3 September 2015

Old and new friends

Johannes Luebbers led a band at the Gods and it was a combination of old and new friends. JL is one of the new breed at the School of Music. So is bassist Alec Hunter. Whatever we think of the changes, none of these people had anything to do with it, so best to them. They played with masters from the previous incarnation, of the Jazz School, Miro and John Mackey and Mark Sutton. All masters: they had to be to play this at short notice. Miro showed me a chart, all time changes (4/4-5/4-6/4) and sixteenth notes and then the sticky-taped pages fell open and touched the ground! There must have been 7 pages of this stuff to read! The players were all groaning, as players are wont to do for difficult charts, but ready to take it on. Miro commented he's "not an accountant". But he counted and they did a great job of it all. They were mostly playing charts by Johannes. Johannes played piano but is principally a composer: he said he's usually out front conducting his works rather than sitting amongst the players. How much I liked this! Complex, busy, original works with limits on repetition. Spaces for solos - this is jazz, after all - but plenty written for ensemble. I melted with some of the superb harmonies from Miro and John. How correct and sweet can intonation be? And solos from them were equally breathtaking. I also especially noticed some of Johannes' comping, all harmonic colour and movement from a composer's point of view. Alec played with bow, sometimes with bass noises, but mostly played with clarity and a neat firmness. Mark convinced as always and let go for one later solo. They had planned one standard to finish off, I remember you, but ended up adding Alone together as an encore. I play that tune regularly and could just wonder at how the best manage to embroider a tune. Quite remarkable. Old and new, from before and after a disaster.

Johannes Luebbers (piano, composition) led a quintet with John Mackey (tenor, alto), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Alexander Hunter (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the Gods.

1 September 2015

Arrayed forces

This Brindabella Orchestra concert was something like that: arrayed forces. Because it was big. Brindabella played with Weston Winds and some guests, so the stage was packed with players and the roof lifted when the brass let loose. And the theme was WW1, the Great War, with tunes from the era, so often touching, occasionally bombastic and nationalistic. Yes, and because we played God save the King (for king he was as that time) and our own little number, Advance Australia Fair. It all worked a treat, better than I'd hoped (especially after a few weeks away with no practising) and was a blast when the whole outfit started up. Not that I liked the overt nationalism that is people standing for the anthem. We are more nationalistic and overtly proud these days (Anzac Day in the '60s was nothing like it is now, but then we had many returned soldiers who knew the hell it really was. There are fewer surviving returnees these days (mostly some Vietnam vets, Middle East, perhaps Korea and WW2) and we mostly just have pollies using and abusing and playing at militarism, viz, Operation Fortitude as the latest dangerous blunder). So, I felt uncomfortable when the audience stood but I have a very nice male voice on the recording, singing along, so not all bad. The program was made up of a few pieces for Weston Winds, a few for the Orchestra, a few combined and one song with piano. I liked our Tunes from the tranches medley, not least the appearance of Land of hope and glory (I am not immune from these emotional stirrings), and Banks of green willows (George Butterworth) and Elegy for strings (FS Kelly) were touching and all colours and spaces, as are poems and pieces from those who experienced the war. The Winds played Holst First suite in Eb 1st mvt and I was taken by a spot that was all the world like a jazz solo played by saxes with band accompaniment, and otherwise some nice melody passed through the band. Lachlan McIntyre, currently studying at ANU School of Music, sang By a bierside by Ivor Gurney, which BBC Four describes thus: "Surrounded by the chaos of the trenches, serving soldier Ivor Gurney composed a number of haunting songs, including 'By A Bierside'." (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01w9ry3). Orchestra and Winds played well and the program was nicely constructed, so, a very successful and nicely themed concert.
Brindabella Orchestra and Weston Winds were conducted by Peter Shaw in "From Gallipoli to the Somme and beyond : music from the WW1 era". Lachlan McIntyre (vocals) featured. Too many perfomers to list.

