FIFTY years ago Richard Mills was a shy, gay teenager at Sydney’s Marsden High School, when he met Richard Gill AO who at the time was a music teacher with a burgeoning career in classical music.

Gill had begun pioneering an inclusive kind of music instruction where the classroom was open for all to attend, whether they were musicians or not.

The inclusivity made a massive impact on Mills who would go on to fall in love with the arts and eventually set up The Russell Mills Foundation (TRMF) to fund various organisations after his death of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells on internal organs.

It was Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – arguably one of the world’s most recognised musical pieces – that awakened a passion for classical music in Mills.

“When he discovered Carmina Burana, it was a revelation, it changed how much music could mean to a person in his life,” said Mill’s niece, Alexandra Mills who runs TRMF. 

“He was very touched by that piece of music and he became very interested in classical after hearing it for the first time.

“After he was diagnosed (with mesothelioma), he was would drive around in his Fiat Bambina with the top down and ABC Classical radio blaring.” 


The TRMF has helped to fund an upcoming performance of the Aboriginal-inspired Mass of the Dreaming and Joseph Haydn’s joyous Mass for Troubled Times or Nelson Mass by the Sydney Chamber Choir and Gill’s own period orchestra seventeen88.

Using instruments from Haydn’s time, seventeen88 will join the 36 singers of the Sydney Chamber Choir in the one-off concert at the City Recital Hall on Saturday October 1.

Gill said the one-off concert would be the first time Australian audiences would hear a Latin mass combined with Indigenous sounds.

“Both these Masses are ground-breaking,” he said.

“For the first time Sydney audiences can hear Edwards’ genius in Missa Alchera at weaving into an ancient Latin mass the environmental sounds and indigenous chanting of Australia. And Haydn speaks to our own troubled times by making his great Nelson Mass into one of serenity and joyous defiance.

“It will be just fabulous to see and hear Haydn’s final symphony played on such distinctive original instruments – producing that lovely, warm classical A430 pitch and clarity of articulation of his time.”


City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Saturday October 1 at 7.30pm.


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