18 December 2014

Acclamations of the season

From the first notes I was enamoured. This was Igitur nos with a small chamber orchestra (2xvln,vla,cl,bs), directed by Matthew Stuckings, playing a Christmas concert in the foyer of the National Portrait Gallery. Lots of light, lots of glass, lots of luscious choral reverb. In this space, I couldn't always pick up Matthew's comments, but the voices swelled beautifully. The first two songs were carols - Ding dong merrily on high and This is the truth sent from above (more obscure) - sung without accompaniment. I noticed sweet harmonies and accurate phrasing and shared enunciations: those final consonants crisply together, the dynamics common to all. This is a very nice choir. Then the chorus, And the glory of the Lord, from Handel's Messiah, all dignified and joyous. Magnificent. This was to repeat as the unplanned encore at the end. Then a English Protestant carol, by Orlando Gibbons regarding John the Baptist, all sparse and upright and clearly enunciated and featuring a solo alto by Rebecca Alexander. Then a few singalongs - Once in Royal David's city and Hark the Herald angel sings. I could see some moving lips but was hearing the choir. Then a very English song, Mine liking, all folky and rural and unadorned, and an English arrangement of the German In dulce iubilo, faithful and straightforward. Matthew introduced the next, by John Rutter, as his conversion to Rutter's compositions. The piece was What sweeter music and I'm sure the orchestra didn't blink at 6 flats. Then Healey Willen on the Epiphany and two more singalongs: O little town of Bethlehem and O come all ye faithful. By then, the audience was more confident, and I, for one, enjoyed the opportunity to join in (reasonably discretely!).

This was joyous and involving with its carol singalongs, but also remarkably beautiful with the lovely voices blending and expressing as one, and with a receptive string quintet of considerable presence. The space was worked well for the ensemble, even if it also highlighted occasional children's shrieks. So, a worthy acclamation for the Christmas period and a delight for the ears.

Igitur nos and its accompanying string quintet were directed by Matthew Stuckings. They perfomed a concert of Christmas carols in the foyer of the National Portrait Gallery. Rebecca Alexander (alto) soloed for the Gibbons.

17 December 2014


A wise mate once said to me that you should try everything once. I have attended theatre and even poetry readings before, but this was just that bit more hardcore. This was The Waste Land by TS Eliot. Perhaps the great modernist landscape in poetry. So they say. Certainly it was hugely dense and obscure, for me and others. But I could gather some classical references, Tiresias and Carthage and others, pick up some London references, chuckle at some modern allusions and generally gather the sense of despair at life shortly after WW1, like having sex then playing gramophone, of duties and loss and the manic forgetfulness of the flappers and deco. The program summarises WL's theme as "can a world so broken be redeemed". I was not the only one wondering about relevance to our own time, of consumption and short-termism and climate change. (Reading today in the SMH that there are only 5 northern white rhinos left in existence is symbolic*). Waste Land was performed by Hong Kong-Canberran Julian Lamb with cello accompaniment by David Pereira. This was a powerful and committed performance by Julian with gentle and responsive accompaniment from David.

Cassie Brizzi started the night with a collage of quotes from Spears, Simon, Bowie, Previn, Leunig, Kesey and more gathered by Ernie Glass into a work called Tales of ordinary madness. This was far less obscure than TS Eliot and another worthy piece. A woman tells her story from birth through school, imaginary friends, fears of control, caged bird metaphors, eventually to motherhood and loss of her mother. Nicely done, clear and relevant. Some of the lines strike home for anyone these days, thinking of Orwell and Snowden and corporatism and the rest; others are more specific to eccentricity and insanity. "I'd rather madness / than this sadness / in my heart". "Blue buttons / black machine underground" (admittedly, this one needs context). "Day after day / they steal my friends away". Or the memorable interaction with Mrs Oppenheimer who sees the essential innocent goodness in the character's madness: :"You are crazy woman to be so good" (sic). "Look Mummy, no hands" is the hopeful; "They've got a system / and everyone's gotta fit in" is not.

TS Eliot's The Waste Land was performed by Julian Lamb with accompaniment by David Pereira (cello). Tales of ordinary madness was performed by Cassie Brizzi and devised by Ernie Glass.

