The Senior Common Room had an evening to remember on Monday, 11 April 2016. Two distinguished guests had come to dinner, Paul Newton and Craig Hassall.
Paul Newton is a very distinguished portrait artist indeed. He is currently preparing for Andrew’s a portrait of Janet Coutts, one of College’s most generous supporters a century ago. Later this year, Paul’s portrait will introduce a long overdue female figure onto the walls of the Dining Hall. Paul has been prominent in the Archibald Prize over the years, is well represented in major collections and was recently commissioned by Cardinal Pell to produce 32 paintings to adorn the new Domus Australia chapel in Rome.
Craig Hassall is an alumnus who has been involved in the administration of performing arts for three decades: the Sydney Theatre Company, the Royal Albert Hall, the English National Ballet, not to mention the Sydney Olympic Games. He is currently the CEO of Opera Australia. Craig had an early exposure here in College in 1983, when, as a fresher straight from Gilgandra via Scots, he played a leading role in the College play and designed the poster, which we could produce from the archives.
After dinner, both Paul and Craig discussed their careers and the challenges facing the arts with the wide cross-section of the College which had packed the Senior Room to capacity. This was punctuated by an informal concert.
The Senior Common Room has admirable acoustics and houses both a Steinway piano and a delightful virginal. Will Cesta played Beethoven on the Steinway, while Titus Grenyer improvised a baroque prelude on the virginal. Whitney Erickson sang one of Mimi’s arias from La Bohème and Jess Harper sang an aria from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, both accompanied by Anthony Chen. Minami Takahashi played Schumann, skilfully transposed for the trombone, with Will at the piano, while Elly Howse sang ‘Abendempfindung’, one of Mozart’s greatest songs, with Ian Jack accompanying. Hester Wilson then produced her suite of dulcimers, showed us how to play these unfamiliar stringed instruments and everyone participated in an appropriate vocal repertoire led by Hester.
After the music, animated conversation about the arts resumed and small groups formed around Paul and Craig while wine and cheese circulated. The evening brought together diverse interests from the entire College family in a deeply satisfying way. We are planning a series of such occasions over the year to maintain the impetus.
– Ian Jack, Senior Fellow