SYDNEY (AFP) - A group of Sydney Symphony Orchestra musicians scaled the city’s Harbour Bridge for an exclusive concert Monday to celebrate the sweeping structure’s 80th birthday.

Known as the “Grand Old Dame” of Sydney, or more colloquially “The Coathanger”, the bridge was officially opened to traffic on March 19, 1932, joining the harbour’s northern and southern shores for the first time.

It was an ambitious project that took eight years to complete, with construction of the 1,149-metre (3,770-foot) span claiming the lives of 16 men.

To celebrate its 80th anniversary, 11 brass section musicians from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra — also turning 80 this year — climbed to the top of the bridge’s 134-metre high arch to perform for a select group of guests. “The musicians performed Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ plus the theme music from the movie Chariots of Fire,” a Symphony spokeswoman said.

The small audience featured seven “Bridge heroes” with a special connection to the structure, according to event organisers. They included descendants of the bridge’s engineer J.J.C Bradfield, a man whose uncle placed the very first rivet, and Joan McDonald, whose birth certificate reads “Place of Birth: in ambulance on Sydney Harbour Bridge”. Ralph Bradfield Bonner, born on the bridge’s 1932 opening day and named after its chief engineer, also scaled the arch, along with Lloyd Poulter — the bridge’s most frequent climber — who celebrated his 46th trip to the top.

The bridge is one of Sydney’s most-photographed and best-known landmarks and is often the centrepiece of fireworks displays in the city.