31 August 2019

No names

It's Frankfurt and it's a summer day. I know Frankfurt well from visits in the past so this was just a reacquaintance with an old friend. It's a financial hub, there's even a giant euro to confirm it, but there's also an undercurrent of history through the messy mediaeval streets and the survivals from massive ww2 bombing. Walking through the heart there are frequent buskers, violins, piano accordions, and a street drummer wearing a horse mask. He was popular and entertaining. I like these improvised kits and the deeply felt hip hop grooves the best of these players pull from them. Then on to the cathedral which mostly survived the bombing famously acting as orientation for the bombers. The organ was in parts undergoing restoration but the pipes are massive. I'd love to hear it. Then a visit through the sparse interior decorated by mediaeval triptyches which were stored during the bombing. The religious conviction is obvious and touching. Then various other mediaeval rebuilds and tourists and Roman ruins and buskers in various costumes doing various acts. I'm checking out concert posters and SIM cards. Then a church I've never visited before that promised a short carillon recital to follow the bells of St Paul's at noon. I returned to the square on time, tourist Central, to hear both. Then more buskers, this time three piano accordions and a tuba playing mostly Bach. Amusing but also effective. I bought their CD as my first souvenir expecting to get the names of the group and the performers. But no luck, no names for either. The CD was entitled Music of the baroque. Just that. So a lovely morning in the unlikely warmth of this European summer but no names. German discretion, I guess.

Various buskers performed and sites impressed on the streets of Central Frankfurt a warm summer's day.

28 August 2019

We all age


Canberra is ageing and it surprises me. It was only founded in 1913; Parliament only moved here in 1927; its development stalled due to depression and WW2 then restarted under Menzies in the '50s; it became self-governing in 1988 (although still poorly served with Commonwealth MPs). So I'm surprised that we had the 50th anniversary of Woden Valley Youth Choir just the other day, and my own Musica da Camera is aged 41 years and the Weston Winds are now 30. They had their 30th anniversary concert the other day and it was a blast. I like a concert band and here there was not a string in sight - just winds and some percussion - and the resulting sound is of its own and massively pleasurable. Deep, fat, consistent bass tones from bassoons and tubas; sharp soprano notes from the flutes; various raspy reedy tones from clarinets and saxes and the brassy declaratory clarity of the troms and trumpets. Just lovely. They played a large range of music. Just one JS Bach - his "Little" fugue in Gminor - and a string of modern tunes variously written for the orchestration or arranged for them. There were a string of film themes (Star Trek, Dr Who, How to train your dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chicago) that had me wondering if the hoi-poloi only hears such music in films (it probably does). There was Percy Grainger with what we know as Danny Boy, and Eric Whitacre with his star Internet piece, Lux aurumque, and a few pensive themes, Hazo Southern hymn and one that touched deeply when you hear the story, of 5 kids lost in short time in one school, Swearingen Let the spirit soar. You could think of it as sentimental, but the melodicism was anything but in the context. Another fave for me was Sheldon Choreography, which musically presents the various dance movements in contemporary theatre and ballet. The group sounded a treat and was led clearly and capably by Peter up front. A huge pleasure. Congrats on the last 30, and looking forward to the next.

Weston Winds presented its 30th anniversary concert under Peter Shaw (conductor, musical director).

26 August 2019

Berklee comes to town


Sheryl Bailey, NYC guitarist and professor at Berklee College in Boston, came to Canberra. She was playing with some Australian mates, Andrew Dickeson and Ashley Turner. It was a stunner of a concert, but not just that: there was a workshop, too. All open to the public and free. First up, the workshop. We had two student groups up to play a few tunes and get comments from all three performers. I certainly got lots from this session. Communication and dynamics; comping and listening; some generous commentary on drum matters, eg, on the swing inherent in traditional versus matched grip; two-feels and four; knowing the language / familiarity with the genre, playing along to recordings and learning how key players have dealt with tunes and grooves and chords; comping for guitar; groove as key ("no-one ever lost a gig from grooving too hard"); the importance of 3rds and 7ths while bass provides the root ("if you don't know the 3rds and 7ths you don't know the song". Sheryl displayed this brilliantly with a melody of phrasings leading to 3rds and 7ths); laying out, even sometimes on drums and, alternatively, keeping energy when playing quietly; transcribing rhythms, even if not voicings ("be provocative rhythmically"); 8th notes and the power of accents and learning by singing; a suggestion to get the Omnibook (referring to Charlie Parker) and learn Monk and Wayne Shorter; learn tunes; solos as melodies on harmonic form, not just chords and arpeggios. Also some stories: Jimmy Cobb said "we didn't care" about his trio playing behind Miles or others, implying the strength of the groove was what mattered; jazz is "not guitarist's music, it's horn players' music" so think fingerings, etc; practising by long application, eg, playing one tempo 1 hour pd for a week; record yourself; "isolate things you suck at and practice them" then integrate.
Then the concert. Nine tunes over 90 minutes, all standards, three by Monk (both Sheryl and Andrew had entered the Thelonious Monk competition). Wayne Kelly sat in for a blues towards the end. Some slower tunes, Lover man in 3/4, Isfahan, Panonica; two more Monks, Eronel, Epistrophy. Jobim How insensitive (I didn't know it was from a Chopin theme) and Invitation and You stepped out of a dream. Nothing too unusual or particularly out although there were dissonant harmonic colours at times, all stunningly sharp and interesting and skilled and fabulously expressed. That's what practice does, as it should. An eye-opener.