28 August 2015


Interestingly, the musical director and pianist for the LOTS Orchestra, Filmer Flores V, also put in a solo classical piano recital as a matinee. I’ve been saying not Shakespeare, but this was close enough. He’s been playing piano since he was 4yo, graduated from a performance school then the Philippines Conservatory then won a scholarship to study in Russia and returned to teach at the Conservatory. His favourite is Chopin and he played 3 pieces, as well as Debussy and Liszt and a Philippines folk song. Some challenging pieces nicely played and quite a change. Otherwise, there were aerialists performing to pop with accompaniment of the singers and dancers (the Centrum Wow! Spectacular, no less) in the atrium. I believe this is common on ships. I saw rehearsals the day before and enjoyed the much more presented show on the day. There were two other bands performing at various times. Music Makers were a four piece covers band with a huge repertoire and a great skill in copying vocals (kbd, guit, bass, female drums; all sang). Music Motion were a trio with midi backing (kbd, guitar, both singing with female vocals). And finally, “Manila’s pop virtuoso” Reuben Laurente, did the last show with the LOTS Orchestra. I only managed the first tune after he entered with lofty self-esteem then into Moondance with all bland mediocrity. Pop eats what? The voice seemed OK but I couldn’t take the starry-shirting.

Filmer Flores V, Royal Caribbean Singers, Dancers and Aerialists, Music Motion, Music Makers performed; Reuben Laurente performed with the Legend of the Seas Orchestra.

25 August 2015


There’s always a show each night on a cruise ship and I always attend. It’s the most interesting stuff to do and otherwise I don't got to production shows like this. Perhaps I should. I do enjoy them for the immense skills, even if these skills may be applied to fairly mundane matters. But cruises are just floating resorts to me, and this is resort entertainment. There were other shows, surprisingly frequently by Australians. Maybe they are nicely available, being in the vicinity. “Australian master magician” Duck Cameron was something a bit rare for me and many. I enjoyed it all, including his Houdini straight-jacket escape routine but I may not rush back for more illusionisms. Not that I had any idea how he did this stuff. Another Aussie was Tamara Guo, a singer fronting the LOTS orchestra. Chinese background, Mandarin/Cantonese/English speaking, mother having sung opera at the Sydney Opera House in the past, strong voice and matey, jokey presentation in several languages and songs crossing into Mandarin and finishing with heavy rock (It’s my life). David Mimuzio was the onboard “multi-talented Youtube sensation”. He presented a show matching juggling with singing and a lively personality. I enjoyed the odd and venerable skill of juggling although many weren’t so convinced, at least before the show. Jake Henry performed regularly in the Schooner Bar as the resident piano man. Capable and sometimes a good for a singalong (after some beers), although sometimes too loud when the midi started up.

Duck Cameron, Tamara Guo, Jake Henry and David Mimuzio, performed on the Legend of the Seas.

24 August 2015


So they called the busy interleaved stage show giving tribute to music of the (fairly recent) past, Elton John, Dusty Springfield, Spice Girls, Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey. This was busy and complex arrangements, rapid riffs of songs, joyous portrayals, some really very authentic voices, quick changes for orchestra and costumes. The dancers were at it, often 6-on 2-off or vice-versa, for costumes changes. I’ve seen one of these dressing rooms in the past, small, in doors and outs, with racks of costumes like a dry cleaner’s and plenty of velcro to hold it all together. I remain in awe of the girl dancers, always thinking of that quote from Ginger Rogers, that she has to do it all backwards and with heels. These women were all heeled, presumably with changing heels. I’d come across drummer John on the ship and he’d recommended this show; they’d just had a run-through. He was right. So busy and exciting with a string of hits. Not that I knew them all; my knowledge of Brit-Pop expires well before the Spicers and rap and there was plenty of this. Again, not Shakespeare, but thrilling, busy pop done with real panache. And how long would the dancers take to get this down without the charts the musos take for granted. Loved it.

Absolutely Fabulous was presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers with the Legend of the Seas Orchestra.