  • *SMH: Now only five northern white rhinos left in the world
  • 13 December 2014


    I was sitting pretty much dumbfounded listening to John Mackey and watching his fingers skate over tenor keys. Quite astounding. To see it from two metres away, and hear it with that immediate acoustic clarity, is awe-inspiring. My mind wondered to that small-town concern, "world class". I don't like to use this term, but I pondered it anyway and decided: "world class" probably means quality to play with the big names and wc players pop up everywhere. The issue in outposts is that there are limited numbers of them, so limited community. Places like NYC or Berlin attract players and the community develops. To some degree, our Jazz School did that. It attracted keen and developing players and provided a string of established masters as mentors / teachers. We have yet to see the medium term outcome of changes at the ANU. It was a decimation, but I wish them well for recovery.

    But getting back to the gig, it wasn't just John who had my attention. I particularly watched Aidan and Tate. Aidan was back from Berlin and I was enamoured by his ever-responsive rhythms. Tate has just finished studies but was a force of extended sequences and easy keyboard knowledge and often playful stylistics. Greg was mammoth in quick guitar lines as always, perhaps more flightly than usual. Lachlan introduces a different presence with the Bass VI. It's remarkable as a melodic take but he's also got a firm touch with sustained ostinatos that works a treat. On the night, and seemingly with little preparation for the band, John introduced a new mode that he's studying a ANU. John can expound further in his thesis, but in short it's built with pentatonics around the lydian mode (if I got it right). He calls it the Talvian mode. All mysterious and intriguing. The band played a few improvs on this tonality over a Bb pedal. Otherwise, the night was a string of stunning takes on standards: a simple blues in Db, All the things, Sophisticated lady, Footprints, Miss Jones, Tenor madness, Freedom jazz dance. These are standard blowing tunes and common at John's gigs. Just a blow outing from some of our wc players. Informal, intimate, friendly, essentially testing and exploratory and a blast. Our best musos would not be out of place at Smalls, but with small numbers, the band would be pretty repetitive after the first night or two.

    John Mackey (tenor) led a quintet with Greg Stott (guitar), Tate Sheridan (piano), Lachlan Coventry (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums) at Smith's Alternative.

    11 December 2014

    Ending a busy year for TAI

    Richard Denniss speaks easily and casually and I expect no less, but I was still taken aback by his best line of the night: "Telling the truth is a lot cheaper". He meant this relative to PR campaigns. It was in the context of the Australia Institute's successes over the last year and its approach, which I'd describe as turning on the light by spreading facts that respond to spin and misinformation. Like the small number of people who actually work in mining or Tassie forestry against the impressions of large workforces created by industry and government. Or the details of government reports, like Warburton's review of the RET that showed that reducing renewable power would actually increase electricity prices within few years and result in a large movement of wealth from consumers to owners of coal fired power stations.

    We were at the last Politics in the Pub for the year. It's a wrap-up session and a thanks to the supporters and a chance to meet and chat. He spoke of successes for the year, of TAI's approach, of the possibilities for promoting "progressive ideas" (I hate that term, but don't have another), of the importance of the facts, of hard work by few staff, of their funding (not much!). He spoke of developing a constituency for reform for better governance, policies and longer term thinking. Richard mentioned a merge with Catalyst in Sydney, and attempts to spread events and influence outside Canberra. Also of their approach to politicians, how they inform and persuade. He mentioned their effectiveness on the Shepherd Commission of Audit, Budget measures, the Warburton Review of RET, more. He introduced a meagre list of researchers (how busy must these people be? Look at their website for their activities and publications). He said support could come in dollars, emotional support or by sharing, then expanded on the sharing of ideas to promote that "constituency for reform". He recognised how much could be done or where the research is so-far lacking. To one question, he responded: "Good question ... I don't have a good answer". He raised a new issue, of intra-generational equity to replace arguments of inter-generational equity. (I like this one; let's avoid inter-generational culture wars). But this was a relaxed and informal session. At one stage, Richard commented "Happy to take a few questions or happier to have a beer" so it was apt that I saw a string of beers being offered at the end of the night. It was a nice gesture and too bad he couldn't drink them all. Like many, he was driving.

    Richard Denniss spoke at the final Politics in the Pub of 2014 for the Australia Institute.

