an afternoon in saint petersburg

this afternoon we went to a concert – an afternoon in saint petersburg – hosted by his excellency the governor-general, the honorable anand satyanand.

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the governor-general is the queen’s personal representative with in the realm of new zealand (new zealand, the cook islands, tokelau and niue) and has all the powers of the head of state (quite limited) during the queen’s (Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) absence.

the concert by the wellington orchestra was held on the grounds of government house, the official residence of the governor-general. quite an impressive place. built in the early 1900s the main house is 4,200 sq m (over 45,000 sq ft) on 12 hectares (30 acres) of prime wellington land. the concert was held on what was originally the vegetable garden.

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we knew the end was sold out (the governor-general used ticketek to process the responses to his very exclusive invitations) and with the concert scheduled to start at 2 and the gates opening at 1200 we thought we were plenty early when we arrived at ten of twelve. guess not. the lines already stretched more than a block in each direction. at noon the lines started moving and we were soon through the gates and making the long walk through the property. the place oozed old colonial charm. local actors in 19th century russian outfits greeted the guests along the path. after picking up our hamper of food and drink we were soon on our piece of lawn. not the best spot but we’ll know to arrive sooner next year.

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(note how many folks are wearing big floppy hats. you have to get over looking like a dork or you will fry)

the opening performance was troika – a new zealand based russian folk music group (who woulda thunk!)

before the orchestra took the stage they asked for volunteers to join a local dance troupe in a demonstration of russian dancing. the russian ambassador who was in attendance joined in and no surprise was quite good. the ambassador seemed very nice, but in keeping with the everything-here-is-like-the-50s-timecapsule he seemed like someone you would see greeting kruschev as he toured a soviet tractor factory.

the main performance was some of st petersburg’s finest including tchaikovsky, prokofiev, stravinsky and rachmaninov. the acoustics were ok (tchaikovsky likely did not expect his works to be blasted out of concert speakers that were probably last used at ozziefest) but the day was great. the mc was kate mead of new zealand public radio. she did a great job providing background on the music in a very witty way. impossible to describe her personality but if i were hosting an event she would be someone i would want to be there.

the members of orchestra were dressed practically given the heat and sun – in simple black and most wearing sun glasses. both the jboss and me noticed one seemed a bit different that the rest. “xylophone girl” is in her 20s, hip sunglasses and she’s bopping her head to the music. we’re guessing that she went straight from the concert to her job as a barista at one of cuba street’s funkier cafes. “like my new tat?”

the day ended with tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture featuring real canon fire. the canons provided by a local canon enthusiasts club. i guess there is a club for everything almost everywhere.

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3 things i like about this photo.

– the red cross using the great old land rover complete with extension ladder. a small nod to the old colonial days but with the nz terrain you need something that can get you anywhere.

– the land rover pulling the camper. this is a classical british moment. they have just traveled over mountains, through forests, forded rivers to rescue a family in need. pitch black out with pouring rain and gale force winds. everyone is now huddled under wool blankets. “right then. time for a spot of tea don’t you think. biscuit?”

the soprano who has just performed sitting in the lawn chair enjoying the rest of the performance. no dressing room. no attitude.

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