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Meet Musica Viva Custodian, Ray Wilson OAM

Ray Wilson - OAM

Ray Wilson OAM has long been a donor to Musica Viva and is helping to ensure future generations can enjoy the best of chamber music by leaving a gift in his will. "It is our – [partner] James and my – way of saying thank you."

"I grew up in a poor family and now that I have been able to enjoy some financial success, I want to give something back,” Ray says.

Disarmingly honest and candid, Ray is a man of immense humility and character, with a contagious twinkle in his eyes. Born in Caulfield, Victoria in 1946, Ray moved to Sydney in 1967, where his fate and future were to be forever impacted by a chance meeting with James Agapitos, who became his soulmate and life partner for the next 40 years.

From a love for Australian Art...

James and Ray shared a great love of Australian art. Through their combined passion, the couple acquired the largest and most important repository of Australian Surrealist art. “Initially, we had a broad collection of Australian art, but then we began focussing on surrealist art, particularly the work of James Gleeson. We started with one of Gleeson’s paintings, The Attitude of Lighting Towards a Lady-Mountain, and the rest is history.”

Following James passing in 2007, Ray gifted their entire Surrealist collection to the National Gallery of Australia. This gift was a fulfilment of their long-held vision to make their collection available to the nation for generations to come.

"It is our – [partner] James and my – way of saying thank you. Our cultural institutions are relying more and more on public and philanthropic support to fill the gap," Ray says.

To a first experience of chamber music

Through a chance visit to the Huntington Estate Music Festival, Ray fell in love with chamber music. “My foray into Musica Viva was at Huntington, which was my first in-depth experience of chamber music, and I absolutely loved it. The Pavel Haas Quartet played Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70, and I was hooked.”

Since first attending Musica Viva, Ray has become an enthusiastic supporter of chamber music, citing among his favourite performers Tafelmusik, the Goldner String Quartet and the inimitable Ray Chen. He joined the Amadeus Society in 2009 to support the artistic initiatives of Musica Viva and ensure Australian audiences have access to the highest calibre international artists.

Ray sees Musica Viva’s emphasis on music education as admirable and essential, but fervently acknowledges the importance of international artists on Australian stages as vital to fostering aspirations for home-grown talent.

“I’ve gained enormous pleasure from chamber music and particularly those Musica Viva events that I’ve hosted in my home, which have included performances by the Goldner String Quartet and an ‘in conversation’ with Mischa Maisky, which was a lot of fun."

"I want people to know that the arts are critical to a healthy and sophisticated society and worth supporting. We have to keep our musical and artistic culture alive and thriving.”

Ray’s philosophy on life is a simple one: to live with no regrets, to look forward with positivity and to embrace life. In 2018, he looks forward to the return of Tafelmusik and “the absolutely charming and brilliant” Ray Chen. Musica Viva and indeed, the arts in Australia have a very firm advocate and true treasure in Ray Wilson.

If you, too, are interesting in leaving the gift of music for future generations in your will, please contact Callum Close on (02) 8394 6636 or [email protected]