Sydney Town Hall…Family Concerts to Remember

Sunday night before last, our 8 year old daughter “Miss” sang in a multi-school choir at the Sydney Town Hall. Celebration Sing Out was a concert supporting the Music Therapy Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

As much as we might have believed in the cause, let’s be honest. All the parents, grandparents and the rest of the royal entourage were there with only one thing in mind…to see their little darling up on stage at the Sydney Town Hall. Our brilliant, shining little stars had us all transfixed in their orbit. It might not have been the Opera House but singing at the Sydney Town Hall is still a big deal and a very imposing, impressive venue with the huge pipe organ towering overhead. When the organ was completed in 1890, it was the biggest pipe organ in the world. That’s not bad for a former convict town.

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

While our little darlings might have been just one of hundreds all not-quite perfectly cloned in plain white shirts and black pants, we didn’t care. We zoomed in and picked out little star out of the multitude and stared at them transfixed with love and pride.

Christmas came early...the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney's Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

Christmas came early…the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

A key component of this parental pride was getting a good seat so we could not only spot our darling among the multitude but also to get a good vantage point to take photos. Unlike many public events where you are not allowed to use cameras let alone photograph or film children, this event was a paparazzi free-for-all.

While the kids and I went to check out the David Jones Christmas Windows and have dinner in Hyde Park, Geoff sat in the queue to get our seats. He had left for work at 4.30am and was happy to mind the seats. You get my drift.

Before the concert began, I was down the front and after scanning the crowd several times, eventually I spotted Miss in the jungle. Many of the kids were waving out to the crowd and getting rather excited. However, Miss didn’t respond to me at all. I was pretty hard to miss. What started out as something like a dignified, royal wave became more frenetic as she absolutely failed to respond. She didn’t smile or even blink in my direction. Not one to be ignored, I’m waving both arms by now and doing everything but screaming “cooee” above the hubbub. I decided I wasn’t going anywhere until she responded. She might have been up towards the back but I was standing right in front of her waving my arms, taking photos with the standout Nikon SLR camera (something with a real lens not one of these Mickey Mouse phone cameras). I mean… I really stood out. It was almost like I was standing there with two heads and still she refused to acknowledge my existence. Eventually, finally, at a point no doubt verging on terminal embarrassment, she waved back. Relief! She later told me that she’s not supposed to wave. You see, at 8 years of age, she’s already the consummate stage professional!

Naturally, I wasn’t the only paparazzi in sight. As I scanned around the audience, there was an array of camera phones sticking up above the audience like the sort of TV antennas you see in regional towns desperately trying to pick up the city stations.

The singing was absolutely beautiful and a real tribute to everyone involved. The children sang beautifully in unison and sat still for considerable periods on stage during other performances. The concert began at 7.00PM concluding at 9.30 which is well past many of their bedtimes and yet they were the consummate performers…real little professionals.

While this performance was mostly about our daughter, there was also a ghost in the room…my grandmother.

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn't recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn’t recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

A review of my grandmother's Concert at the Sydney Town Hall SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother’s Performance at the Sydney Town Hall 6th April, 1935 SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, was an internationally successful concert pianist, music critic and piano teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium. Eunice was taking up a 2 year scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. A fundraising committee had been formed to raise funds towards her living expenses in London. As part of these fundraising efforts, Eunice gave a concert at the Sydney Town Hall on the 6th June, 1935.

This is a story I grew up with and I remember my grandmother showing me her precious newspaper clippings in her seemingly ancient scrapbook. This wasn’t something we looked at often…only once or twice in my life time and indeed while working on her memoirs, she even let me take it home for awhile to scan. Talk about precious cargo. This was back in the days before the old newspapers had been uploaded onto the Internet and you couldn’t just summon up someone’s entire life history with an instant and exceptionally gratifying Google search. Of course, you could look at the old newspapers on reels at the State Library but you needed to do your research first. It was a tedious, laborious process. So these press clippings and particularly her scrap book, were incredibly precious!!

Anyway, as we arrived at Town Hall, I was no longer viewing my grandmother’s concert as an ancient black & white newspaper clipping but as a living, breathing experience. I was walking up Town Hall Steps with her parents and brother, Les. I could feel their pride bursting through my heart and saw it reflected back to me as our daughter sang up on stage, enjoying the whole experience. This was not necessarily going to be a given. Singing in front of 1000 can be daunting if not terrifying but it seems that being part of a crowd can be a good thing.

