"Do you like classical music?"
It's a question that can elicit a variety of reactions - an enthusiastic response from the devotee, a raise of the eyebrows and a positive 'yeah, I do like some' from the casual observer, and a frown and scrunched up nose from the totally disinterested.
But no matter which category you fall into, there's no denying that most of the population has heard - and enjoyed - classical tunes at some point in the lives due to the music's prevailing use in TV commercials and movie soundtracks.
You may not know the name of the classical piece or the composer, but you've definitely heard the tune.
Chatting to pianist Elyane Laussade at Bendigo Symphony Orchestra's (BSO) rehearsal this week, I felt like I was in a scene from the 1984 movie Amadeus.
The scene where composer Salieri - now an old man, many years after the death of his rival Mozart - is giving his dying confession to a priest.
Salieri plays several melodies on his piano that he wrote and entertained opera lovers in Europe with during the 18th century. The priest listens with a blank expression on his face, not recognising any of the tunes.
That is until Salieri plays a piece which has the priest humming and singing along enthusiastically, even praising Salieri for writing such an instantly recognisable and enduring tune, only to have the jealous composer begrudgingly admit: "That was Mozart".
I must admit I was bit like that priest when Elyane was naming classical music compositions before she turned to the keyboard to play a Mozart piece, at which point my eyes lit up on hearing a melody I was so familiar with.
The works of Mozart will be an underlying theme at the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra's 40th anniversary gala on the weekend of December 11-12.
Elyane will perform Mozart's piano concerto number 21 in C second movement, nicknamed 'Elvira Madigan' after it was used in the 1967 Swedish film of the same name.
The performance is part of Elyane's project to play all 27 Mozart concertos in concert.
"I'm thinking why didn't I pick Beethoven? He only had five piano concertos - but I'll get there," she said.
After constant rescheduling due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the BSO's 40th anniversary will finally go ahead next week and Elyane is among those excited to be returning to the stage.
"I'm thrilled to be part of their celebration," she said.
"And Mozart is great. People need something uplifting at this time."
Elyane describes Mozart's 'Elvira Madigan' as "a lovely piece of music".
"It was my father's favourite concerto but one of my biggest regrets is I never played it for him while he was alive," she said
"But maybe he's watching down. I'll definitely be playing for him."
As well as Elyane, soprano Merlyn Quaife will be performing Mozart's 'Exsultate, jubilate'.
I'm thrilled to be part of their celebration. And Mozart is great. People need something uplifting at this time."- Elyane Laussade
"She is amazing, one of the best products Australia has seen," Elyane said of Merlyn.
The gala concert will also feature the world premiere of BSO cellist and multi-stringed musician Cally Bartlett's composition on Lake Eyre.
"It's a gala," Elyane said of next week's concerts.
"A lot of people are being celebrated which is really nice."
Cally's piece 'Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre' was inspired by a picture book she read every night to her son which talked about how the lake floods once in a decade.
"I was struck by the illustrations and I could hear a musical picture," Cally said.
A teacher by day, Cally worked on and off on her composition over a few months. While she has arranged musical pieces in the past, this gala marks her debut as a composer.
"It's quite nerve racking putting your music out there but the other musicians in the orchestra are really supportive," Cally said.
After months of isolation in lockdown, Cally was thrilled to be back working with her fellow musicians and preparing to return to the stage.
"It's great, really good," she said.
"Personally, it's important for my mental health. Zoom doesn't really work for a musician. When you're playing on your own, it's not as satisfying as with an orchestra."
The BSO program will also include the Jupiter Symphony, continuing with the Mozart theme of the event.
Performing music is so intoxicating and it's something you want to share with people.- BSO conductor Luke Severn
BSO conductor Luke Severn admitted it was a a bit of a culture shock to see so many people in the one room again once full rehearsals were able to resume in November.
"We've been brushing away the cobwebs," Luke said.
"Performing music is so intoxicating and it's something you want to share with people."
Luke said rehearsals were vital in the lead-up to the orchestra's public performance.
"No matter what level you're at, you need to be doing it all the time," Luke said.
"Even the best still practise several hours a day and you need to practise together to achieve this level.
"We are definitely reclaiming something here. It's hard work but it's fantastic fun."
The Bendigo Symphony Orchestra contains 40 musicians, ranging in age from teenagers to the over 70s.
A mixture of music teachers and other professions, the BSO offers those with a love of music the opportunity to play together - and they certainly make an impressive sound as a combined unit, I can attest to that.
Complimentary tickets for the concerts have even been allocated to music students to keep nurturing that love of music and help inspire them to greater things.
Next week's concerts will be held at Bendigo's Ulumbarra Theatre. Initially, crowd numbers were to be restricted to only 150 patrons each performance due to COVID-19 guidelines but those restrictions have been lifted.
It allows supporters of the performers such as Elyane to travel up from Melbourne to be part of the celebrations.
"Ulumbarra will be nice and full now," Elyane said.
"It was meant to be only 150 people there which is why they were holding two concerts. But now there's no limit - so the sky's the limit."
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