ANAM Artistic Director, Paul Dean, recently returned from a tour to India with the Australian World Orchestra. Playing under the baton of internationally renowned Indian conductor, Maestro Zubin Mehta, Paul was joined by ANAM Musician Sam Payne and future Artistic Director, Nick Deutsch amongst many other ANAM alumni. We caught up with him to see how the tour went.

What was the musical highlight of the AWO tour?

Playing Schubert 9 under Zubin Mehta was incredible. He had the winds sitting in front of the strings, so I was essentially sitting under his nose, which was a really great experience. Just playing that piece with him was out of this world.

What is it about Zubin that makes him so extraordinary?

That is a really tough question, but he’s got really beautiful hands…and I don’t mean in a manicured sense, but the way he moves his hands, you know exactly what he wants by the way he moves his hands. He’s got great rhythm, and all those sort of things that good conductors should have. We talk a lot about the X Factor (not the show), but that thing that makes musicians beyond technical accomplishment. It’s hard to describe, it is intangible really.

What was the experience like for Sam?

It was one of the greatest gifts ANAM or anyone could ever want for Sam. I kept my eye on him for the first few days, but he slotted into the younger generation of the orchestra. He fitted in socially, he tried all of the food, had a great time playing in the orchestra. It will be one of the greatest cello sections he’ll ever be a part of.

The dinner we performed at was a highlight. We quickly printed off the parts at the hotel, literally had about 10 minutes of rehearsal – and then Nick, Sam and I performed in front of 500 people including the Federal Minister, Mehta, and high ranking Indian officials. He held it together better than I did!

 What was the cultural highlight of being in India?

The most obvious thing was the food. I love Indian food anyway, but eating curry three times a day, literally…it’s incredible, I haven’t been able to go to an Indian restaurant since I’ve come home, which is unusual since I usually have it once a week. The food’s amazing. I also had a great time with the clarinet section and Sam going to the tailor’s in Mumbai.

Indian Tailor

(Paul, with Sunny the tailor and Sam Payne)

It’s also really confronting having to deal with the poverty. It makes you very grateful for where you live and also makes me think how complacent I feel I am, and how people in this country take the whole thing for granted. Of course, it’s completely the obvious thing to say.

The ability to go to a tap and just drink water and clean your teeth – all those sorts of really basic things for us. I still haven’t really gotten over that. The begging I found really difficult because you’re told not to give them money, my instinct is to always give money in those situations, but they are probably working in a syndicate and the groups of beggars have pimps. Oh, look it’s as confronting as hell…

I had a situation where I was in a cab by myself at night going back to the hotel and I was confronted by this rather emaciated woman and baby, and through the window of the car she was really, really pleading and I didn’t want to get my wallet out (as you’re told not to get your wallet out). So eventually she gave up on me and walked around the back of the cab. She had a 3 year old and a baby and they were just filthy and obviously didn’t eat very much. She sat on the traffic island and the lights seemed to take forever to change and I couldn’t live with myself not giving her anything. So as we drove off, I handed her some money and she grabbed my hand like she was hanging on to the side of a cliff.

The most incredible thing culturally was going to the slums and playing a concert with Bindi McFarlane from the LSO, Monica Curro from MSO and Troy Greatz from WASO and we did a show for Diwali …the festival of lights, sort of like Christmas, really. And it was beaut, because the kids were beautifully groomed, bright eyed and full of life. The slums themselves were working class. They had some facilities, and the teachers were some of the most beautiful people you could possibly imagine. But the trip in and out, walking with our gear was just so harrowing. The fringe dwellers on the slums, were in a somewhat holding area (like a tent city for refugees), and these people had less than nothing. They had a piece of dirt – maybe about 2.5/3 metres squared (if that), a tarpaulin, the clothes on their back and assorted bits of stuff they’d accumulated and begged and scrounged. I was actually speechless. It does put Australia in perspective in a huge way.

Did you get to spend much time with Nick Deutsch?

We spent a lot of time together, particularly in Mumbai. I wrote some of his oboe concerto while I was away, so I was showing him bits and pieces. He’s great fun, he loves his food, he loves his wine and is an amazing player. Playing with him was such a joy.

We had a lot laughs together as well as doing a handover. We basically did handover in the Leopold Café in Mumbai. We talked about all of the important issues that come with the job, the things you don’t get from a job description.

He’s got really big dreams, goals and ambitions for ANAM. It makes leaving here much easier than it could have been, because you think ‘it’s going into these hands.’ It’ll be great, because I’ll get to watch from afar and come back from time to time and still be a part of it.

After an extraordinary six years as Artistic Director of ANAM, we bid farewell to the wonderful Paul Dean. Please join us for this very special concert to help mark the end of an era.

Sunday 6 December

South Melbourne Town Hall
210 Bank St
South Melbourne
Tickets $35 each
Book online at www.anam.com.au or call (03) 9645 7911



3 thoughts on “Paul Dean: Postcards from Mumbai

  1. I am reminded of the recital which a visiting German pianist gave in Madras during the 1960s. The visual aspect of this recital was enlivened by a mouse, which sniffed around her feet as she played. Fortunately it didn’t touch her, so she played on oblivious, and by the time she finished it had retreated backstage whence it had come.

    Ian Manning

  2. My husband Joe and I were fortunate enough to be on this incredible tour of India with the AWO. We haven’t stopped talking about it since returning to Sydney, and relate well to Paul’s personal experience and insights. We felt so incredibly proud of our talented musicians, Greta Bradman (breathtakingly beautiful in every sense of the word) was another highlight, and Maestro Zubin Mehta, what a gift he has and shares with so many. Gabrielle Briger, the woman behind the AWO in the first place – I’ll never forget, with admiration, her composure and sense of humour during the tour, no mean feat when you think about the logistics involved in putting something so extraordinary together, in a foreign land, with concerts in 3 different cities. Bravo to Gabrielle, the brilliant AWO musicians and Greta, and to the wonderful friends, family and sponsors of the AWO. Can’t wait until the next tour!

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