Mar 9, 2015
Adieu to Australia and New Zealand! Australia/NZ Tour, 2015
Christopher Verrette, violin
When travelling by bus, we tend to gravitate, consciously or not, toward the same seats. Thus, over the years, the very back seats of the bus have come to be known as "Chris' office". I am happy to report that the reception area of my office now features live jazz! As many of you know, oboist Marco Cera also plays a little guitar, and he has brought his little guitar along this time, playing it on the various bus rides. Most of these are relatively short trips to and from airports, but Canberra to Sydney is a four hour trip, so it was especially welcome then. Lucas Harris joined him on lute, and Bach was captured on video bobbling his bobblehead to "Blue Skies". (video can be found on our facebook page!)
Our second stay in Sydney was longer than the first, making it possible to enjoy some cultural events as well as the weather. I attended the season opener of the Sydney Symphony at the Concert Hall in the Sydney Opera House. (It is roughly the equivalent of our September here, with students returning to school and such.) It is always a challenge figuring out what to program with Beethoven's Ninth, and conductor David Robertson's choice was strange, imaginative and resourceful: a motet by Bruckner, and the third act of Berg's Wozzeck. It covered a very wide range of the human experience before even getting to the monumental symphony. There is a particularly successful convergence of culture and commerce in this corner of the city by the harbour: the Opera House is an attraction even to people who don't like opera, and there are multiple events happening there simultaneously. There are numerous restaurants, and the Opera Bar, which stretches along the harbour, partly outside, and seems to be a very lively scene. There is usually a cruise ship docked across the way, as well as ferries that can take one away from all this. It was fun to experience it as an audience member.
Sydney Opera House. Photo by Stefano Marcocchi
Our colleagues in the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra played an all-Handel concert the night before us in the same Recital Hall at Angel Place, and kindly supplied us with tickets. It was unusual for us to be able to have the audience experience at a hall where we are also performing, and great to meet some of our Australian counterparts.
We returned there to play the next afternoon and were received with generous applause and torrential rain at the end. The weather created an opportunity for greater than average contact with the audience as we jointly waited for the worst to pass. I ended up having a chat with a Sydney Conservatory student, who had attended not only our concert, but a masterclass given earlier by Tricia Ahern and Olivier Fortin. He brought to my attention a performance of Mahler Ninth at the Conservatory later that night, and I decided to dodge further rainstorms in order to attend. The performers were called the Musician Project Orchestra, about 100 students joined by a handful of professionals from various Australian orchestras. The model is similar to what we did at our Winter Institute last January, though on a symphonic scale, and the spirit seemed similar; they played well, and students both onstage and in the audience cheered enthusiastically for their colleagues.
In Adelaide, we played at the historic Town Hall, where Herr Bach was able to inspect the famous organ. Three festivals overlap around this time, making it a very exciting place to be, but for us it was a brief visit - in and out in about 20 hours. We did manage to have a group dinner with people from Musica Viva Australia, our wonderful hosts. There have been many receptions and Meet the Musicians events over the course of the tour, usually handled by a few of us at a time, so this was the biggest gathering of the trip, and a farewell one for some. It was also nice to see a couple players from the Brandenburg Orchestra in the audience.
Brisbane was our final stop in Australia, and a very important one, for it is near the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where many go to be photographed with cute critters. Last time it rained, and I got quite waterlogged getting that precious Koala shot, but this year it was sunny any some of the hottest weather we experienced on the trip.
Although not named for it, the name Lone Pine has special significance for Australians, especially this year, as the centennial of the Anzac landing on Gallipoli approaches. This was the name of one of the battlefields, and many memorials reference it in some way; there is a pine guitar at the Hall of Remembrance in Melbourne, and at a war memorial walk near Sydney, there is a Gallipoli site where a single pine has been planted.
Violinist Tom Georgi was a member of the Queensland Symphony, and friends hosted a barbecue at their home the night of our arrival. Musicians attending included some TBSI alumni, and we played some Bach from the upcoming Circle of Creation programme with the composer supervising. This also gave us a chance to practice our memorization.
We had an 8:30 departure for Auckland, and in spite of it being only a three hour flight, through the miracle of time zoning and the rigour of NZ quarantine and biological screening, it was 8PM when we got to our hotel. It is New Zealand's largest city by far, with over a third of the population living there. The Town Hall is a beautiful building, both visually and acoustically, built in 1911. The centre of activity for the Auckland Festival is in the adjacent square. Nearby is another older building, once a library, now an art gallery, that was designed by Percy Grainger's father's architectural firm.
Auckland Town Hall
With a very early departure home, there was very little time to experience Auckland, our only stop in New Zealand, but it was enough to whet the appetite for more. Just flying in and out of the island is an incredible site. I was happy, at least, to climb one of the many volcanic points and enjoy the views. Tolkien fans, by the way, or anyone who still has a sense of humour about the experience of flying, may enjoy viewing the epic Air New Zealand safety video, which can be seen on YouTube. (This sense of humour, I might add, is useful when embarking on a roughly 30 hour door-to-door journey.) We leave this region with the feeling that we have a lot of friends here, old and new, and that we would be welcome back anytime, but the realities of tour logistics are that it will take at least another 3 years or more until we can do so. We will have a couple more "Alison shows" to offer by then. I look forward to it!
Heading Home! Photo by Beth Anderson