E lspeth Hope-Johnstone was an amazing woman who lived a long and extraordinarily rich life. She loved gardening, bush walking and was passionate about Tasmania and the environment. She loved her work with children, her painting and music.
From her first contact with Steve Martin and the Tasmanian Symphony Chamber Players she was a strong supporter. When Steve first talked about setting up Virtuosi Tasmania in 1992 and asked her to chair the organisation she jumped at the opportunity and also brought onboard her two relatives as committee members. This was the start of many productive years of cooperation which saw Virtuosi Tasmania go from strength to strength.
Steve Martin and all those involved with Virtuosi Tasmania were enormously grateful for her continued support over many years until she was forced to step down in 2006 due to failing health with Parkinson’s Disease. She is the only person to be honoured with Life Membership of Virtuosi Tasmania.
We on the committee are very saddened by the news her death and send our condolences to her many friends and family from all walks of life. We will all miss you Elspeth.
V irtuosi Tasmania is very fortunate to have Jennifer Owen as our Musical Director.
J enny has been playing the violin for a really long time. As a child, growing up in Canberra, she played every week with ensembles in the Canberra Youth Orchestra Society, culminating in two prizewinning European tours with the Canberra Youth Orchestra in 1985 and 1990. She performed for two seasons as a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra in 1987 and 1988, and she was a regular busker, playing in chamber ensembles of anything from 2 to 15 players, and quickly learnt which music was more likely to draw and retain a crowd.
She studied as a violin performance major at the Canberra Institute of the Arts, and the University of North Texas, in the US, working with Vincent Edwards, Charmian Gadd, Barbara Gilby, Robert Davidovici and Igor Borodin. She also completed a Graduate Diploma at the Hartt Schol in Hartford Connecticut, as a member of the Canberra String Quartet, working with the Emerson Quartet, and Mitchell Stern.
Her professional orchestral experience has ranged from casual violinist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras and the Dallas Bach Society, and as a member of the Richardson Symphony, USA, (Associate Concertmaster 1994-95), Tasmanian Symphony (Principal First Violin, Acting Associate Concertmaster 1996-99), Houston Symphony, USA (Principal Second Violin 1999-2015) and again with the Tasmanian Symphony (Principal First Violin 2015- present).
As a chamber musician Jenny played with the Canberra String Quartet at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville in 1991 and 1992, the Quartet Program at Beaver Creek Colorado in 1993, and also appeared at Steamboat Springs “Strings in the Mountains”, Bravo! Colorado Festival in Vail, and the Park City International Music Festival. In 1994 they were the resident quartet at the Aspen Music Festival. In Houston Texas, Jenny appeared as a guest on faculty concerts at Rice University and the University of Houston from 1999-2015, and as a regular guest with the St Cecelia Chamber Music Series. Jenny played with Virtuosi Tasmania when she first lived in Hobart in 1996-99, and is thrilled to be back performing with Virtuosi since returning in 2015.
When she is not playing the violin, Jenny can be found driving her two kids to and from soccer, sailing, swimming, drama, music lessons and Tasmanian Youth Orchestra, or walking the family dog, Lola. She enjoys cooking delicious things to eat, reading, and drinking the odd glass of wine.
With such close ties with the TSO and its players and the wider Tasmanian musical fraternity Jenny is well placed to assist Virtuosi Tasmania in continuing to realise its aims.
T he current committee is made up of the following members:
The committee meets regularly during the year with an Annual General Meeting in November/December. Details are availble from the .
V irtuosi Tasmania has been bringing chamber music to regional Tasmania for twenty five years. The late, and much loved, Stephen (Steve) Martin had the vision of musicians from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) along with the best of local musicians, playing chamber music in regional Tasmania. Steve had been a player with the TSO since 1977. He gathered together a group of like minded friends and on 24 April 1992 Virtuosi was born. In June 1993 Virtuosi was listed in the Register of Cultural Organisations. In 1994 Virtuosi commissioned well known Tasmanian composer Don Kay to write music for a string quartet, his piece “Moonlight Ridge” was performed in 1996, was broadcast live by ABC FM and was also performed at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music.
The Virtuosi logo was designed by Tom Samek, a local artist and friend of Virtuosi.
Steve’s vision was to present fine chamber music of diverse style and instrumentation by gathering together a variety of ensembles to perform under the Virtuosi banner in exotic and unusual locations around Tasmania. Virtuosi is not an ensemble of regular players but rather an entrepreneurial organisation facilitating a number of ensembles of professional musicians. It always has, and still is, run entirely by volunteers who share Steve’s dream and vision. The music played is a collaboration between the players presenting the music they wish to play without the restrictions of a large orchestra.
The first series of concerts, labelled Heritage Series I, II and III, were played at various historic homes including Redlands House, Mountford House Ballroom and Hawley House, all performances were sold out.
The Trout Quintet was performed to a packed audience at Meadowbank vineyard in 2000 and it convinced the Virtuosi committee that performances at vineyards could attract good audience numbers. Accordingly Virtuosi has performed at many vineyards around the State as well as heritage houses and private homes, Hastings caves, apple sheds, old and new churches, art galleries and any venue where an audience could be comfortably accommodated.
In 2008 the first of Virtuosi’s biennial chamber music festivals was held in and around venues in the Coal River Valley. Held over the February long weekend and attended by the then Governor, His Excellency Peter Underwood AC, who in 2009 became the Virtuosi Patron. All concerts were a great success and included jazz elements which Steve promoted as “twentieth century chamber music.” The second festival in 2010, also held in venues around the Coal River Valley, was again hugely successful attracting much acclaim from delighted audiences.
In 2012 the third festival was held at the then recently opened Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). These concerts were held in the Barrel and Organ Rooms at MONA, were recorded by the ABC and were again extremely popular and well attended. Virtuosi continues to perform concerts at MONA.
Typically Virtuosi Tasmania brings together up to eight ensembles, performing around thirty concerts at a variety of venues across the State each year.
Following the untimely death of Steve in 2015 Jennifer Marten-Smith took on the role of Musical Manager for a year. Since then Jennifer Owen (TSO Pricipal First Violin - see above) has been our Musical Driector. With great energy and imagination Jennifer continues to invoke Steve’s vision of presenting innovative and beautiful music throughout Tasmania.
Virtuosi has been well served by a large team of volunteers over its 25 years of presenting music throughout Tasmania, is grateful for the enthusiasm of members of the TSO who have been keen to be involved and create wonderful concerts along with local Tasmanian musicians, and a loyal audience of music lovers who have supported Virtuosi in all of its endeavours. We thank them all.