12 February 2018

Poise


First up at Smiths for a while. This was the Pratt/Price Collective so I knew it would be good but I was unprepared for just how good. Daryl Pratt is renowned and Mike Price was guitar an head of the Jazz School. No slouches. With Brendan Clarke and percussionist Jess Ciampa. I didn't know Jess and no drummer, so odd. So I thought. But this was an evening of latin and Jess was sitting on a cajon with congas and bongos and a string of small instruments and so, so relaxed and precise. As it was all round. Daryl was hugely fluid, perfect time and ease and melodic lines to die for. Mike was quick and lithe and listening back (I recorded) gave such easy and tonal lines, alive with easy quickness. Brendan is just a master of the bass, big toned, perfectly grooving, quick and responsive and well intoned. Jess' accompaniment was the essence of relaxed warm latin lives, sharp, quick with apt fills and elaborations then playful with flows from the bell tree. All so blissful and easy but also sharp and alive. Rhythms to flow with, to dance and mingle and seduce. Earthy and embedded. One tune they had never played, in practice or otherwise, and knowing that, you could pick up some reticence, but still it was good. They used to play together, but that was 18 months back. You wouldn't know it, playing as they did as masters of the craft. They were off to the studio for the next 2 days. What comes out can only be longed for. Fabulous playing, nonchalant poise, insouciant but enticing rhythms of Cuba and the rest. This was latin heaven from original pens.

The Pratt/Price Collective played at Smiths Alternative. The PP Collective comprised Daryl Pratt (vibraphone), Mike Price (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Jess Ciampa (percussion).

11 February 2018

Freedom in groove


My SoundOut this year was limited to the Sunday afternoon and a workshop. Five groups played: these two seemed to me to reference standard techniques a little more. I say that advisedly, a little more. These were still wildly atonal but notes were played on instruments. The first was loud and driving and outlandish and ridiculously exciting with high skill levels applied with rapacious excess. From the first notes, with little letup. I knew Paal from the workshop and he was driving and intent but still working around clearly underlying rhythms. I found myself tapping away to the strong but disguised grooves. Danish/Berliner bassist Adam was a force of nature, playing acoustic (other than a little condenser mic on a stand), high action with Spirocores, no pickup or amp, German bow intriguingly hanging from a hook on his belt (great idea!). Melbournite Ren Walters on pick and finger-picked guitar and Scott McConnachie on alto and sopranino sax. He did a great job, again wildly atonal but wonderfully formed phrasing and with a sopranino tone t die for, so rich and full. The second band was a mix of brass and deep strings. Johan Moir on bass and Judith Harmann on cello, variously playing open accompaniment or following leads from the brass and fascinating sparing trumpet pair of our local Miro and Austrian Franz Hautzinger. I reckon trumpet is by nature a melodic instrument and we got that here from both players, but also slathers and exclamations and counterpoints and flashes. A seriously interesting interplay from two expert trumpeters and a few very interesting sets.

Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Adam Pultz-Melbye(bass), Ren Walters (guitar) and Scott McConnachie (alto, sopranino saxes) played a set at SoundOut 2018. So did Miroslav Bukovsky and Franz Hautzinger (trumpets) with Johan Moir (bass) and Judith Harmann (cello).

10 February 2018

Degrees of freedom

It's all free improvisation at SoundOut, but there are degrees of freedom. It's usually played on musical instruments, sounding as expected (and intended?) or not. Sometimes it's played on anything, with mics and various noise sources. Or the instruments are prepared with cloths or bells or clips or other so the strings or bells or tubes don't sound as normal. The sticks on strings and between strings and the clothes line clips and perhaps blutack as classics. Then the range goes through to instruments played as instruments, with various atonalities and implied all. Here I can see the references, the skills and the rest that I admire. Or I think I can. I remember asking a pianist whose playing I'd admired about keys and such technical matters. Nope, nothing. I'd been fooled. Or maybe they just don't talk of that. The workshop talked of all manner of things, but assumed players "know their instruments": a big ask but not the matter of concern. There were several groups who played with noise, with non-instruments or newly electronics.

