Wendy and Warren arrived in Armidale in 1965, Wendy being appointed to Armidale High School.  During her two years there she worked with the choir, established a Senior Vocal Ensemble, set the groundwork for the first Music Elective class which would start in 1967 and directed the production of the G&S musical “Trial by Jury”.

After resigning to raise a family from end of 1966 Wendy then returned briefly to the community in 1971 to direct Die Fledermaus with the Armidale Musical Society, then in 1974 it was back to music teaching at AHS. During this next period of activity Wendy’s contribution to the school’s music department was considerable.  Being an excellent musician and pianist she provided all the accompaniments for elective music students for all in- and out-of-school performances, encouraged student composition, especially entries in the Australian Gould League (with much success) and participated in and took students to State Music Camps and Celebration Concerts at Sydney Town Hall and Sydney Opera House. All of this and more occurred while teaching a full load at AHS, directing the school choir and string orchestra and directing a wide range of musicals from Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, through many G&S operettas to popular musicals such as Pyjama Game, Annie Get Your Gun, Grease and many others.

Wendy also had a strong sense of community and generously gave much energy, expertise and time to several Armidale community groups.  From 1974, when Wendy returned to school teaching she conducted the Armidale Symphony Orchestra and the Armidale Choral Society and, later, Fiori Musicali and The Armidale Youth Orchestra.  Wendy’s choice of repertoire for these groups was always backed by an extensive knowledge and good judgement. Her rehearsal techniques were such that rehearsals were productive and satisfying for the players and singers and her conducting was always appropriate to the style of work being performed.  No work was ever chosen that the relevant group was not able to perform, and that included such technically and musically demanding orchestral works like Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony, Brahms, Beethoven, Borodin, Dvorak and Shostakovich symphonies; also such choral works as Messiah (several times), Mozart Requiem,  Haydn, Beethoven and Rutter Masses, Handel Oratorios, Bach Cantatas, etc. Not content with just conducting the orchestra Wendy played  percussion for many of their concerts, delighting more in the hitting of the bass drum and the crashing of the cymbals – the bigger and louder the better for such a small person!

Wendy also encouraged more advanced students by giving them opportunities to play concertos with the Armidale Symphony Orchestra.  Some of the outstanding school student instrumentalists were David Griffiths, clarinettist (now of Ensemble Liaison) who played the Copland Clarinet Concerto, Alice Rickards who played the Lalo Violin Concerto and Christopher Metcalfe who played the Elgar Cello Concerto. Community instrumentalists included Deidre Rickards and Keith Power who each played several piano concertos with the ASO.  The occasional choral/orchestral work that Wendy conducted, such as Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, gave other school students opportunities for vocal solos, duets etc.

Fioro Musicali is an Armidale chamber choir which Wendy conducted occasionally during the six years from 2006, ie during her “retirement” which began in 2001. Her Fiori works included Vaughan Williams Mass in G Minor and Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb.”

Wendy’s life wasn’t all music, however.  She had a wonderful one-man support team in Warren who stepped in with the necessary domestic management while Wendy was engaged in all her music pursuits.  Wendy was also a good cook and a very skilled seamstress, having made many complex-patterned quilts and jackets, knitted many extraordinary jumpers and cardigans and made many of her children’s clothes especially when they were smaller.

Wendy passed away in Canberra on Australia Day this year. Her health had gradually declined after a stroke in 2012. However, this hadn’t stopped her making her own bookings for flights, accommodation and concerts in Sydney and then travelling to those, often alone, but enjoying the helpful attention from flight and Opera House attendants.

 She was a decisive, confident, determined and gifted person with a quiet but wicked sense of humour, who was always very generous with her time and talents. Wendy will be especially missed by all the musicians who were fortunate enough to have come under her guidance and baton over the almost-50 years that she spent in Armidale.

Sue Metcalfe OAMcs

March, 2024