After two long years, I am so pleased Hamer Hall has finally re-opened. The temporary alternate venues were too difficult for me to access. I will now be able to enjoy the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) concerts again.
Hamer Hall is a 2,661-seat concert hall that's part of the Arts Centre complex in Melbourne. The hall first opened in 1982 as the Melbourne Concert Hall but had a name change years later in memory of a former Premier of Victoria, Sir Rupert Hamer.
The hall closed in July 2010 for a $135.8m redevelopment. It needed to meet current international standards for accessibility, acoustics, staging and visitor amenities.
MSO opening night
I was lucky enough to be at the first of three opening nights for an MSO concert. The Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said on the night that the MSO was not only
the oldest in Australia but the best. The orchestra's first concert was back in 1906 and it calls Hamer Hall its home.
Hamer Hall holds all types of concerts but is especially suited to classical music. On the opening night, the MSO played Mahler's Symphony No 3, his spiritual and longest symphony on nature. The performance called for all 100 MSO musicians, together with a mezzo-soprano, chorus and choir voices. It was as the program said,
A Spectacular Return.
I enjoyed the concert so much that I bought a Mahler 3 music CD by another well-respected orchestra. When I listened to the music in my lounge room it was not as enjoyable as on that night. Hearing music stirs emotions but watching a performance live adds another dimension, especially if it is the MSO.
The main accessibility changes in Hamer Hall are:
- Increased wheelchair places on every level
- New swing-arm seating for easy transfer on some seats
- New handrails down the steps of the middle aisles on the circle level
- More accessible toilets with automated entry and left-hand and right-hand signage including Braille
- Wheelchair access buttons for automatic St Kilda Road door entry
- New lifts including one 24-hour external lift from the riverside to St Kilda Road
- Low counter levels at all bars and box offices
- T switches that amplify telephone conversations for people with a hearing impairment at both foyer-bars and the information desk. Headsets are also available.
Inside the concert hall, the new lighting in the ceiling is beautiful. It looks like multiple long thick glowworms hanging straight down. Stunning I thought.
The new views to the city and river are great too. It is as if they have turned the hall from facing St Kilda Road to facing the Yarra River, with the cityscape as a backdrop. The new restaurants with glass walls have fantastic views. Hamer Hall is now opened up and there for everyone. You don't have to be a concertgoer to enjoy the place. It is now part of Southbank and the city with extended opening hours.
The Hamer Hall site has certainly changed and is a great new place. The MSO is just as wonderful as before but we can now appreciate it even more.