Time, Teething and Tuba
By Thomas Allely
He’s the only tuba player in Queensland Symphony Orchestra and always brings his A-game when introducing a concert. We hear from Thomas Allely on his journey to tuba and the importance of connection through music during these tough times.
Somebody once told me that art is an attempt to speak across time and distance to other people, and to reassure us that while we may live very different lives to the people who originally created or composed a work of art, we still have the same concerns and underlying humanity. More and more recently, this concept has been resonating with me as we all experience having lost touch with the world where we used to spend so much of our time and explore the new (but hopefully temporary) reality of living “alone in our love and our song” (yes, it’s a Mahler quote).
As a spotty teenager, I joined the school orchestra to skive off PE in high school, but I discovered that music was a way to get an insight into someone else’s thoughts, their philosophy, and even how they thought about the universe – I avoided PE, yes, but this is what drove me to pursue music as a career.
And in these times where I can no longer perform music on stage how have I been spending my time at home, you ask?
Having small children is a double-edged sword – I’m grateful for the surprise opportunity to spend more time with Ian (our six-year-old) and Grace (our 10-month-old), but it is a much more intensive way of living! Most days we try to get out for a walk or bike ride with the kids. There’s so much to do and see in our neighbourhood, so we’ve spent a lot of time taking the back streets and looking for teddy bears.
In the world of music, our work recently has been very focused on online content (as you’ve probably seen), so I’ve spent a surprising amount of time in our hastily reconfigured spare room recording audio and videos. Usually when we record something in the studio, we have recording professionals; even if I make the odd slip here and there they just cut and paste from an earlier take or we record a little snippet for them to drop in. That’s beyond my expertise unfortunately, so with most things I’ve been recording again and again (and sometimes again) to try to make sure I get a take that doesn’t have a mistake or a split note, or even the sound of a small child in the next room. How our neighbours feel about it when they have to hear me play the same pieces over and over I’m not sure, but we haven’t had any complaints yet. I do try to keep it during daylight hours – of course in normal times I practise at the QSO studios so this isn’t usually an issue! Despite the teething issues (and I use that term both literally and figuratively since Grace has pushed through a couple of magnificent chompers in the last few weeks) I’m so glad that we still have the opportunity to keep communicating to people through our music.
Those times on stage in QPAC with an all-star orchestra and a supportive audience who are there to explore the emotional and intellectual world of a composer like Mahler or Beethoven or Mozart are the times that make this job so worth doing. Even though we’re performing on our iPhones from bedrooms, basements, rooftops, or our laundries, I still believe in music’s power to connect people. I’m fascinated by the possibilities we’re discovering, but I can’t wait for the day when we all get to come back together again and enjoy that sense of connection and community.
Stay safe and wash your hands everyone!
Arthur Waring supports Thomas through the Music Chair program.