Monday, June 06, 2011

9 May 2011: A tour of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

This beautiful building is located adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Today, it is the building that houses one of the oldest and most prestigious music schools in Australia, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Could you make a guess what it was used for when it was built in 1817?

In the meantime, let me take you along on my tour of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, affectionately referred by most as "The Con". Whether my mother would like it or not, I planned for a tour of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music during my recent trip to Sydney. It was my way to gain an insight to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This was one of those fancies that yours truly have perhaps because I play a musical instrument.

Main lobby of the Conservatorium, leading to the Front Desk.

My mother and I were very privileged to have Ms Margaret Helman as our tour guide. We later learnt that she has selected and trained many volunteers. She is also the person who spearheaded the development of the Friends of the Con and Con Volunteer programs.

Margaret began the tour by sharing with us the history of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The Greenway building which is the palace looking building with turrets was designed by the convict architect, Francis Greenway. The building was commissioned in 1815 by the then Governor Lachlan Macquarie as the stables for the proposed Government House of New South Wales. Yes, when it was first built, it had served as the stables.

Subsequently, we learnt that in 1915, the New South Wales government under William Holman saw to the redevelopment of the stables into a music school. Other than learning more about the history of the Conservatorium, we learnt about the challenges that were met when the Conservatorium went through a major refurbishment from 1998 - 2001.

This hall is used for opera performances.

I was pretty fascinated when we walked into the recital halls and performing venues. The findings from the archaeological digs that were uncovered during the building of the new wing of the Conservatorium also captivated my interest.

One of the old drains that were uncovered.

In the foreground is a cistern that may have been made for the mill or bakehouse that used to occupy the site in the early days. This cistern was cut from the sandstone with a pick.

During the tour, we also visited the canteen and the library. I was doing my best to contain my fascination and excitement so that I could maintain a respectful and quiet composure while I was at the library. I was most fascinated by the fact the new wing of the Conservatorium was built underground! This would have been a major feat as the plot of land that it sits on is essentially an area of sandstone.

After our tour, I read an article by Margaret entitled "A little help from our friends - and Volunteers" and was pretty inspired and touched by her efforts in cultivating a community of people who believe in the goals and the dreams of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This community of people, if I had understood the article well, would be the people who would be prepared to embrace the vision of the Conservatorium, identify with it and support it in various ways.

This is a tour that will interest music-lovers and anyone who is curious to find out what goes on inside the palace-like building that sits adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Visitor Tours
From Mondays to Fridays
Bookings are essential
Tel: (+61) 2 9351 1382
Cost: $10 per person.


My visit to Sydney, May 2011
All the photos on this post were taken using a Canon Digital IXUS 1000HS camera.

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