Sunday, October 2, 2011

Open House - Brisbane

My friend Geoff turned 60 and since there was going to be a big party that night I decided to try to keep out of the way of the preparations by going to the Brisbane Open House. It's an annual event where you can visit some of the historic or more interesting buildings of Brisbane. The event is free and the City Council even provides free rides on a bus that goes by most of the buildings.

I started off in Adelaide Street next to the City Hall.

The building is undergoing a thorough restoration. The building was in urgent need of repair both structural and cosmetic, and the project has turned into the biggest restoration project ever mounted in Australia. Unfortunately visitors were not allowed to take photos but it was somewhat of a shock to go into the main auditorium and see that the floor had been removed leaving the bare dirt. The Council has a good web site that has videos and photos of the restoration.

The City Glider is a bus that circles through parts of the city. On this day if you showed the Open House program, you could ride the bus for nothing.

Since I next wanted to visit an attraction in the suburb known as The Valley, I stayed on the free bus until it had reached the end of its loop at the river down near the old wharves area. Most of the area was flooded earlier this year and it looks like they are still repairing some of the damage. All of this area was well under water during the flood.

Interesting old building.

So my next attraction was to Adderton House, the Sisters of Mercy building at All Hallows School.

 It turned out that this was the second most popular site to be visited that day and I was lucky that I did not have to wait long to join a group of twenty and start the tour.

The school has a wonderful site on a hill overlooking the river and the Story Bridge.

My parents were friendly with some nuns in Maryborough and when one of them was transferred to this convent our whole family went to see her and we were given a tour. I can't remember any more details of this event from 50 years ago but I thought it would be interesting to revisit the place.

Adderton House was the initial building and the school and convent was built around it.

There is a picture of Lourdes in the center.

Internal staircase.

The attached chapel is really lovely.

Detail of the marble in the main pillars.

I presume the nuns use these individual seats.

Outside view of one of the school buildings.

The next building on my agenda was the old Customs House.

It's not often that an actual red carpet is rolled out for my arrival but I did make sure I used it.

The real reason for the red carpet. The building was used as the Customs House up until 1988 when they moved to a new building. The University of Queensland took it over and use the building for all sorts of functions, including weddings.

Work on the structure started in 1886 and finished three years later.

 The dome is sheaved with copper.

A wedding was scheduled for later in the day and the organizer told me it usually cost over $20k for such an event, depending on the number of attendees. Food and booze is included.

It certainly is a magnificent old building and the University certainly has kept it in pristine condition.

As you would expect, the Customs House was situated by the river so I then strolled along the river walk towards the gardens.

 It's the time of year in Brisbane when the jacaranda trees are in full bloom.

I walked past the gardens and was puzzled to see hordes of young people walking in the opposite direction. It turned out there was a rock music concert on called Parklife. I kept walking away and I'm glad I did because I eventually found out a ticket cost $145. There were so many people going that I thought it was free. Silly me.

Instead I briefly stopped in at the old AMP building to see General MacArthur's room. This was his head quarters in Brisbane while he was in Australia in WWII. There were a lot of exhibits about his time there in Brisbane, but this room was the only real exhibit.

The entrance to the AMP building. Apparently Apple is to going to move in as tenants for their shop. The upper floors are now used as apartments. I worked in this building back in 1968 and in the early eighties.

It was the last week of school holidays and it seemed like every older school girl in Brisbane was going to this concert. There were thousands of them, most of them in shorts, heading off to the park.

For my last visit of the day I picked the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on the South Bank. I had to wait a short while for a tour to start and then they took us into the Lyric Theatre which is designed for opera, ballet and shows. It holds about 2000 people.

A show that had just finished was being dismantled. The staff were setting up the stage for a dinner to welcome the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra who were due to play two concerts. I checked out the prices for seats and they were $200 to $300 per ticket and sold out. Noticing that Christoph Eschenbach was to be the conductor, I was not too disappointed. Perhaps this group of musicians would play for him. The Philadelphia Orchestra certainly didn't during his tenure with them.

 Back stage. All of the four venues in the complex can used this loading dock area which is really great design.

Looking from back stage into the small Cremorne Theatre that holds about 300 people.

One of the many dressing rooms. They were in excellent condition.

Another tour was available that went into the Concert Hall to hear the Klais Grand Organ. The stage was set up for a concert with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

The focus was on the organ which is now the largest in the southern hemisphere if you go by number of pipes. Apparently over 6500 of them. The organist was Robert Boughen who I remembered listening to back in the 60s and 70s when I lived in Brisbane. He is now retired but can still play quite well demonstrating the organ with some Bach, Schubert and Phantom of the Opera. He was the person who selected the German organ builders Klais and specified what was to go into the organ. Incidently, the organ was installed on time and within budget. And best of all, it sounds good.

All of the tour guides were excellent and after the organ demonstration, one of them took me up on stage to see what it looked like.

Finally I went out into the foyer where a small ensemble was rehearsing the Three Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla. Obviously they needed the rehearsal but it was interesting to hear how they went about it. As individual instrumentalists they were all very good, but they really needed a conductor to make the music flow better and to balance their sound. This piece needs flair, subtlety and dynamics and this group did not deliver. In addition, the cellist was drowned out by the piano. 

So I enjoyed my Open House day and I hope it inspires you to go to any similar event where you live.


  1. It will be very good experience to see historical buildings of Brisbane.

  2. Great collection and I sure wish I could write stories for these pictures!Look how lovely these are. I wish I could draw like this. I will miss you, my sweet friend. Looking forward to when you're back.I really appreciate all your comments, thank you! I’m back behind my desk and hope to start blogging again and catching up with all your lovely blogs in the coming days.............

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