Early Life and Background
David was born in Orange NSW, Australia, to British immigrant parents, originating from Sheffield, South Yorkshire and who were working at the Orange Base hospital as Psychiatric Nursing staff. He and his family (an older brother of 9 years) moved to Aldinga Beach, South Australia, when David was an infant and subsequently attended Aldinga Primary School, transferring to Southern Vales Christian Community School (SVCCS), Aldinga Campus at 11 years old.
At the age of 8, David began learning the electronic keyboard and piano from a local dance band leader, who taught David to read chord charts and effectively ‘play by ear’ in the styles of the 1920’s to 1960’s. David was fast tracked at SVCCS and as a result, completed his year 11 & 12 SACE music whilst he was in years 8 & 9, travelling weekly to the Morphet Vale Campus to do so. David also learnt to play the flute, clarinet, trumpet and piano accordion through the support & encouragement of his school, but none of which he took further than the beginner level. He did however, also learn to play the highland bagpipes and had a brief performing career with a few notable bands around Adelaide – he achieved competition grade 2 and marched in parades until he was 17. David was widely supported in his local church and school community and would often be found in nursing homes and day care centres with his mother (a palliative care specialist at the time) during school holidays, entertaining the elderly.
After surprising the audition panel in 1996 with his age, David commenced his formal training as a concert pianist in 1997 at the age of 15, under the guidance of Diana Harris OAM, at the Flinders Street School of Music in Adelaide, South Australia. Whilst a student, David was an active chamber music player and performed alongside many other students and staff of both instrumental and vocal disciplines. He was also an active student representative and was strongly apposed to the merger of the Elder Conservatorium and Flinders Street School of Music. As a result of David and his student council colleagues, there were many revisions made to the merger, to the benefit of the student body. At the end of 2000, David graduated with the TAFE SA ‘outstanding achievement during study’ award as well as his undergraduate qualifications in performance and piano accompaniment.
During his final year of study, David was first engaged as a répétiteur by Co-Opera and subsequently The State Opera of South Australia, were he met British conductor, Peter Robinson. He was also engaged by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra as an orchestral pianist and celeste casual player. David was an active member of many of the choirs in Adelaide directed by Carl Crossin OAM and through a European tour with ‘Voiceworks’ at the end of 2000, he was able to travel to the UK, where he became resident for 13 years and commenced his professional career.
United Kingdom & Europe
South Yorkshire Part #1
David successfully auditioned and was accepted into the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester), to their Master’s program for opera repetiteurs. Despite holding dual nationality, he was still required to pay international fees and therefore, had to forfeit his place due to the mammoth personal financial cost. David however, decided to remain in the UK and be based in Sheffield where he worked as an office temp before taking a few hours per week playing the piano for assemblies in a primary school, through the Sheffield Music Service. His contract with the Music Service grew and he became deeply involved into the local music scene in Sheffield. His first appointment as Musical Director was with an amateur company, Sheffield City Opera. It was through his connections with this opera company that led him to meet his long term opera mentor and teacher, Fraser Goulding, a conducting student of Vilém Tauský, who was intern taught by Leoš Janáček. This association with Fraser led to a long term contract with the Gilbert & Sullivan Company for many years in Buxton, England amongst many other small contracts with chamber opera companies in the UK.
David’s career as an opera repetiteur began to blossom as did his reputation as a fine accompanist. It was no surprise therefore, that he eventually met Malcolm Martineau OBE and after a short period of friendship, began a relationship with him which led to David to moving to London in early 2005.
During this period in London, David successfully auditioned and attended the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now (LMN) Scheme, and worked regularly at English National Opera on the Baylis & Opera Works program. He also trained with British Youth Opera for two seasons, again, under the guidance of Peter Robinson whom he had met in Adelaide as an 18 year old. David was made an honorary member of the Arts Club, Dover St, following his 1st BYO season. Peter Robinson also engaged David as assistant chorus master and repetiteur for Raymond Gubbay Ltd productions at the Royal Albert Hall.
