In praise of dirty places…

Last week I was lucky enough to play in a tunnel. Well, not exactly a tunnel. I was in a chamber off the tunnel. I was sitting on a sandy floor, facing a bare rock face. The ceiling was a about 12 metres above my head, and you had to bend your head to get through the ‘door’ to come into the chamber.

I was playing as part of the ‘opening’ of the tunnel – an ex-coal-loading facility on Sydney harbour. A HUGE hooray to North Sydney council who are releasing this land back to the public, rather than selling it to developers. It’s full of veggie patches, battery-recycling places, a cafe – I like it a lot. (It’s here on Facebook if you want to have a look around….)

There were all sorts of people wandering around at the opening – and a lot of them perched on bits of rocks to have a listen as I played a Bach suite. Some people played for a long time. Others for a movement or two. The acoustics were EXCELLENT. I had a great time playing down there – and I get to play for one night in the actual tunnel in September. Made me look forward to that a lot….

Coming home, I got to thinking about how great it was to be able to play in these sorts of spaces. I play in crypts, and caves, and tunnels… I’d play in other less-than-normal places, if I could find them. And it’s fabulous. It makes the concert really special – it’s not just about the performers and the audience – but also the space itself. It becomes an entity in the mix, if that makes sense.

It’s often said that people don’t go to classical music concerts. I wonder how many more people would if they were in interesting spaces and places. I have to say, it’s sometimes a pain to set up these places. They are dirty, sometimes drippy. I understand there’s not great disabled access. Often the toilets are a way away. There’s never a proper place for me to warm-up. But there’s a real charm to it.

It does make my shoes dirty though…