With possibly the finest reverberant acoustics of any space in Melbourne, the magnificent Palladian architecture of the Long Room at the Customs House provided a direct counterpart for musical performances.

Astra’s first concert here, on July 10 1981, combined the Astra Choir with leading Australian contemporary ensemble of the time, Flederman to present an important new work by Australian composer Graham Hair.

A few years later the same open floor space was the environment for a multi-lingual program at Pentecost on Friday September 10, 1988, concluding the International Musicology Conference in Melbourne that marked Australia’s bicentennial year. Mediaeval Gregorian tropes, chants from South East Asia, and recent Australian and American music joined in the multi-linguistic and multi-cultural theme.

The Long Room was later to lose its possibility as a performance location by becoming the site of a permanent installation of the present-day Immigration Museum.

The Former Customs House is registered as of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria. For more information see the listing on the Victorian Heritage Register.

For 30 years, the concerts of Astra Chamber Music Society have ranged around Melbourne’s architectural environment. Each concert has had a site-specific design that takes advantage of the marvellous visual qualities, spatial possibilities, and acoustic personality of each building. The music, in turn, contributes a new quality to the perception of the buildings, now experienced by audiences as a sounding space - an area where cultural issues from music’s history are traversed, and new ideas in Australian composition are explored.