Last year’s Aussie classical music documentary, Mrs Carey’s Concert, made a million at the local box office. Now we have Mr Scary’s concert: a film about the struggle to stage an impossibly huge and possibly cursed symphony in the least spine-chilling place on the planet, sunny Brisbane. 4MBS DJ Gary Thorpe tried for 28 years to organise a performance of Havergal Brian’s Symphony No 1, hampered by the fact it requires an orchestra of 150, a choir of 400, four brass bands and a thunder machine. Cursed? Maybe. Stupidly large and unwieldy? For sure.
Randall Wood and Veronica Fury started filming this documentary in 2005 and got so fed up with Thorpe’s lack of progress that Fury rolled up her sleeves and signed on as the concert’s producer. As movies about epic follies go, this one has a happier ending than most, but Fury’s panic and despair and the mounting frustration of Queensland Youth Orchestra conductor John Curro make for some tense scenes. Ultimately the film is a testament to moxie of the arts scene in the Sunshine State. Thorpe says, “I want to prove that Brisbane can do this,” and as the audience files into the Queensland Performing Arts Centre to find themselves almost outnumbered by performers, you have to admit that a little bit of the kind of faith that raised cathedrals lives north of the border.