Sheryl Bailey (guitar) led a trio with Ashley Turner (bass) and Andrew Dickeson (drums) for a concert and workshop at the ANU School of Music Band Room.

25 August 2019

What we forget


We are relatively lucky, living in Canberra, the bush capital, relatively close to nature, but it's still something we miss or ignore or that passes us by. I realised it seeing some beautiful views of red soil, then gum bark projected at Wesley. We know it but forget it. It wasn't quite so 50-years ago, but we are more urbanised now. It surprised me. The event was a strange and informative session (hard to call it a concert) entitled Where song began featuring two mates I know from the Australian Haydn Ensemble, Anthony Albrecht and Simone Slattery, cello and violin. Both are exceptionally trained and musical; both have glorious tones and skills. In fact, I thought Anthony's Bach Prelude no.1 (from cello suite no.1) was the most intense rendition I have heard. And Simone hit me for six (it's Ashes time) with Schmelzer Cucu Sonata (1664) or was it David Lang Anthochaera carunculate (Red Wattle Bird) a new commission (2017); perhaps both. And she sung decently too, especially Ngarra Burra Ferra, an Indigenous hymn. But it was more. This was an exploration of Australian songbirds out of Tim Low's book, Where Song Began : Australia's Birds and How They Changed the World, and further afield, a broader touch on the environment. There was science and species and nature melded with music and performance all in low light and flittering feathers. More than just a concert. I'm still processing it and I learnt quite a bit but mostly I just learnt our distance from nature these days. The end-times of climate are enough to confirm that. I should have known.

Simone Slattery (violin, vocals) and Anthony Albrecht (cello) presented Where song began at Wesley. And thanks to Anthony and Simone for the use of the pic.

24 August 2019

Visits


My organ tour continues through the churches of the ACT. This one was the Canberra Baptist Church, Kingston, near Manuka Pool and Oval. It's an old church (1929, old for Canberra) and claims to have had an organ since its inception. The current organ was built 1958 by JP Eagles and subsequently restored. It's none too decorated, with pipes exposed but the sound was attractive. Bill Fraser played a varied program: Thiman, Bach, Mendelssohn, Ireland, Wolstenholme and father Lloyd Webber. Interestingly, he noted the Bach may be a ring-in, as his name was given to the works of some others (this was his Fantasia with imitation Bmin) and it did sound a different Bach. The Lloyd Webber was the father of the famous LWs (Andrew and Julian) and was an organist and composer. Otherwise, perhaps the Mendelssohn fugue was my favourite. These monthly concerts from the RSCM (ACT) [=Royal School of Church Music ACT Branch] are nice lunchtime outings if you get a chance.

Bill Fraser (organ) performed at the Canberra Baptist Church for the Royal School of Church Music, ACT Branch.

23 August 2019

Clavicytheria and more


The clavicytherium was sitting on the edge of the stage and featured between tunes, but the real star of the day was Pierre Gillier Livres d'airs et de simplonies mélez de quelques fragmens d'opera. Sarahlouise, Lauren and Ariana gathered to perform this recently recovered collection of songs from the French baroque era (1697), This is a work of history by local academic Kathleen Gerrard who unearthed the manuscript in the vaults of the Versailles music library and has recently published the definitive text. Gillier was a student of Lully, and here produced a string of works of amusement to the aristocracy or perhaps the developing bourgeoisie, rich in stories of love and animals and references to classical mythology. It's all rather out of time for us, but fascinating and pleasurable and laugh-inducing at times with the accompanying translated texts. The trio did it great justice, Sarahlouise emoting as only a singer does; Ariana hard at work throughout but gentle on the soft harpsichord; Lauren sitting out the songs but taking book-ending and intervening pieces with her baroque bow and easy gamboling cadence. And Ariana intervened at one stage to introduce this new Wesley instrument, the clavicytherium: an old and now rare instrument, recreated in this copy, luscious with its carvings on the subject of St George and playing somewhat like a harpsichord, strings plucked. It's missing some strings and even that replacement is a slow task, but maybe we can expect a Wesley outing sometime. A lovely historical but intellectually-informed concert.

