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Sydney Opera House

Taran! Brass fanfare adds to fun on New Year’s Eve

The Opera Gala concert on New Year's Eve is held in conjunction with a dinner and afterparty at the Sydney Opera House: Click here for more information and tickets.

Since the AOBO presented guests at the New Year’s Eve Gala with its first newly composed fanfare in 1999-2000, the boisterous musical announcement that it’s time for guests to take their seats has become an Opera Australia New Year’s Eve tradition.

As Principal Trombone Gregory van der Struik (pictured top right), who composed several of the fanfares, puts it: “1999 ticking over to 2000 was cause for celebration, and Management asked then Principal Trumpet James Blunt to organise ‘some kind of fanfare’. It was so well received that the next year, the brass section was asked to do another one.” By the time Simone Young was Music Director, it was a question of “who’s doing the fanfare?”, and by 2011 the New Year’s Eve tradition had become so popular that Lyndon Terracini asked players to produce one for the opening night of every season.

The idea of a fanfare to call people to the auditorium comes from Bayreuth where, when brass players go out and play on the balcony, people know it’s time to go inside to take their seats. OA’s New Year fanfares are performed in the Northern Foyer of the Sydney Opera House at around 7.40pm, and ten minutes later in the Southern Foyer. “People sit on the steps and everyone seems to love it.” Van der Struik says, “One year one lady wanted copies of the music; she took it from the stands!”

A typical fanfare is scored for ten players: three trumpets, three trombones, a tuba and three horns. The idea is for it to be bright, majestic and attention-grabbing, and simple enough to be put together in limited rehearsal time. “We usually have a run-through before the sitzprobe, and if any adjustments are required, they’re made then. We might have another run-through at the general, and that’s it.”

How long it takes to compose depends on the composer’s level of experience. Van der Struik once mapped one out on the train on his way to the Opera House, then spent three evenings adding harmony to it. Earlier this year Lyndon Terracini asked him to compose a fanfare for the opening night of La bohème. Based on themes from the opera, March of the Bohemians, with Apologies to Giacomo, was written in one night. 

It helps to know the other players and their strengths, says Van der Struik, who’s been in the AOBO since 1987. Playing in an orchestra is what he’d dreamed of doing as a child and he still loves every moment of it. “I enjoy the camaraderie of  my colleagues, and the opportunity to practise my craft and explore musical possibilities.”