“RETIREMENT is death’s waiting room,” cellist David Pereira says, so there’s no prize for guessing the meaning of his coming series’ title, “70 Not Out” – he’s about to turn 70 but he’s not about to give up performing.
Already famous for his early performances with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, he has since 1991 been associated with the ANU School of Music, where he still teaches.
With his birthday coming up in September, he’s working out to make sure that he’s performing at his absolute peak.
When named “CityNews” Artist of the Year in 2010, Pereira was pictured by us playing amongst the vines of Murrumbateman, but these days he’s more likely to be seen driving to and from Bunnings while putting the finishing touches to the huge cubby house he’s been building, complete with ensuite, for his kids and grandkids, a project he describes as “an act like composing, or making a CD”.
Family life is very much on Pereira’s mind. His mother died at age 94 last year. He slept at the foot of her bed in hospital for five days. This had taught him that “being protective of others is essential” and his father, from whom he inherited his handyman skills, had died the year before.
The departure of a parent, he says, is “ something sacred”.
So is music, and when he perceived that his mum’s end was near, he found Beethoven’s “A Hymn of Thanksgiving” on his phone and played it to her – “music is at the heart of everything,” he says.
He has decided to present his coming cello-focused series of recitals from July to December at the Australian Centre of Christianity and Culture.
He praises the centre’s “true interest in humans of any age but also of its potent spiritual, emotional, and philosophic inquisitiveness” and adds that the chapel’s excellent piano is another strong lure.
As well, he will take the performances to the Epping Uniting Church in Sydney. He’s moved his grand piano to a private cottage adjacent to the church, from where he conducts his Sydney teaching practice.
“It Has to Sing,” is the name of the first of six recitals in “70 Not Out”. That will be a cello, piano and voice recital featuring Pereira on cello, pianist Edward “Teddy” Neeman and composer-vocalist Lillian Fromyhr performing works by Bach, Gounod, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Ignaz Friedman, and songs by Fromyhr, Moya Henderson, Stan Getz and Jimmy Rowles. There’ll also be Pereira’s “Poem for Zoe”, a trio work for his daughter Zoe.
It is no secret that Pereira has experienced mental health problems in the past and, for a period, antidepressants affected his bowing. He weaned himself off them so successfully that he and Larry Sitsky were able to present a series of demanding pieces by Liszt, Busoni and Rubinstein.
He’s felt very well for the past 15 years, with weekly private training to strengthen his body and counter the inevitable effects of ageing on his muscles.
“I now feel fit to play the cello very well,” he tells me, so much so that he’s saying, “70 is the new 17”.
Later concerts in “70 Not Out” will involve Steve Allen on guitar, multiple cellos, more of Neeman, and TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land” with original musical commentary by actor/scholar Julian Lamb.
Mysteriously, Pereira says, one concert will involve “a ‘secret’ concert ‘Which I am forbidden to see’.” That’s a quote taken straight from TS Eliot and, naturally, he can’t tell us what it will be.
Concert 1, “70 Not Out,” The Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Barton, 1pm, July 23.
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