Local musicians join forces for Serenade ~ An Evening of Song at Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music

IN the world of amateur theatre, when a show finishes, talk begins immediately of what’s next. 

All formidable talents in their own right, Nate Adamthwaite, Cecilia Connell, Susan Davis and Andrew Wu all played lead roles in the 2016 MATS production of The Sound of Music and have joined together, with Andrew Davis and accompanist Philip Sketchley OAM, to present Serenade ~ An Evening of Song at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music on Saturday, November 25.

Producer Virginia Greentree says Serenade came from newly-formed friendships following The Sound of Music. 

“Many conversations of what song would we perform if we could choose anything, what we each considered to be the best songs from our favourite musicals, operas and contemporary albums,” she explained.

“There was such a broad mix of styles, we thought people might just enjoy the opportunity to hear that sort of program performed. 

“The evening will have a very intimate format with Philip Sketchley OAM accompanying the performers on piano. 

“With a wide variety of styles, musical theatre, opera, classical and contemporary, along with some favourite duets and quartets, it promises to be something special. 

“All proceeds from the evening will be directed to the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music to fund music and vocal scholarships.”

The performers:

Nate Adamthwaite: loves to sing, and shares his gifts with students at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music where he teaches singing and voice. He has achieved his AMEB 8th Grade Classical Voice qualification and also completed a Bachelor of Music and Performance-Classical Voice at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. During that time, Nate’s performing highlights included English Eccentrics and Die Fledermaus. Nate also completed a Post Graduate Diploma of Education - Secondary Music at Edith Cowan University. Nate played the role of Captain von Trapp in MATS production of The Sound of Music.

Cecilia Connell: is no stranger to the people of the Upper Hunter. She attained her speech and drama performance and teaching qualification from the Trinity College of London when she was 17 and went on to receive her AMusA in classical voice in 2011. Cecilia has been engaged as a lyric soprano with the Canberra-based Opera By Candlelight company since 2008 and has had principal roles including Valencienne from The Merry Widow and Papagena from The Magic Flute. Since moving to Muswellbrook she has been part of two MATS productions, Maria in The Sound of Music and Fern in Whatever Gets You Through The Night.

Susan Davis: is well-known around the Upper Hunter and has always enjoyed being in the spotlight. She’s been involved with MATS over the past decade as vocal coach/director for The Sound of Music and assistant music director for the recent MATS production Song Contest and has played roles in Shake Your Tail Feather, Annie and Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. Susan has performed in many recitals and concerts and is happy to try any style. She was a soloist in the school choir that sang with Julie Anthony and performed Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with The Canberra Orchestra, at the Austrian Embassy. Over the past two decades she has spent a significant amount of time working with many choirs including The Scone Singers and a short stint at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music. She sang with the Sydney Philharmonic Festival Chorus performing at the Sydney Opera House. 

Andrew Davis: is a multimedia artist who occasionally takes to the stage, usually with his lovely wife, Susan Davis. An accomplished tenor, he has played many principal roles in Finian’s Rainbow, Oh What a Lovely War, Pirates of Penzance, Salad Days, Oklahoma, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and was a member of the Canberra Chamber Singers, Canberra Boys Choir, Gaudeamus (Medieval society) and St Cecilia’s Choir (ANU). Andrew is the founder of the Everyone Accept Include and Smart Art Includes You projects, run by Ability Links, St Vincent De Paul Society, who, this year, hosted 11 exhibitions across the Hunter and Central Coast districts.

Andrew Wu: performed in his first musical in 2013 and since then, theatre has consumed his life. He is currently studying a Diploma of Musical Theatre at the WEA Academy of Creative Arts. Song Contest is Andrew's 10th musical production. He has played a wide variety of roles including The Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical, Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Frederic in Pirates of Penzance, Benny in RENT, Lefou in Beauty and the Beast, and Max in The Sound of Music. 

Philip Sketchley OAM: is well-known as a teacher, pianist, conductor, accompanist and musical director. He has been involved with many local music groups over the years, including Lake Macquarie Music Society and Eisteddfods, Opera Hunter, Cameo Productions, Nova Chorale Ladies Choir, Club 71 Dinner Theatre, Secretary of the Friends of the Conservatorium, Newcastle City Eisteddfod, Newcastle Mattara Festivals, Shakespeare Mozart & Company, After Five Cabaret Ensemble, The Newcastle University Choir, The Waratah Girls Choir and many local concerts, charity events and music promotions. Philip has been an adjudicator at many eisteddfods and an examiner for HSC music examinations.

In 1991, he was awarded the Quota Club Citizen of the Year Award for his services to the community and in 1999 was presented with a City of Newcastle Service Award for sharing of musical talents and his contribution to music education in the local region. 

In 2003, Philip received the Centenary of Federation Medal for services to the community through fundraising, celebrations and the sharing of musical talent.  

The University of Newcastle awarded Philip the Exceptional Service Medal in 2004.  The citation for his Medal included the following: “Philip is a great ambassador for the Conservatorium and provides the University with a valuable link to the Community.  His passion for his work is infectious”.  

Philip is a volunteer Ambassador for Newcastle Airport.

In 2008, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “Service to the community of Newcastle & the Hunter Valley area through music as a performer, director, fundraiser and teacher.”