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An orchestra and an office building

10 Dec 2019

An orchestra and an office building Image

By Meg Hill

After losing its Albert Park home in 2016, Orchestra Victoria was without its own concert hall. That was until it found the Joan Hammond Hall inside an old Southbank office building.

A replica of the State Theatre was built inside the head office of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) at 77 Southbank Boulevard decades ago as a rehearsal space for the Victorian State Opera.

After the opera disbanded in the late 1990s the space went unused. But it remained in the minds of some.

“When it was used by the opera, Orchestra Victoria had some rehearsals in the space,” said Orchestra Victoria artistic director and chief conductor Nicolette Fraillon.

“I’ve worked at The Australian Ballet for 17 years and have worked with Orchestra Victoria all of that time, so for many years I had heard about this mythical space inside an office building.”

“When the orchestra lost its home a few years ago the building was still being used by CUB. But soon I heard that the building was going up for sale.”

In the end, the state government acquired the building. Orchestra Victoria managed to get inside to do a test of the space, unused for orchestral performances for years, and it worked wonders.

“We then worked with the Victorian Government and CUB to turn the office building into a sort of home for us and other artistic organisations. It’s not a permanent home, but for the moment it’s really become a new arts hub.”

Since March 2019 Orchestra Victoria has performed its Five at 5 series from the hall.

“It’s lovely to have the full series in our still relatively new home. It’s really grown in profile over the year and people like coming. The venue and the series have gained a real following and momentum,” Nicolette said.

The last instalment, Corelli’s Christmas on December 21, will come full circle from the loss of its previous home.

“Last year, while we were homeless, we were hosted by St Luke’s Church in South Melbourne and we had a program that ended with Corelli’s Christmas Concerto but due to bad weather and flooding we had to cancel the concert,” Nicolette said.

The baroque piece contains a melody that recalls the shepherds of Bethlehem. Although performed on strings, it imitates shepherd’s instruments like flutes and panpipes.

“We had rehearsed this beautiful piece by Corelli and had to cancel it, so we’re really excited to perform it and know there’s an audience waiting for it.”

“That whole experience sort of drove this programming and the piece itself bears the inscription ‘made for the night of Christmas.’”

“We’re not performing it on Christmas night, but it’s pretty close.”

Book here: eventbrite.com.au/e/orchestra-victorias-2019-chamber-music-series-five-at-5-tickets-55145110510

 

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