Share in some of our favourite moments from Melbourne Recital Centre and beyond.
While the doors are temporarily closed at Melbourne Recital Centre, our team has been reflecting on how profound the experience of live music is, and how much we’ve missed it.
Whether you’re the creator of the pre-show playlist, the ticket organiser, the post-concert restaurant selector, the one who is always ahead of the musical curve, or the one who is along for the ride no matter the genre, the last eighteen-plus months have been challenging for all of us. We wanted to take a moment to share some of our favourite musical moments from the Centre, and one from beyond, because like our community of music-lovers, we can’t wait to experience every moment when live music returns to Melbourne.
I still remember November 2015 — it was an explosive month for classical keyboard music at the Centre, with Cameron Carpenter in town, no less. But for me it was Janine Sowden’s note-perfect, unapologetically powerful performance of the Prokofiev Toccata Op.11 in an intimate moment between pianist and audience sitting mere centimeters away from her in the Salon. Janine harnessed the demonic energy of the work so powerfully I had goosebumps and everybody erupted into standing applause afterwards.
There are so many special moments for me however musicians who blur the boundary between audience and stage and involve us as part of their performances are truly memorable. Jacob Collier is an incredible artist and created some magic back in our 10th anniversary year. Baker Boy also got us all out of our seats and moving back in March with the Hall’s springs given a good workout!
And then there’s this memorable moment from our 10th Birthday Gala Concert, be sure to watch from around 1 hour 2 minutes as wonderful Judy Hall, 96-years-young, lights up the stage on debut and leaves it to a standing ovation.
It is rare to have a performance that exudes moments of thoughtful spaciousness, whilst maintaining the undivided attention of those engaged with it. Midori Takada was so commanding, weaving through her percussive environment on stage; sounds ricocheting, eyes glued to her every move. The energy was palpable and upon leaving the Centre, the crowd seemed to be almost in a state of disbelief. An elevating experience of deep, introspective listening.
One of my favourite experiences at Melbourne Recital Centre was taking my mother to see King Arthur with Gabrieli Consort & Players. I had sung this work in a performance with the Song Company many years before and on the night of the concert my mother revealed to me that she had recorded the radio broadcast of the concert and listened to it over and over, so it was very special to be able to share this concert with her. From the very first chords the music came back to me and it was wonderful to listen to music that I knew so intimately, played by musicians of this calibre in the acoustics of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall.
May 2019, as part of Yirramboi Festival, we were lucky enough to have the incredible Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole perform in the Hall. A First Nations, transgender Hawaiian (mahu wahine), with an utterly commanding voice, she took us through her ancestral stories in the most engaging, powerful and incredibly humorous manner. Whilst the audience was fairly small that night, it made the experience fabulously intimate and we all left feeling as though we’d seem something truly magical that night.
Celebrating Hearing Awareness Week, we worked with Earshot and Musician4Hearing to present a special Auslan interpreted evening of music in the Salon. With immersive performances from sound artists, musicians, and Deaf dancers, the use of movement, vibrations and lighting allowed for a wonderfully shared experience, where our whole bodies became listening devices, demonstrating to audiences that music is not a solely audio experience.
July 2017, smack bang in the middle of a bundle of sideshows for Splendour in the Grass, I saw Father John Misty in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. The whole performance felt intimate, darkly comical, and intensely moving. He and his band were so attuned to what their audience wanted that the feeling of being there has stayed with me for years, particularly the “bangers” ending with an almost dizzying performance of 'The Ideal Husband'. I could relive that gig over and over again.
Pre-COVID, one of my favourite Programming Team traditions was our daily sound check visit, the perfect antidote to the 3pm work day slump. The six of us would gather in the circle of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall and indulge in whatever musical delight was on offer. It could be jazz, baroque, classical, electronic. It didn’t matter. It was 15 minutes of music that reminded us why we do what we do. That day in August 2019, it was The Bamboos. I was heavily pregnant at the time, and I remember vividly how the music inspired a flutter of kicking. And I thought to myself ‘What a relief! My baby has great taste in music.’
Active Child is an artist that I have adored since his first album You Are All That I See back in 2011. The minute the harp was struck on the opening track of that album had me hook, line and sinker. His truly unique combination of classical, opera, rnb and electronica immersed me in a sound world I hadn’t really heard before. The moment I was told by a friend at Melbourne Festival that Active Child was locked in to play Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, I was elated and counting down the days until the concert.
There was no other venue for Active Child to play but Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, and this time it was Active Child with electronica and string quartet. Heavenly. I secured the best seats in the house for myself and my three best mates who shared the same love, appreciation and wonder for Active Child as I did. The audience lights went down in the sold-out hall, the stage lights came up and the band entered the stage to rapturous applause. As soon as the band began, no one in the audience moved. Everyone was completely transfixed by the sight and sound that was enveloping Elisabeth Murdoch Hall and everyone who was sat in it.
I journeyed through moments of happiness, sadness (almost tears) and wonder as Active Child and his band played through their set list. Time went nowhere. The concert concluded and the audience jumped to their feet again with rapturous applause and a lengthy standing ovation that caused Active Child to come back on stage in pure disbelief, sit on the front of the stage with his head in hands, truly humbled and overwhelmed. It was incredible to see an artist we admire so vulnerable and grateful for what was such a magical experience in a venue made for moments like this. We literally floated out of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall after the concert. I vividly remember saying to my friends “I think this is what deliverance feels like”. Active Child did a post-concert signing after the concert to meet and greet fans and sign merch in the foyer after the concert, and while he was signing his latest EP for me my friend blurted out “Latoyah works in Marketing here” and he looked at me, grabbed my hand, shook it and said “Thank you so much for selling out my concert, I cannot believe it, this is all you!”. I didn’t quite have it in me to say that ultimately it was all Melbourne Festival, but I was able to utter back “Pretty sure it’s all YOU!”. And we jumped into this photo and I wandered away back to my friends in the foyer in complete disbelief after having the most memorable musical moment, quite possibly in my life.
Mine was two days after Christmas 2019. I was alone in London and seeing the Royal Ballet for the first time perform Coppelia at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The music started and tears of joy ran down my face. The same tears came at the end, more because I was devastated it was over. It was the last production I saw before the pandemic and I cannot wait until I experience the overwhelming emotions of live music, theatre, and travel again. The Mazurka makes me want to get up and dance any time I hear it — isn’t it just the best!