chief conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Photographs by Dmitry Likane.
History of the Dandenong Ranges Orchestra
In 1984, the Dandenong Ranges Music Council launched a pilot program to form a string orchestra in the Dandenong Ranges which would hopefully evolve into a full orchestra. Under the musical directorship of Alex Cole, the Senior String Orchestra was formed.
Initially there were three violin players and Joan Zavan, the group's mentor, affectionately known as Aunty Joan to the players. The very first performance was at a Bush Dance at the Monbulk Community Centre. With Alex, the three string players on violin and Joan playing the piano accordion, we played “Travelling Down to Castlereagh” and “Botany Bay”. The event was to raise funds to pay the
airfares of the composer Robert Smallwood to return from London to Melbourne, to conduct the Royal performance of his piece “Elements”.
On November 7th 1985 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, musicians and singers from all over the Dandenong Ranges assembled to perform for the celebration of Victoria’s 150th Anniversary, opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
In 1986, the string orchestra relocated from Monbulk to the Upwey High School for weekly rehearsals, and with more members joining the orchestra, it continued to develop and grow.
In 1989, Alex resigned from his position of Musical Director and the group sought a new director. Christine Vincent was appointed to the role and later on, the group changed their name to the Dandenong Ranges Chamber Orchestra. Over a period of approximately nine years, Christine encouraged and directed the group to try all manner of musical performance under their own volition. The group performed regularly at art openings, weddings, local community events and Christmas church services. The group also ran several informative evening string music workshops, covering all aspects of the workings of stringed instruments.
One of the group's most avid supporters of this time, was a well-known Emerald identity: Gus Ryberg. Each February, we would be invited by Gus to perform at the Nobelius Heritage Park Museum in Emerald for the annual Nobelius family reunion. After Gus died in 2000, the tradition of the group playing at the Museum was abandoned.
Sadly, by 1998, the group had diminished to four regular players, so it was decided to make one last mammoth effort to recruit all instrument players to form a full orchestra. With plenty of publicity, we held several sessions with different guest conductors, which attracted many new players. As luck would have it, a viola player who had played with the orchestra during Alex Cole's time had attended one of these sessions. John Collins had just retired from teaching and with some gentle persuasion, we invited him to become the Musical Director of the Dandenong Ranges Orchestra.
In 2016, after nearly 20 years of successfully directing the orchestra, John Collins stepped down from the position of Musical Director of the Dandenong Ranges Orchestra. The Orchestra went through a transition of leadership with the appointment of Robert Dora as the new Musical Director. The year was a period of new learning and pieces. Robert stepped down as Musical Director at the end of 2016 and by the new term of 2017, Jules Cseszko was appointed as Musical Director.
Alexander Vengerovski stepped in to conduct the orchestra’s 2017 Christmas concert and then returned in 2018 after being appointed as the new Music Director.