Trish Somers and Patricia Johnson are two key members of the Hastings Koala Orchestra, which will be performing in Japan in April.
> What is the Hastings Koala Orchestra?
Trish Somers: The Hastings Koala Orchestra was formed in 1988 and includes people of all ages coming together to play music passionately and to achieve their dreams. We are not for profit and give free performances throughout the Port Macquarie area.
The Koalas have toured Japan at least 9 times, performing in Sapporo, Tokyo Disneyland, Handa, Kyoto, Sakura and Mikasa. We have also performed at the following venues: Dreamworld, Seaworld, Marina Mirage on the Gold Coast, Pacific Fair shopping centre, Darling Harbour and Martin Plaza. The Hastings Koala Orchestra always actively promote our local area during their travels.
Over the last 12 years the Koalas have helped host the annual Black and White Charity Concert at Port Macquarie Panthers, with the proceeds going to Rotary Lodge.
> What is your association with the orchestra, and how long have you been involved?
Patricia Johnson: I am the Musical Director and Conductor of the Orchestra. With the help of a committee, we established the Orchestra following the Bi-Centennial Orchestra in 1988, which had 283 members from the Hastings Valley area!
Trish: My association with the Koala Orchestra started about 2 years ago, when my daughter wanted to join. Anna was in Year 5 and played saxophone in the Port Macquarie Public School orchestra. She plays tenor saxophone and her brother John, who is in Year 3 plays percussion with the Koalas now. Mrs Johnson is very persuasive, and she now has me percussing as well!
> The orchestra performs at different functions around the area. What have been some of the stand out performances?
Patricia: The Hastings Bi-Centennial Orchestra performed at the Closing of the Pan Pacific Games at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney – which was outstanding, as you could imagine. At the end of 1988, we renamed the existing orchestra, the Hastings Koala Orchestra, because it is reflective of the region.
Every year, under the banner of The Black and White Committee and assisted by Sing Australia Choir we organise 2 functions for charity. They are The Black and White Charity Concert and The Christmas Pageant Spectacular, both supported by the Panthers Club.
All proceeds are donated to Rotary Lodge. These events are always a highlight.
> You have travelled to Japan with the orchestra several times. Tell us about some of the highlights from your previous trips.
Patricia: A big highlight of the orchestral year is the tour of Japan, which includes a major concert with The Handa Brass Band in Handa City – which has been our Sister City for 19 years.
The orchestra played at the Official Signing of the Agreement, and since that time have been constantly involved with all activities that have been offered.
On our trip we promote Australian products – especially from the Hastings region – and tourism in our area.
The Handa Brass Band will be visiting Port Macquarie in August, which will be an exciting time.
> The orchestra is planning a trip to Japan in April. Tell us why you’re going and what you hope to achieve …
Trish: We are really looking forward to our trip to Japan in April, because for many of us it will be our first time to Japan … and for some of us, our first overseas trip. That is exciting enough, but to travel as a group and perform together will be really special.
I only have a small part in the Koala Orchestra, but feel very privileged to be part of this group and involved with these talented people. We hope we will do ourselves proud, both on and off the stage. The cultural experience will be wonderful, because for about half of our 3 weeks in Japan we will be staying with local families, and later in the year we have the opportunity to host families from Japan when they come to Australia to perform with the Handa Brass Band. So it’s a great experience – especially for the children.
Patricia: We feel that our Japan tour provides opportunities for our members to experience a wonderful cultural exchange and form lasting friendships.
It is only through the wonderful support and generosity of our local community and our Japanese friends that we are able to continue this activity.
> There’s been plenty of fundraising taking place to raise money for the Japan trip. What sort of events have you held, and how’s the fundraising effort going?
Trish: We’ve been madly fundraising for this tour for close to 2 years. We’re selling chocolates, delivering telephone books, running raffles and we had a car rally 2 weeks ago, which was terrific fun.
Coming up on Saturday 28th February there is going to be a trivia night at the Port Macquarie Golf Club at 7pm, with a performance by the Hastings Koala Orchestra beforehand. This should be a really good night, with some fantastic prizes donated by local businesses, a raffle, the Koalas Hundred Club and lucky door prizes to be won.
The cost is $50 for a team of 6 or $10 per head. If you’re interested, please contact Trish Somers on 0400 404 375 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Andrew Gawne on 0438 804 588 or Andrew@justinsane.com.au.
> What can interested members of the community do to help?
Trish: Interested members of the community can come to our trivia night, the more the merrier!
> Where can people interested in supporting your cause go to find more information?
Apart from the contact numbers above, the Koalas now have a fabulous website thanks to ‘our’ photographer, Dean Michell. For information, photos of performances and important dates, go to the following website: www.portpix.com.au
> Thank you ladies.