Sarahlouise Owens (soprano), Lauren David (violin) and Ariana Odermatt (harpsichord) performed Gillier and Rameau at Wesley. The Gillier was recently un-earthed from Versaille and published in a definitive edition by Kathleen Gerrard.

22 August 2019

The show goes on


The continuing story of basses. This time it was a run to Sydney and Bresques Basses. BB is Matthew Tucker in Marrickville. He shares the workshop with Dave Ellis of Homebass. So, a good opportunity to chat bass, talk bass, indulge. So it was, but this was serious business. I worried about a possible sagging top under one bridge foot. In the end, no problem there and a few other jobs done for a significantly louder and firmer sounding bass if a little weightier. The weather was good and this town seemed so much better out of a car and those hours wiled in Marrickville Road saved a return trip so I arrived home, 12 hours after setting out, happy and expectant of next practice. Bring it on.

Matthew Tucker is Bresque Basses, luthier in Marrickville. Dave Ellis of Homebass shares the workshop. Thanks to Matthew for the pic.

19 August 2019

Brinda's best

>br> Brindabella was a different orchestra this time. I haven't played with them for a few years, but sat in for Geoff who was away for a while and then did the concert. The program was satisfying (starting with Mozart and working though Mascagni, Humperdinck, Saint-Saens, Holst and a few pop favourites, Ketelbey and Vangelis). We had a few members of NCO and Woden Winds filling out some positions. We had a decent room with space and the noisy aircon was mercifully turned off for the concert. I loved to start with Mozart Marriage of Figaro overture with its pleasures and quick runs. From the top I noticed that Brinda was playing satisfyingly tight. Craig Johnson, ex-head of Army Band, was up front. He was generous and pleasant in rehearsals, but had a good ear for advice and drilling and some effective exercises in intonation and harmony that did good. I always expect to play right on the night, and we displayed this here: much better than rehearsals. And the Elephant! We played selections from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals and the Elephant was our bass-end feature. It was accompanied by an amusing narration from seriously well-voiced Mike Goodman. Overall a great pleasure and the best I've ever heard from Brinda. Congratulations!


Brindabella Orchestra performed at Weston Community Centre under Craig Johnson (conductor). Mike Goodman (narration) introduced the menagerie movements in Carnival of theAnimals. The low end was provided by Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza (basses).

18 August 2019

Sounding arty


That was fun! Tilt went into the ArtSound studio to record for Friday Night Live with Chris Deacon. We played mostly originals, but also a few standards. This is a thrill. The sound is tight and clear, the piano is a gem (Yamaha C6 in great condition) and it was quiet despite footy on Manuka oval next door. Suffice to say, this is the real deal, decked out for sound, provided with some serious gear (Neumann, Rode into Yamaha digital and dreamy studio monitors). We just heard a first take but it's a thrill to hear yourself thus. Maybe my bass really does sound so good? FNL is broadcast Fridays 8-10pm. Expect to hear Tilt Trio in 3/4 weeks, but tune in regardless. A few fluffs, yes, but that's part of a faithful record. And FNL itself is a fabulous record of current and historical music from at gigs or studio. Thanks again to Chris.

Tilt Trio pre-recorded a Friday Night Live session at ArtSound with Chris Deacon recording. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

15 August 2019

Clarkey


Clarkey is for Rebecca Clarke, viola player and composer, born in Harrow, England, trained at the RSM and RAM and one of the first female professional orchestral players. Alina Zamfir and Ella Luhtassaari performed Rebecca's Sonata for viola and piano at Wesley and it was a seriously fascinating piece, variously impetuous, pensive, rife with demanding techniques, impressionist and romantic. They also played Ernst Bloch, oddly confused with RC as a woman composer wasn't thought capable of writing this Sonata, and Frank Bridge. Alina is here with the CSO in an inaugural Kingsland Residency. Both she and Ella are eminently well trained in Australia and OS so serious playing. The music was, too: nothing here for the fainthearted. This was technically challenging. I particularly noticed quick, breathing crescendos and de-cs, but there was plenty more for both instruments and they carried it off with ease and a serious level of concentration. Thanks to Alina and Ella for the concert but also for the introduction to some very satisfying works for the viola.

