22 June 2022
An inner-city church’s musical series is drawing some of Melbourne’s top classical musicians and raising much-needed funds.
The Friends of Music Series (FOMS) concerts are held one Sunday afternoon a month at St George’s Travancore and feature established as well as emerging classical musicians.
The line-up this year includes award-winning tenor, Hew Wagner, and renowned UK pianist, Christopher Smith.
St George’s vicar, the Reverend Richard Murray said FOMS started in 2016 with the aim of being a performance space for the strong local musician community.
Mr Murray said it had helped form a great deal of the financial structure of the church and has helped St George’s raise money for heating, and for wheelchair access.
The FOMS committee was also able to allocate funds towards providing musical scholarships, competition prizes and instruments for schools.
Mr Murray said since lockdowns ended, there have been four concerts, three of which had larger than average audiences.
Though largely tucked out of sight, people who found the church were usually enthralled by its quiet setting and many were drawn to the concerts, Mr Murray said.
He likened the initiative to a smaller scale version of St Martin-in-the-Fields in its being able to reach people through a strong relationship with music.
FOMS artistic director, accomplished musician Coady Green says the series has been very popular with audiences and musical artists.
Mr Green said although the space only seated about 80 there were often anywhere between 50 and 100 people attending.
He said FOMS often featured concerts that combined emerging and established musicians, and also had a culture of supporting younger artists.
He said the Divisi Chamber Singers who had won a number of awards and had recently released an album, were emerging when they first sang at St George’s in late 2020.
Describing the church as lovely space with great acoustics, Mr Green said it has attracted considerable interest from musicians.
“We get emails all the time from people who want to perform there. So, I might slip in a couple of musicians, and some months do two concerts,” Mr Green said.
He said the music committee was planning some more unique programs for the church so that there would be more for people from further afield.
Those programs would include a celebration of LGBTQ composers and some would be devoted to Indigenous composers, Mr Green said.
Parishioner Allan Morse said the church was pleased to have Mr Green as the FOMS artistic director and the congregation had responded positively to the initiative.
Mr Morse said the intimate space appealed to those who wanted to spend their afternoons in relaxed surroundings.
He said the student showcase part of FOMS was primarily so that Melbourne Conservatorium of Music students could get experience in a concert environment.
“That worked really well for everyone because they got their venue, we got some exposure, and their parents and grandparents were able to see them perform. So, we got a different demographic attending the concerts and so coming to our church,” Mr Morse said.