Ms Joy Burch MLA
Minister for the Arts
Ms Katy Gallagher MLA
THE FITTERS’ WORKSHOP – KINGSTON CULTURAL (VISUAL ARTS) PRECINCT
(annotated by Anon.)
Choral music is an important (please - no personal value judgements without proof of your claims), thriving (as in growing, economically useful, socially useful for soothing the furrowed brow, saving money from weighing down the shrinks pocket?) part of Canberra’s diverse cultural activity. As the Music Directors, Presidents and Convenors of some (only some?) of the numerous choirs (too many obviously) in Canberra, we write regarding the currently proposed modifications to the Fitters’ Workshop at Kingston, such that it would no longer be useful as a musical venue.
Our combined membership totals over 700 choristers (see breakdown below). Unquestionably (now that's debateable), our choirs make an invaluable (another value judgement) contribution to Canberra’s cultural life. We therefore believe that our opinions on how this life should be fostered merit your consideration, although please don't think we are selfish and thinking only of our selves.
In its present state, the Fitters’ Workshop has an interesting acoustic especially which suits a very narrow range of musical performances. The noted Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe recently resiled from being attributed as the author of the perfect acoustic quotation, rather saying that the acoustic has an interesting resonance. In fact he said that he likes the Fitters workshop as he enjoyed sitting in the warm sun that was streaming through the windows (ABC 666 May 13). Other experts, we are not sure exactly who they are, have said that there are probably few sunny spots like it in the world. The ACT Government now has a unique, golden, silver or bronze opportunity to create in Canberra an outstanding, cold and draughty music venue with no toilets (that's how we get the high notes) for musical performances and recordings (although unfortunately the ABC wasn't able to record our hero Roland Peelman speaking in the workshop as the acoustics were so bad!) with a distinct acoustic probably unequalled in Australia. Many many architects have tried, but sadly failed to build decent concert venues, including Llewellyn Hall. Note to self: email Frank Gehry with designs for a perfect music venue based on the Fitters Workshop plans.
Our earnest request to you is that you intervene (don't you mean overturn your decision, no need to mince words now dear author) to ensure that the Fitters’ Workshop:
retains its existing fine (value judgement again - tsk tsk) acoustic and sunny spots to sit in
is developed as a multi-purpose space for all types of arts groups but not printmakers, including a performance and recording (I don't think so - see above) space for diverse musical groups (e.g. classical, jazz, folk and world music) - we can share - but not with bands, orchestras, artists etc.
The Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) has done Canberra and its choirs a wonderful service this year by bringing several of us together (Oriana Chorale, Canberra Choral Society, The Resonants and the ANU Choral Society) in outstanding (value judgement there again) performances in the Fitters’ Workshop and thirteen other venues around Canberra. It is difficult to describe just how exciting (value judgement again) members have found singing in this space in the lovely warm sun (although we had to rehearse elsewhere as it was so draughty and cold) and what moving (as in lugging all the furniture etc in and out) feedback we have received from those in our audiences. Some of Those who participated hope very much that other groups will have the opportunity to enjoy similar experiences in this and the other thirteen venues in the future.
For the Canberra International Music Festivals of 2009, 2010 and 2011, ad hoc arrangements were made by the Festival organisers to enable use of the Fitters’ Workshop for many (how many exactly?) concerts. It has otherwise been impractical to use it as a musical venue because, in its present state (I thought you loved it?), it lacks basic utilities (water and electrical power), toilets, green room facilities, seating and heating. We understand that the proposed upgrade of the Fitters’ Workshop will include these (actually not seating, toilets for audiences, green room facilities, but heck, lets stretch the truth a bit). With its appropriate (for whom?) development, and provided that the acoustic is retained (which would be impossible with water and electrics, green room facilities, box office and reception, toilets, green room etc - but heck who cares about the practicalities), we are confident not only that our choirs (but no printmakers, bands or orchestras) could make good (debateable use of adjective) use of the Fitters’ Workshop (very occasionally as we won't be able to afford it) but also that many (how many?) other musical groups would soon discover what a marvellous (but impractical) performance space it is and crazy acoustic it has and do likewise (although we forgot to mention that jazz, orchestral or any other music would be so acoustically impaired that it would be impossible to listen to in the Fitters Workshop). As a multi-purpose arts space with its acoustic preserved, the Workshop could be well utilised all year round, including by Megalo (Megalo?? - who are they?).
As we are sure you are very (another superfluous adjective) aware, the future of the Fitters’ Workshop has recently been debated at length in the public (ie by the Canberra Times, media sponsors of the International Music Festival - funny that - pretty good publicity, well done Don & Dorothy!) and in the private domains of Yarralumla and Kingston. It has been claimed in the media that there are plenty of suitable music venues available including the Albert Hall, now being refurbished (but lets not mention the recently refurbished Llwellyn Hall). However, it is most unlikely that the multiple problems (which are ?) for music in that particular venue can be overcome (especially since we have decided that we want the newer toy that someone else has been given). In reality, it is often difficult for Canberra choirs to find suitable performance venues (really?). Problems relate to cost, size (often either too large or too small for ourselves and our audiences), availability, variety and, most of all, the suitability of the acoustic for choral performances. and guess what the Fitters Workshop is perfect no matter what we need - no matter how big nor how small! Potentially, the Fitters’ Workshop offers an opportunity to solve these problems in a wide (really) range of instances (as we are sure that given how important we are the government will allow choirs to use it for free). Importantly, no Canberra venue has or will have an acoustic comparable with that of the Fitters’ Workshop (I know it's boring but I just have to say it again, after all I am having a tantrum). It would be a tragedy (for me) if this quality was destroyed, as will be the case with current proposals.
