Peter Ritchie farewells Melbourne Recital Centre
By Sean Car
After 12 years and no shortage of wonderful memories, Melbourne Recital Centre’s (MRC’s) original marketing and communications manager Peter Ritchie is moving on from the venue he helped open in 2009.
Well-known and highly respected among Melbourne’s arts community, Peter has been central to driving the vision and appeal of what is still one of Melbourne’s newest arts institutions in Southbank since its establishment.
While it’s the creative giants of National Gallery of Victoria and Arts Centre Melbourne bringing the larger audiences to the Arts Precinct, the MRC is one of a number of smaller institutions which have filled that next tier.
But unlike some of the more obscure and niche art forms which might often only attract a specific audience, the MRC specialises in showcasing music – an artform which appeals to just about everyone.
And with some of the world’s best acoustics and an always diverse musical program offering every genre imaginable, it’s enjoyed the constant benefit of bringing in new audiences and providing unforgettable experiences, which is largely thanks to people like Peter.
Whether it be in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, with a capacity for 1000, or the more intimate 130-capacity Primrose Potter Salon, Peter said there was “never a dull moment” in promoting what was always a “very eclectic” program.
“Hilarity in marketing. I wouldn’t know where to start,” Peter said.
“Partly because of the characters that work there. But also, the artists who walk through stage door, so the programming is very eclectic. There were lots of challenges because we’re not really typecast as a certain venue.”
“There have been quite a lot of highlights. I think the first time you ever hear a performance. I can still clearly remember that. That will always remain a highlight when you first grasp just how good the sound is.”
“There’s nothing more rewarding than when you’re working here at night and you see the audience coming in and you see the joy on their face, that’s really satisfying.”
Having originally worked for Tourism Victoria before spending 11 years in corporate communications at Arts Centre Melbourne, Peter said he had been drawn to the role at the MRC through his own passion for music.
While he admitted that he had never imagined embarking on a career in marketing, he said the Recital Centre and the many great characters who he had worked alongside, had provided endless fun and joy.
So too the knowledge he has acquired. Promoting such an eclectic program has always required plenty of research through which he has discovered so much about music – both weird and wonderful!
But while plenty had changed during his 12 years, he said the purity of the sound had remained one constant.
“it will always be the best place to hear live music,” he said.
“I’ve always held the opinion that the hall really suits voice. It’s just something about it.”
“Wind instruments as well. But any solo recital, the clarity of sound is just crystal clear. You’re sitting on a knife’s edge listening, the intonation, the skill, the sound that they create.”
“You kind of understand why the building was championed all of those years ago. Whereas Hamer Hall is a great venue, it’s very big. In the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, you’re really quite close to all of the artists and they’re totally exposed. It kind of means they bring their best games to the concerts.”
And being a smaller venue, Peter said the centre had always sought to engage with its immediate community here in Melbourne, and particularly, Southbank, which is a reputation he has helped cement during his 12 years.
Together with ground floor café Blondies, the centre has created a much-needed space on Southbank Boulevard for community both day and night, whether it be for theatregoers, local residents, workers, artists or students from the VCA.
But with the impacts of COVID continuing to affect the entire arts sector, Peter believes it will be the great sense of collaboration and support that exists within the arts community, which will help Melbourne Recital Centre continue its rise.
“I think it still is young and it is still evolving and, if I’m honest, I think it is still finding its feet,” he said. “Over that period [12 years] there has been four CEOs and so there has been a lot of change and ebb and flow.”
“It needs to grow its audience, especially since we’ve lost the last 12 months through COVID, everyone will have lost patrons. A lot of hard work needs to be done ahead to keep that up.”
“I think we’re all looking at the return to the new normal, whatever that will be!” •