First up Alexandra Spence, Bonnie Lander and Goh Lee Kwang. Close listening to match voice, (for a little time) drone clarinet, electronics and papers and a mobile phone ap (presumably a sequencer of some type) triggering tones to an old radio as amp. Odd but small, quiet and an easy lug. Then a quartet of Ben Drury, Casey Moir, Julia Reidy and Millie Watson. I was blown out by atonal piano laying by Millie (and singing by Jennifer Nell who sat next to me for this set) at the SoundOut workshop but none of that here. This was plucks and sweeps on piano strings with lightly suggested rhythm from 12-string guitar and double bass noise and restrained but very inventive effected vocals from Casey. Again, fairly quiet but listening. Psithurism Trio are Rhys Butler, John Porter and Richard Johnson and are locals. They played a set with Alexandra Spence, this time on clarinet, and altoist Georg Weissel. A free, open, listening thing with plenty of noises, removed mouthpieces, clacks and drones and taps: noise informed by real instruments. These were the obscure, open, relatively quiet improvs of the Sunday afternoon at SoundOut 2018.

Alexandra Spence (clarinet, electronica), Bonnie Lander (vocals) and Goh Lee Kwang (electronics) performed at SoundOut 2018. Ben Drury (bass), Casey Moir (vocals), Julia Reidy (guitar) and Millie Watson (piano) also performed. Psithurism Trio played with Alexandra Spence (clarinet) and Georg Weissel (alto) at SoundOut 2018. Psithurism Trio are Rhys Butler, John Porter and Richard Johnson.

9 February 2018

Hand of the free


From organs and early music through to experimental improv. Wow! Extreme. This was one workshop that preceded SoundOut. The performers were a duo that had played together for 20 years, Swedish pianist Sten Sandell and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilsen-Love. They started with a relatively short improv and it was stunning. The Steinway helped as it sounded so, so good under Sten's hands. I can find noise-play rather trivial, and it was a large content of the Q&A session, but their playing was richly informed, outrageously atonal but utterly convincing. Both had a rich a history in other musical forms, classical, jazz, rock/pop, but ended here. Both listen to all manner of musics. I enjoyed their interplay but cherished the rich and expansive atonality and their underlying sense of beat. There were plays with sound, plucked strings and harmonics and pedal plays and scraped cymbals but with purpose. Fabulous but too short. The workshop had questions on form, preparations and piano pedals, compositions, influence of audience, this music and venues (eg, jazz clubs and managers), the seeming "contradiction" of recording this music, practice, having fun, being clear in performance, listening. I found it unsatisfying that the discussion about practice and learning this style just assumed that you "know your instrument". I thought this was what the practice was for. And interestingly but perhaps not unsurprising, Sten said he doesn't perform with an e-piano. That must limit venues these days, but this is a special art with its requirements and listeners. Then the workshop. We formed a circle for exercises, passing sounds one to another and, most interestingly, all following or responding to the lead of one player. It was here we got a feel of the effectiveness of this style. But what wonderful playing from these two, atonal and polyrhythmic and the rest but with deep references and the most satisfying and convincing free improv.


Sten Sandell (piano) and Paal Nilsen-Love (drums) have a workshop for SoundOut 2018.

8 February 2018

The end


The first and final concerts are the biggies and this final concert was no let-down. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Missa Salisburgensis with a few other pieces by him, a Dixit Dominus, a sonata and Plaudite tympana. But how big and impressive are these works! The Missa is scored for 53 in 5 choirs (2 vocal and 3 instrumental), two “loci”comprising trumpets, timpani and sackbuts and two continui comprising organs, cellos and one double bass. All period instruments. The Pauldite also for 53, the Dixit for 32 and the sonata for a mere 6. This was all busy fugal writing for voices and strings, ecstatic brass and timpani. Loud enough to fill this large cathedral (which will dwarf most music) so we could sit back and relish the indulgence. You do wonder how much can be written around a few words (just the Kyrie went on for ages, I think with several movements) and how often Amen will repeat and how blaringly elated one piece can be. This was so. The concert drew in the locals, as the turn-out was big, filling the Cathedral. There was some lesser voices (not surprising given the fugal solo lines passed through the choirs) and some other slips, but this was a mammoth effort and a huge success. Congratulations to a large and varied group for pulling off an ecstatic concert. Loved it as did all the rest. A fine end to this modest but intriguing festival.