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I’d had my own piano performance. However, it was hardly at the Sydney Town Hall but in a hall hired by my piano teacher in Wahroonga, a Sydney suburb quite a long way from the Sydney Town Hall both in terms of kilometres and kudos. While it was a big thing for me to be performing at the concert and I had practiced pretty hard and knew my piece from memory, the fact that my grandmother was attending the concert was a big deal. I distinctly remember getting in the car and Mum asking me if I had my music. I told her that I didn’t need it…that I knew my piece from memory. I was a confident little kid and not easily intimidated. I didn’t need my music and I was going to do it my way despite my mother’s concerns.

Well, of course, I got up on stage my legs dangling from the piano seat and of course I lost my place. I remember this terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mum had seen it coming and I’d botched it. Plus, my grandmother was watching. I’d been to see her perform at the Sydney Opera House wearing my very best dress which she’d brought back from me from Norfolk Island and where I couldn’t cough, sneeze, go to the toilet and if you sat very, very still, you were actually permitted to breathe. My grandmother wasn’t one of those grannies who give you Freddo Frogs (https://www.cadbury.com.au/Products/Pre-teens-Confectionery/Freddo.aspx) either . She was in some sort of inter-stellar zone us mortals could only watch from the outside. I can almost feel myself stop breathing yet I persevere and tinkered with the keys until I found my place and kept going…my pride wounded but undefeated. I am so proud of that little girl who didn’t just burst into tears and exit stage left..It might not have been a perfect performance but I persevered and I conquered.

You can read my grandmother’s obituary here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/a-musical-career-honed-in-the-laundry-20090823-ev2w.html

Actually, perhaps the last word on that concert should go to my grandmother. When she reflected on this concert in later life, she mentioned nothing about the epic stumble during my performance. Rather, she tell me that she’d got in trouble with my Dad for disciplining my brother during the concert. That’s right. She’d got in trouble. You know I’m smiling!

Meanwhile, as the end of the year approaches, our daughter’s ballet and jazz concerts lie ahead and I’m practicing for my violin concert. Well, like our daughter I’m part of a group and there will be no solo performance. This is certainly one time I don’t want to stand out and for once in my life, just be one of the crowd.

And I’ll be taking my music!

xx Rowena

PS This is a Freddo Frog:

Introducing Australia's very own Freddo Frog.

Introducing Australia’s very own Freddo Frog.

16 thoughts on “Sydney Town Hall…Family Concerts to Remember

  1. maxwellthedog

    What a spectacular pipe organ! I imagine the acoustics of the venue were perfect for the performance. The story of your piano recital induced an appropriate level of cringe. I imagine most of us who have had (or chose) to perform in public at one time or another have experienced that horrible moment of utter mental blankness after so much practice and preparation. Gives me creepy-skin just thinking about it. But…what the heck is a Freddo Frog?

  2. roweeee Post author

    A Freddo Frog is a chocolate frog made by Cadbury’s https://www.cadbury.com.au/Products/Pre-teens-Confectionery/Freddo.aspx.
    My mum’s mother was one of those doting grandmothers and hen she used to visit, she’d have Freddo frogs for us in her handbag. You know that typical grandparent thing of dosing the grandchildren up on sweets.She was very attentive. I wouldn’t say we could do no wrong because she was strict but she really doted on us and lived for her family. My Dad on the other hand, was one of 7 and his mother was still bringing up his younger siblings when we arrived and she was still teaching full time at the Sydney Conservatorium and trying to juggle several lifetimes simultaneously. Ideally, we were to be not seen and not heard and we’d disappear out the backyard getting up to mischief or dashing up to the local milk bar with money we’d charmed out of all the rellies. We also explored under the house or snuck into my uncle’s room and tried on his ties. There were definitely some benefits to getting out from underneath their feet. Helicopter parenting has changed all of this.We must have been little villains!

