8 September 2023

At 70, David Pereira's not about to bow out

| Sally Hopman
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David Pereira

David Pereira has been playing cello for 60 years – and couldn’t imagine life without it. Photo: Megan Cassidy.

David Pereira reckons his headstone will read: “He got a lot done” – and he’d be right.

Just about to celebrate his 70th birthday, the internationally acclaimed cellist, composer, performer, teacher, partner, father of seven and fan of bucolic bliss, has just embarked on a new series of intimate concerts, aptly called, David Pereira’s 70 Not Out.

For many years, David and his family lived in the village of Gunning, about an hour’s drive out of Canberra, enjoying life on their own piece of rural paradise. A giant when it comes to bringing the arts to the bush, David worked closely with the Gunning Focus Group which brings music out to towns that are not always on the concert map.

He has played at the village’s historic Court House, a building that boasts some of the best acoustics around, both as a solo performer and with chamber music ensembles.

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His family moved to Murrumbateman about 15 years ago, to be closer to the four of his children who no longer live at home with his partner Gillian and their three other children, a village he describes as “rural heaven”.

“Where I live does have an effect on creativity,” he said. “I tend to be more productive.”

David, who was senior lecturer in the cello at the Canberra School of Music from 1990 to 2008, later worked there as a distinguished artist in residence. He resumed teaching cello there in 2017 as a senior lecturer.

The musician, billed as one of the country’s best, began his career studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and went on to play with many of this country’s top ensembles, including the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The COVID-19 lockdown gave the musician plenty of time to think about life, music – and the future. Nearing 70 was just a number in his life for this man who has always listened to what his body tells him, be it through yoga or just a general respect for living the best life he can.

“To play the cello for all these years, you have to be fit,” he said. “I am a bit of a lapsed yogin, but in the past two years I have been working with a personal trainer which has had an amazing effect on me.

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“Turning 70 is quite different from turning 50 or 60,” he joked. “There are so many forces out there telling you you are about to die. Ageism seems to be alive and well – in old people themselves.

“But for me, I have to say, I feel I am now playing better than I ever have before – and that’s something when you think I have been playing the same instrument for 60 years.

“I am also doing more composing these days too which I am pleased about to be so productive.

“Last weekend for example, I was at the Hume Conservatorium and premiered two pieces of work – just finished them by the skin of my teeth.”

The next performances in David Pereira’s 70 Not Out will be this weekend, 9 September at Gundaroo and 10 September at The Chapel in Canberra. Limited tickets are still available online.

Members of the Acacia Quartet

Members of the Acacia Quartet will return to the old Gunning Court House on Saturday, 16 September. Photo: Gunning Focus Group.

Gunning Focus Group’s next concert will be on 16 September when the internationally acclaimed Acacia Quartet performs at the Gunning Court House from 3 pm – also described as the “best string quartet in the country”. Acacia, which regularly appears at the Sydney Opera House, will play a selection of works by Debussy, Fritz Kreisler and Stephan Koncz.

The Gunning concert has David Pereira’s seal of approval. “It’s rare to have this opportunity to sit down so close with the players as they present their exotic artistry … directly and intimately.

“Virtually a front row seat for everybody,” he said.

Acacia Quartet will perform at the Gunning Court House on Saturday 16 September from 3 pm. Tickets available online.

The next performances in David Pereira’s 70 Not Out will be this weekend, 9 September at Gundaroo and 10 September at The Chapel in Canberra. Limited tickets are still available online.

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