Concerts in the Cave - History
1860's - The Cathedral Chamber was discovered (the first cave at Jenolan to be discovered, named the "New Cave"; only later the name Jenolan was given)
Soon the cave became known for its stunning acoustics - and used for church services.
1920's - Dame Nelly Melba arrived by horse and cart to sing and experience the acoustics. No concert was arranged.
1970's - Dame Joan Sutherland sang in the Cathedral Chamber and stated: This hall has the most perfect acoustics I have ever sung in.
1980's - The Vienna Boys Choir drove up to sing in the Chamber with the famous acoustics
- John Denver visiting Australia did not want to miss singing in this hall famous for the purest acoustics in the world.
Again, no one organised a concert. No ticket was sold.
Lucky were the ones sharing the normal tour the musicians happened to be in.
1990's - American audio companies booked the Cathedral Chamber to test their
microphones. The large hall offering a large space, total silence and a short, but strong echo seemed perfect.
The Cello Concerts in the Cave
July 1997 - All the above stories were told to me by the Caves House manager at the time, Lorraine Duffy - I was playing as part of the the Blue Mountains Trio regularly at Jenolan Caves House (see web page).
When Lorraine told me about the world famous acoustic, to which Dame Nelly Melba travelled per coach for a day to sing without pay, I mentioned: "I would love to visit a concert there. Do you know when they are on?"
Lorraine: "There are none. Somehow no one organises them."
I answered: "I'd love to play there!"
A minute later concept of the Cello Concerts in the Cave were born with the first starting 6 weeks later.
September 1997 - The first series of 4 cello concerts takes place, called: Suite September (I performed in these concerts only the Bach Suites). These concert were exclusive for Caves house guests only.
January / February 1998 - Caves House management had changed. Lorraine was gone, the great support with it - but not my passion for it after having experienced performing there.
I approached Cave Tours manager Steve Riley asking to give it a try giving public concerts in the Cathedral Chamber and he agreed in an uncomplicated "let's give it a go" way "and look if there is any interest".
After taking local advice I pinned only a small notice on the board so the concert didn't get overbooked: No one booked.
I cancelled the next concert and started my advertising program (before internet): flyers and
posters designed and copied by me.
The remaning 4 concerts were increasingly well visited.
I proposed to have from January 1999 on regular public monthly concerts on every 3rd Saturday of the month. No contract was written, no limit set - so they went on and on for years.
August 1999 - Up to now I knew at least a few people who would come. This month I knew no one! I was worried. This was the first concert to be sold out.
First CD recorded in the Cathedral: "(cello) Music at Jenolan Caves".
2000 - 2002 - I received great voluntary and free support, among them the Qantas magazine and Sydney Morning Herald.
In 2002 most concerts were sold out; the caves manager at the time suggested to start a second series.
Gypsy Concerts in the Cave with the Paganini Duo
January 2003 - First concert with the Paganini Duo on every 4th Saturday of the month, performing Gypsy music and South American music, with my friend Gustaw Szelski on violin & me on guitar. Our Duo had been formed in 1989.
2006 - The Concerts inthe Cathedral Chamber won the "Flagship" tourism award (Minister for Tourism of New South Wales)
September 2007 - 10 years of Concert in the Caves - Jenolan Caves general manager Peter Austen called the concerts "the quiet achiever", instead of one big event, 24 small events over the year were the most successful event at Jenolan. Less cost than any other event - more vistors and returns.
2009 - release of second CD from the Cello Concert at Jenolan Caves, Live recordings including the compositions and arrangements for the Concerts in the cave.
January 2013 - 10 Years of Gypsy music in the Cave with the Paganini Duo.
21 December 2013 - last and 200th cello concert in the Cave.
200th cello concert in one series at one place - completing the longest series of cello concerts in history!
26 December 2013 - last Gypsy concert in the Cave with Paganini Duo, completing 11 years and 141 concerts. Our very last was sold out, in fact overbooked by a dozen people, a privillege we could only allow due to the absence of the officially "responsible" and little supportive managers.
End of 2012 I received for the first time a contract for 2013 drafted by the new "event manager".
I might point out that the idea of regular events was created by me; from the point of having a well paid event manager the events declined to the point that not only our concert stopped but the position was dissolved again.
I am often asked how the diminishing of visitation happened.
Unfortunately crude and unnecessary competition had started (with me only helplessly shaking my head) - a typical indication was, that our concert brochures were hidden instead of being displayed, after they had been delayed by 3 month!
I wish to thank not only our 15 000 visitors but also all tour guides at Jenolan without exception, who were a bunch of very knowledgeable people, who were wonderfully supportive. Unfortunately I have heard, that we were just the first to leave and about half of the skilled guides followed us by leaving the place within a year.
From 1997 to 2013 the contract was based on a 50/50 shared gain or loss arrangement, in which both sides participated in promoting - a good income was in the interest of both sides.
For 2014 and again in 2015 I received an offer by the management / administrator to enter a contract in which there was a new strategy: the advantage was shifted solely to the side of the Caves with a fixed hire fee. On top of this fee the proceeds were still shared. On top of this the Caves organisation would not sell tickets anymore?!
Even my argument, that these Caves are very exposed to unexpected disruptions caused by fire warnings, fallen trees, land slides and simply traffic accidents (we experienced all of these), which suddenly cut the visitor number into a quarter, fell on deaf ears.
