Interview with a Tenor – almost as rare as a Vampire but much more pleasant!

The Grads choir was pleased to welcome another tenor into their small but talented tenor section in 2017. Tony Suryanthono is a man of many talents. As well as singing tenor he is a fine pianist and conducts the choir at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Randwick which is fast gaining a reputation for its fine singing. Our roving reporter Dawn Plasto put a few questions to Tony to discover the man behind the voice:

Q. Where were you born and do you come from a musical family?

A. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia.  My parents aren’t musical, but my maternal grandma used to conduct a church choir in her day.  My brother plays the cello and we occasionally play duets together.

Q. You have an unusual name – perhaps you might tell us a little about it?

A. Indeed it is quite an unusual name even by Indonesian standards!  My nickname Tony is derived from the latter half of my name Suryanthono.  The first half “Surya” is used as common prefix for all the male members in my family and is derived from the Sanskrit word for the sun.

Q. Where were you educated and were you involved in music at School?

A. I studied in Jakarta until I was 14 before moving to Sydney where I studied at Marcellin College in Randwick.  During my time in Jakarta I played the piano for school masses and official “flag” ceremonies on Monday mornings.  I loved doing it, especially because the piano was located in the headmaster’s air-conditioned office, whereas all my friends had to stand for an hour saluting the flag and listening to boring speeches in the searing morning heat!

Q. Did you continue your music studies after school and what career path did you follow?

A. I finished my AMEB grades and obtained my Licentiate Diploma in piano recital with the Trinity College London during my university years.  After graduating from UNSW I worked as a structural engineer for 10 years.  During this time I studied the organ with Peter Kneeshaw when he was the titular organist at St Mary’s Cathedral.   I recently started a new job in property development and look forward to the next phase in my career.

Q. What is your favourite piece of choral music and why?

A. JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion.  It is a finely-wrought composition that never ceases to amaze me with its sheer beauty and inventiveness, variety of expression, and depth of contrapuntal textures.  Listening to it is also a spiritual experience for me personally.  I love the fact that Bach wrote it for liturgical use in his religious community – hence the numerous Chorales that Bach’s congregation would have sung.  I think this gives the work a spark of life that the other great “museum” pieces do not necessarily have.

Q. What brought you to Grads?

A. My good friends Dominic (tenor) and Maree (soprano) invited me to a SUGC concert a few years ago.  I think the choir sang Dvorak’s Stabat Mater.  I remember being impressed by the music and Christopher’s dynamic leadership and musicianship.  It took a few more SUGC concerts and drinks with Dominic until I finally decided to join and be a part of the sound.

Q What other interests do you enjoy apart from music?

A. I enjoy reading, learning about history, other languages and cultures, and I try to keep fit.  I’m also quite partial to single malt whiskey!

Q. Do you travel?

A. I love travelling!  Favourite travel destination so far: Japan.  There’s no other place on earth like it.

Q. What book are you reading at present?

A. The End of Certainty by Paul Kelly.  It’s an in-depth analysis of the fundamental policy reforms enacted by the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980s and early 1990s.  It would seem Christopher’s interest in Australian politics has rubbed off on me!


Dawn Plasto



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