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Montville concert hall attracts world’s finest musicians

spring 11

A cascade of heavenly notes and chords spills from deep inside the Steinway grand piano, filling every corner of the octagonal performance room with a calibre of sound usually only found in the concert halls of major cities. But this is not New York, London or Paris – it’s Montville. 
 
Lucas Parklands, on Narrows Road near Baroon Pocket Dam, is a private residence surrounded by twelve hectares of forest, featuring a state-of-the-art concert space that attracts world-class musicians to the hinterland to perform several times a year.
 
The pièce de résistance is a gleaming flame mahogany piano from Steinway’s Emerald series. This is the last Steinway built with ivory keys and is an invaluable instrument. A raindrop-shaped crystal chandelier sparkles high above the Steinway and a second Kawai piano, both positioned inside concentric circles of seats that accommodate 150 people.
 
Sub-tropical rainforest as grand as the pianos provides a stunning natural backdrop to the room. Its double-glazed windows stretch from floor to ceiling to do the view justice. The walls are constructed of acoustic plaster and the floor is two centimetre premium hardwood on two centimetre marine ply, which creates reverberation in the room like a drum. 
 
It goes without saying that no expense has been spared in creating a concert space with such superb acoustics and aesthetic quality which, when combined with the beautiful parkland setting, is the only venue like it in Australia, if not the world.
 
“If you build it, they will come – I like that phrase,” says Ian Lucas, a pianist who ceased studying at the Conservatorium of Music in Hobart as a young man to become a pilot. When he turned 50 he realised he hadn’t played piano in 25 years, and began to question his values.
 
Ian and his wife Lee decided to leave Brisbane for Montville in 2008 to pursue a lifestyle closer to nature and more conducive to the development of their children’s musical aspirations – their 15-year-old twins Meg and Sam are also accomplished musicians.
 
Sam plays cello and has recorded a CD at Lucas Parklands, and Meg plays violin and piano. Both attend the Griffith University Young Conservatorium every Saturday and play various instruments in the Sunshine Coast Grammar School’s concert band and string ensemble.
 
With musical genes like these, a music space was definitely on the agenda for the Lucas family, but they hadn’t initially planned on building such an extravagant venue. The first room they built was an extension to their house that seated 80 people, but when 148 attended the first concert and spilled out of the room and onto the grass, it was time for an upgrade.  
 
They began building the larger room in October 2009 and held the first concert there on February 28 last year: ‘Champagne and Chopin’ to celebrate Chopin’s birthday.
 
They’ve hosted 35 concerts, their aim being to host the best of the classics by the best artists they can find, and to promote young Australian musicians.
 
“We’ve got a hit list of major works that you would usually have to travel to Brisbane or Sydney for,” says Ian. “The ‘Rach 3’ piano concerto featured in the movie Shine is a monstrously difficult piece of music, almost like running a marathon, and we’re presenting it in October. We source people who can perform these works – and they don’t grow on trees!”
 
“When we purchased the Steinway piano we didn’t realise it would become one of the reasons people would want to play here, because it’s a world-class piano,” Ian says. “Most concert halls in Australia might build a ten million-dollar hall and put a $20,000 piano in it. We went the other way and opted for a small room and an instrument of the highest quality.
 
“The idea was to give young musicians of high standard a place to perform. We were the first private home and venue to host winners from the Sydney International Piano Competition. We’ve had the 2008 first, second and third prize winners, which were a real privilege for us and hosted six of the 36 finalists.
 
“It’s held every four years and next year we’ve asked for the People’s Choice Winner and the highest placed Australian to play here. It’s a deliberate engagement with Australian musicians.”
 
Lee is the primary organiser of the Lucas Parklands events and according to Ian, “works tirelessly”. Each concert is a family affair, with Lee on the door, Ian and Sam organising the parking and Meg as the mistress of ceremonies. 
“I always put a handwritten note in when I send tickets to people,” Lee says. “I think that’s why we get such a good response. We like the personal approach.” 
 
“We’ve always had an open home policy regarding our children’s friends, our friends and anyone interested in music who comes here. That’s how we like to run the concerts – people feel like they’re coming home. It’s not like you just go to the concert and then leave. When we have a wine bar we invite the Maleny Lions Club or the Blackall Range Care Cottage to run it and take the proceeds. It gets the local community involved.”
 
In keeping with their desire to encourage young Australian classical musicians, the Lucas family is planning to host a music competition for talented students up to Year 12 in the near future.
 
They would welcome an appropriate sponsor to engage a notable artist to adjudicate the competition and therefore attract high-quality students. They also hope to increase the number of concerts held each year.
 
When asked what has been the most significant event at Lucas Parklands, both Ian and Lee agree it was the Bob Irwin wildlife fundraiser held last year.
 
“It was the anniversary of Steve Irwin’s death,” says Ian. “Bob chose to spend his day here and talk to the audience about environmental conservation. [French pianist] Pascal Rogè, his wife Ami and Leigh Paine, a violinist from Cairns, performed and ABC’s Australian Story filmed the event.
 
“Bob Irwin made us all sit back in our seats and told us to take care of our own backyard. He’d never been to a classical concert before and he sat in the front row. It was an extremely emotional day for him and he could have chosen to do anything else on that particular day.”
 
By bringing such a high standard of music to the hinterland community and presenting it in such beautiful, natural surroundings, the Lucas family is doing an outstanding job of looking after their own backyard.

For bookings contact Lee on 5478 5667 or lucasparklands.com
 
words leigh robshaw  photos anastasia kariofyllidis
 

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