Sunday, 20 March 2011

Music in Melbourne

On a lighter note, last Sunday I flew down to Melbourne for the day to listen to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform the music of John Williams in their Star Wars and Beyond concert at the Town Hall.

It's crazy, I know, but to me Star Wars and Melbourne are inextricably linked. I have watched all the movies, bar the Phantom Menace, in Melbourne cinemas (though I did fly down on a day trip especially to watch Revenge of the Sith). They were a major part of my childhood. I would carefully save up my pocket money until I had at least $3.50 to buy a Star Wars figurine. My first movie in a cinema was The Empire Strikes Back. I can remember it to this day.

Through Star Wars I learned to love the music of John Williams. He features more than any other composer in my soundtrack and piano sheet music collections. Music is an integral part of my life, my drug of relaxation, but sadly opportunities to listen to movie music played live are few and far between.

So it was that I found myself flying down to Melbourne in a Jetstar A320 on Sunday morning. It was a very pleasant flight though mostly clear skies. The pilot came over the PA and told us the flight should be very smooth, immediately after which the aircraft had a few shakes.

As we flew towards Canberra I noted that Lake George still contained a fair amount of water.

In Melbourne we had to use external stairs to depart the aircraft, but fortunately the weather was fine. A rather expensive bus into the city, during which I admired the railyards as still having some decent operations, rather than in Sydney where all the freight is hidden away.

I decided to walk from the impressive Southern Cross station across to Town Hall. It's a fair hike, but it gave me a chance to enjoy the city, it's architecture and its wide tree lined streets. I decided to seek some lunch in an alleyway cafe, eventually sitting down at the Rive Cafe. Unfortunately, they were determined to keep serving breakfast even though the clock had ticked over to 12pm.

It wasn't that far then to Town Hall and I still had plenty of time, so I walked across to Federation Square and took a look into the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Very impressed by their Screen Worlds exhibition, with interactive displays on everything from 3D and "The Matrix" effects to the history of computer games. Fantastic prelude to a concert on movie music!

I've heard the MSO once before in the Town Hall. I was impressed then and now. Though I've listened to most of the music countless times on CD, I felt like I experienced something new for each piece of the performance. Being a matinee "pops" performance with an audience of kids and parents the British conductor was free to crack jokes, stripping to reveal a Superman shirt and racing past the stage on a bike with a stuffed ET in a basket prior to the encore performance from that movie. There were Stormtroopers, Jawas and a Jedi for the performance of Star Wars.

One special moment came when the conductor asked the principal violist to recall his impressions from performing with John Williams in Los Angeles for 17 films and other productions. Respectful towards the musicians and with a keen ear for any mistakes were a couple of his observations.

After over two hours of utter focus on a brilliant performance it was time to return to Sydney. When I had entered the Town Hall the day was hot and blue. I stepped out into cool grey rain. Well, it was Melbourne!

I had developed a huge glare headache on the flight down, so I went to find some paracetamol on my way back to Southern Cross Station. Initially, I had hoped to get an earlier flight back, but it was late enough that it wouldn't be an option, so I used Qantas' mobile phone check in service. Cool, but easiest to have your reservation number printed out in front of you.

 I tried to relax on the coach ride back to the airport, to no avail. Boarding the Qantas 737-800 proceeded smoothly. I fell asleep while we taxied out towards the runway - unfortunately, it's only during taxiing that I sleep.

We shot up into the wet grey skies, eventually penetrating through the cloud into the gold and blue of early evening. The crew served the first hot domestic meal I've eaten in a while: white wine and rosemary braised lamb with risoni. Quite okay and enough for my dinner that evening.


We probably flew within sight of my house on our descent into Sydney, but it was so dark that I wouldn't know. The airport was gradually closing down for the night, though I was in too much of a hurry to catch the train home to pay much attention to it.

It was nice to know that my son missed me, but that he'd had a fun day with B. I'd certainly enjoyed myself.

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