It was a wild ride from Ride of the Valkyries to “a screaming hard solo” from Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck.
Evans nailed it, but despite his youth, he had done the hard yards.
He had studied for six years with a Sydney Symphony Orchestra trumpeter, played in the ABC’s National Training Orchestra and performed with the Sydney orchestra for six months – at the Sydney Opera House – as a fill-in trombonist.
Evans’ nerves had come before the audition, when a friend, tuba player Peter Sykes, heard that the lead, or “First” trombone spot was up for grabs at the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Melbourne Orchestra – today’s Orchestra Victoria.
“I said, ‘I’m 18, I’m not going for the ‘First’ job’,” Evans recalls.
So Sykes applied on Evans’s behalf, and sent him the airline ticket from Sydney.
“It’s funny the way things work out sometimes,” said Evans, 59, amid rehearsals for Orchestra Victoria’s two 50th anniversary concerts at in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria on Thursday, and on Friday at Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre.
He is now Orchestra Victoria’s longest serving musician and has had a wonderful time working with some of the world’s top artists in this 62 piece outfit, which is the Melbourne pit orchestra for Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet.
He has accompanied everyone from Dame Joan Sutherland and German superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann to Disney musical star Lea Salonga.
Placido Domingo of The Three Tenors fame was “a nice guy, and a great artist” who shook hands with each musician as they left the stage.
Venues weren’t always ideal. The Palais in St Kilda used to be freezing in winter and stank at summer low tide. The stage door opened on to Luna Park.
“I remember Joan Sutherland was doing a dying scene in Otello, and she’s singing ‘oh, I’m dead, I’m dead’ and the Big Dipper went down and you could hear the kids screaming.”
During the Mussorgsky opera Boris Godunov, a live hen fell off the State Theatre stage on to a viola player’s head.
A male dancer in Spartacus once leapt into the Palais pit, “clambered back on to the stage and kept going”.
And at 59, Evans is very happy with where that First Trombone gig led him.
At the Orchestra Victoria 50th anniversary concert, he is looking forward to playing the Candide Overture by Leonard Bernstein and and excerpts from ballets including Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty.
Later this year Orchestra Victoria is backing “one of my favourites” Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and is involved in a production of Puccini’s opera, Turandot.
What would Evans say to his 18-year-old self? “Well I wouldn’t change anything. I’d probably say, ‘Relax and have fun. You’re going to have fun for quite a while yet’.”
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.