I wrote this blog some two weeks after the presentation of The Goulburn Oratorio. It has taken me that time to make even some small attempt at gathering my thoughts and forming a cogent few sentences about the experience. As the GRC was responsible for the musical aspect of the overall production, I intend to reflect only on that aspect, but I do wish to thank the collaborating colleagues who participated fully in this grand artistic venture.
I always knew, from the outset, that I would not be able to see and hear exactly what our orchestra and choral forces would look and sound like until the very night of the performance. Even at the dress rehearsal, we didn't have all participants present. This is understandable as people have busy lives and kids need to get to bed at a reasonable hour. However, this was always the most prominent risk factor - apart from the vagaries of the weather (and I will get to that later!) All one can do in such circumstances is try to be as predictive as possible, whilst knowing with absolute certainty that unexpected events will also happen and we will have no choice but to respond in the moment. This proved to be absolutely true.
The sight of the stage during construction was a breathtaking vision and I am so extremely grateful to Luke and his crew for their mastery of "adult lego" as I call it! Suddenly, once the stage and the lighting appeared, it all became incredibly real. This "thing" we had been talking about, working on, rehearsing, fretting and crying over was suddenly here! There was a collective gasp as we all saw our vast "castle" of a stage with its levels and stairs and risers and scaffolds. What a monster!
So, on Saturday, we made this monster our home. It was a tight fit as you would expect with over 200 performers and a whole bunch of instruments crammed into one performance space. It was heartening to see that the St. Saviours common had indeed become the natural amphitheatre that we hoped it might be and, once we got used to it, our stage seemed to nestle neatly into its temporary home and we nestled with it, clinging on like hobbits on the back of a dragon!
Saturday was warm, a bit windy, but WARM! As dusk settled and we began the dress rehearsal proper, the wind died completely and the warm night lulled us into a comfortable sense of security. It all happened. Nothing went wildly wrong. Everybody was safe and happy and we all, by and large, got to go home at the anticipated time. Lovely.
Dear Goulburn, you threw everything at us, with the exception of rain - your only concession to our attempts to do something wildly artistic and risky outside! Having studied the advanced weather forecasts for weeks leading up to the event, there was predicted wind, but nothing more than 40kms per hour. Certainly NOT the 90 km blasts that you threw at us, almost sending our now beloved stage into the land of OZ! As the event drew nearer, there were signs that the wind might calm down and indeed it did - mostly. That's great. I'm pretty sure most people then noticed that, as the sun set, so the temperature plummeted! Apparently that night, November 3rd, went down to minus 3 degrees in Goulburn. It was .... bracing. I guess the best that can be said of it is that there was no danger of anyone falling asleep!
So, at 8.00pm, the first chords and timpani rolls of the Overture rang out and we were away! Two busy hours of live music and theatre and visual art then took place and 1500 people gathered bravely to try to take it all in! Finally I knew what a 110 piece regional orchestra would sound like! Finally I knew who would be in the choir and I could enjoy their glorious sound! What an experience!
Even after two weeks have passed, I am still filled with a sense of immense gratitude to all who took part in The Goulburn Oratorio, and an equally powerful sense of pride in what everyone achieved. It was NOT easy - far from it - in fact for some time I truly wondered if we would be able to pull it together at all. But, we did, thanks to the combined leadership of wonderful colleagues and musicians like Keva Abotomey, Mike Butcher, Katie Spicer, Christine McPherson, Mike Baker and many, many others. I am so grateful to the school Principals and teachers and students who took the risk of doing something that had never been done before in Goulburn! To give your students such an experience can change their lives or at least open up their minds to hitherto unknown possibilities and new understandings about the power of music to transform people and places. To the hundreds of community musicians who took part from right across our region, I hope this simple thank you goes some way to expressing how vitally important you all were in making a difference and braving a new work of significance to us all. Thank you. And to the composer, Stephen Leek, who could not have been more accommodating, understanding and supportive from the outset and right through the process, on behalf of all participants, thank you. To the technical crew led by Luke Wheeldon who did a mammoth job and were largely invisible, thank you! Finally, to everyone who came, to everyone and anyone who supported us, took pictures of us, lent us bits and pieces, gave us an encouraging word when we needed it, thank you!
This is the best I can do for now. I wonder what memories will stay? I wonder what the Goulburn Oratorio may have sparked in people's minds? I wonder what lies in the future for the Arts and in particular, Music in our region? I don't know. All I do know is that undertaking The Goulburn Oratorio was a truly worthy experience and an honour to have been a part of.