    7 December 2014

    A world away in Civic

    Tate Sheridan was just a few hours later and a few km away, at Smiths, but this was another world. Tate was launching his CD. Again, this was a piano trio, Tate with James Luke and Aidan Lowe, but there were no standards here. The music was much more moody, more punctuated and arranged, more melodic or minimalist, rather than changes through chords. There were still solos passed between players although less obviously than in standards territory. There were passages of solo piano that led to some complex compositions. There were more ostinatos, more edgy arrangements and stops and starts, but they were playing arrangements that were prepared for a CD. There were stories and references. Final hour was a story of a 240km, month-long Mounties chase culminating in a shootout and the death of the Mad Trapper of Rat River in Northern Canada in 1932. House arrest was a punctuated medium-fast swing. Lone gunman was a ballad, mostly piano solo, but joined later by bass and drums and a wordless vocal overlay from Tate. Baile is Spanish for "to dance" and was a lively number with unison features and later solos over a quick latin groove. Grace was another ballad developing into a repeating rising phrase that Tate said sums up his time in Canberra. Please no questions is another lively swing and Run don't walk is a dedication to Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Tate's piano is developed and skilled and classically formed. James' bass is quick and clear, commonly into thumb positions and melodically phrased. Aidan sits discretely as part of the music, setting grooves with subtlety and always flexible in tone and sharp in accent. This was not a light outing, the music demanded involvement and concentration, but it was a work of seriousness played with requisite skills. Great night. Looking forward to hearing most of this in its recorded form.

    Tate Sheridan (piano) launched his new CD at Smiths with James Luke (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

    6 December 2014

    French luxe down south

    I finally got to Gary France's jazz session at Tuggeranong. Just a trio playing standards but what a great trio and what a luscious location. In the cafe, at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, overlooking the lake. Intimate with low stage fronting a wide room, luxe seating (although I was at a cafe table rather than chaise lounge or curvaceous French settee; where did they find that furniture?). Paul dal Broi, Eric Ajaye, Gary France, three of our best musicians playing for their pleasure and ours. Out of nowhere, How insensitive, Dearly beloved, Tune-up, All the things you are, but also an original ballad by Paul and Coldplay's Pictionary and a discomfortingly heavy take on La Vie en Rose. Was Paul casting a black magic spell with this take? I've missed Eric over the last year, but now I've seen him twice in a few weeks and his luscious, searching, glissando lines were intriguing for the positional moves and guide tones. I was chatting with a classical player after and she was commenting on how much knowledge is required for improv at this level. Of course. This is dense theory and harmonic knowledge, and then enough skills to twist it out of recognition with substitutions and dissonance. Paul was again a master. I was taken aback by one or two particularly clever twists but he's a wealth of this internalised awareness. Gary is just a joy, no doubt as a colleague but also as the MC and outgoing, supportive rhythm machine, ever-present, light and swinging and ready to embellish. This was just a hugely pleasurable outing, intimate, swinging, amongst friends and anyone who attends is that. Enough to get the Inner South boy to make the trip to Tuggers. Gary's series will be recommencing monthly from February. BTW, Gary mentioned a new music service coming to Tuggeranong, the Groove Warehouse, for tuition, gear and more. Keep eyes out for that.

    Paul Dal Broi (piano), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Gary France (drums) played mostly standards at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre.

    5 December 2014

    A world of recorders

    It's a strangely welcoming sound. This was the U3A Recorder Orchestra performing at Wesley and there was an absolute motza of people on stage and another row or so in front. There was also an audience to match, presumably friends and family, and these can be a big group with such a large set of performers. But what got me about this was the organ-like tone. Recorders are seen as a modest instrument, although director Margaret Wright says they are demanding to play. Every instrument has its own strengths and weaknesses and places its own demands. The recorder seems modest and at least amongst the smaller incarnations, it is. It's a whistle mouthpiece with a body that sounds chromatic notes. I realised the tone is actually just like an organ, mostly like the steam organ, the caliope, but sometimes more majestically, like a smaller pipe organ. It has the same attack and decay and presumably the sine-wave purity. So all together, in various sizes, they make a similar sound when played well and in concert, and it's pretty and pure. Absurd, maybe, given one organist can play all that sound and more, but great as a communal activity and really quite lovely. I expect it's very hard to get the unity of conception and performance but when it came through here it was satisfying.

