As a musician living in New Zealand, my interest was naturally piqued by this memoir. I had heard of Gary Daverne’s work as a composer over the years, as he’s been fairly prolific in writing advertising jingles, orchestral music, and, interestingly, music for the accordion. But I hadn’t been aware of his career as a conductor of orchestras, and I looked forward to reading more about this side of Daverne’s career. After all, I’m an orchestral musician and it’s always interesting to hear about life seen from the conductor’s podium.
As a man deeply involved and invested in music-making from the community to the professional level, Daverne’s career is impressive. He’s taken his orchestra, the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, to China with Amalia Hall, he’s guest conducted high calibre orchestras like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and he’s apparently been in the enviable position of having more offers of work than he can handle—a sure definition of success!
In terms of the memoir itself, however, From the Podium lacks several aspects that would make it a fully engaging read. Granted, this book was self-published, so I can forgive some slips in presentation and basic editing (and I can even forgive one rather strange shift from third to first person near the beginning). It is however a shame that the memoir feels so episodic. Despite this memoir being nominally structured, in a rather cute way, according to the acts of a show, the memoir lacks overall narrative cohesion. In other words, this memoir feels too much like a collection of disconnected (if amusing) stories.
It’s a jumble of beads with no thread to string them onto. As such, these myriad stories may hold interest for those who know Daverne, or perhaps for those who have an insatiable interest in what goes on backstage at a show or at a concert and has never heard these kinds of stories before. But as someone who has lived through similar experiences (having to deal with inclement weather during an outdoor concert, the travails of touring, mistakes made and lights going out during shows) and therefore doesn’t find these things particularly surprising, each story was charming, certainly, but ultimately did not hold my sustained attention.
I found myself wishing that there had been more about what Daverne had actually thought about his experiences of New Zealand musical life, and what he’d learned through his life. Instead I was merely given a catalogue of anecdotes to read. And this is a shame; Daverne has clearly made a huge contribution to musical life, and that contribution should have been better represented. In the end, this memoir represents a missed opportunity to properly delve into an interesting life.
Reviewed by Feby Idrus
From the Podium
by Gary Daverne
Available from http://www.garydaverne.gen.nz/