  3. leamuse

    A lovely story and a lovely family. The violin has long been my favourite instrument. Unfortunately, I never learned an instrument as it wasn’t an option. I do love to listen and also I sing so that is my music. My maternal grandmother was Welsh and she taught me a number of songs when we were traveling together when I visited her in Canada. I have several CD’s of Joshua Bell on his violin and could listen forever! For me, the violin is the heart’s song.
    You have some amazing women ‘down under’. I have followed Carly-Jay for nearly three years and have become rather good friends. Carly talks a lot about health issues and spoke at the Ted X talks there in Brisbane not too long ago. You can visit Carly at – http://bruisesyoucantouch.com/2015/02/09/new-year-pastoral/

    Another amazing Aussie is my newer friend Kath Unsworth – http://kathunsworth.com/2015/02/07/let-me-count-the-ways/. She is an artist and writer who lives in NSW.
    Thank you for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I do hope you continue to enjoy the posts and now I look forward to exploring your blog.
    A votre santé (to your health)
    Léa

  4. roweeee Post author

    Hi Léa,
    I’ve just returned from my violin lesson and ensemble and feel so much more relaxed. I have always thought that playing the violin involved similar movements to Tai Chi and this confirms it because it was a crazy afternoon with all the activities which overlap a bit on Wednesdays so it’s chaos. I have written a few posts about playing the violin. I think of it as my soul song. The violin is the instrument which sounds most like the human voice.
    Thanks so much for putting me onto those blogs. I have a great time and am now following them both so I look forward to seeing you there too.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  5. leamuse

    Hi Rowena,
    Tai Chi to me is too much like meditation and this crazy ADD mind of mine never seems to slow down enough. However, I shall keep thoughts of you playing along with Joshua Bell. C’est magnifique!
    I do hope you enjoy their blogs and perhaps even getting to know them both. There is another blog you might enjoy and that is Christine’s. She is much closer to me being in the UK. Her beautiful, realistic and inspirational words are at: https://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com/ Christine is the BEST for keeping it real and adding in the humour even when things get rough.
    Bisous et calins (kisses and hugs) Léa

  6. leamuse

    Hi Rowena,
    Tai Chi to me is too much like meditation and this crazy ADD mind of mine never seems to slow down enough. However, I shall keep thoughts of you playing along with Joshua Bell. C’est magnifique!
    I do hope you enjoy their blogs and perhaps even getting to know them both. There is another blog you might enjoy and that is Christine’s. She is much closer to me being in the UK. Her beautiful, realistic and inspirational words are at: https://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com/
    Bisous et calins (kisses and hugs) Léa

  7. roweeee Post author

    Hi Léa,
    I’ve snuck onto my blog with my cup of tea and tablets (I am now down to 11 per day including vitamins). As I’m sure you can appreciate, this is somewhat of a morning ritual. My husband has gone to work and the rest of us have gone off the grid despite our list. We’re all a bit tired. Adjusting to being back at school and all our activities is somewhat of a big deal. In terms of doing meditation myself as I am like you with the bouncy mind, I like looking at the ocean. The way it moves I find very relaxing and to quote Beatrix Potter “soporific”.
    Thanks for putting me onto Christine’s blog. I’m sure I’ll love it and as a friend of mine used to say , the heart knows no distance.
    KIsses & hugs,
    Ro

  8. Léa

    It is true, the heart knows no distance. I really like that. Thank you for sharing it and also a big thank you for choosing to follow my other blog.
    I’m glad you are enjoying Kath and Carly. They are real treasures and hopefully you have had a chance to check in at Christine’s blog?
    Bisous et calins,
    Léa

  9. roweeee Post author

    Thanks Léa.
    I’m pretty sure I went to Christine’s blog and would have followed it. My mind is a bit blank at the moment as I read over 60 blogs from 1000 Voice for Compassion last weekend and have got a bit behind with keeping up with my usual blog reading and also ended up in a bit of a spin. My eyes were starting to flicker xx Rowena

  10. Léa

    Christine is great and a real dear but you must take care of yourself first. I do know what you mean about getting behind… xx Léa

  11. roweeee Post author

    I’m also getting confused because people’s names, their blog names and their identities can be quite different as well. I’ve been meaning to putt together an address book to keep track of it all. It becomes particularly problematic when it comes to nominating for awards and I can’t work out how to find the blog.

  12. roweeee Post author

    I’ve just got to sit down and write the list I think. Have an address book with my blog the same way I do with my friends. ONce you start communicating with more than a handful of people, I think some sort of system is helpful.

  13. Léa

    Bonne courage et bonne chance! I’m afraid for me, everything seems to be on the computer these days. My penmanship is illegible at best… 😉 Also, I type much faster than I can write.

  14. roweeee Post author

    OOps. Sorry, created the wrong impression there. By “write” I mean an excel spreadsheet. Something I can search quickly. xx Ro

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