On the evening of Tuesday 28th June 2011, I attended a behind a the scenes tour of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This event was organised by the alumni organisation of the University of Sydney where I completed a Bachelor of Science degree many years ago. The tour promised many interesting activities so it was an easy decision to attend.
I arrived at the Conservatorium (generally known as “The Con”) with about 20 minutes to spare, so I inspected the brochures and magazines at reception and collected one of each for later reading. I got the Concert Calendar “The Con 2011” and the “Con Tribute” 2010 issue describing a tour of the USA. Three of these magazines have DVDs in the back which promise to be interesting viewing.
The reception area was a café style room at the front of the building. We were entertained by pianist Emily-Rose Sarkova with another lady playing violin. We were assigned to individual tour groups led by very capable volunteers from the Friends of the Con, then taken to the Verbruggen Hall. Organ student Don Mendoza spoke to us about the organ and its design, then played a short but impressive piece. An intriguing feature of the organ are louvered shutters used to control the volume (“swell”) of the low notes.
After hearing the organ we embarked on the catwalk tour. This required signing a consent form because of the risks associated with climbing steep ladders and crawling through restricted spaces. The form also stated that no alcohol could be consumer on the day of the tour, so I had to forgo the champagne until after the tour. We climbed a stair case and reached a control room with a rack of sound equipment, an Apple computer with large screen showing Pro Tools software, and another monitor showing the various camera views. The Conservatorium is using this technology for providing distance learning.
We then moved to a recital hall where we heard a talk by Geoff Pollard, piano technician. He spoke about the need to tune the six Steinway pianos each week then demonstrated aspects of piano tuning. I wouldn’t have minded being allowed to play the Steinway piano for a minute!
The final point of interest was going down to the basement to inspect the spring and rubber suspension features of the building foundations. These are used to isolate the vibrations caused by trains and cars on the Cahill expressway.
The tour wrapped up with drinks and nibbles and I spent time talking with two of the volunteers who told me about the Friends of the Con and the benefits of membership. It is certainly something I will pursue to enjoy the many wonderful musical treasures at Sydney’s premier music institution.
I enjoyed the “Behind the Scenes” tour and congratutions to the Alumni organisation for their initiative in creating the opportunity.