The Perfect Chamber
Years ago, a number of us who worked in classical music were asked for ideas about what would make our perfect recital hall. The upshot of those conversations is now City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, a very nice hall; most of the minor whinges about it are to do with offstage things, such as the block of land being too narrow to accommodate both a decent-sized hall and a really fabulous, great-for-parties foyer. A similar process happened with Melbourne Recital Centre a couple of years later; also a lovely hall, it has just celebrated its fifth birthday.
If I was asked the same questions now, what would my answers be? What would you say, if you were asked?
The principal chamber music venues in Australia are acoustically blessed. We don’t have to work against the kind of dead, flat, invisible wall that makes musicians feel like they’re pushing against an unseen enemy. Musica Viva artists play in halls that lift the sound from their hands or throat and carry it purely to the audience’s willing ears. So a great acoustic is still the first thing to get right, because without it there’s no point to anything.
The factor which was most tricky in building the recent halls is that you then have to fit the audience into this acoustic space, at a financially viable number. If I were suddenly created Supreme Tyrant and Dictator for Life, and decided to build another chamber music venue, I would prefer to ignore the need to fit 1100 subscribers into it. Instead I’d think about the scope of an 18th-century ballroom, perhaps suitable for 150 or so. And it would be flexible – so we could put the seats anywhere, and the stage anywhere, and cleverly hide millions of plugs and wires – and spaces for the kind of plugs and wires no one has imagined yet. You could freely arrange screens, projectors and lights at all angles. You could have tables and chairs and sofas. You could eat and drink in there. You could wheel a grand piano in and out. I also fancy a Persian rug. Perhaps some interesting artworks dotted around.
This is starting to sound like the bit in Kitchen Nightmares where contestants design their ideal restaurant décor, and millions of viewers marvel at their appalling taste, so I’ll stop here. Other ideas welcome though, just in case my coronation unexpectedly occurs.
(Backstage, the perfect dressing room is a whole future topic of its own…)
Director of Artistic Planning, Concerts