Review Blog

Jan 05 2018

Close to the flame: The life of Stuart Challender by Richard Davis

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Wakefield Press, 2017. ISBN 9781743054567
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) As a child growing up in Tasmania, Stuart Challender learnt the piano and the clarinet, but it was composer and conductor Felix Gethen and his achievements with the Tasmanian orchestra that inspired Challender and made him determined to become a conductor himself. Studying first at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and eventually travelling to Germany to follow his dream, he endured the privations of a poor student abroad. But his steadfast determination saw him follow his path to a career as a talented conductor who was able to draw something extra from orchestras in Europe as well as Australia. On his return to his homeland, he worked with Opera Australia and the ABC Sydney Symphony, and became a champion of contemporary Australian composers, often providing a launch for new compositions alongside well known favourites.
Despite being diagnosed with AIDS, Challender kept his illness secret from all but his closest friends and continued to work until the last. When his illness was finally revealed in the news, he was amazed and deeply touched by the wave of support from family and friends and the general public.
Reading this book, readers gain insight into the life of someone whose path was not easy, but who was determined to follow his dream, from a small town in Tasmania to the orchestras of Europe and America; the story of Challender's life can be an inspiration to others who want to follow a different path.
Helen Eddy

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