Last night I had tickets to go to Mozart’s Requiem, performed by the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) at Hamer Hall. To set the scene I need to give a quick geography lesson to those who are not familiar with Melbourne. The centre of Melbourne is basically a grid. The Hamer Hall is on the southern edge of the grid, just over the Yarra River. I live to the north of the city, about 8 kms from the CBD, not far…..
So I blithely set off at 5 o’clock, thinking that I had allowed myself enough time. The first hold up was at the Flemington Racecourse, where yet another music event was being held. (Grrr.) Local knowledge helped me dodge all that traffic. Then through Kensington and North Melbourne where the traffic was battling boom gates and standstills. Still I continued on.
My intention was to turn right and head down Wurundjeri Way. Usually when I turn right at Addersley Street into Dudley St there are only a couple of cars. This time I was in a line of about 20, and often, at the change of lights, there was no room for the first car to turn right into. Turning there was obviously not a good idea! So, could Spencer St be any worse? I went ahead, only to find out that it may not have been worse, but it was certainly no better.
By this time I realised that my quickest option was to catch a tram. So I turned left, away from town, round to the market and find a parking spot. Then I walked to Swanston St where trams are very frequent, and caught one down over the river to Hamer Hall. I saw the most stunning new (or new to me) RMIT building, past the State Library and Town Hall.
The problems? Combine normal Friday peak hour with 35 degree heat, add in a long weekend that is is also Melbourne’s Moomba celebration and mix with the perennial problems of traffic and inadequate public transport.
So, once I was there with my very dear sister and brother-in-law, and a glass of wine, things looked different. How lucky we are — not far from where we were there are numerous restaurants that create interesting food with fresh ingredients, have great wines, many local, and relaxed, friendly service. Add to that the cultural spaces that are so close — Hamer Hall, the Arts Centre, Federation Square, The National Gallery of Victoria, the Myer Music Bowl, and activities to celebrate Moomba (“Let’s get together and have fun”).
And the concert? Just wonderful. Wagner’s stirring prelude to “The Mastersingers of Nuremberg” began the event. It was followed by Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste”. That piece required a radically different seating plan for the orchestra which gave it a gloriously stereo effect. Then Mozart’s Requiem Mass. So moving, so beautifully played and sung, especially by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.
I took the tram back along Swanston St, looking at all the people out enjoying themselves on this warm evening. I even wondered whether (a) all those drivers caught up on that peak hour traffic had made it home okay and (b) any of them had just abandoned their cars, caught the tram into the city and were enjoying the balmy night!