2001 and 2003 in Canberra were marked by bushfires. Everyone has heard of the 2003 fires in which 4 lives and over 500 homes were lost. But they were eerily forecast over Christmas in 2001 when bushfires made it into the heart of the city, destroying the pine forest that divided the city in half.
There was much debate over what to do with this land. It really is prime real estate, and many arguments were fought, till in the middle of a drought it was decided to plant an arboretum on it. Yes, we had no water and everything that had previously been there had burned down, but the government decided to go ahead and plant trees. Many people are still highly skeptical of this idea, but I can see that given 50 years or so and the arboretum is going to be truly magnificent. It will feature 100 forests of different types of trees. There will be function centres, it will provide a permanent home for Floriade and will no doubt be the best spot around for a picnic.
But for now it is still a construction site. Many of the forests have been planted, but the trees are tiny, it takes a lot of vision to see something like this come to pass. However bearing in mind how long it is going to take to come to maturity, there has to be a time when it starts to be used, and while there have been open days, last Saturday saw the official first major event - Voices in the Forest.
S and I took Mum and Dad as an early Christmas present to the concert which featured a fantastic line up of singers. Anne Sofie von Otter the Swedish mezzo-soprano was the headliner, but she was more than ably supported by Louise Page, Henry Choo, Christina Wilson and a massed choir of local students.
I would say that the first half of the program was a little heavy on the show tunes (and I like show tunes!) and it definitely took them awhile to get the sound right, but the second operatic half of the program was lovely.
The Arboretum features a natural amphitheater which over time will have properly terraced seating, but for now consisted of beach chairs on the slope and a temporary stage. We (like nearly everyone else) brought a picnic to enjoy during the concert as well as a heap of sun protection, those tiny trees are a long way from providing any shade. In fact the orchestra and singers needed to wear sunglasses while they performed.
S and I are possibly some of the whitest people on earth and our sun protection ended up being a little inadequate which resulted in me draping S in a multicoloured sarong. It may not have been the best look but he wasn't sunburned at the end of it!
Being the first event there were some teething problems, trying to get large numbers of people into and out of the venue showed up the limitations in the road system and I do hope that when the amphitheater is terraced they will get some more comfortable chairs, but it was a wonderful evening and a great first event to be a part of.