23 August 2015

As close as it comes these days

I waited outside the South Australia Hotel but not long enough. I missed the Beatles when they came out on the balcony to the screaming despair of Adelaide teenagers. Other than happening on Abbey Road in London, it’s the closest e ever come to the Fab Four. The Beatnix are my live alternative. I heard them years back at the Southern Cross Club in Woden and was blown out by the accuracy of the cover. The Paul character played left hand Hofner; they all sang their own parts (as best I know them); there was no recorded backing other than inevitably for Day in the Life; the costumes were apt (mop tops in suits before interval; Sergeant Peppers after). This was just one set, so I wondered how or if they’d change (they did, and neatly as mop-top Paul sang Yesterday solo on right handed guitar played lefty, switching to George in Peppers garb with While my guitar gently weeps and a great return of the full band through that tune – that was neat). The voices were there, even if some weren’t quite as close or with the same range as I remembered. There was chatter, especially (inevitably?) from John that sounded Liverpudlian enough to my ear (some Brits were not so convinced). The guitar solos were right, if missing some recording studio magic. The bass lines were good if Hofner indistinct. The amps were Fenders and a Gallien-Krueger, not Vox, but that’s OK. Ringo’s Little help was convincing and his drums nice. We all rocked along and enjoyed a range of their discography. The fact that everyone had their missing favourite just confirms how wonderful was this band. Penny Lane was my missing fave. Paul always was my favourite Beatle and Eleanor Rigby and Penny Lane still work for me as deeply personal portraits of English life and characters. We were sitting with Brits; he who recounted the Beatles live (all standing on seat backs and no one could hear them) and she who’d met John Lennon. This and other stories remind me that these were celebrities before celebrity culture; young English kids who got taken on a wild ride (they split aged 27). But these guys had genuine talent, even if the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Beatnix were a nice reminder of it.

Beatnix covered the Beatles on Legend of the Seas.

22 August 2015

Band uninvited

The Legend of the Seas Orchestra would have backed the dance show, Invitation to Dance, but the stage wasn’t big enough on this ship. It’s not small, just not big enough for 8 show dancers, 2 feature ballroom dancers and 4 singers. So we got the Orchestra playing before the show in another bar in a smaller and more improvised format. Plenty of solos and the drummer’s infectious drive. This was nice, although I prefer the interactive formalism of the charts to their solos. Then the dancers. I know little of dance and less of ballroom, but I could admire the balance and sassiness of the whole and some very decent singing (excellent when these singers played with another band later that night – they can seriously belt out some tunes and find great harmonies) and some stunning ballroom. I didn’t expect this to inspire, but these two were seriously sharp. I particularly noticed it with a twirl of the woman’s hand mirrored by the same from some show dancers. The ballroomers were seriously sharp. Someone mentioned different techniques form ballroom and stage. Not sure this was the case, but the precision was evident. Tight bods, tight movements. It’s a different world and I enjoyed the visit.

Invitation to Dance featured the Royal Caribbean singers and Dancers with ballroom dance couple Maksym and Stefanie. The Legends of the Seas Orchestra featured amongst others, Mel Villipando (bass), Sebastian DuBois (guitar) and John Alphonse (drums).

21 August 2015

Not Shakespeare but

Another night, another show. Cruise life is unconnected with reality, even if you touch on islands and countries. You come to look forward to dinner and drink too much in social lubrication. Not all bad, as the interaction can carry some worthy messages, especially around a bar or perhaps around a maudlin piano-man. And every ship has its theatre and lays its claims for the quality and Broadway-derivation of its theatrical products. It’s Broadway not Stratford-upon-Avon, but it can be good and even emotionally satisfying. Swing City didn’t really have a theme other than that dance has been around a long time or a plot other than a few performers, presumably in order. But what performers, what performance, what swing! The theme tune was Ellington’s It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing and it was a marker for the start and end. Then onwards through a rage of tunes form swing band to croon and doo-wop, viewed as fashion and entertainment with a wry eye perhaps, but great arrangements fabulously performed. The band was again tight as, back of stage, setting the performance but also distant in concentration. I particularly loved the bass, lithe and playful at times and always present and firm and drums which revelled in time and come outgoing flourishes to end. They supported eight dancers (4xmale; 4xfemale) and four singers (2xmale; 2xfemale; I guessed ~SATBaritone). Quick change costumes and groupings and vocal/dance features; short stories presented in lyrics and portrayed in dance and song; place spelt out with costume; dance placed in social context. I just revelled in the expertise in all this: the immensely great American songbook written in busy and demanding arrangements and played with precision and sung and danced with skills and professional joy. Somewhat later they would explain it as “only rock and roll but I like it”, and yet to come will be some line for rap, I guess. Not Shakespeare and not even Broadway of the ilk of West Side Story or Oklahoma. But this was musical theatrics and it was done so well.

Swing City was presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers with the Legend of the Seas Orchestra in the That’s Entertainment theatre. No, not Shakespeare, but.

