My first attempt at a musically-related book review!

Richard Gill’s memoir Give Me Excess of It is a rather unusual blend of self-reflection and a survey of the Australian music and music education scenes of the last 50 years. The book is full to the brim with Gill’s personality, and his voice is clearly audible in every paragraph. Indeed, it sometimes feels that in his haste to get this done and then be onto another task, Gill dashed off a first draft and left it as was – no editing needed! Honest (sometimes brutally so) and witty but occasionally rather brusque, it was easy to imagine him reading the whole thing.

Gill’s memories of his early years are without a doubt the funniest. Though occasionally making himself out to be unbelievably stupid as a boy (hard to believe considering how far he has come since then) the various incidents are poignant and insightful. Gill seems almost pleased with himself at times, then shocked at others, but tells all with a wonderful clarity and attention to detail.

From the beginning of Gill’s tertiary years, there is a marked shift in narrative focus – it becomes almost exclusively focused on music. The young adult that we see making forays into the wider world is so single-mindedly focused on classical music that I would certainly forgive some of his students for being less than interested in what he had to offer. When, later, Gill meets his wife and gets married, it is mentioned almost in passing. His children seem to appear on the scene at around the age of two without any prior announcement, giving the impression that he was so focused on his various jobs that he almost failed to notice them himself. It is due to this, I feel, that the title of memoir is rightfully earned. It is a book about music, and anything else that makes its way into the pages is auxiliary.

Gill’s career – working with various tertiary music institutions, Victorian Opera, Opera Australia and the Sydney Symphony – is fascinating to read as a music student. His involvement and dedication has without a doubt given a huge amount to Australian opera and music education. For me, in particular, it was interesting to read about the history of Victorian Opera and how it has arrived at its organisational structure and method of presenting works. However, I wonder whether this would necessarily be the case for a broader reading audience, who might appreciate a few more amusing anecdotes and a little less name dropping.

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