Musician profile: Section Principal Double Bass, John Fardon

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“I’ve worked hard for it, but feel privileged to have made a living doing something I love.” John Fardon

With a career spanning almost forty years, Section Principal double bass John Fardon has called the Queensland Symphony Orchestra home for twenty-nine of them, something this Brisbane born bloke has treasured. John’s journey to this point in time, on the eve of his retirement at QSO, evokes many a poignant memory and reinforces a lifelong passion for music.

John's first instrument was the electric bass in his late teens, but a taste for Jazz led to swapping the electric for a double bass.  A self-described "late bloomer", John started learning to play double bass at twenty-one while living in Melbourne, before obtaining a casual tutti bass position at the Elizabethan Melbourne Orchestra (now the State Orchestra of Victoria), followed with a scholarship to the National Training Orchestra in Sydney before landing a permanent tutti bass “gig” at Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

At "twenty-six and bulletproof" John resigned from his job at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and leapt at the opportunity to study in Vienna.  "The best thing I ever did" is how John describes the two years spent studying at the Hochschule fur Musik und Darstellende Kunst under Professor Ludwig Streicher, amassing immeasurable experience working with many talented European musicians and companies, touring throughout Europe, and honing his musicianship.  "It was during this stage that I made the decision to change from French bow to German bow...becoming part of the proud Viennese [music] tradition."  John has never forgotten the words of Professor Streicher after making the switch: "I'd like to see how they (the musicians) were [after] playing a ring cycle on French bow!"

John's reflections upon some of the highlights of his career include Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, Japan, Carnegie Hall with SSO and ACO, and touch upon a proud tradition from QSO's past: touring northern regional Queensland by train. “We did two schools and one evening concert every day for two weeks while living and sleeping in very cramped conditions on a train…you haven't lived if you haven't experienced that! “ Another of John's fondest memories is Willie Barton playing Didgeridoo with QSO at a performance of composer Peter Sculthporpe’s Earthcry at Takemitsu Hall in Tokyo, Japan (now Tokyo City Concert Hall) with Peter present in the audience.

With such richly rewarding experiences, one can sympathise with the difficulty surrounding the decision to retire, but John is pragmatic.   "I'm playing as well as ever and Queensland Symphony Orchestra has never been in better shape; unlike my body!  I'll miss the energy, the exhilaration and camaraderie of playing in a professional orchestra.  I've worked hard for it, but feel privileged to have made a living doing something I love."  To the best of his knowledge, John stands proudly as the sole musician who has been permanently employed by the Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland Symphony Orchestras.

Life after QSO for John will be spent travelling, playing golf and spending quality time with wife Mary Lyons, whom he describes as "the best gift music has ever given me."  For John, his journey can be summed up with an anecdote once heard from Barry Humphries: "People see what I do [as Dame Edna, Sir Les et al] and they laugh.  You have to realise I'm 70 now.  I have these two lovely personal trainers that help me stretch and prepare for each show I do.  Doing these one-handers can be likened to the difference between a rock band and a symphony orchestra.  The rock band makes something rather easy look difficult.  An orchestra, on the other hand, makes something very difficult look quite easy."

Our grateful thanks to Chair Donors Graham and Kate Row who have supported John since 2012.