MSO’s principal conductor toasts 20-year milestone
Celebrating 20 years conducting with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO), principal conductor Benjamin Northey reflects on his incredible musical journey with MSO that’s made him “the conductor I am today.”
Mr Northey has been “soaking in music” ever since he was a kid, and took up conducting when he was at university after being encouraged by his teacher and highly respected conductor, John Hopkins.
“It wasn’t something that I always wanted to do, but sometimes when somebody believes in you, they convince you to believe in yourself,” Mr Northey said.
“Within a couple years of studying and conducting with him, I’d won the National Conducting Competition and I got into a really good conducting school in Finland – it was during that time of study where I first worked with the MSO, and they’ve been allowing me to develop in that role ever since.”
Mr Northey’s career spans an incredible 20 years of impressive, conducting highlights. As well as working with the MSO, he is also the chief conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO).
An ARIA Awards, Air Music Awards, and Art Music Awards winner, he was voted Limelight magazine’s Australian Artist of the Year in 2018 for his unwavering commitment to the profession.
Despite his success, Mr Northey says that the first concert he ever led with MSO is still his favourite conducting memory, and an experience he’ll “never forget”.
“I’ve been very touched by all of the tributes that I’ve had from people who’ve expressed their gratefulness for the work that we’ve done together over the years, and that goes back at them as well,” he told Southbank News.
“To hear young musicians say that they first worked with me in their youth orchestra back in the early 2000s and they’re now members of the orchestra; that’s something really special when you realise the impact you can have on people coming through into the profession.”
While many people may think that conducting is a “power role”, where the conductor is up-front and dictating all aspects of a performance, Mr Northey describes it as more of a “collaborative role”.
“I’d love people to understand how fun conducting is,” he said.
“I wish everybody could have the chance to stand in front of an orchestra and conduct their favourite piece – whether it’s the beginning of Star Wars or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; these really iconic moments are so much fun.”
Mr Northey will wrap up the 2023 season with MSO at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in December, paying tribute to iconic pop artist, George Michael, in a one-night-only performance.
He will be accompanied on stage by “an incredible line-up of collaborators”, including Natalie Bassingthwaighte, David Campbell, Emma Donovan, Brendan Maclean, Adam Thompson, Jade MacRae, Gary Pinto and Carmen Smith.
Mr Northey will return to his role in 2024 across various performances, such as an American jazz-inspired show at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall in April.
“I always look forward to working with the orchestra,” Mr Northey said.
“The MSO is a pillar of Australian culture and a pillar of Melbourne culture – it’s an example of why Melbourne is so highly respected as a city for the arts in the suburb of Southbank, and all of the institutions that are based there.” •