Performers were: Choir 1 (Newman College Choir, UMelb, SSAATTBB) Gary Ekkel (director), Hannah Irvine, Ruby Ekkel, Charlotte Crowley Katherine Lieschke, Clementine Isaacson, Ian Travers, Amelia Ekkel, Stefanie Dingnis, Hana Fraser, Christopher Roache, Paul O’Shea, Riley Soares, Matthew Bennett, Eamon Dooley, Lane Hyde, Jack Fang, Jack Bennett, Liam Headland, Tom Attard, Ben Russell; Choir 2 David Irving, Shane Lestideau (violins), Reidun Turner, Dylan Quinlan-Biskett, Rachel Walker, Miriam Morris (viols); Choir 3 Ruth Wilkinson, Ryan Williams, Hannah Coleman, Alexandra Bailliet-Joly (recorders), Kirsten Barry, Andrew Angus (oboes), Tristram Williams, David Musk (trumpets), Matthew Manchester, Peter Reid (cornetti), Julian Bain, John Gluyas, Glen Bardwell (sackbuts); Choir 4 (Queens College Choir, UMelb, SSAATTBB) John Weretka (director) Helen Thomson, Katherine Norman, April Foster, Jennifer Spiegel, Piri Jakab, Neera Kadkol, Brede Davis, Niki Ebacioni, Anish Nair, Stewart Webb, Robin Czuchnowski, Ben OwenJoshua Erdelyi-Gotz, Steven Hodgson, Kieran Macfarlane, James Emerson; Choir 5 Cathy Shugg, Simone Slattery (violins), Victoria Watts, Evlambia Vafiadis, John Weretka, Laura Vaugha (viols); Loco 1 Joel Brennan, Adrian Meyer, Louisa Becker (trumpets), Christopher Farrands (sackbut), Robert Allan (timpani); Loco 2 Louisa Trewartha, Hannah Rundell, Giulian Favrin (trumpets), Don Immel (sackbut), Arwen Johnston (timpani); Continuo 1 David Macfarlane (organ), Paul Zabrowarny (cello); Continuo 2 Ann Morgan (organ), Fiona Piggott (cello), Robert Nicholls (bass) Biber,

7 February 2018

Really truly different


I’ve talked several times of different styles at this festival but this takes the cake. The penultimate concert was the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble playing traditional music of China (and Danny Boy and Click go the shears). It’s a fascinating and diverse sound for our ears. We’ve mostly heard it before but even so, getting some chatty background and hearing the individual instruments playing solo and especially being invited on stage after to see their scores and instruments close up and ask a few questions was fascinating. We heard of the pentatonic nature of the music, how it’s mostly now written with a number notation (jianpu) with dots above and below for octaves and a second stave for accompaniment. The pentatonics are comfy for us but the vibrato and pitch bends are strange sounding as are some tones. The core group was four males, joined by a woman for a solo on Guzheng. Interestingly, this instrument is mostly played by women and , at least here, she played solo. But then retuning is not trivial. Suffice to say, very different from the rest of the festival, informative and satisfying.

The Australian Chinese Ensemble performed at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. Wang Zheng-Ting (director, sheng) led a group with instruments dizi, erhu, yangqin and guzheng (names not provided).

6 February 2018

Dense impressions


Again the Venetian group Trio Leonardo unavoidably had viola replaced, so their performance was impressive but not like a long-standing group. It would be interesting to hear them with standard membership. Not that replacement Lawrence Jacks didn’t do a great job: he did an excellent job (he’s a retired player from WASO and MSO, so not unexpected). But the group had only rehearsed this material twice ant it’s not trivial stuff. This was high impressionism, Faure and Debussy, all space or floating air or urgency. They did it well. It’s not a style that I love and I wondered how an Australian group might play it. I expect quicker, more dispassionate. I wondered it it’s a thing of the new world, newer surroundings and the rest. But an impressive outing playing a vastly different style from what we’ve heard in this festival.


Trio Leonardo performed at the Daylesford Town Hall. TL are Andrea Dainese (flute), Elisabetta Ghebbioni (harp) and Lawrence Jacks (viola) sat in for Giancarlo di Vacri.

5 February 2018

Player organs


Apparently that’s the generic term for orchestrelles as player piano is for the pianola. We were invited to Damon O’Donoghue’s home to hear several Aeolian Orchestrelles. Damon restores these machines. Apparently Mark Twain had one. The company was huge in its time, a US company producing player organs and pianos. These are instruments that play organ or piano mechanisms from a reel of performated paper while the performer chugs away at bellows and, for the organ switches stops. I arrived during the final movement of Beethoven 9th – the best thing I heard. But we had several others. The Canberra connection: Damon was the man of the Australia Fair Grand Concert Street Organ who used to play at Floriade. That was a sad loss.

Damon O’Donoghue demonstrated several Aeolian Orchestrelles at his workshop in Daylesford.