I might add, past managers of the associated Jenolan Caves Hotel / Resort used to support our concerts as well because c 5000 visitors of our concerts stayed there, some for more than a week to stay for both concerts - our concerts were always regular on the 3rd and 4th Saturday of the month.
This support stopped when the general manger attempted to manage both: tours through the caves and a hotel.
(Letters of concern should be addressed to the NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage)
July 2014 - A belated CD release "25 Years of Performing together" by the Paganini Duo including all compositions, arrangements and new material introduced to the Concerts in the Cave since the 2007 CD recording.
The famous Acoustics in the Cathedral Chamber -
the world's purest
The exceptional acoustic properties
of the Cathedral Chamber
We separate the main acoustic properties of a performance space into two categories:
firstly the basic noise level, the potential to provide total silence;
secondly the reaction of the space to the music performed, the quality of the reverb, commonly called echo.
In both the Cathedral Chamber is absolutely exceptional.
Zero noise level
No car, plane or any artificial noise of our high tech environment enters this space, not even the sound of birds and wind. No signal for mobile phones penetrates the walls.
The cave is absolutely silent. The same massive rocks which shelter the inner cave of any outside noise provide the space with silent air conditioning keeping the temperature at 15 degrees for the last thousands of years, independent of seasons, independent of the outer world.
In a way we are transported back - just for an hour - into a much simpler and purer world sharing the mellow sounds of the cello or exciting Gypsy music. The concerts in the cave allow us to side step from our normal speedy, noisy and stressful environment.
Sound projection, reverb and echo
As to the quality of the echo, no amplification is needed here; the large size of the hall with the hard rock surface amplifies the music so well and clear, we can hear in the last row as if the performers are sitting just next to us.
What is different to other large halls is, that
most have flat (stone) surfaces resulting in a clearly defined echo, which interferes with the clarity of the sound.
In many Cathedrals
a note may linger for 8 - 15 seconds. This note will interfere with the notes following. Gothic churches supply us with such an echo; you can virtually feel the largeness of the hall, but any fast passage turns into a blur.
Studios are therefore equipped with a wall surface deadening the sound. It reassures clarity - echo and reverb are added artifically.
But here the Cathedral Chamber is exceptional: the surface is naturally uneven, many side caverns are going off, no flat surface can reflect a clear image - instead all sounds are naturally diffused. The sounds spread irregularly in all directions and give us a natural warmth.
The echo of the Cathedral Chamber is very strong and very short - about 1.5 seconds - then we have silence again. A unique hall, silent in seclusion, amplifying the music strong and rich - and also clear and pure; like an accidental natural wonder suiting music performance.
The height above the performance spot is the highest in the caves system - 54m;
compared to buildings this is like a 18 storey building!
This feature adds an extra ambience to the sound.
Particularly in the Cello Concert you could hear compositions - newly composed or transcribed - especially using the potential of the acoustics of the Cathedral Chamber.
Ceramic artist Sian Thomas' impression
of the Jenolan Caves formation left
(click on image for link of Sian Thomas' website)
The old age of the Caves
Jenolan Caves 340 million years old: study
Cave-dating research published by Australian geologists has found that the Jenolan Caves, in central NSW, are the world's oldest discovered open caves.
In a study published in the June issue of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (Vol. 53, 377-405), scientists from CSIRO, the University of Sydney and the Australian Museum - in cooperation with the Jenolan Caves Trust - have shown that the limestone caves, which attract thousands of tourists each year, date back more than 340 million years.
Until 20 years ago most scientists thought the Jenolan Caves were no more than a few thousand years old. In 1999 geologists estimated that the caves might be between 90 and 100 million years old.
Dr Armstrong Osborne, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, has long suspected that the caves are older than had been widely recognised, but says he was surprised to find they dated back to the Carboniferous (290 to 354 million years ago).
"We've shown that these caves are hundreds of millions of years older than any reported date for an open cave anywhere in the world," Dr Osborne says.
"Even in geological terms, 340 million years is a very long time. To put it into context, the Blue Mountains began to form 100 million years ago; dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, and Tasmania was joined to the mainland as recently as 10,000 years ago.
"Most people were convinced that caves were quite young, and those of us who thought they were really old couldn't find any evidence. But no one imagined that they would be more than 300 million years old. This was totally off the planet."
The study used clay-dating methods that CSIRO's Petroleum Resources division developed to help oil exploration companies find oil deposits. The technique is a variation of conventional potassium-argon dating, which can calculate the age of minerals by measuring levels of decay caused by radioactive potassium.
CSIRO Petroleum Resources researcher Dr Horst Zwingmann says the age of the caves was determined by dating the clay minerals that crystallised when volcanic ash entered the caves, and which now forms much of the mud in the Temple of Baal and Orient caves.
"We were able to provide evidence that the clays did form in-situ in the caves and that the sections regularly visited by tourists actually formed in the Carboniferous," Dr Zwingmann says.
"This study shows how industry-focused research techniques can also be used to solve more general geological mysteries."
The Australian Museum carried out initial studies using X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscope imaging to identify clay minerals and their properties to see if they were suitable for dating.
Images are available from CSIRO Media Liaison - Ph: 02 6276 6406.