Diana Ford (née Gee)

Double Bass

AYO and National Music Camp 1962

It was during my high school years at PLC Pymble that I found an ancient double bass under the stage in the hall, and fell in love with it – gut strings and cumbersome bow included - and started lessons with the violin teacher at the school.

I was lucky enough to be awarded an Orchestral Scholarship to the NSW State Conservatorium a couple of years later where I had some beneficial (and often hilarious) lessons conducted backstage in Verbrugghen Hall, with Charles Gray, then principal  bass of the SSO and formerly of the Boyd Neel String Orchestra. The Con Director, Sir Bernard Heinze, actually awarded me the scholarship in person, proclaiming that I was his “favourite lady double bassist"!

After leaving school I enrolled in a Diploma in Illustration course at the National Art School in Darlinghurst. Art had been my other passion in life from a young age. During this time I also continued to have bass lessons at the Con in the evenings, attended National Music Camps and was a member of AYO in 1960.

After graduating from the National Art School I worked in the animation industry at the very new and innovative Artransa Park Television Studios in Sydney. Later, I moved to London with my husband for a couple of years where we both worked on such projects as the animated film Yellow Submarine in Soho Square. I was involved in colour styling...my claim to fame being the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds segment on which I worked extensively.

During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, I played as a double bassist in several local orchestras around Sydney, including Willoughby, Kuringai, the Western Symphonia, St Andrews Cathedral Orchestra and the Balmain Sinfonia. I also played in various musicals with many musical societies, including Chatswood, Willoughby, North Rocks, Sydney Youth, Hornsby, Asquith, Dural, Rockdale, Parramatta, Strathfield, Pennant Hills, and Castle Hill. I started performing with a half sized Czech bass, then changed to small German bass. This was followed by a much too large French bass until I finally settled on a wonderful half size 1870 German bass. 

I also taught double bass until I retired from teaching in 2016. Having retained my love of Early Music, I then turned to the cello which I play in two string quartets. I also play Viol da Gambas and recorders with various consorts.

During the 1980s I met Carey Beebe, world renowned Australian harpsichord maker and, on the spur of the moment one day, offered to decorate the soundboards of his harpsichords. I have since decorated about 20 harpsichords, including two for the Sultan of Oman, and now paint my own Australian designs on special order instruments. I also have a lovely Flemish harpsichord which I play… with mixed success.

I look back...and forward...at my life of music and art, which I still find are so extraordinary and fulfilling.

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