Alina Zamfir (viola) and Ella Luhtasaari (piano) performed Clarke, Bloch and Bridge at Wesley.

14 August 2019

Adelaide

I was off to Adelaide for a few days; a family visit so little expectation of music. Except these. The Pulse played at the 70th anniversary ball of the SA Italian Association. The picture shows most of the band but not the keyboardist who was off to the side. A nice, lively dance band playing Italian, light jazz, bossas and the like. Tight and obviously enjoying their outing. Then a quick visit to Port Adelaide for some Sunday afternoon jazz with the Eric Marshall Quintet. They advertised as Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and the like, so inviting to my Mum and fairly popular and with vocals. The sax was nicely lithe, the bass had a really decent tone, vocals/guitar/leader Eric had some funny jokes to fill time. Not the latest of contemporary jazz, not the best attended gig, but perfectly satisfying with a few beers. We passed the Entertainment Centre (10k seats?). Perhaps the audience was at Hugh Jackman's song and dance spectacular that was on there. Certainly the lines were long.

The Pulse played for the SAIA. Eric Marshall (guitar, vocals) led his quintet comprising Steve King (tenor, clarinet), Stewart Nevin (piano), Brian Gray (bass) and Terry Griffin (drums) at the Newmarket Hotel, Port Adelaide. Hugh Jackman was playing at the Entertainment Centre.

5 August 2019

Lenny's last (for now)

NCO played its concert at Llewellyn Hall and it was Lenny Weiss's last concert before he treks to Baltimore to study with Marin Alsop. He'll be missed, but it's a great and necessary step and CJ can only wish Lenny well. That was essentially the message from NCO, too, last night when he was farewelled. But he'll be back, even if only next year in the northern summer break to conduct a few concerts. This concert was one that Lenny had hoped for for some time. It was only finally agreed by the NCO Committee at this late stage because it was a big challenge, more-so given the time taken during recent rehearsals to test for new conductors. Berlioz Harold in Italy was massively twisty and varied. Lucy Carrigy-Ryan soloed the viola part and was a dream. The work is real challenge that the orchestra pulled off with surprising ease on the night, although that various sections took advantage of some shared responsibilities for some particularly tricky lines. It's common amongst basses, to share the quicker lines with the more lithe cellos. I noticed the brass was particularly effective some times when I was struggling. It's a communal effort and NCO carried it off with aplomb. Also a world premiere, Dante Clavijo Images of obsession 0236, that played with intervals of 2,3,6 semitones through various inversions and the like; sparse, slow, varying harmonies in an intellectual carapace. And Respighi Pines of Rome. As an ex-Roman myself (3 years in my 20s), I could only look forward to this one, eventually enjoying the various roles allocated to various parks I've visited, Gianicolo, Catacombs, Villa Borghese and the stomping military march of the Via Appia. Interesting imagery.

National Capital Orchestra performed at Llewellyn Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor). Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola) soloed in Berlioz. Dante Clavijo (composer) provided the world premier piece for the night. The low end comprised Roger Grime, Geoff Prime, Lizzy Collier and Eric Pozza (basses).

4 August 2019

For starters

Tilt Trio played a lengthy gig at M16 ArtSpace. I was amused by a younger player recently querying a gig of 3 or 3.5 hours. Dave and I weren't fazed: we remember 4-hour gigs as standard. Those were the days... This was for the M16 gallery and artists' workshops open day, when the public can wander through the artist workshops, meet with the artists and discuss their works. We managed little other than playing although I did chat to one artist about painting beetles and attended a part of a session on perspective. This was our third annual outing at M16 and it's always a pleasure, but I was wary that this 4 hours of jazz preceded 1.5 hours of classical that night at Llewellyn. That's a day to dread and prospect and to enjoy in retrospect. Writing now, the day after, I'm quietly pleased. And the fact that I was using a new and satisfyingly mighty amp just adds to the pleasure. I took no pics so, to satisfy copyright, I've used this lovely public domain image, Francesco Botticini Head of the Virgin, from WikiCommons. It's art so close enough and it's drop-dead skillful and beautiful.

Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass). Tilt played for the M16 Open day.