    Another thing, Canberra's recorderists, and perhaps the whole recorder orchestra scene, seems to be on an international circuit. Margaret runs an organisation that takes performers from nil to Nardini using the range of instruments and it's a big group with multiple components. [BTW, Margaret's group is not alone: there's another recorder outfit in the ACT, CREMS (Canberra Recorder and Early Music Society)]. I attended another concert of this orchestra where they played a composition written for them by English composer Steve Marshall. One composition this day was written for the Colorado Recorder Orchestra. I imagine these groups know of each other. For such a mild-mannered instrument, there seems to be a real scene here. And the strange box-like new form of the tenor and bass instruments confirms there's innovation amongst respected tradition.

    This concert comprised a Gabrieli Kyrie, a set of three Renaissance dances by Susato, selections from Mendelssohn's Italian symphony (no.4), a modern tone poem called Mountain mosaic and written by Glen Shannon for the Colorado Recorder Orchestra and Biber Sonata pro tabula. The Biber was written for string orchestra and recorders and was accompanied here by the Four Bridges String Quartet plus one. The repertoire remains strong on the early era, and this is stately and dignified and fits the instruments. But the tone poem was quite a variation, starting with paired interacting recorders (perhaps alto and tenor?) then moving through contrasting colours and moods to portray a visit to a mountain, from sunrise, through birds and journey and wildlife and a nap and a climb and stars and rain and a return to sunset with that same pairing of instruments. The Mendelssohn, too, was diverse, jaunty with a sustained crochet bass line (like walking bass, but without the jazz feel) and with structure. But with my limited awareness of the field, the baroque and renaissance courtliness and joviality seem most attractive. The Gabrieli was dignified and devotional. The dances were innocent until the simple drumming appeared. The Biber was my favourite with its interplay with strings and its compositional development.

    It's a very different world from jazz but a fascinating byway in Canberra. Margaret Wright (musical director, conductor) runs the U3A Recorder Orchestra.

    4 December 2014

    Real adults

    James Greening and mates came to Canberra and it was obvious the adults were in charge for the night, at least at the Gods. This was Greening from Ear to Ear. All light and jovial but supremely skilled and in command and well prepared. I wrote notes: respectful of tradition, deeply skilled, open, unpretentious, respectful, communicative (everything other Canberra- visiting adult-pretenders are not). But back to the music. The Gods is undergoing renovation, so we were in the Arts Centre foyer. More square, damply reverberant but nicely fat sounding with the audience. The band was close in one corner. This was a 7-piece band with three horns in front and the writing showed, as did the excellent musicianship. These guys are top of their trade and the harmonies were blissful and the grooves sat with precision, unstressed, seemingly so easy, but that's the skill showing. Playing music as it should be played is deceptively easy, but it takes years to master. These guys had it. These are Sydney masters and I was entranced. The first set was James' Tam O'Shanter Tales suite. He wrote the suite while in Tasmania and it's dedicated to the musical influences in his life: his family, Monk, his wife, Jackie Orszaski, with some less obvious insertions, like Parallel lines (a fabulous little big band chart) and Hazara (of more political relevance). I was stunned by the ease of interaction and perfection of the harmonised sound. These were not easy charts, but always played with easily but sweetly. Then the solos. I loved the Hammond tone from Gary and the fabulously twisting percussion from Fabian. James' solos were perfectly formed and Andrew's were a lesson in melodic statement, embellishment and development. I have admired his sax playing for years and I learnt something here on the night. Paul was more abstruse, less a matter of formal development than an emotional journey. Steve Elphick was sitting in for Brett Hirst and set some firm grooves and was nicely considered in his solo. I don't remember Hamish taking a solo, but every bar was rich with variation and connection. Another lesson. The second set was a few tunes from band members. Fabian played guitar on Domingo, simple descending chord changes over a medium tempo 4 with an Euro street vibe imparted by lovely accordion from Gary. Andrew's 22 degree halo featured Fabian's percussion solo that floored me with its delayed beats and falling rhythmic complexity (Latin training required). Then another then Lowdown, again from Andrew, funky with an odd count. There were changes of instruments: Rhodes - Hammond - accordion, or bass clarinet - tenor, or alto - baritone, or trombone - sousaphone - pocket trumpet (that's an odd combination and quite a challenge of sizes) or double - electric bass. All fabulously played, tight as, perfectly harmonised and blended. This was fabulous and about as good as it gets.