As you will know (why would you know - I guess you must be as important, as I am) one of the signatories below (me) initiated a petition to preserve the Fitters’ Workshop, with its fine acoustic (not according to Sculthorpe remember), as a musical venue (oh, what happened to the other groups and who were that other mob - Megalo Print Studio was it?). By the end of the Festival, over 1,100 people had signed and more signatures are coming in. Almost (ah the truth at last) everyone who performed in the Workshop during the Festival added their names, including renowned Canberra musicians and singers and visiting top (yeah absolutely top shit) performers from around Australia and overseas (yep, even overseas). You may wish to note that Roland Peelman, the Artistic Director of the outstanding (slow learner - another value judgement) a cappella group, the Song Company, which often performs in Canberra, has personally (he dipped his finger in blood and swore on the steel engraved printers plate of the score of Verdi's requiem for the loss of honesty and transparency in public debate)) endorsed this letter to you, and Song Company members have signed the petition (yes Roland says that if Canberra is really going to grow up, he has to have the Fitters Workshop all to himself and his pals from the Song Company - after all they hang out at the Wharf on Sydney Harbour). Similarly, Louise Page, a highly regarded (oh dear, another one) soprano soloist who is resident in Canberra, has signed the petition and personally (yep, personally!!) endorsed this letter (good old Louise - who is Louise?). Tobias Cole, the Music Director of the Canberra Choral Society and who last year played the leading role (yes leading) of Oberon in the acclaimed (yes, that's right, acclaimed by someone) Australian Opera production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has also added his name to this letter. Mr Peelman, the Song Company, Ms Page and Mr Cole have performed extensively (yes, that's right, extensively, their egos filled the whole space) at the Fitters’ Workshop in CIMF concerts. For the ACT government to disregard the opinions of top (whoops) international and Australian musicians, a very sizeable portion of Canberra choristers, and over 1000 Canberra music lovers would seem unthinkable to me, after all the population of Canberra is 350,000 odd souls which means that 349,000 couldn't give a toss or maybe they support Megalo - better check!
We respectfully (well not that respectfully actually as we have just said you are idiots for thinking of doing the unthinkable - whoops) suggest that the overwhelming (mmm) and very willing support for this plea to you is evidence (I don't think this would stand up in court dear author) that further consultation is required before steps are taken to alter the Fitters’ Workshop irreversibly. Well, actually we are happy with irreversible changes if they are the changes that we want, of course!
We hope very much that you will not ignore our request. We ask you and your Government to find a way forward (you've been listening to Julia Gillard too much) that will satisfy the legitimate (do you really mean lawful) concerns and interests (maybe desires would be a better word here) of a small sector members of the Canberra arts choral community – both musical and non-musical (I wouldn't go that far)– regarding the Kingston Cultural Visual Arts Precinct. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss de-constructive (ie our plans)proposals that, to date, do not appear to have been considered because they are impractical & self serving.
Above all, we hope that your government will not permit any steps that will preclude the present unique opportunity for the ACT and indeed the country to create an outstanding venue with a rare and fine acoustic (here we go again, bang on baby) for musical performances and recordings but no visual art in there now mind you – in short, to put a jewel in Canberra’s musical but not visual art crown.
Yours sincerely (in alpha order of choir name),
Dr Jonathan Powles, Music Director.
Dr Helen Moore, President.
ANU Choral Society (SCUNA)
Mr Tobias Cole, Music Director.
Dr Brenda Gill, President.
Canberra Choral Society
Ms Helen Johnstone, President.
Canberra Singers for Pleasure Inc
Dr Oliver J. Raymond OAM, Music Director; also President, Art Song Canberra
Dr Brian J. Stone, President.
Mr Matthew Stuckings, Director of Music; also Assistant Conductor, ANU Choral Society.
Igitur Nos Chamber Choir
All Saints' Anglican Church Ainslie
David Yardley, Music Director.
Ms Selma Teh, a/g President.
The Llewellyn Choir
Mr David Mackay, Music Director.
Ms Liz McKenzie, President; also Board member, Canberra Youth Music; and Administrative Director, Tallis Scholars Summer Schools, Australia.
The Oriana Chorale
Ian Blake, Paul Eldon, David Mackay, David Yardley comprising
The Pocket Score Company
Ms Helen A. Swan BA (Mus.), Dip.Ed., Dip. Mus. Ed. (Hungary), Music Director.
Miss Laura Lloyd Jones, President.
Mr Daniel Brinsmead B Mus (Hons), Music Director.
Ms Karen Neill, Convenor Strangeweather.
Strange Weather Gospel Choir
Ms Moya Simpson, Music Director, producer, writer and performer.
Worldly Goods Community Choir
Shortis and Simpson
Ms Judith Clingan AM, Music Director.
Wayfarers Australia Chamber Choir
Roland Peelman, Artistic Director.
The Song Company
Louise Page, soprano soloist for several of the above choirs and the CIMF