Thursday, June 14, 2012

Something New: Concerts at St Michael's and St Paul's Cathedral (go/listen)

We are not a religious people. Lovely Husband is a dyed in the wool athiest and I am deeply ambivalent about organised religion. Dear Boy will be 'of no religion' although we have unofficially given him 'godparents' and I hope we will raise him knowing of and occasionally experiencing portions of the world's spiritual systems. But when it was looking like another day of grey skies and unpredictable showers, in the worlds of The Blues Brothers (or, at least, the nun in The Blues Brothers - 'you get wise; you get to church'.

GO: I'd found a notice somewhere that St Michael's, a Uniting church on Collins St in the city, was having free lunchtime concerts on Thursdays from 1-1:30pm. I checked the program on the church's website (churches have websites now, go figure) and was in when I realised they'd be letting someone loose on the enormous pipe organ without the trappings of a service or sermon.

LISTEN: We were late (made later by zipping around the building looking for the wheelchair entrance, which turned out to be locked - handy) and crashed through the narrow doors into the middle of the first piece (Concert Etude on an Australian Folk Tune by Robert Ampt). The organ was amazing and the organist, Jennifer Chou, amusing as she searched for and lunged onto the foot pedals. The sound of a pipe organ in situ was definitely worth the snarly looks from the upper-crusty blue rinse brigade that dotted the pews. (There's a sneaky snippet below, taken in the few seconds before I was frowned out very severely - I believe the vision is the knee of my jeans).

But Dear Boy didn't last much into the second piece ('Partite sopra la Aria dell Folia da Espagna' by Bernado Pasquini), so we hurried out back towards Flinder Street Station where we'd seen a sign for another free concert. I had Helene Hanff and Letter from New York in my head and we dashed the city blocks between churches and their special events.

GO: St Paul's (Anglican) Cathedral is a glorious piece of architecture and, although it probably doesn't look it in the pictures, the rich orangey sandstone spires feel like sunshine against the grey-black clouds. Matthew Flinders (navigator and cartographer extraordinaire) stands guard outside and seagulls regularly stand guard on him. He's one of those handful of men who've been held in such regard here in Australia that there are more than a hundred places, features and things named after him (George Bass, Charles Sturt, Arthur Phillip also come to mind).

The Cathedral itself is magnificent, glorious as cathedrals should be, really. 


The windows and stained-glass, the vaulted ceilings, the woodwork was fairly much as expected but the big surprise is the tile-work, decidedly persian in some spots.

LISTEN: The free concert was given by the Royal Australian Air Force Band, a little strange for the location but wonderfully appropriate for us. It was hearty and joyous, jaunty and richly layered.

Dear Boy sat through 45 minutes of the RAAF Band, looking only a little timid with the occasional eager crashing of cymbals. The French Horns disturbed him a little, but only when they pierced through the wall of sound. I've decided I'm going to encourage Dear Boy to take up the piccolo if he wants to learn a musical instrument. Although it's not the manliest instrument of the orchestra, it's certainly the most portable. It'd also be lovely to listen to music that sparkles, although I suppose the potential for 'shrill' is there too.

Cymbals crashing
They ended with John Adams' 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine' and then another piece whose name eludes me but is oh-so-familiar. I could hear it layered over the top of several different films in my mind. Lovely. All of it - lovely.

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