    Greening from Ear to Ear played at the Gods. GfE2E are James Greening (trombone, sousaphone, pocket trumpet), Andrew Robson (alto, baritone sax), Paul Cutlan (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Gary Daley (accordion, organ, piano), Steve Elphick (bass), Fabian Hevia (percussion, guitar) and Hamish Stuart (drums).

    3 December 2014

    What matters

    In the flesh is not a big exhibition. You can visit it in a short time. But it's exquisite in both its super-real presence and its attention to matters of humanity, what it means to be human. The works are in two dimensions, often bright, sometimes monochromatic, or in three, sculptural works big and small. There are two video works. There are some unexpectedly large pieces balanced with unexpectedly small works. There are super-real images of humans, but also of absurd blends of human and other or even imagined species. You respond immediately with surprise at the beauty and realism, but also with emotion and empathy. And the imagined species arouse the same responses. It's a bizarre experience; unexpected and gentle, often twisted, but honest and humane. You may have caught some of the odd images in passing, perfect babies with frogs, lovers lying naked with fox heads, boy with imagined species, distance drawn with superb accuracy, restlessness in miniature detail, a modern Pietà. The themes are intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance. The artists are Jan Nelson, Natasha Bieniek, Patricia Piccinini, Juan Ford, Petrina Hicks, Ron Mueck, Yanni Floros, Sam Jinks, Michael Peck and Robin Eley. A must see, not least as an antidote for the current state of our country and our world. Follow the link below for a preview but attend the real thing for the breathtaking intimacy.

    In the flesh exhibit is at the National Portrait Gallery and features artists Jan Nelson, Natasha Bieniek, Patricia Piccinini, Juan Ford, Petrina Hicks, Ron Mueck, Yanni Floros, Sam Jinks, Michael Peck and Robin Eley.

  • In the flesh (preview) NPG
  • 2 December 2014

    My inaugural orchestral concert

    I missed the August Brindabella Orchestra concert due to prearranged travel but I was determined to perform for the November concert. I made it despite a thong-induced trip and resultant physio and a long pop gig the night before and little practice over the previous week to rest my left hand. But it was fun. There's little musical that will match an orchestra when it's in full flight. Brindabella has about 50 players and most instruments are covered. Our first violins were down on the day and there were a few visitors sitting in for ill members. It's not auditioned, so the playing varies; there are music teachers, amateurs, returnees and the like. We can slacken during some harder passages, don't always play every note, determine that we'll do the dynamics better next time, but it's a blast. We mostly play excerpts, movements of larger works. This concert featured Beethoven Coriolan Overture, movements of Brahms and a superbly pretty movement from Schubert's little symphony in C major (no.6, 4th mvt), Carl Orff, Misty and songs and dances from Britten and Vaughan Williams. Great stuff; not too difficult but still a challenge. I fluffed a few, but there's surprising space to cover the errors amongst so many players. The basses missed a DS and were surprised when everyone kept playing, but at least we did it together. Great fun and recorded for posterity. And BTW, new members are welcome; practices Saturday mornings.

    The Brindabella Orchestra was conducted by Rosalie Hannink.

    1 December 2014

    Future back-tracking

    Great fun night. Jazz Republic plays a backyard for Martina and Jack. This is a crossing the generations gig for crossed generations. A standard mix of jazz and pop but a clear night, a band drenched in chemicals for the mozzies, some considerable fun and one of the only times I've played a party gig and had people sit later in the night to listen. Also amusing to be playing e-bass again. I forget how quick and fluent you can be on this thing, especially after years developing muscles on the ungainly but beautiful double bass. Is this a back to the future experience? Maybe so. Electric basses are hardly the future (dating from ~mid-1950s) but double basses have centuries on them. But much enjoyed. Thanks to all.

    Jazz Republic were Leanne Dempsey (vocals), James Woodman (piano), Richard Manderson (saxes), Eric Pozza (bass) and Brenton Holmes (drums).

