Saturday, June 22, 2013

Eric Conway: Morgan Choir Explores Melbourne and Has Rehearsal on Day 8 of Australian Tour

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Today, was a day to explore beautiful Melbourne, Australia and rehearse music to be sung jointly by the Melbourne University Choral Society and Morgan. The concert will be at St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral.  

The conductor of the Choral Society, Andrew Wailes met us at our hotel early this morning.  He was quite excited to lead the tour of his dear Melbourne.  Andrew is a very vibrant individual who gave colorful commentary on every site seen today. We already new that there was a rivalry between the two principal cites of Sydney and Melbourne.  He very enthusiastically shared with our group how he believed Sydney was inferior to the great city of Melbourne.  It was entertaining to hear his perspective on stories of Australia already learned. We had a great conversation questioning his views, but at the end of the day, he still respective his sister city of Sydney.  The Morgan contingent must agree with Andrew, for our limited time spent in Melbourne, this is a greater city in many respects than Sydney. One reason in our estimation was simply the ingenuity of much of the architecture in Melbourne. 

Our first stop was to Australia's first site for Parliament, the Royal Exhibition Building.  Melbourne was once the capital of Australia. This building was quite formidable with beautiful gardens and fountains around the building.  It is currently used for university examinations, as this is one of the few places in Melbourne that can accommodate finals for the large universities.

Our next stop was to Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral which has the distinction of the tallest and overall largest cathedral in all of Australia.  Many of the older buildings in Melbourne were quite opulent due to wealth garnered from Australia's Gold Rush which somewhat mirrored ours in the United States.  The architectural design of this church was quite different than most cathedrals.  Rather than having stained glass around the church, most of the glass was golden, which gave a very unique look to the cathedral.

From there we drove to the Shrine of Remembrance, the Melbourne War Memorial. Since we just visited the National War Memorial in the capital city of Canberra, we had a point of reference to compare.  The Melbourne memorial was originally built for World War I only, as it was built prior to World War II.  It was designed after the pyramids in Egypt.  Much like the Egyptians, they built this structure to use Sunlight to mark time.  Once a year on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, the structure is constructed to gleam sunlight for 11 minutes on the tomb of the unknown soldier from this war.  November 11, is the most reverent holiday in Australia - Day of Remembrance.  The holiday commemorates soldiers from both Australian and New Zealand fallen soldiers.  It is this war that robbed 2 out of every 4 qualified men in Australia to fight in World War I.  The Australians refer to this occurrence as a "lost generation", as so many died in this war, relative to Australia's size as a country.  You will notice that the tombstone of the unknown soldier simply reads: "Greater Man Hath No Man" - a statement taken from Christian doctrine. The structure is designed so that once a year, on November 11 - Day of Remembrance -  that the sun's light will shine on the tomb and stop on the word "love".  At first thought, this is a remarkable feat of engineering, however, if the Egyptians did similar feats with the sun over 2000 years ago, I guess that we should be able to perform this in 21st century.

Andrew Wailes was so very excited for our choir to be in Melbourne, that he purchased tickets for us to go to the top of Eureka Towers.  Eureka Towers was the tallest residential apartment building in the world when it was built in 2006, however it was soon eclipsed by the HHHR residential tower in Dubai.   Eureka Tower is 91 stories high.    Although many in the group have been in similar buildings, like the Empire State Building, because the day was clear, as most of their winter days are in Australia, we all concluded that this had to be one of the best views ever of urban life.  One of the points that was easily seen from above was the site of the Australian open. This site was beside the former Olympic stadium from the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne.  Another unique architectural feat was the Australian Arts Center which design is a Melbourne landmark. The Art Center has a spire was designed in the shape of a ballerina's tutu.  The building from afar resembled the Eiffel Tower, until you saw the skirt on the top of the building.

Beyond traveling to the top of the Eureka building, many persons in the group paid to go on an attraction at the top of the building called the Edge.  We were extended 4 meters beyond the building, with nothing below but glass, and looking below over 80 stories. Again, a site that we will never forget, who were brave enough to go!

We again had another well-crafted group meal for lunch. 

After lunch we went to an Aborigine presentation at the Botanical Gardens.  Two persons of Aborigine descent gave an Aborigine Presentation and Walk around the gardens.  They shared with the group their customs.  As we walked around the gardens, they discussed how they used the land to survive, but more importantly, how they respected to land - mother earth. You will notice some photos of choir members embracing a Eucalyptus tree.  The entire presentation was quite informative.  At the end of the presentation, Dennis the leader gave a heartfelt talk about what the land meant to him and his people.  I recorded his eight minute soliloquy.  Please listen to the attached soundfile so that you might be able to get a real insight into what the Aborigine people endure.  Their plight is very similar to the American Indian.  

After our tour, our next scheduled event on the itinerary was to attend a rehearsal with Andrew Wailes.  At the end of the concert tomorrow, the Morgan State Univeristy Choir the Andre's group, the Melbourne University Choral Society will jointly sing the 2nd half of the concert tomorrow evening, after Morgan sings the first half of the concert.  We had a group numbering well over one hundred voices in rehearsal.  Andrew will conduct Lauridsen's Lux Aeternam.  I will conduct the three pieces that I brought from the states.  The rehearsal was long, but warranted and effective.  The concert is slated to be close to sold-out at 1000+ seat cathedral.  Tomorrow promises to be a great conclusion to a great Australian tour.  See attached a iPhone scanned image of a flyer for tomorrow night's program. 

More to come. . . 

P.S. - We had a little excitement at the hotel this evening as alarms rang around midnight due to a smoke detector engaged.  Luckily, it was only a false alarm!

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