ACO CollectIve, Mozart Brahms

Comments (0) Interviews

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) Collective is a renowned 17-piece string ensemble which delivers the ACO’s regional touring and education programs. The ensemble combines musicians of the ACO with Australia’s most talented young professional musicians at the outset of their careers. Tour Manager Phillippa Martin shares what it means to be involved with a talented musical group of this scale, and the logistics behind organising each tour, ahead of their Glasshouse performance …

Hi Phillippa. Introduce us to the various responsibilities a tour manager has …

I manage ACO Collective, which is a regional touring orchestra. We have two tour managers at the ACO – we manage the ACO national subscription tour, they do about ten tours a year, and I look after our regional touring. We have a general outline of where we’re going to tour; we tour to Queensland, WA and Victoria every two years, and to NSW every year.

We have venues we tour to regularly, so about now I’m contacting venues we plan to tour to in 2019 – we work on this about a year and a half out. I put together the whole tour itinerary – which is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. I do the contracts, the budgets, roster on all the musicians, schedule the education events, do all the tech specs, arrange freight – so basically organise everything from start to finish. This also involves organising international artists – their visas, contracts, travel.

Closer to tour time, we all get together … a fortnight out we put together the final schedule. Everyone comes together for three days of rehearsals in Sydney, before we go on the road for two or three weeks of touring.

I’m also the tour manager while on the road.

Logistically, your job sounds like it could be a bit of a challenge! What are some of the issues you face?

There are a lot of different factors. With the ACO being a national touring orchestra, they’ll do 10 – 11 national subscription tours per year, and top of that they’ll do two international tours, and there are also sponsorship events and the national education programme. The schedule is completely full! And within this, we have to slot in the ACO Collective tours.

Because The Collective is made up of musicians from the ACO as well, scheduling is very complicated and important … The most complicated thing is scheduling all of the concerts in a fashion that works for the venue, and works for us and our timeline.

Apart from transporting the musicians around on tour, there are also the musical instruments to consider – and they’re very valuable pieces of equipment too. What issues can this present?

The musicians all have extremely priceless instruments. Violins, violas and cellos travel on the plane – we buy seats for cellos on flights.

The double bass goes in its normal case, then it’s encased in a big, hard freight case and is freighted around with us on tour – we have a van that we freight everything around in that’s needed.

The ACO is actually quite efficient to tour; we’re not like a large theatre company that has heaps of props and a huge stage setup. The musicians mostly play standing … so not a lot of equipment is needed …

We have to freight the double bass, but the other instruments are with the musicians at all times, and they’re responsible of them … Cellos have their own seats, but the other instruments are small enough to be carried in the overhead luggage compartments.

It’s the tenth anniversary for the ACO Collective this year. How many years have you been touring with them?

I’ve been touring with them for four and a half years now. We’ve been all over the country, and it’s really amazing to see how it’s changed and grown. We appointed our Artistic Director for the Collective, Pekka Kuusisto, in 2016, and we’re so lucky – he’s world renowned and one of the best violinists in the world today. He comes up with absolutely fantastic programmes for the concerts. We really do have the best musicians around the country playing with us; we’re so very fortunate.

The fact that we’re celebrating ten years is really great!

How many members are involved with the ACO Collective and will be travelling to the Glasshouse?

There will be 17 core string players: five first violinists, five second violinists, three violas, three cellos and a double bass. We also have a guest soloist on this tour: clarinettist Matthew Hunt – so that’s 18 musicians. There will also be me and my colleague on the road as well, and we’re responsible for managing the group, the freight, and the technical setup at the venues. We’re the contact people at all times … So in all, there’ll be 20 of us on this tour.

The concert will feature works from Mozart and Brahms. What pieces will actually be played?

Mozart Divertimento in D major, and Bartók  Divertimento … Then the second half
is our Brahms piece, which will feature Clarinettist Matt Hunt, Clarinet Quintet in B minor. It’s a great programme.

What do you hope the audience will experience at the performances?

It’s a really accessible concert. It’s classical music, which can sometimes divide audiences – but what we like to do with The Collective is appeal to a wide audience, of all ages.

We do a lot of education work as well, and any students interested in music in the area should really come along to experience the education programme; Pekka will talk about the pieces, their background, the stories about them and the people on stage. It’s very interactive.

The concerts present the very best string musicians in Australia – it’s an amazing calibre of musicians visiting Port Macquarie. We’re very happy to be able to travel around Australia, and it will be great fun, top quality music. It’s an ensemble that presents some younger players who will absolutely become some of the stars of Australian string music. It’s an opportunity to see these performers at the outset of their careers …

Thanks Phillippa.



See the ACO Collective evening performance at the Glasshouse on August 29, at 7:30pm. ACO education performance (including Q&A session): August 30, at 10am. Suitable for upper primary and secondary school students. Bookings essential.

call 6581 8888 or visit

Leave a Reply