WHEN Dianne Anderson reaches the finale of the National Eisteddfod’s Australian Open Choirs Championship on August 24, she’ll be breathing a sigh of relief – and satisfaction.
For Anderson is standing down from her role as convener and major sponsor of the Choirs Division since 2007.
It’s not that she’s had enough, but after seven successive eisteddfods, it’s time to spend time with her husband and fellow-sponsor, Brian, the brilliant founding professor of Systems Engineering at the ANU and former president of the Australian Academy of Science, as he looks to retirement.
“I think some of my sponsors will be pleased that I won’t be harassing them after this year for money,” Anderson says, half-joking, as she assures “CityNews” that she’ll still provide the first prize of $5000 and remain on the committee.
It’s been a formidable show of strength from the Andersons, who first chipped in with $12,000 to help the Choirs Division raise its profile and attract the interstate entrants it now does.
Dianne Anderson’s interest in choirs doesn’t come from a black hole. An accomplished pianist, organist and trained music teacher, she has also been a choral and band director. And that’s the key to her interest – the effect participating in eisteddfods has on children.
“There are many kids who are no good at sport and maths, but if they get a certificate in the Eisteddfod it just seems to make a difference.”
She describes husband Brian as “a willing partner” in her choirs efforts, though she’s sometimes had to twist his arm.
“But he is musical, we play piano duets together and he even played the organ at church for me when I was expecting,” she says.
Since she married the up-and-coming professor at age 20, Dianne has made sure to keep herself occupied, volunteering with the Red Cross, participating in the Open Garden scheme, sponsoring the CSO, helping entertain departmental visitors and even organising the “best ever” opening ceremony for the Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control (of which Brian was world president) at Sydney Opera House in 1992.
“I could not sit back and live in Brian’s shadow,” Dianne says in the understatement of the week, “I felt I needed to be in something to make my life more interesting.”
She’s achieved that and she has made lots of other people’s lives “interesting” too as she chases private funding for the arts in a notoriously parsimonious town.
“There are a lot of wealthy people in Canberra,” she notes, “if people do have $200 or $500 that would make a difference, but it’s even hard to sell a program to Canberrans for $4 to make a $2 profit.
“Also, you have to take into consideration the hours spent in preparation of the program… I don’t know what my hourly rate would be,” she says, noting that luckily she’s had a wonderful team to work with.
Dianne steps down from the convening role with a sense of disquiet about the future of the Eisteddfod, which was forced to put its famous National Aria competition on hold this year after losing its corporate funding.
“If only we had funds to pay a full-time administrator to go out and get sponsorship and do a lot of marketing – that’s where the Eisteddfod needs help – you have to aim high.”
Meantime, this year’s Choirs Division is set to be a beauty: Sunbury Choirs in Victoria are entering four choirs; Canberra Choral Society (with Tobias Cole as director) is entering for the first time; a new section for choirs singing in languages other than English has been sponsored by the ACT Government’s Office of Multicultural Affairs; Concordis (Victoria’s Choir of the Year) from Melbourne has entered; and the adjudicators will be musicians Jenny Moon, from the Gold Coast, and George Torbay from TV’s “Battle of the Choirs”.
Choirs Division of the Australian National Eisteddfod, at Llewellyn Hall, all day August 23 and 24; finale 5pm-10pm Saturday August 24. More information at nationaleisteddfod.org.au, bookings to premier.ticketek.com.au or call 132849.