Tag Archives: grandparents

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.

Blogger’s Block and the Ghost of Steam Engines Past.

Have you ever found that this blogging business is much more difficult than you’d ever imagined?

That when you just want to write a seemingly simple post, for some unknown reason, the words, the thoughts, the structure simply won’t come together?

I’m not talking about writer’s block. It’s not about staring at a blank page or an empty screen. There are words. There are ideas. You’re just not “in the flow”. All those thoughts, words and ideas won’t link up. They’re like random Lego bricks refusing to snap together.

That’s where I’m at.

I just wanted to post a simple postcard from the Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich and yet it’s not coming together. I’ve been working on this post for a couple of days now and what I thought should have been a pretty basic exercise, has become an epic struggle.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Our family has been going to the train museum since 2007 and I thought I knew it pretty well. Moreover, I’m not trying to write anything that fancy…only a simple postcard. It should be Simple Simon… “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here” and upload a couple of photos.  Yes, I know a blog post has to be a bit better than that but it’s not rocket science.

My problems all began with trying to write about the big, black steam engine out the front. As much as I love it, I couldn’t tell you what type of train it was or anything about its history. I don’t know what it was, how many wheels it has or whether they are big wheels or little wheels and what gauge of track it requires. It is simply the big, black engine. I can just vouch for the colour but if you were to tell me that it is green instead of black, I wouldn’t argue the point. I just remember photographing the kids on it and Geoff discussing its technical specifications (not that I can actually remember any of the details). I love the romance of steam trains and all the history but I am not technical!! I am really not technical.

Slowly but surely, the cause of my writing difficulties was coming to light. I was trying to write in my husband’s voice, instead of my own. You see, he is the train enthusiast, along with our son…not me. I don’t actually know much, if anything, about trains. I was trying to give a technical tour of the museum when clearly I’m not a technical person. I was trying to crawl inside my husband’s shoes, or more pertinently his head and it’s no wonder I couldn’t string everything together. There were too many gaps to fill in. I like trains and I love the train museum but I’m there taking photos and that is my love. I’m not into all that nitty gritty train stuff just like I have no idea what’s under the hood of my car.

So I’m going to give you my very own unique tour of the train museum and that involves a bit of a history of our visits to the museum, which all started off with a bit of a bang when our then 3 year old son threw the tantrum to end all tantrums and almost busted his boiler and mine along with it when we had to leave.

Almost heaven!

Almost heaven!

This is not an uncommon event at the train museum. You could just imagine what that place is to a little kid. They’re in heaven and their mean and nasty Mum or Dad is dragging them away…you’d be complaining too. Fortunately, the museum’s staff are very obliging and will turn things off to help you get out the door.

Captain Newton...the Captain lends Mister his real Qantas Captain's Hat.

Captain Newton…the Captain lends Mister his real Qantas Captain’s Hat.

At Sydney Airport before Take Off

At Sydney Airport before Take Off

We were in Ipswich to attend an official service to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination. At 92 years of age, my grandfather was the second longest-serving minister in the Lutheran Church in Australia.  My father and I had a bit of time to fill in and decided to take Mister to the train museum. We were just planning to check it out and come back the next day if it was any good.

Train Driver

Train Driver

Well, Mister was happy beyond his wildest dreams and thought he had died and gone to train heaven!!! You could just imagine his delight when he was surrounded by huge big steam trains. His eyes were almost bursting out of their sockets and I can just imagine how he felt when all those magnificent steam trains suddenly came to life. He was beyond excitement. Moreover, there wasn’t just steam trains. There was also a huge model train track which totally dwarfed his little wooden train set back home. He was fixated watching the model trains and pressing all the buttons. For a little 3 year old boy who adored trains, this place was just superlative. He was happy beyond his wildest, wildest dreams!!

Then, it was time to go.

Now, I’m sure you can see it coming… the tantrum. Not just any tantrum either. Mister blew a boiler!

My Dad ended up carrying him out of the museum and he was still kicking, screaming and fighting with all his might to go back in when we finally managed to get him into the car. Even then, he absolutely refused to get into his car seat and he certainly gave fresh meaning to the power of persistence…

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge.

You know how these events work. The entire day is planned out with clockwork precision and meltdowns by toddlers aren’t factored into the schedule.

We were in big trouble.

The Cake

The Cake

Well, we managed to get there on time in the end but it was a lot of stress.

Looking at cards the next day with Papa Bert

Looking at cards the next day with Papa Bert

I laugh when I look back on it all now. You know how it is. The worst moments often make the best stories down the track.

We have all loved the train museum so much that we’ve had annual membership passes even though we live inter-state over 1000 kilometres away. We just make sure we stay for the best part of a day to keep everybody happy. There is so much to see and do!!

This still isn’t the postcard I’d intended to send from the train museum. That’s still to come. Perhaps, we’ll call this one the ghost of steam engines past.

One interesting little PS to this post.

Both children at the train museum.

Both children at the train museum.

I finally finished this post last night and then went hunting for the photos. They turned out to be quite an insight. You can’t just trust everything to memory. Our daughter was also in the photos.  Somehow, she had been omitted from the story. I had assumed that we had left her back at the house with my Mum but there she was in all the photos. Photos I had mentally attributed to a later visit. I also found photos of the technical details. Perhaps, they were for Geoff. He couldn’t get time off work for that visit and we had flown up with Mum. There is also a remote possibility that I was trying to educate myself on the technical aspects of trains, although that has to be pretty doubtful. Who knows? Memory is obviously an unreliable witness.

Taking care of his little sister.

Taking care of his little sister.