3 February 2018

Methodist in her madness


Thus did Martin Setchell introduced his personal history. He’d had young years in UK with a Methodist grandmother so attended churches like this one (Uniting Church, Daylesford). In chruch, he’d observed the pulpit in prime place, but the choir above and the organ above all. Thus he determined to play the organ. Most likely apocryphal, but amusing. This was Daylesford and it was a day of organs. First up was Martin playing Italian music on a mechanical action William Anderson organ, installed 1888. Two manuals, 3 couplers, tracker action, restored by George Fincham 1909 (to quote the language of the historical organ community). As with several other concerts, local organ repairer Ken was working till the last moment, and repairs held up the performance for ~15 minutes. Hot weather cracking joints, I think it was. Martin played Italians from 1550s and a few Germans who were influenced by the Italians and further developed the tradition (not least JS Bach). But the trills and varied notes were there, thanks to the tracker action.

Martin Setchell (organ) performed at the Uniting Church Daylesford.

2 February 2018

Chamber bliss


I could tell from the first notes of Anna Goldsworthy playing a few bars of solo Mozart piano that this was special. The softly spelt tone (admittedly on a generous Steinway), the internal flow of the phrasing and the exquisite dynamics said so. Within four bars or so the others came in, perhaps first violin then cello. Not sure. But it was clear these people play together and had done for some time. There were fleeting glimpses one to another, especially from piano and cello, and the movement of lines from one to another was exemplary as was the shared understanding of each phrase. The pleasure and clarity of it all showed also in their faces. Anna’s face would curl in little smiles or perhaps firmness although again only fleeting. Tim would play fewer notes, sometimes stern in his low-end role. Not so much Helen, who was vivid in head and body movement but less so in facial expressions. Helen introduced the first piece, Mozart Piano trio Gmaj K496 saying it was his second but it plays like a perfect example of the format, like a type specimen. Anna introduced the second piece, changed from the program’s Schumann to Mendelssohn Piano trio Dmin, more ambitious and more a partner for the Mozartian perfection. Again, dense, committed, communicated, a revelation. We were up close, first row, middle, watching the details. I was amused to notice I was hearing the strings in stereo. Tim’s cello was so firmly and clearly intoned, right to the lowest string and notes. I fret over a weak low string so this clicked with me. I was amused to see just a hint of Anna tapping beats with her left foot. And that piano tone again and Helen’s bowing and that fabulous cello tone and just the pleasure and expression of it all. Just immense and just a revelation.

The Seraphim Trio performed Mozart and Mendelssohn. ST are Helen Ayers (violin), Tim Nankervis (cello) and Anna Goldsworthy (piano).

1 February 2018

Backgrounding the organist

Jenny Setchell is wife of Martin and his page turner, photographer, recorder, stop setter and partner for their tours to pipe organs around the world. Once a journo, she’s capable writer with considerable wit and a good eye for the photo and the plot twist. She’s just released her second book on the organist’s life and she presented it to the Festival. Some instruments are to die for (for access but also for immense beauty). We saw pics, heard of the travails of a travelling organist and the pleasures of the audience. Every organ is different; you require an hour in preparation for every ten minutes of performance; there are from one manual to six or more plus pedals; then the string of stops, all named inconsistently; the access might be through mediaeval tunnels or rickety lifts or dangerous spiral staircases; communications may be by TV or mirror or none; pistons may group stops as an aide; sequencers have arrived on modern organs to manage set sets of stops; consoles can be machanical or electro-mechanical and detached; the cipher may come at any time, when a note refuses to stop playing (a great fear no doubt). There’s more. Then to fill the hour, a visit to their native Christchurch in NZ, once location of 77 pipe organs but now, after several earthquakes and 20,00 aftershocks (into Richter 6/7) only 3. We all were saddened by and for them. An interesting view of organs and organists at this organ festival.

Jenny Setchell (author) introduced her new book Organs & organists : their inside stories / Jenny Setchell (Pipeline Press). She previously published Organ-isms : Anecdotes from the world of the king of instruments / Jenny Setchell (Pipeline Press).

31 January 2018

Interlude


Friday morning is time for an interlude and light music. This was in Ballarat, at St Paul’s Anglican Church, with Douglas Mews and for one tune, Andrea Dainese. Andrea (flute) was filling in for his offsider, Giancarlo (viola), who couldn’t attend at late notice. The organ was J Walker of London, 1864, nice sounding and full in this space, but with mechanical action replaced by a detached electrified console sometime over the last century. So the Lemare and several Ketelbeys were to relax and enjoy. Ketelbey’s foreign adventure were slim so his Japanese Carnivals and Chinese temples were none too authentic. Douglas played two NZ numbers, from Kaihau and Sondederhof. The Sonderhof was more Viennese waltz than Maori Bible. But, again so be it. Douglas introduced the Grieg and Elgar as real music and they were satisfying. The prayer and Temple dance from Olav Trygvason had we wanting to join the pagans. And Sospiri from Elgar was too sentimental, especially for a busy Friday morning; perhaps the Chanson de Matin was better. But I jest. This was meant to be light and it was. I enjoyed the organ tones and Daouglas’ and Andrea’s playing. A pleasant interlude.

