When AYO Alumnus Chris Tingay decided to organise the AYO 1991 Camerata Tour Reunion, he made a heart-warming discovery – the years might have passed, but the suit he wore on that memorable Tour still fits (just). Chris cut a dashing figure in the suit as the Reunion Host, and we talked to Chris about what it was like to catch up with his AYO friends after 25 years.

Camerata reunion picture
Photo: Sharmann Pretty (former AYO General Manager), Ben Rimmer (violin), Lynne Hawley (cello), Meldi Arkinstall (flute), Prudence Davies (flute soloist), Anthony Heinrichs (trumpet), Penelope Bergen (violin), Geoff Conrau (production), Andrew Jezek (viola), Emma Hayes (Violin), Chris Tingay(clarinet), and Rosemary Curtin (viola). 

What motivated you to organise the Reunion?

The 1991 Camerata Tour was such a special time for us all. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the tour to the USA, Venezuela and Brazil under the direction of the late John Hopkins. There were so many incredible moments – a highlight was our performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall as part of their Centenary Celebrations. Everyone is now spread across the globe so it was a great reason to bring everyone together again and relive the memories – including the plane sick bags on heads, purple culottes and the wonderful music we made.

What was most enjoyable about the Reunion?

I was pleased that I recognised everyone and remembered everyone’s names! It was like we’d never left, it was as though we were still on tour. I put on music from the concert and we all looked through photo albums. There were some details we’d all forgotten so sharing the photos together brought back forgotten memories – misbehaving on airplanes, being late for the bus, getting water-bombed by a resident in San Paulo, etc.

People came from Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne and Geoff Conrau brought his grandchildren and has a child attending National Music Camp. It was great to have the next generation there. It was also inspiring to realise that none of us have completely got rid of music – even if they’re not currently playing in the industry, everyone has taken music with them.

Camerata 1991

Tell us about the Class Gift you organised.

The Tour was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us and we think it’s so important for other young musicians to have this opportunity. A number of us made a donation to the Australian Youth Orchestra as the ‘AYO 1991 Camerata Class Gift’, to support the Orchestra’s tour this year to Europe and China.

Tips for other Alumni who’d like to organise a reunion?

Start organising early! It wasn’t too difficult to track people, but it takes a lot of time. Don’t plan too big. We were initially going to hold a function in a hotel, but a simple BBQ at my place was much better. Everyone brought one item of food and drinks and it was very relaxed. Kids were welcome and people could come and go as they pleased. For a reunion, 25-30 people is ideal because you get a chance to talk to everyone.

Do you plan to organise another one?

Quite possibly – we might have a 50 year reunion and we can all come along in our zimmer frames…