report by Trevor Connell
Last week the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre produced a Signature Event to showcase the centre’s ballroom along with their catering and technical services. Guests included Club Melbourne Ambassadors, members of the MCEC Trust, the MCVB, and representatives from government, Melbourne iconic venues and hotels and the media (trade and mainstream).
One of the big selling points of the Melbourne Convention Centre’s ballroom when it opened three years ago was – a blank space with high ceilings.
I’ve attended a number of events in the ballroom since then (in particular the MEA awards dinner in 2010 and a couple of AIME lunches) and have seen that space transformed by the use of staging, draping, lighting and AV. This is the first time I’ve seen the ceiling lowered (in effect).
I spoke to Peter Jack about his brief for the design and how he approached it. Normally the ceiling is a void so Peter utilised a number of 2.4 x 2.4 m panels that featured a ceiling rose with a chandelier hanging from it. These features along with a string of chandeliers over the stage catwalk worked visually to bring the ceiling into view. The other key decorative element was large panels of pressed metal of the type usually associated with the ceilings in old Australian buildings.
These elements, along with the furniture Peter installed, imposed a very baroque feel to the room that was completed with lightweight velvet drapes and then complimented by the room lighting designed by the MCEC crew.
As is mostly the case with MCEC the menu prepared by Acting Executive Chef, Tony Panetta had the aim of showcasing Victorian produce.
The entrée was called a “Taste of Victoria” and featured Fennel and maple cured Yarra valley salmon, dill, horseradish and capers. Yarra Valley Organic heirloom vegetable salad and house made labna. Poached free range Bendigo chicken, chorizo, truffle oil and tomato.
For mains we had a choice of barramundi or Gippsland aged beef tenderloin.
This was followed by miniature desserts so we could taste them all – Arthurs creek Green apple and gin sorbet; Chilli chocolate, pineapple mousse and coconut; Chocolate salted caramel tart; Rutherglen Muscat pannacotta with poached quince and pecan streusel.
Notable amongst the desserts were some taste sensations – Chilli chocolate and the Chocolate salted caramel tart.
Of course all good showcase dinners feature fabulous entertainment and this was kicked off with Katie Noonan with the Alpha Sinfonia (12 piece string orchestra) under the baton of David Ashton-Smith, who were accompanied by Katie’s collaborator in the band Elixr, Stephen Magnusson. Katie’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah had the audience rapt as she closed the set.
Beautiful music, exquisitely performed, with excellent production by the MCEC resident technical crew.
In stark contrast The Ten Tenors performance was much more up tempo and the energetic lads had the audience rocking along. The group had a pianist on stage with them and when they sang with just the piano accompaniment they sounded quite good. Unfortunately most of their act was performed to a backing track that sounded like it was coming off an iPod with too much compression and a booming bottom end which totally killed the enjoyment of this performance. I was advised that they provided their own sound engineer and the mix was not produced by the MCEC crew. Which is a pity because the house crew did such an excellent job for Katie Noonan – which would have been a much harder mix to pull together.
Venue: MCEC Ballroom
AV production: MCEC
Catering: MCEC – Acting Executive Chef, Tony Panetta
Themeing: EMG Events – Designer, Peter Jack
Entertainment management: EMG Events
Photography: Stewart Donn Photography