Monday, June 13, 2011

Sydney Opera House ~ Intuition Preceded Engineering!

We focused on the Opera House when we were in Sydney--we had only about a day and a half and that city is huge.
The Sydney Opera House, taken from our walk over the Harbour Bridge.
Our tour guide insisted that this was the most famous building in the world,
and maybe so.  But I'd suggest the Empire State Building, too!

The first day we took the standard 1-hour tour of the SOH and saw the large concert hall, the hall that houses the operas/musical theaters, and several smaller performance spaces.  The second day we returned for an evening concert, which was splendid.  We heard The Sydney Philharmonic Choir (over 700 voices!!) plus orchestra and organ performing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.  It was amazing and an event of worship as well as performance.  It reminded me of the Fairfield County Chorale performances I've attended--just bigger.

Distinct memories of mine from the evening include the effect of people over the ages singing to God for mercy in the Kyrie, reminiscent of all the voices in Bach's Magnificat praising God.  It was also delightful to hear how Beethoven used a flute playing "birdsong" lightly over the choral piece of the Creed, "and was made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary" ~ the Spirit was at play and it was delightful.  And this piece was written at the culmination of Beethoven's career, when he was totally deaf.

Inside the Concert Hall.  Take a look at that huge organ
installation!  10,000 pipes!  

The organ in the Concert Hall is huge.  It takes up the entire back wall.  It has over 10,000 pipes!!  It took 10 years to build (by a Sydney organ builder) and took 2 years to tune.  Yikes!  We were sitting in Peanut Heaven, way up high, and we were level with the organist, who is perched way up there with his back to the conductor.  They must have some kind of video arrangement or something for him ...  It would be way scary to be sitting up there on that organ bench and I surely wouldn't want to lean back ... talk about being exposed when you are playing.  Martha, I thought of you and wish you could have been there to see this!  A photo will have to do.

But the most impressive thing was what we learned on the tour.  The architect, a previously unknown Dane named Jorn Utzon, conceived the design without working out any of the mechanics or the science of it all.  His design was selected as the best out of thousands submitted as entries to the contest proposed by the City of Sydney in 1955.  The judges loved the entry even though it was a rudimentary sketch.  So the foundation was dug and things prepared for the building to go on top of it.  Meanwhile, the architect hired a Mechanical Engineer who worked for years and still couldn't figure out how to make it all work--how to turn the sketch into reality.  The engineer gave up.  Then in a flash of intuition the architect saw that the various parts of the building that look like sails to us are actually sections of spheres.  That insight cracked the science way open and they could proceed with building.  They had finally been given the knowledge they needed.

I was thinking about how often we work like this in so many areas.  We conceive an idea and we know it's good...but still we don't see our way through to its completion for a good while.  Interesting, this thing called creativity.  The Spirit works oddly enough it seems, and often it's up to us to trust the rudimentary flashes we receive, even if we don't yet have the working knowledge of how to get from A to B.  That's how we made our way through our renovations and our new organ purchase, I think:  idea, followed by plan.  But it's so hard to trust those intuitions, isn't it!!

Last but not least here are a few photos of the SOH at night.  The City of Sydney sponsors a festival of lights when they use ultra-powerful projectors to throw designs and color onto the sides of buildings downtown.

As you can see the SOH makes a wonderful canvas.  Talk about creativity!
The Sydney Opera House at night during the Vivid Festival.

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