18 August 2015

Just otherwise engaged

Thus I haven’t written for CJ for a time, but here’s an update. The Legend of the Seas Orchestra is great. Well, that’s nothing unexpected. I’m on a cruise ship out of Honk Kong. There are a few bands and the entertainment makes significant claims. The theatre stage is festooned with JBL boxes and sub-woofers and lights and curtains. Alternatively, the Captain’s reception is held with the same orchestra in the atrium, called Centrum. The captain, the various heads of various departments, the pretty girls in white providing champers and the band again. This is a great, slightly reduced big band. I presume they are out of Hong Kong, gathered from some excellent readers, tight as, concentrating but convincing, some decent solos, always confident timing and changes and the rest. First set is various big band charts, from the standards through I luv Lucy to latins, Basie and Ellington and Glen Miller. Plenty of swing in swing-era style. Later, it’s backing for multi-instrumentalist, Danny Elliot, out of Melbourne. Can I recall Danny’s instruments? Clarinet, flute, bagpipes, tin whistles, guitar, didg, vocals, piano, perhaps more. Heart-renders, rock and roll, strains of Ireland and Kazakhstan, some light classics, bumblebee or Tchaik’s first or Bolero or wherever. Capable and popular and entertaining, perhaps not master of any but impressive presenter of many, and always that band behind, concentrating, tight, with those charts. Always spot on. Such a pleasure. I have no idea of names or residence, but I expect Honk Kong. They are great players, as these performers tend to be. Impressive and a true pleasure.

The Legend of the Seas Orchestra is the resident showband on the cruise Ship, Legend of the Seas. Currently cruising the China Sea. They backed Danny Elliot (multi-insstrumentalist) ex-Melbourne.

10 August 2015

A Canberra swoon

Igitur nos did an internal "Swoon vote" (a la ABC-FM): each member listed 5 songs they'd like to do, giving ~100 votes, and from this came their concert at the CGGS Chapel on Sunday. The concert was named Angel voices and what a terrific concert it was. It was a dream to hear such a good choir, doubly so in this nice venue, glassed in with views of mock-tudor and gums and Red Hill and a lovely mid-winter sunny Canberra sky and a gently reverberant acoustic. The voices were fabulous: unwaveringly steady, clearly enunciated, softly attacked, precisely pitched, revelling in harmonies, generously dynamic, closely listened and keen eyes on conductor Matthew. I was close and noticed some impressive individual voices, too, especially the sopranos clear and soaring and tenors rich and high. The program was nicely varied. Ola Gjeilo, a contemporary Norwegian, three English songs by Stanford and Elgar, three US songs, by Barber, Lauridsen and Whitacre (interestingly, the Barber and Lauridsen used words of the same James Agee poem), contemporary Australian David Basden with a Pater noster (he was present for this performance). Also a lovely Tavener called Funeral Ikos written for the Greek Orthodox rite, Howells, Rutter and two from the supreme master, JS Bach. One was a trio sonata played by two recorders and baroque pipe organ (G major, BWV1039); the other was a Cantata (BWV106) with SATB solo voices, choir, organ, cello, 2 recorders and two viole da gamba. This was the biggest and most impressive work; the Elgar and Rutter least interested me; the Basden was wonderful as a genuine local original; perhaps the Tavener or Gjeilo or Whitacre or Barber or one Stanford were my favourites. Interestingly, I'd sung two of the program with some choir or other (Stanford Blue bird and Whitacre seal lullaby) but nothing like this. This was a revelation. Truly a choir of real quality.

Igitur nos is Matthew Stuckings (director, conductor). Singers were Greta Claringbould, Meredith Norman, Meredith Boroky, Michelle Eddy, Olivia Gossip, Jane Godtschalk, Catherine Hayman, Karina Berger, Carolyn Strange, Anne Marie Delseg, Liz Keough, Karen McKenzie, Gerard Clifton, Marcus Klaiber, Paul Francis, Todd Heather, Stephen Lawton, Andrew Freeman, Jonathon Lee and David Smith. Accompanying musicians were Anne Ewing (piano), Olivia Gossip and Robyn Mellor (recorders), Rachel Walker and Alec Hunter (viola da gamba), Clara Teniswood (cello) and James Porteous (organ). Greta Claringbould (soprano), Maartje Sevenster (alto) Norman Meader (tenor) and Andrew Fysh (bass) sang the solo parts in the Bach cantata.