Casey Donovan, David Campbell and more join Sydney Symphony for virtual benefit concert

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After the COVID-19 exercising, baking, reading and macramé, Matilda actor and singer Elise McCann embraced a meditation challenge.

A session on abundance in May would spark the ambitious Play It On concert, starring herself, Casey Donovan (left), David Campbell, Kate Miller-Heidke, Eddie Perfect, Katie Noonan and Hayden Tee singing “wicked” Australian compositions with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The virtual concert, to raise spirits and funds for the struggling arts community, has been a mammoth undertaking of producing sheet music, recording up to 50 musicians and the singers in their respective homes, and then editing and mixing the individual audio and visual clips together.

“I know people in the arts were feeling really invisible and what everyone does, even as a solo performer, is collaborate to create so I wanted to bring people together from all different musical worlds,” McCann says.

Her mate Campbell was one of the first to jump at the concert idea and he suggested performing the beloved Little River Band hit, Reminiscing.

It made sense for McCann and Tee to pair on one of Tim Minchin’s pieces from the Matilda soundtrack, having both featured in productions of the musical.

David Campbell reunites with the SSO for LRB’s Reminiscing. Picture: Tim Hunter.

David Campbell reunites with the SSO for LRB’s Reminiscing. Picture: Tim Hunter.Source:News Corp Australia

When she was brainstorming potential duet partners with Perfect for his piece Last Of Our Kind from the King Kong stage production, Donovan was the “dream” artist.

The Chicago star says she hadn’t heard Perfect’s song before but immediately fell in love with the soaring number. “Far out, I really connected to the song; it has a lot of meaning in today’s world,” Donovan says.

While she is celebrated for her powerhouse vocals and command of the big gig, Donovan admits her previous experiences singing in front of an orchestra have been equal parts intimidating and thrilling.

“Singing with an orchestra is the pinnacle of career highs. I love to watch the musicians completely immersed in what they are playing; you can see the love of what they do on their faces,” Donovan says.

“And to sing along with the power of the strings and the woodwinds in full flight, it’s an honour, a bucket list thing to do.

“But it is also very intimidating. They’re reading sheet music and magically bringing those notes to life and I’m standing out front going ‘Oh well, chookas!’ in classic Donovan style.”

Kate Miller-Heidke loves an orchestra collaboration. Picture: Supplied/Daniel Aulsebrook.

Kate Miller-Heidke loves an orchestra collaboration. Picture: Supplied/Daniel Aulsebrook.Source:Supplied

While fans can enjoy the stream of Play It On for free, people will be encouraged to donate to the Actors Benevolent Funds and Trusts in each state, and Support Act.

McCann says she has worked directly with the charities to ensure people’s donations would be directed to the state they wished, taking on board the lessons of Celeste Barber’s successful bushfire benefit campaign.

Play It On premieres online on Thursday from 7pm via the Sydney Symphony website, the SSO Facebook page and contributing artists’ social media pages.

Written by: Swanny

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