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Rock Orchestra - Interview

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by Tema (subscribe)
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Yes, you read the title right - it's an orchestra of talented musicians who will be playing the absolute favourites from the 70s right through to the current age!

Held in the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Park, Rock Orchestra will be returning to this year's Adelaide Fringe season with their 16 piece ensemble of musicians (including 6 vocalists) for just 2 nights and if anything is to go by the last 2 Fringe seasons, their sell-out status should be enough to entice you to go their show and dance the first Saturday night of Fringe away, surrounded by seriously good tunes with a rock twist to it.

I was fortunate enough to score an e-interview with Eugene Russo, a vocalist with the incredible team at Rock Orchestra, in anticipation of their upcoming performances this weekend at the Adelaide Botanic Park, as part of Adelaide Fringe - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Eugene?
Eugene: I started my singing career in amateur musical theatre. After a couple of years, I decided to focus my energy on live music performance. I've always been a fan of the bass guitar, so I bought my instrument and joined a band. Not long after that, I fronted that band as a bass player/singer and have done for many years.

Tema: Who are the key individuals involved in Rock Orchestra: Under the Stars?
Eugene: Apart from myself on vocals we have:
Ben Whittington on guitar
Anthony Zillante on second guitar
Nathan Bills on bass
Hayden Ryan on drums
Russell James on piano
Sian O'Callaghan, Karen De Nardi, Robin Anthony, Patty Cake, Ashley Tuner on violin/viola
Stephan Richter on cello
James Deslandes on sax and flute
Sarah Day and Zillah Bull on vocals
Simon Varga on percussion and timpani.


Photo supplied by Eugenio Russo


Tema: How did you come up with the unique (and interesting) concept of having a rock-themed orchestra?
Eugene: It was just meant to be a one-off concept. Every weekend, we'd play cover music as a live rock three-piece. So, the songs are very watered down from the original recordings. When you listen carefully to the studio recordings, many of them have been recorded with a string section or brass or sometimes with a full orchestra. It was on a road trip where I literally shared a thought along the lines of "It would be great to just perform these awesome songs as they were recorded, just once!!". It was then when my wife said, "call Josh Tsaunis from Akoustic Odyssey, what have you got to lose?" I was reluctant, being that these people were seriously amazing musicians. Not 5 min later, I called him expecting 'no' for an answer. He loved the idea, they all loved the idea. So, we got together, planned our show, picked songs we loved, and put together a ticketed show. We got about 120 people. We were over the moon and so were the audience. There was a lot of interest from people for us to do it again, so we did, again and again and 4 years later, it's where it is today.

Tema: What can people expect from attending your show?
Eugene: To hear songs from all genres and eras from hopefully one or all of their favourite artists! To hear them live, yet as close as possible to their original recordings. To be taken back to when they maybe saw their long gone bands perform one last time and hope they can experience that again. To feel the energy this band is feeling when on stage together.

Tema: What are you hoping for your audience to experience by attending your show?
Eugene: For the most part - to have fun, just feel good, feel relaxed, energized and uplifted. To bring home that feeling, keep those smiles on their faces after the show. That they enjoyed the whole 2 hours and it still felt too short.

Tema: How did you score the venue, Adelaide Botanic Park?
Eugene: When I decided to get serious about Rock Orchestra, I started looking at the Adelaide Fringe as a way to gain exposure for us. So before I registered, I started browsing venues on the AF website and when I came across the Adelaide Botanic Garden, I stopped right there. I knew this was where I wanted to take us. It was either there or nothing. It just hit me - I could picture exactly how I wanted the night to be in an instant. After a couple of emails and a stroll through the garden, it just all fell into place. We had 450 people to our first show and just over 400 at our second. It was a huge success.

Photo supplied by Eugenio Russo


Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe (AF)?
Eugene: Being that I decided to perform for Fringe in the first place, it was really quite easy. Once the venue was locked in, I simply registered.

Tema: If you have been a part of AF prior, how has the journey been so far?
Eugene: 2017 was my first Fringe show and I was nervous as hell. It was uncharted waters for me but the Fringe staff are quite simply amazing. I just love dealing with them. They're very supportive, very friendly, incredibly accommodating, and very professional. I spent many sleepless nights preparing for this show and the AF staff were never an added stress, quite the opposite.

Tema: Is there a reason why you're only doing 2 shows?
Eugene: Yes, the work involved in setting up an outdoor show where there is no infrastructure in place is massive and costly. In 2017, we did 2 shows 3 weeks apart, which worked well, but ended up being very costly. In 2018, we only did one show, but a lot of people who couldn't make it missed out big. This year, we decided to have 2, but, this time back to back, so we'll see how this works out. So far, I think it's looking good. We have already sold nearly 750 tickets. We expect to see 1000 people over the 2 nights.

Photo supplied by Eugenio Russo


Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like our readers / your audiences to know about you and your show?
Eugene: This is a picnic style family-friendly event, so make sure you bring a rug and a chair. There will be a drinks bar set up on the lawns and food will be available at the cafe. You can bring your own snacks. Strictly NO BYO. Please visit our website to see what food is on offer.

Rock Orchestra - Under the Stars will be performing at the Adelaide Botanic Park this weekend (Feb 16 and 17) from 7pm - 9pm, as part of the Adelaide Fringe.

Book your tix here and follow the team on their social media platforms: Facebook // Instagram
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Why? If you love to dance to hits from the 70s to the present age, you don't want to miss this!
When: Adelaide Fringe season
Where: Adelaide Botanic Park, Museum Lawns (entry via Friends' Gate) at Adelaide Botanic Garden, North Tce, Adelaide, SA, 5000
Cost: $18 - $86
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