    30 November 2014

    And the ambassador played the bass

    It's not often the tickets for a jazz gig are sold out but this one, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Adolph Saxe, in the lawns of the Belgian Embassy, was. It was an attractive offer. Events at a Canberra embassies are often a hit with the locals. This was huge. The numbers swelled to 500, but the garden was generous and the evening was perfect and there were hors-d'ouevres and Belgian beer on offer and a great band. In a twist that's a local jazz secret (until last Friday) Jean-Luc Bodson, His Excellency the Belgian Ambassador, is also a conservatorium-trained bassist with a love of jazz. That alone would bring the inquisitive, but the jazzers were also drawn by a pairing of the brothers Mackie, both excellent saxists with Tate Sheridan and Mark Sutton. They just played one set but it was strong and well received. It was interesting to again hear Carl with John. Carl played alto on this occasion, fitting for a string of bop numbers, and John played his tenor. Their approaches, perhaps from the different instruments, were more diverse than I remember on John's CD, where Carl also played: different in solo development, phrasing conventions, approaches to dissonance and the rest. But both were excellent and intriguing listens. Jean-Luc held it together very capably with solidity and drive and clear tone, along with Mark, un-extravagant on this evening, but essential. Tate is only a young-un but he's a young gun playing with great energy and passion and real interest. This was reliable, bop-heavy blowing repertoire: Confirmation, My little suede shoes, Round midnight, Tenor madness and Footprints. It's not a steady band, of course, and I know for one that Jean-Luc had a few busy days with other duties, but it was a truly interesting occasion and possibly unique in ambassadorial circles. Following the main band was the Telopea Park High School Big Band. Just Year 10 students, but playing some surprisingly decent big band jazz and finishing with a twist of Nirvana-like guitar dirt. Cool. I can't resist including the pic of three gathered bassists. And if you're interested, I was drinking Leffe Brune. Good on the Belgians, not least for beer and bassist ambassadors and Adolph Sax.

    The Belgian Embassy celebrated the bi-centennial of the birth of Adolph Saxe with a garden party on the grounds of the Embassy. Entertainment was a band comprising Carl Mackie (alto), John Mackie (tenor), Tate Sheridan (piano), Jean-Luc Bodson (bassist and ambassador) and Mark Sutton (drums). The Telopea Park High School Big Band also performed.

    29 November 2014

    What Honours does for you

    I didn't know Tate Sheridan had played sax. He'd played through the classical grades as a kid then turned to piano and played through those classical grades, then to Honours which he has just completed. I'm sorry I missed his recent recital but I caught him playing solo for the U3A Jazz Appreciation Group and with any luck will catch him at his CD launch next week. This was intimate, sometimes chatty, nicely open sounding so his playing was clear. He played an electric piano, so the clarity and life of the acoustic was not there, but Tate took the opportunity to use various tones, Rhodes, perhaps organ, funky bass for various tunes. He played 7 tunes. First up was a take on Honeysuckle Rose, introduced with a moody impressionism, then into stride and through time-relevant lines and some more modern dissonance and rhythmic variations. I love this contemporary style that visits the traditions with respect but also treats them with contemporary sensibilities. Jazz has its historical sweep after a century. An individual may prefer one era over another but it's all worthy and I personally like some catholicism. Then through a series of originals. Run don't walk is a composition related to Tate's honours thesis on Cuban left hand piano and it explored all manner of approaches: lh ostinato; rh single note comping; rh improv; a more even rh/lh style that had classical balance; syncopated lh bass line; perhaps more. Tate praised the pride, patriotism, energy and passion of Cuban musicians. Energy is obviously a concern; he mentioned it several times later. Then a short ballad of 8 bars and #11 harmonies that suggests a B-section but stays short and beautiful. Tate talks of writing words for this, saying lyric writing is a compositional technique that assists with phrasing. I didn't know that Oscar Peterson writes lyrics for most of his tunes, even though no-one knows them. Nebraska 1978 was different; a funky number with Rhodes tone, perhaps organ lh, written with Calum Builder for their duo CD. Tate talked more about pianists, Keith Jarrett, Art Tatum, blind pianists, handspans (Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson can/could easily span 11ths; most can just manage 10ths), Blind Tom, Gene Harris ("great energy; really important"), lessons. A final lively but exploratory Billie's bounce. During the visit, there was a quote of Miles saying that "jazz is the thinking man's music" although Tate was at pains not to denigrate the skills and capabilities of classical musicians. Talk of music as a language, for communication, like spoken words: "You have no script when you wake up in the morning" as a parallel to improvisation. Talk of solo piano as "daunting", more demanding than playing in an ensemble. Talk of his teachers and varieties of perspectives, and mention of some of our impressive local pianists. These visits are a chance to talk to practicing musicians and to hear them unadorned, transparently present. A terrific experience.

