Woman of many talents, Rosanne Vanderley

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Rosanne Vanderley is a woman of many talents. Chrissy Jones had the pleasure of chatting with Rosa about her love of music, spanning several decades and continents.




You have a love for music Rosa. How did this come about, and what formal training have you had?

I was less than 4 years old when I saw my first piano, in a relation’s house … that big, magic box full of sound enchanted me. My parents bought a second hand German upright when I was 9 and encouraged me. We had a gramophone and recordings of Tauber, Galli-Curci, McCormack etc. Sing-alongs around the piano were commonplace in people’s houses when I was growing up.

I loved playing but did not enjoy the music lessons and was not a particularly good student, struggling to read written music. I did pass all the exams set me, thanks to a very good memory.

Singing lessons were taken until my late teens. I sang in choirs, recitals and on radio programs. I lacked the drive and ambition to play classics, but developed a great love of popular music – films, musicals, wartime – what a wealth of talented composers and what a legacy they left.

George Gershwin was outstanding; of course, his life was far too short. I also admire Jerome Kern, Scott Joplin and Richard Rodgers; those melodies will live forever. The Spanish say: “Where there is music, there is no evil.” And it’s true … look at the importance of musical therapy. I have worked with adults with dementia and depression and troubled kids, and music is a great healer.

You say music transcends all nations and all people. What do you mean?

I have travelled a great deal, and no matter where you are, you can find music. A few years ago in the ancient university city of Salamanca in Spain, I heard glorious l6th century music coming from a building. When it stopped, I knocked and discovered one of the world’s renowned early music specialists rehearsing with an ensemble. I was half way out the door apologising for intruding, when he invited me to the performance they were giving that evening. It was magical.

In New York, the best classical buskers are around Colombia University or Julliard School of Music – star pupils there included Neil Sedaka and Billy Joel. Both could have been concert pianists, but chose to write Rock songs and ballads. I have been fortunate in hearing some of the world’s greatest musicians. In London in the ‘60s, when I was working there, concerts were relatively affordable.

I have a formidable list of artists I have seen and heard, including pianist John Ogden, some of the top conductors, violinists, and great Spanish guitarists, including Maestro Segovia. I’ve heard legendary singers in the major opera houses of the world, and I also enjoy real Flamenco in small bars and bodegas.

Locally you entertain the public as well – tell us more …

There is a wealth of musical talent in the Hastings area – and good teachers. Through my involvement with the Wauchope Youth Theatre, playing for some of their productions, I believe in encouraging young talent and sharing my love of music. I played the piano and arranged the music for last year’s sold out Cabaret during the Lasiandra Festival.

This year, on 4 March, we are able to accommodate a bigger crowd at the spacious RSL auditorium, with a matinee performance at 2pm.

I am one of a small team of dedicated people who volunteer in producing free lunchtime concerts in the Ross Studio at the Glasshouse. This is an initiative of the Port Macquarie Chapter of the Mid North Coast Conservatorium. The Glasshouse is generously making this venue available and more people are attending the concerts, which start at l2.30 on Friday. One can hear choirs, Jazz singers, pianists and other instrumentalists. Outside on the podium, we have Jazz groups and bands. There is something for everyone’s taste. The performers range from professionals to students and amateurs.

I have performed there several times, with Latin/Spanish music or songs from Broadway shows. I also encourage the audience to participate. The Glasshouse belongs to the Hastings people; it’s yours to support and enjoy. At these lunchtime concerts, you can bring your refreshments.

How would you best describe yourself?

As a foyer or functions pianist. I have played in bars, restaurants, on a ship, at Government functions, in country halls and concert venues here, in New Zealand and overseas. I have played some beautiful pianos, creaky old uprights and out of tune janglers; these days, I ask about the piano before I play it. I play at small weddings and functions and was privileged to play in the foyer for the recent Australia Day Community Awards – and met some very inspiring people.

I have been a feature writer and freelancer, have worked as a Court Reporter – and for several years at Sydney University as a Department Administrator. I was quite young when I sailed to Britain in the l960s. I went north to Northumberland and found employment as a receptionist in a very old hotel across the road from Alnwick Castle. I even went on a dig on Hadrian’s Wall. The cold of Britain soon got to me, and I literally ran away to Spain … alone.

It took me two days and two nights to travel by train, boat and two more trains, (including the train being snowbound on the Plains of Castille), which was quite a feat for a sole young woman in a country where women travelling alone were viewed with suspicion – but I kept my wits about me. Few there spoke English, so I was determined to learn the language. I found a job with a noble family, as a Governess to their children. I remain friends with them to this day and have had extended holidays with them several times.

Why did you move to this area?

My husband has family connections in the district, and he likes the peace and quiet. I like the cheese produced in the Hastings! We found a house in Wauchope, big enough for all our books, my piano and our varied interests. Initially, it was a difficult transition, as I like city living, but being involved with the theatre and the Wauchope Arts, I have met many creative people and those involved in community affairs.

I continue to encourage education and musical knowledge. There are some great kids here. I am but one of many people who volunteer for a school reading program. This is the International Year of Reading; as I say to children, “Your computer and your iPod are fun and will give you information, but books give you KNOWLEDGE.”

Any characteristic you do not admire in others?

I get annoyed by meanness, apathy, unreliability and inefficiency. I cannot bear cruelty or bullying, whether to children or animals.

What do you admire in others?

Generosity, philanthropy, musical talent and modesty; I find the greater the talent, the more unassuming the person (look at Dame Joan Sutherland). The biggest pains in the musical world seem to be the thin talents.

Your personal motto is: Always have music in your life and remember that Nietszche said: “Without music, there is no life”.

Thanks Rosanne Dedman Vanderley. 

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