Kent is king of the keyboard

Kent Furmage 1_

Kent is king of the keyboard

JULY 2015 | Wai Lin Coultas

ARTS DELORAINE describes Kent Furmage as one of Tasmania’s finest pianists; a justifiable description of this man from Osmaston as he has been playing the piano for approximately 60 years, since age 7, throughout the island state.

“I’ve played from Redpa in the Northwest to Huonville in the South,” Kent elaborates.

Kent adds,“I’ve played with many other ensembles and accompanied many singers and instrumentalists from Hobart to Burnie.”

Yet, not content to just play, he co-founded, in 1968, what became the Theatre Royal Light Opera Company in Hobart; taking on, amongst many other aspects of theatre and TV appearances, the multi- faceted role of a répétiteur for three to four years.

This gave him the chance to extend his musical genius to vocally coaching the company’s singers, on top of playing the piano for its music and production rehearsals.

This, in turn, opened for him similar opportunities with some of Australia’s best-known opera singers when the Australian Opera Company came to Hobart on several occasions between the late 1960s to 1970s, and with those singing for the Tasmanian Opera Co during its somewhat short existence in the 1970s.

Not satisfied to sit on his laurels, Kent also “started with what is now called the Don Chorale in 1987 and took over as director, pianist, conductor and Pooh Bah – Lord high everything else – in 1993 when (his) predecessor was promoted to a teaching job in Launceston.”

“(There) I’m the rehearsal pianist AND orchestra and conductor. For the music we perform, there is no-one else who can do these jobs in the North West. There was a shortage of instrumentalists, particularly strings,” Kent adds.

He does not audition people for this Devonport-based choir either. Instead, he takes on the challenge of having the choristers learn from the beginning; often from “not being able to read music but having a love of the sort of music (they) sing”.

“Currently we’re working on a Gilbert and Sullivan concert!” Kent enthuses.

Even then his thirst for yet another new project compelled him to set up Gallery 9 in 1991, situated in Deloraine in a building his family built in 1948.

Although it began primarily as, and continues to be, a place for art exhibitions it quickly became a great space for dancers, singers, actors, one-man shows and other musicians to perform in over the years as well.

The amazing generosity of two friends of Kent’s brought the Bosendorfer grand piano to Gallery 9 in the early 1990s. This opened up yet further opportunities for Kent to perform “both as soloist and accompanist and with the Don Chorale as (its) orchestra”.

Yet Kent found time to take on yet another music-related role from the late 2000’s. He examines for the Australian Music Examinations Board under the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music and the University of Tasmania.

“While being mainly a piano examiner, I’ve examined singers and woodwind candidates (too),” quips Kent.

“I enjoy encouraging students to keep playing and eventually performing and being an educated audience.”

This enjoyment has led him to accept, from the 2000s, openings to act as an adjudicator for music competitions and eisteddfods, which are festivals of literature, music and performance around Tasmania.

That, again, is because Kent loves the many musical hats he has put on equally. But “playing as a soloist with an orchestra gives (him) a big buzz”, along with “accompanying a very good soloist – (be it) singer or instrumentalist”.

See the Events Diary on page 13 for info about Kent’s next performance.

 Mike Moores