    Tate Sheridan (piano) chatted and performed a set for the U3A Jazz Appreciation Group.

    28 November 2014

    Spirits being sprightly

    Blithe is carefree, jovial, even sprightly. Sprightly it was in Noel Coward's play, Blithe spirit. We saw the play last night and in no end of coincidences, I heard an ABCRN Hindsight program today about Noel Coward's visit to Australia during WW2. Such occurrences might have one thinking of the spiritual, and this is just the dismissive approach taken by the characters in Blythe spirit until the plot reveals itself. Husband, Charles Condamine, of second wife, Ruth, is taken aback when a seance brings his first, deceased, wife, Elvira, back into the house. Ruth is unaware of Elvira and takes umbrage at Charles, then accepts Elvira's presence; medium Madame Arcati is mightily proud of her success; Elvira plans to bring Charles to her spritely world and succeeds in killing Ruth instead so both deceased wives now pester Charles who promptly departs for his new wife-free life. Coward spoke of nothing similar in Australia; more about the English speaking world reviving Western Civilisation ... of which his light comedy is presumably one part. It's very English and frothy and of its time, but a part it is. I had a few good laughs and was mightily impressed by some of the vocabulary of these characters, and not just for the word blithe. This was a literate, wordy crowd, somewhat set in its ways (martinis, smoking jackets) but also expressing modernity (women smoking, suggestive quips, various affairs). BS was the latest production of Canberra Repertory in Theatre 3. It's a venerable company of amateurs that has been presenting theatre for yonks (estab. 1932). The acting and production values are good. M.Arcati was a blast; the wives were convincing and husband Charles was every bit the confused then divided then entertained husband, then the happily ex-. The scene was stock mid-century and the final poltergeistian flourish was homely and unexpected and a guffaw-making. This was a thoroughly enjoyable show of mid-C20th manners nicely presented and much enjoyed. Congrats to Canberra Rep.

    Kate Blackhurst (Director) directed Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at Theatre 3 for Canberra Rep with Peter Holland (Charles Condomine), Emma Wood (Ruth Condomine, Charles' second wife), Anita Davenport (Elvira Condomine, Charles' first wife and ghostly presence), Liz St Clair-Long (Madame Arcati, a medium), Don Smith (Doctor Bradman, a friend), Elaine Noon (Mrs Bradman) and Yanina Clifton (Edith, a maid)

    27 November 2014


    Aaron Chew presented a program called Flamboyant fantasias at Wesley. It was certainly that and the final work, Schubert's Wanderer, was the confirmation. But first, Bach. The first tune was JS Bach but an arranged version by Busoni. It was a strange thing. You could recognise the discipline and regularity of Bach, but this was different, with added dynamics, tempo fluctuations and pedal markings for Busoni's then modern times, all dramatic and diverse from the stately baroque. Then Manuel de Falla's Fantasia Baetica, a virtuosic piano piece written for Arthur Rubinstein and celebrating Aldalussian culture by imagining guitars, singing, stomping, clapping. Then a final Schubert piece, his Fantasie in C major, the Wanderer. Aaron introduced it well: "Schubert ... when he's got an idea, he never lets go. This is 25 minutes, so ... I'll see you at the end". Not wrong; the melodic motif was introduced early and repeated often, even stubbornly, but so be it. Aaron played these three challenging and energetic pieces with great vigour and commitment and I expect the whole audience felt wilted by the end. This was wonderfully vigourous playing on works with virtuosic demands. Flamboyance put to decent use.

    Aaron Chew (piano) played Bach/Busoni, de Falla and Schubert at Wesley.