First published on 20 May 2012. Updated on 3 Aug 2012.
"My very first memory of Hamer Hall," says Isherwood, "is of peering through the cut-out holes they had in the hoardings around the site where you could see the big hole that was being dug."
A few years later, in 1982, Isherwood graduated from a course in stage management at NIDA and Hamer Hall was officially opened as the Melbourne Concert Hall.
"My career is actually practically the same length as Hamer Hall's."
Now Isherwood is presiding over the long-anticipated reopening of Hall after extensive renovations that have kept the venue shuttered since late 2010.
The Hall is hosting a concert performance that repeats over two nights -- Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July -- on the revamped stage, featuring k.d lang, Caroline O’Connor, Eddie Perfect, Rachelle Durkin and Archie Roach, a spread of artists – from classical to cabaret, stadium diva to folk-rock hero – emphasising the flexibility of the space.
The concert kicks off a weekend of talks, tours and free events through the Arts Centre complex, including lunchtime concerts, exhibition pieces from the Performing Arts Collection and family-orientated workshops. There'll even be a fifteen-metre tall art installation put together by Brian Thompson on the Art Centre lawn.
In the St Kilda Rd foyer, eMotion will lead a troupe of 200 young dancers in an event choreographed by Demilition B-Girl (Demi Sorono, So You Think You Can Dance), Cat Sweeney (Jungle City Massive), and John Gray (hip-hop and Haka choreographer). There will also be a swag of young singers, rappers, and beatmakers on hand to provide a bumpin' sountrack.
Over at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, also a part of the Arts Centre complex, the weekend will include self-guided tours and the opportunity to Be Your Own Rockstar, where you're able to film yourself rocking out on the Music Bowl mainstage. Bring your favourite tunes on a USB stick and they'll pipe it through the PA.
More even than the concert itself, these large-scale, participatory events point the way forward for Arts Centre Melbourne.
"It does signal where we want to go," says Isherwood. "We want to animate the site, making the whole of the arts centre a place that people want to come and spend some time."
Establishing itself as a community centre, not merely a cultural centre, has historically been a problem for the Arts Centre, but Isherwood expect the new Hall will give the whole Arts Centre complex a greater presence.
"When we reopen the hall, the intention is that, just like with the building under the spire, it will be open seven days a week, day and evening. We've got new restaurants going in there. There'll be other activities, free lunch time performances, that sort of thing."
Some of the restaurants going in include Trocadero from local culinary icons Frank and Sharon Van Haandel (Stokehouse, Comme, Cultler & Co and Mr Tulk), and John Szangolies, well known in Sydney and Brisbane, who will launch himself into the Melbourne market with Saké Restaurant and Bar.
On the weekend after the opening nights the stage will host Tina Arena playing Saturday and Sunday nights (28 and 29 July), before she returns again on Sunday 5 August. Looking ahead, the Hall will be getting a serious workout over the next two months, with a season that includes The Qatsi Trilogy featuring Philip Glass, The Cape Town Opera and the Czech Philharmonic.
For the opening nights, the Arts Centre Melbourne has also taken the novel step of introducing a ballot system for the allocation of tickets to the opening concerts. Half the tickets will go on sale from Tuesday 9:00am June 5, while the rest of the tickets will go into a free Victria-wide public ballot. Victorians can register for the chance to score two free tickets by phone, online or in person through the Arts Centre -- check their website for details.