Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sydney Youth Orchestras - Sun & Ice (28th April 2011)

I had won a double pass via What's On City of Sydney to Sydney Youth Orchestras (SYO) Sun & Ice concert, the second of four concerts of SYO's Flagship Concert Series held at Sydney Town Hall. The Sun & Ice concert was on this evening so Jono and I met up outside the historic sandstone landmark around 6.30pm for the 7pm start - the crowd was already building up inside for this one night only concert. Neither Jono nor I have been to an orchestra in Sydney so this would be an interesting first experience for us :)

On collection of our tickets (normally $45 per person) and the purchase of a programme ($5), we headed into the Centennial Hall (the main hall) to find ourselves a seat. The walls and ceilings in the hall were beautifully designed in Victorian architecture, with its focal point, the Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ, the world's largest pipe organ with tubular pneumatic action. Oh, I would love to see and hear the organ being played! But it would have to be another time as the concert tonight doesn't include the grand instrument. 
Photo inside the hall taken on my mobile:

Almost half the stall seats downstairs were filled and surprisingly, many were families with young children. I think it is great that parents are exposing their kids to classical music at this early age though I wondered if these kids would really appreciate it - watching several of the parents trying to get their kids to stay in their seats, I cringed at the thought that a child may wail, scream or even run about mid-concert which would kill the experience for everyone. Perhaps they are better off left with the babysitter until they are old enough to withstand at least an hour of not moving about or making any noise. The concert hasn't even started and the little girl in front of us was already fast asleep on daddy's lap!

The concert, conducted by Mac McBride, began with Toru Takemitsu's
A flock descends into the pentagonal garden, a piece that felt rather dream-like with fantasy and nightmare in the mix and sounding rather peculiar. This was followed by Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, featuring Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO)'s violinist Satu Vanska. Vanska did amazingly as a soloist, an impressive performance with her performing all three movements by heart. I couldn't help but notice each time there was a break when she wasn't playing, she would be puffing her cheeks as she breathes, shifting and resting the cloth on the chinrest of her violin, or looking on the ground or beyond the horizon as if deep in thought in her own world. With that many notes to remember, I too would be in my own world, concentrating on the music and the upcoming parts to play. Definitely a concerto for a violin virtuoso!

"I can't believe those two sitting next to us were eating during the concert," I said to Jono during the interval. Ok, having a kid running up and down the aisle was bad enough but the smell of a kebab lingering as we listened to the concert? That really made me wonder what type of Sydneysiders come to such events. And how is it that they were even allowed to eat in the concert???

We stayed in the hall checking emails and playing games on our respective mobile devices during the interval (such geeks!) and about 20 minutes later, the concert continued with the final work
Symphony No. 6 in B minor by Shostakovich. This was probably my favourite of the works presented this evening - energetic and dramatic in a melodious gallop.  

Our first orchestra experience had been interesting and I reckon we would be checking out more classical music events in Sydney as we continue to discover our new city. Perhaps one in Opera House next time!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990 - 2005 (16th April 2011)

Most weekends have been spent exploring the city and today, Jono and I made a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) located at The Rocks to see the exhibition Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990 - 2005 that was running till the 26th of April. It was our first visit to the MCA and we were very fortunate to be able to see this exhibition for free (normally $15 for adults) - with Jono's job comes many perks and one of them is free entry to MCA. All Jono has to do is to book out the number of passes he requires for the day with the Google office receptionist and flash the pass on entry to museum. How cool is that? I'm very lucky to have a partner that works for Google because I get to enjoy some of the perks too :)

Annie Leibovitz is a famous American photographer and this exhibition showcases 192 of her works over a period of more than 15 years - these works included portraits of public figures such as politicians, actors, filmmakers and musicians, as well as several landscape works and other unpublished personal photographs. Among those public figures she had photographed included well-known celebrities such as Demi Moore (heavily pregnant and nude), Nicole Kidman, Johnny Depp and Kate Moss (Moss was nude while Depp was fully clothed lying in between Moss' legs covering her abdomen), Cindy Crawford (holding a python wrapped around her semi-nude body), John Lennon and Yoko Ono (this photo was shot the day of Lennon's death), and The Trumps (Donald Trump sitting in his expensive car while wife Melania is pregnant, wearing a bikini and high heels standing on the stairs leading into their private jet). These photos were just amazing, capturing the essence of her subjects with artistic flair yet candid, filled with expression and life.

There was a section of the exhibition that was dedicated to her personal photographs, scenes from her life, her parents and extended family, as well as the birth and childhood of her 3 children. We were surprised to learn that Annie gave birth to her eldest daughter, Sarah, at age 51, and her twins born to a surrogate mother 4 years later. Frankly I find having kids in your fifties much too late but I guess if you're loaded, you can still provide them with a good life, even if you can't keep up with them physically. Another interesting thing we discovered was that Annie had a lover, novelist Susan Sontag, whom she had never lived with in the same residence yet both lived in an apartment within view of each other's. The exhibition featured photos of their lives together, including several on Sontag's deathbed (she died at 71 from complications from myelodysplastic syndrome).

All in all a highly recommend exhibition for those of you who are interested in photography or celebrities - only 10 more days before it's over so hurry over or you might just miss this touring exhibition!