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Vale Alan Mackay-Sim

January the fourth, 2023, was a sad day for Oriana, and for the nation. It was on that day that Alan Mackay-Sim AM, the 2017 Australian of the Year, pioneer in bio-medical research, and much loved member of Oriana Choir, passed away after a long illness. He was 71.

Alan had been described as a “titan” of science, referring specifically to his ground-breaking work in stem cell research and diseases of the brain. He was known and respected by scientists, academics, eminent medical persons and policy makers the world over.



His time with Oriana was relatively brief – he was a fully participating, and much valued member of the bass section for 5 years. But during that time, he made a lasting impression, and he will be both sadly missed and very fondly remembered. Orianians will remember him, not as the high-flying and brilliant scientist and pioneering researcher that he undoubtedly was, but as a friend, a fellow chorister, modest and unassuming, someone who laughed easily, who ‘got on’ with anyone and everyone, and was happy to be just one of the gang. He had a great sense of humour, great generosity of spirit always willing to help, whatever the task. Oh, and he could really sing too! Many times I have stood beside him and enjoyed hearing his rich deep voice.

Those of us who were fortunate to be part of Oriana’s 2019 concert tour of Italy, will have some great memories of Alan. One in particular stands out. We had several days in Lake Garda, and on one of those days we all took a boat trip across the lake to the village of Sirmione. Alan took great delight in wearing a skipper’s peaked hat and sitting at the helm. With his trademark moustache and delighted grin, he looked for all the world as if he was in total control of our craft. The accompanying photo tells it all.

Oriana’s first concert season for 2023 is titled ‘Oriana Sings – Mozart Vespers and the Music of Ola Gjeilo’. We are honoured to dedicate this concert programme to the memory of our dear friend and fellow lover of music, Alan Mackay-Sim. May he rest in peace, richly deserved.


Ian Rix

25th January, 2023.

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