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32 Reasons to Celebrate: Remembering the feats of the 2016 competition

The Sydney’s Chief Executive Marcus Barker looks back fondly on his first competition.

The epic feat of endurance that was The Sydney 2016 holds many great memories for those that were in the concert halls watching and listening live, the thousands around the world watching the webcast and the tens of thousands listening to the broadcast on ABC radio. The 2016 competition was special for me, simply because it was my first since taking on the role of Chief Executive. Here are 32 memories of the 2016 competition that are special to me and I am sure you could add your own to my list.

  1. Meeting all 32 competitors at Sydney International Airport for the first time.
  2. Andrey Gugnin’s epic performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
  3. Swedish competitor Martin Malmgren’s performance of Brett Dean’s Equality (certainly woke up the audience).
  4. The Friends of The Sydney and their busy beehive of volunteering activities behind the scenes.
  5. The first note played by Larry Weng on the first day of competition heralding three weeks of wonderful music making.
  6. Breaking all previous box office records.
  7. Working with our graphic designers to reimagine the brand of The Sydney for the 21st century.
  8. Watching as almost 300 young pianists from around the world applied for selection.
  9. People’s Choice winner Ming Xie and his immaculate stage presence and those Christian Louboutin shoes.
  10. Oxana Shevchenko and her award-winning performance with the Goldner String Quartet.
  11. The hair-raising conundrum of a missed flight and getting Oxana Shevchenko to Sydney in time for the start of the competition.
  12. The group photoshoot of the 32 competitors on a crisp Sydney winter morning overlooking the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  13. The amazing staff working tirelessly in the office.
  14. Trying all 32 cocktails in the ‘Jury’s Out’ bar, themed from each competitor’s country.
  15. Meeting long-term donors and supporters of The Sydney for the first time.
  16. The excitement of the sold-out Gala Opening Night and hosting our Vice-Regal Patron, the then Governor of NSW: His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d).
  17. The joy of working again with my first ever mentor in arts administration, jury member Timothy Walker.
  18. Revelling in the effervescence of chamber music partner Tasmin Little’s energy – on and off stage.
  19. Celebrating our alumni of Australian pianists and composers.
  20. Creating performance and mentor opportunities for the next generation pianists through the Young Australian Showcase.
  21. The after, after party at the end of three weeks of intense competition.
  22. ‘Losing’ a jury member (who shall remain nameless) as they overslept due to jetlag.
  23. Watching the anticipation on the faces of the finalists at the awards ceremony on the stage of the Sydney Opera House.
  24. Listening to the ever-thoughtful and entertaining commentary of Gerard Willems on ABC radio.
  25. The challenge of getting winner Andrey Gugnin over a weekend, from Sydney to Switzerland and back to Townsville for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.
  26. Moye Chen’s delightful performance of Percy Grainger’s Ramble on Love.
  27. The amazing crystal grand piano and floral display in the foyer of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music
  28. The visuals of every seat in the house full for many of the competition sessions with standing room only available for the grand finals at the Sydney Opera House.
  29. The story of a German couple having watched the preliminary and semi-final rounds online and felt they had to be in Sydney for the finals – so flew out to Australia just for the finals.
  30. My yellow duck from my team (it’s a thing for me).
  31. Travelling to capital cities with Andrey Gugnin on his post win tour.
  32. Saying farewell to 32 amazing young people knowing that I will be seeing them again on the world’s concert platforms for many years to come