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The Concert Hall full of trees for A Forest of Lines by Pierre Huygh in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, 2018. Image: Daniel Boud

A forest of trees fills the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall for artist Pierre Huyghe's work A Forest of Lines. Image: Daniel Boud

Trees, Tori Amos and ‘Yarnageddon’

Opera House employees share their favourite & most unexpected memories from the Concert Hall

Hannah Burnett
Marketing Associate

As a staff member at the Sydney Opera House, you are sometimes lucky enough to live out fan moments and unforgettable experiences that you never imagined you’d have the opportunity to see. Moments where you have to check yourself and look around just to confirm it’s really happening. It’s not something we ever take for granted.

As we closed the doors of the Concert Hall to begin the first major upgrade of the venue in its 46 year history, we asked some of our staff members to share their favourite memories. From epic installations to spectacular symphonies, rock legends to pop icons, the Concert Hall has seen it all.

Tori Amos performing in the Concert Hall. Image: YouTube

Tori Amos and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, 2014

Steven Baillie, Head of Ticketing:

A single note played on the Bösendorfer had fans crying and hugging strangers in anticipation of the track to come. Seemingly, every member of the audience was a true fan who could place the song from that lone note, having devoured album after album since the early ‘90s. After a tour in ‘93, it wouldn’t be until the late 2000s that Australian fans would begin to see tour dates in our cities, so to the faithful, this was a holy experience.

Many had connected with the artist’s expression of personal traumas and challenges, and the exchange of energy between performer and audience was the most intimate and mutual I have ever experienced in a concert setting.

At one point, Tori Amos herself was overwhelmed by the realisation she was performing on stage at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall and with an excited jump and shriek, explained how magical that was to her. The crowd responded in kind.

 Sydney Opera House employees work on the Concert Hall Stage to untangle the mess that was 'Yarnageddon' for Bon Iver's Cercle performance at Vivid LIVE 2016

Sydney Opera House employees work to untangle the mess that was 'Yarnageddon' for Bon Iver's Cercle performance at Vivid LIVE 2016. Image: Andrew Mackonis

Bon Iver Cercle, 2016 (or ‘Yarnageddon’, as it’s known by the production team)

Andrew Mackonis, Production Manager:

To this day those of us who were there still refer to ‘Yarnageddon’ with a wry smile.

Bon Iver and his production team had the idea of hanging a yarn sculpture in the venue as a surface for lighting and projection. It would be the focal point for the performance, taking advantage of the height of the room in a way that no one had really done before. The entire installation was put together in the United States and shipped over for the shows. It was going to be spectacular.  

Everything started out fine, but about half way through the four hour set up it became obvious that things weren’t going to plan. The fire retardant the yarn had been treated with had caused it to clump together while in transit. The yarn had turned it into something akin to dreadlocks rather than individual strands. 

At that point we had a contingency meeting about how best to proceed; it was the main design element of the show so cutting it wasn't ideal.

The decision was made to press on and a call was sent out for help across the House. Before you knew it we had about 24 staff on stage. We had staff turn up to help from the production services team, as well as staff from just about every other department at the House. Lunch and dinner was delivered to us on the stage so we could keep working. We finished up at two the next morning. 

It took us 18 hours to finish as we hung, combed, untangled and trimmed about 33 kilometres of yarn. 

Many hands made this possible, and it was spectacular. To this day it’s my proudest moment during my time at the Opera House.

 The Sydney Deaf & Hard of Hearing Photography Group stand in front of the Sydney Opera House sails after Brandon Staton's talk in 2018

The Sydney Deaf & Hard of Hearing Photography Group stand in front of the Sydney Opera House sails, 2018. Image: Janelle Ryan

Brandon Stanton and The Sydney Deaf & Hard of Hearing Photography Group, 2018

Janelle Ryan, Accessibility Manager:

When the photographer and creator of Humans of New York did a talk in February 2018, the Sydney Deaf & Hard of Hearing Photography Group requested an Auslan interpreter so they could attend and actively participate by being able to ask questions via the interpreter.

Damon Albarn performing to a packed and standing Concert Hall

Damon Albarn performing in the Concert Hall in 2014. Image: Prudence Upton.

Damon Albarn, 2014

Jayne Blackwell, Head of Venue and Event Sales:

An unforgettable stand out for me was seeing Damon Albarn perform in December 2014. It was the day after the Lindt Café siege in Martin Place, Sydney, and his concert the day prior had to be cancelled. He performed twice in one night so as not to let anyone down.

There was a real feeling of solidarity in the room that evening – another example of art bringing people together.

The Concert Hall full of trees for A Forest of Lines by Pierre Huygh in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, 2018. Image: Daniel Boud

Pierre Huyghe's A Forest of Lines as part of the 16th Biennale of Sydney in 2008. Image: Daniel Boud

A Forest of Lines by Pierre Huyghe for the 16th Biennale of Sydney, 2008

Kerri Sutton, Business Coordinator:

I’ve been privileged to see many wonderful performances in the Concert Hall. From the Shaolin Monks performing a martial arts ballet in Sutra to the ever fabulous Jennifer Saunders in conversation. But my unforgettable moment has to be Pierre Huyghe’s A Forest of Lines as part of the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

The seating in the venue was removed and an installation of 1,000 living trees and plants brought a rainforest to life. There were pathways through the foliage to wander and explore the reimaged space. It was amazing.

Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin sings with microphone on the Concert Hall stage

Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters in the Concert Hall in 2018. Image: Prudence Upton

Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, 2018

Anna Healey, Programming Coordinator:

Although I have been lucky enough to have some wonderful memories in the Concert Hall, seeing Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters in 2018 was a true highlight.

Coming from a family of diehard Led Zeppelin fans, I thought my family would combust with excitement when he whipped out ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Going to California’ and ‘Thank You’ in the same set.

When I told my family I was working on the show and I was going to get to meet Robert, my mum cried and said, “If you had told me when I was 17 that my daughter would work at the Sydney Opera House and also meet Robert Plant, I never would have believed it”.

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