Douglas Mews (organ) perforrmed at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Ballarat. Andrea Dainese (flute) joined in for Elgar.

30 January 2018

HM or HRH?


I learnt this today: you address the Queen as Her Majesty, not as Her Royal Highness. Well, I’ll be. It was an interlude of mirth and jocularity and a little vocals when HM Queen Victoria appeared to her subjects at the Clunes Town Hall. The hall is itself an object of considerable interest, attractive despite considerable cracks. The Queen appeared to lead us in a hymn written for a possible new nation of Victoria in 1860. “To the people of Victoria / This attempt at a National Hymn for our Common Country / Sung at the Theatre Royal Melbourne 1860 / Words by WW Wendell, Music by S Nelson”. We had the words and attempted the melody, but it was not known and still tricky after three verses. The words work with Advance Australia Fair but that’s not the melody. Thanks Rachel. An amusing outing with a tricky melody.

Rachel Buckley appeared as Queen Victoria at the Clunes Town Hall.

29 January 2018

Heat


The heat wave continued for the afternoon but it was obvious here at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Clunes. It was hot here, but the concert went on. Douglas Mews returned on organ with Andrea Dainese on flute for one sonata. The music was all Handel. The organ was due for upcoming restoration, lacking in some stops and long pipes and short on pedals, a front of false pipes removed to reveal the square wooden pipes below, but it filled the space and was responsive and crisp to my ears. This instrument is a mechanical action built by Hamlin & Sons in London ~1860. Only one other organ is known by this manufacturer and it’s in the UK. The music was Handel Excerpts from Rinaldo HWV7; Sonata Emin; Suite Dmin HWV428. The middle piece featured flute. Lots of short movements over three pieces. Stately and intriguing, but located in a hot room with audience flagging. Good on the performers to survive. Intriguingly, next door is the original church, a US-built prefab of style you see in films; common enough in the US but rare in Australia. This town is small but increasingly interesting.

Douglas Mews (organ) played Handel airs and dances at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Clunes. Andrea Dainese (flute) accompanied on one.

This is CJBlog post no. 1900

28 January 2018

Acoustics excellence


It’s a big call but I heard this room, at least for the music that was played there and my position in it, as the most clear and firm acoustics I can remember, throughout the frequency range. The bass was wonderfully rich and deep and present; the violins were perhaps edgy; the solo instruments, harp then flute (and organ) then viola were clear and strong (other than the organ which seemed light on, quiet, thin). But I was in raptures over this sound. This was the former Wesley church in Clunes, Victoria, now restored as part of the campus of Wesley College, Melbourne, as a country campus. The music that sounded so good was a string orchestra with soloists playing various concerti by Vivaldi, Telemann and Haydn on modern instruments. I just luxuriated in the richness and fullness of the tones and the joy of music of this early-classical-cum-baroque era. Our pleasure with music is a function of sound in space. This just filled the room with clarity and fullness. The pieces were Vivaldi Concerto Dmaj for harp RV93; Vivaldi Concerto Dmaj op.10 no.3 Il cardellino for flute; Telemann Concerto Gmaj for viola; Haydn Concerto no.1 Cmaj for organ and oboe Hob.XVIII. The soloists were Elisabetta Ghebbioni, Andrea Dainese, Lawrence Jacks and Anthony Halliday. I met up with bassist Tim Nelson (the first double bassists so far at this festival) and also with an old mate from Canberra, violinist Louise Hillyard. A pleasure and a massive surprise!

Elisabetta Ghebbioni (harp), Andrea Dainese (flute), Lawrence Jacks (viola) and Anthony Halliday (organ) soloed for various concerti by vivaldi, Telemann and Hadyn at the former Wesleyan Methodist Church in Clunes. The Festival Chamber Orchestra comprised Yvonne Holley, Akeyo Matsumoto, Kate Carman, Wilson Blackman, Millie Koenders and Toni Williams (violins), Ann Smith and Louise Hillyard (violas), Kathryn Saunders (oboe), Miriam Kriss (cello) and Tim Nelson (bass).