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A Five Years of Music Flashback: Roger Serong

A Five Years of Music Flashback

Meet Roger Serong. Roger has worked for Melbourne Recital Centre since the Centre opened in 2009 and is truly valued and respected by staff, local artists and international performers alike. He moonlights in multiple roles – from Stage Door Attendant, to Front of House Usher, Team Leader and Facilities ‘fix-it’ Man. Here Roger shares with us one of his most memorable musical moments from his time at Melbourne Recital Centre.

One of the benefits of working at the Centre is the opportunity to attend concerts and experience a diverse mix of concerts and music, some of which can have an everlasting effect on those fortunate enough to attend.

As part of the Great Performers series, over three successive years the English pianist Paul Lewis played the later keyboard works of Franz Schubert in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, part of his world-wide Schubert project. It was the third of these performances that had the most significant effect on my wife and me.

While sitting in the upper east wing, we were transported to another place by the pianist’s exquisite interpretation of this profound music. Some pianists embellish their playing with extravagant gestures and showmanship. Paul Lewis does none of this – he quietly walks up to the piano and then lets the music speak for itself, simply playing the notes without attracting attention to himself, almost apologetically. He draws his audience in and takes them away, holding them in his hands, not letting go until relaxing after the final note.

The audience reaction to the performance was most telling. There was no great rush to applaud at the conclusion. It was as if the audience needed time to come back to reality, with that beautiful silence after the final note, so powerful in this extraordinary space, allowing each individual time to adjust to the here and now.

The applause, of course, became sustained, but it was the expression in the eyes of audience members upon leaving that said it all. Not many spoke; we just looked at one another and knew that we all felt the same.

Shortly afterwards at Stage Door, I saw the same expressions in the eyes of our security guard and piano tuner, neither of whom had actually sat in the Hall for the performance, but had still been visibly affected by it. I’ve experienced that on other occasions – sometimes one doesn’t need to be actually in either the Hall or The Salon to know that there is something special happening in the Centre; you can just feel it within the building.

We later met up with a friend’s mother who is well into her eighties. She said over a lifetime of listening to hundreds of performances, there were two which stand out well above any others: one was by Alfred Brendel in Europe several decades ago, the other was this performance. It will stay with me just as long.

This year we celebrate five years of music-making and performance. We’re delighted to share with you musical moments that have shaped our five years from our community of music-loving staff members.