David worked with many London based singers and chamber music players, formed a piano trio (The Wren Players) with Kim Mackrell and Tom Norris from the London Symphony Orchestra and a piano quartet (Papillon) with Jennifer Morsches, Rodolfo Richter & Ylvali Ziliacus. The latter performing mostly on period instruments and keyboards. Live and studio recordings were made but never released onto commercial disc.
David became a busy freelancer during this time with many recitals, music-director appointments & opera-repetiteur contracts in London and the surrounds. He travelled extensively with the LMN Scheme and gave many concerts in prisons, nursing homes, special needs schools and unusual venues all over the UK. He also worked regularly back in his family county of South Yorkshire with the charity, Lost Chord – music for dementia sufferers. David was also frequently invited to travel as an accompanist to Spain, Italy & Germany with his colleagues from the UK.
South Yorkshire Part #2
In late 2009, David & Malcolm separated and David eventually moved back to Sheffield. As a result, he was engaged more frequently with Opera North, based nearby in Leeds and in October 2011, along with 250 fellow Australians, David was invited to attend a small private reception at Buckingham Palace for ‘Significant Australians living and working in the U.K.‘ There were many household names on the guest list, but it was here that David became acquainted with the comedian Adam Hills. David also had the honour of personally meeting HM Queen Elizabeth II & HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.
In 2012, David was approached by Richard Sisson and Petroc Trelawny to take over from a colleague in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for a period of three weeks. During this visit, David created and ran workshops for over 400 primary school children from the Western Suburbs of Bulawayo, as well as an adult choir, and 200 secondary students, as he prepared them for a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in the Bulawayo Festival.
Upon his return to South Yorkshire, David was also approached by Lesley Garrett CBE, to become her official accompanist in the northern regions of the UK. It wasn’t long before David was eventually asked to perform with Lesley all over the UK, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He was also promoted to a chief repetiteur of Opera North, when Lesley Garrett sang Elle in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine in 2013.
It was also back in South Yorkshire that David met his partner, Nigel Emms through mutual friends. David and Nigel were Civil Partnered in the Sheffield Town Hall on 3rd of August 2012 in a small private ceremony.
Return to Australia
During the 13 years that David lived in the UK, he maintained strong links with the Accompanists’ Guild of South Australia, and the State Opera of South Australia. He completed two guest chief repetiteur contracts with the State Opera (Der Fliegender Holländer, 2009) and the Australia premiere of Jake Heggie’s opera, Moby Dick (2011), with a third opportunity arising for David to return in 2013 for Salome, leading him to be appointed as the companies’ Head of Music. During his tenure, David extensively developed the young artist program before leaving to take up positions with the University of Melbourne (Conservatorium of Music) as a casual staff member and Monash University (Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, as a teaching associate, both within the vocal/opera and woodwind departments. He was also taken onto the casual music staff of Opera Australia.
In 2015, David was awarded a 50th Anniversary Winston Churchill Fellowship for professional development as a Head of Music and Opera Repetiteur. In 2016, he completed his Fellowship requirements and received a Medallion following the submission of his fellowship report. David & Nigel formed Torcello Arts during 2016, as a result of the report findings and have pledged to create ongoing training and professional development opportunities for opera singers and répétiteurs based on the academy programs of the Paris & Florence Opera Houses, working closely with David’s colleagues at both Melbourne & Monash Universities. David has also maintained strong links with the opera houses from his fellowship tour.
David continues to lead an active performing and teaching career and is invited to give classes, workshops and performance lectures across the full spectrum of the music industry. Since his return to Australia, David has sat on the chamber music panel of the ABC’s Young Performer of the Year (2014), appeared at the Melbourne Recital Centre in the ‘Local Heros’ series (2015) as was invited to give a masterclass for the Mietta Song Competition (2016) on the ‘artistic partnership’. He has also appeared in recital with Rosamund Illing, Jose Carbo, Elizabeth Campbell and Miriam Gordon Stewart. He is currently delivering an Italian Module for singers at Monash University, directing the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Chamber Choir and preparing many of the Melbourne based opera singers through Torcello Arts.
David has also recommenced his highland piping and is an active member of Castlemaine Highland Pipe Band.