Music made visual: the Gala posters

What is most memorable about our annual Gala Concert? Is it the repertoire, the performances, the staging, or the spirit of the event itself? It could be suggested that it is all these things. However, there is a series of items that capture not only the concept, music, and the themes of each event but also its growing professionalism: the Gala posters.

Each year, the production team for the Gala Concert wrestles with the challenge of how to draw together the diverse talents of the staff and students to create an event that is inspirational, educational, and rewarding for the performers while, at the same, being entertaining for the audience.

Since 1997, the Music Department has featured outstanding soloists and performed an impressive repertoire of works that have continuously challenged the technical and musical skills of the students and motivated them to reach higher standards of achievement. In truly memorable concerts, the music always comes first. At the root of these outstanding events lie musicians, composers, and artists willing to create a fresh dynamic in shaping the music we hear. There is also a creative mind (or two) skilled at putting together musical elements and coming up with an experience that totals far more than the sum of its parts.

2000 Gala special guest, Opera star, Peta Blyth (1971)

Imaginative thematic programming provides a logical opportunity for presenters, producers, and artists to prepare a repertoire, and even staging, that coalesces into a coherent whole. The announcement of the theme for each year is always anticipated and greeted with much interest. Giving patrons prior knowledge of a program’s content adds greatly to their anticipation and appreciation, as the audience enters the concert hall empowered, rather than intimidated or confused. The Gala posters have a role to play here in that they are a manifestation of the musical elements of each concert in visual form, and their diversity and evolution reflect the concert qualities, as well as offering a journey down memory lane.

Traditionally, the poster and program design are outsourced after the Instrumental Music Faculty has determined the theme and music for the Gala. The design company, currently Prodigy Design, is briefed by the Music staff and the magical design evolves.

1997 Gala poster

The Inaugural Gala Concert, titled Sunday Proms Concert, was held at the Brisbane City Hall in June 1997, and the Proms coordinator, Mr Andrew Jarvis, proclaimed the concert to be ‘a most adventurous project.’ The special guest was Gina Cervo (1978), internationally acclaimed soprano, and Channel Ten’s newsreader, Glenn Taylor, was the compere. It was such a great success that the then Principal, Mrs Judith Hancock, agreed that it should become a regular event in the School’s calendar. Its poster was appropriately blue and relatively straightforward in design.

Past student, Dr Melissa Carroll (nee Hickey, 1997), remembers that first Gala Concert as ‘a different kind of concert. … Until the Sunday Proms Concert, all our concerts were traditionally held in the Gehrmann Theatre, and we only went to City Hall for graduation. I remember the net of balloons being dropped at the end of the concert and was so impressed!’

1997 Music Captains including Dr Melissa Carroll (nee Hickey, 1997)

2022 Dr Melissa Carroll (nee Hickey, 1997)

Melissa was heavily involved in the Grammar music program during her time at the School (1993–1997) and was Music Captain in her final year. Melissa kept up her Trumpet studies, completing her LmusA in the year 2000, performing with the Queensland Youth Symphony Orchestra, Big Band, and Wind Symphony, and touring with the Australian Youth Wind Orchestra to Scandinavia, Singapore, Germany, and France as a featured trumpet soloist. Melissa returned as a featured soloist in the Gala Concert of 2004, All That Jazz. She now returns regularly as an augmenting player in every Gala Concert. Melissa adds, ‘I can’t believe how the Gala Concert has evolved from just another concert to a signature event, where I now see girls crying and consoling each other over this being their last Gala!’ She cannot wait for her daughters to be part of the Gala Concert tradition when they begin their Girls Grammar education.

Some of the most popular themes were All You Need Is Love (2008), Once Upon a Time (2010), and Picture This (2013). Each concert featured a wonderful repertoire reflected by their titles.

Some of the most striking posters have been Let’s Dance (2017), Odyssey (2019), Ode to Joy (2020), and of course, this year’s, Luminescence. It is fascinating to see that, as the repertoire became ever more ambitious, the poster designs also rose to the challenge by becoming more evocative, dynamic, and elegant.

Turning a theme into a poster takes thought, instinct, and talent but it gives the audience a chance to preview what the concert is all about. It generates a look and a feeling that makes the expectation more vivid. This synaesthesia of colours builds a connection between performers and the audience, even before the first note is played. It becomes a time capsule of our vibrant music history and a visit to the collection of posters in the Music Department affords us a perspective of this proud history of our musical excellence.

Ms Laurinda Davidson
Acting Director of Instrumental Music

2022 Luminescence


1997: Sunday Proms Concert, Brisbane City Hall

1998: Sunday Proms Concert, Brisbane City Hall

2000: Girls Grammar celebrates 125 Years

2001: Gala 2001—the first time we see the Community Choir become a Biennial group at Gala

2002: Cinema Classics—Academy Award Winning Cinema Classics Hollywood’s Greatest Hits

2003: What A Wonderful World

2004: And All That Jazz

2005: Postcards

2006: It’s a Classic—celebrating 10 years of Gala

2007: On With The Show

2008: All You Need Is Love

2009: Villains

2010: Once Upon A Time—the first time the concert is held at the UQ Centre at The University of Queensland, having outgrown City Hall

2011: Dreams

2012: Unforgettable

2013: Picture This

2014: After Dark

2015: As Time Goes By—Girls Grammar celebrates 140 years

2016: Out of this World—Mr Mark Sullivan’s final Gala Concert

2017: Let’s Dance—Mr Paul Holley, former Acting Director of Instrumental Music

2018: Call of the Wild

2019: Odyssey—Mrs Emma Dron, former Director of Instrumental Music

2020: Ode To Joy—reimagined as a video recording due to COVID 19

2021: Spellbound—cancelled due to COVID 19 and recorded

2022: Luminescence—Ms Laurinda Davidson, Acting Director of Instrumental Music