Having grown up in Melbourne and been living and working in Europe for the past couple of years, it sometimes feels as if I have two separate lives. Two separate groups of fantastic friends and of course family. But what an exciting prospect it was to bring the two together with an MCO tour featuring two performances in Melbourne! Not only that, but an amazing coincidence meant that my birthday fell on our last day there.
The Melbourne time for me began a little earlier than the group. I opted out of the post-concert reception in Sydney, and hot tailed straight from stage to the airport in order to get to Melbourne earlier to spend a little time with my family. Although slightly tight to make a 22:05 flight after a concert finishing at 21:15 I made it and got home safely.
The next morning was a little more family time before heading to the hotel to meet the orchestra when they arrived. Then I took a (lucky) car-load of people to my favourite Melbourne area for lunch. I HAD to convince people that Melbourne could stand up to Sydney as a great city! The weather was doing me absolutely no favours in this endeavour, however the food that we had for lunch was exceptional, and everyone was very excited. We went to a Spanish/Basque restaurant on a rooftop that Anna Puig-Torne described as the best Spanish food she has ever had! (ok, she said …’outside of Spain’, but that’s a minor detail).
The concert that evening was great – the new Melbourne Recital Centre provided a very nice setting and acoustic for our program featuring Dvorak New World Symphony and a work by Australia’s own Brett Dean. The audience seemed to very much enjoy it, and being the home-town hero, our esteemed Maestro Daniel Harding passed on his flowers to me in a lovely gesture that may have been misinterpreted by some members of the audience…
After the concert a reception and some more drinks to take us through to midnight, when some of my lovely friends bought and popped a beautiful bottle of champagne to celebrate my birthday.
Day 2 in Melbourne and it was time to pull out the big guns! Even though it was my birthday (perhaps some would consider a day to relax and be looked after), I knew that duty was calling! I had booked a 12-seater van and we were to venture to the outskirts of Melbourne for a day trip to see some countryside and some native Australian animals. I couldn’t manage to convince the Melbourne weather gods to behave and it was raining almost all day, but in spite of this we had a lovely day, and sated people’s appetite to see Koalas, Kangaroos, Dingoes, Wallabies, Wombats, Platypus and more. Then we went for a meal at the famous Healsville Hotel and made our way back to Melbourne for our rehearsal and concert.
Another success; this time the audience heavily populated with family and friends to witness a great concert and another public display of affection from the maestro – presenting me and Pauline Holthuis with birthday cakes on stage! Thanks Daniel, although more than a little embarrassing, this certainly made the Melbourne concerts a memorable and even more special experience.
After the concert and after a quick beer backstage it was time to collide my worlds at a bar that I had organised to meet everyone. Family, Australian friends and European friends and colleagues all got together to eat, drink and be merry, and I couldn’t have been merrier!
A few of us had made a decision that with a 5am bus transfer to the airport, sleep was a poor option! So we celebrated until it was time to go to fetch a meat pie, our suitcases and some hazy-eyed colleagues, and headed to the airport. After check-in, breakfast and boarding, it was sound sleeping all the way to Tokyo!