Broken Hill Civic Orchestra

About the orchestra

The orchestra (BHCO) practices in Broken Hill in outback NSW, each Tuesday night except during Christmas Holidays, at the BIU Band Hall in Beryl Street off Iodide Street.

Practices begin at 7.30pm and visitors are welcome to come and join us while in Broken Hill.

The orchestra plays a wide range of music including classical and well-known popular music. As is the case with many other community orchestras, BHCO consists of a string section, woodwind section, brass section and percussion section.

BHCO practice at BIU Band Hall


We perform at several concerts each year, usually including a Spring concert in early September.

Each year BHCO usually hosts a workshop with a visiting tutor.

We also have social get-togethers on occasions.

History of Broken Hill Civic Orchestra

The orchestra commenced rehearsals on Tuesday 28th October 1975. The first performance was at the BH Quartette Club's Jubilee Concert on 22 November 1975, under the baton of Hartley Harvy who was the orchestra's founder. The orchestra had 25 members for its first performance, and increased to 39 for the orchestra's First Birthday Concert a year later. The orchestra has continued with an annual program of concerts up to the present day.

BHCO has had several principal conductors. After Hartley Harvey's retirement due to ill health, he was succeeded by Ken Lay, with subsequent conductors including Roly Lower and Nessie Osten. Ian Finlayson conducted the orchestra from 1991 until 1999. Mark Curtis conducted the orchestra from 2000 until 2005, and since 2007 he has been the orchestra's principal conductor once more. From 2006 until mid 2007 Margaret Chadwick conducted the orchestra, with her farewell performance taking place at Albert Hall in Tibooburra. Assistant conductors over the years have included Murray Baume, Jean Boyd, Chris Harvey, Leonie Mason, Robynne Sanderson, Ron Cotterill, Bob Keenan and Kristil-li Baldwin (junior orchestra).

Since 1977 the orchestra has been bringing some of Australia's best instrumentalists and tutors to the city on a regular basis for workshops funded largely by government grants. In 1987 the orchestra visited the Adelaide Conservatorium with members having specialised tuition and performing at Elder Hall. In September 1993 the orchestra visited Port Pirie for a band festival, and in June 1994 our orchestra played in a combined performance with St Peter's Lutheran College Band from Brisbane. In September 1997, and on several subsequent occasions, the Civic Orchestra has played in combined ensembles with visiting musicians under the baton of Mark Walton, who has conducted several very successful workshops in Broken Hill. In 2007 and 2008, BHCO performed at Albert Hall in Tibooburra.

25th Anniversary

Person jumping out of giant cake Our 25th Anniversary concert and celebration was held on the weekend of 7th to 9th July 2000. Past players returned from as far afield as Perth and Sydney for the occasion.

Some of the highlights of the concert on the Saturday night were the combined performance with past members of the orchestra, and the huge birthday cake, with June Bennetts popping out of the cake to sing "Happy Birthday" to the orchestra.

In true orchestra fashion, another important part of the evening was the supper which followed the concert.

On the Saturday morning some of the visitors and orchestra members visited the Living Desert sculpture site, culminating in an impromptu musical performance amongst the sculptures on top of the hill.

The Sunday afternoon consisted of a jam session for past and present orchestra members.

Newspaper article about orchestra

First Newspaper Article about BHCO

Here is the text of an article which appeared in the Barrier Daily Truth on Sat 15 Nov 1975


Next Saturday at the Civic Centre another cog in the wheel of the city's cultural life will turn, with the first performance of the newly formed BH Orchestra. The orchestra which will be conducted by Mr Hartley Harvy and led by Mrs Melva Keelan on the violin, will play an overture at the BH Quartette Club's Jubilee Concert on that night. The orchestra will consist of 23 to 25 local musicians.

Mr Harvy said yesterday that the formation of a BH Orchestra had been his ambition for some time "and with the help of many people the orchestra has now been formed."

He said that a photo of the first BH orchestra, which was conducted by Mr A. Guidi, at present hangs in the BIU Bandroom. Mr Guidi operated a paint and glass store in Argent Street between Bromide and Sulphide Streets (in the building currently occupied by Parisian Dry Cleaners). Two of Mr Guidi's great granddaughters Robynne and Barbara Sanderson will play in the new orchestra, Robynne on clarinet and Barbara on flute.

The girls' grandmother, Mrs Mabel Dulfer, who now lives in Geelong, was one of the city's top singers some years back. Their mother, Mrs Sanderson, teaches music at the BH High School.

The music for the orchestra was made available to Mr Harvy by the director of the state Conservatorium of Music, Mr Rex Hobcroft. The music came from the state's music library.

Other information about the orchestra

The Broken Hill Municipal Library has an archive section with historic information about the Broken Hill Civic Orchestra, as well as many other current and past music groups in Broken Hill.