06 December 2021

A return for Christmas

It was a rushed affair but not too difficult to pick up and with some inviting music.  Celeste asked me to sit in with Brindabella Orchestra for their end of year, Christmas concert.  I managed just two (?) practices and spent the week before in Melbourne but I managed to get through.  And, at its best, the music was delightful.  We did a few movements of Vaughan Williams songs (more stodgy than delightful, but that's the English style).  Sibelius Andante festivo was lovely, as was a Sound of Music suite.  Libertango was a blast but that's pretty much inevitable.  We also did a string of Christmas carols and a suite of them.  Those were all performed by orchestra or strings alone.  The winds and brass and percussion did an Abba medley and a swing piece.  We were preceded by the professionals, our conductor led his Grevillea String Quartet playing Haydn Lark quartet and a collection of tunes from the Nutcracker suite.  The quartet was classy, nicely intoned, sharply interactive and the rest.  Nice.  And they sat in with the orchestra for our performance.  I melted over some of the melodies, not least Sound of Music.  Surely not, but yes.  Is it a function of age, or maybe just a realisation of the beauty of good melody, think Richard Rodgers and Abba and Beatles and the like.  So, a first concert since April and very pleasant at that.

Grevillea String Quartet performed Haydn and Tchaikovsky.  GW comprise Shilong Ye and Matthew Witney (violins), Julia Clancy (viola) and Samuel Payne (cello).  Brindabella Orchestra was conducted by Shilong Ye.

02 December 2021

Belinda’s choices

We’re in Melbourne and my online trawl of the jazz clubs showed Niels Rosendahl was playing at Paris Cat. Niels' a friend of CJ and singing would be popular so we chose this gig, Belinda Parsons Beetet. In the end, Niels wasn’t playing but it was a great choice. I could tell from the first bars, with a groove set and then a wash of trom-tenor and three glorious female voices in perfect harmony and always that insistent beat. We’d struck a winner. That was jazz in that broad sense, of training and skills and precision applied to all manner of contemporary music. I recalled ‘60s/70s R&B or soul given those harmonies and grooves and horns, but there was pop and jazz feels and odd times and unison lines and solos, of course, even if one was likened by a mate to Pink Floyd. And the original tunes, virtually all written and arranged by Belinda (only one using her husband’s harmonies) with touching themes, of lost lovers and departed friends. I bought the album so lyrics will be an interest. So there was humanity here. And then I started hearing names for the Melbourne scene for faces I didn’t easily recognise. First up, Fem Belling and Nina Ferro. No wonder the harmonies were sweet! Then that fabulous bass. Philip Rex. Ah, yes, I knew that face after all. From a fellow bassist, I was floored, but hardly unexpected. And that drummer. Ryan Menezes was tack sharp, steady but driving, fluid but also powerful in repetition. A masterclass. An early solo just confirmed that. Delicious. No keys, but funky chordal guitar with solos that milked reverb and loops and the like, that Pink Floyd effect, and very insinuating. And those two horns, Jordan and Ron, sweet and arranged, filling spaces and echoing emotions and then telling true solos, although it was their ensemble work that got to me. Than back to Belinda herself. She was in her element, pleasing and personal but also profound at times. A firm voice, sometimes letting go into the clouds as in soul divas, spelling arranged lines with horns or singing a ballad with a smaller band and a big heart. This wasn’t the album launch, but almost. The tracks were pretty much in order but the relaxation was evident and spoken of. They were celebrating the return from Melbourne lockdowns, too. This was in the fabric-hung lower room at Paris cat, with jazz images on the ceiling. The audience was intimate (for this read small) and the atmosphere was relaxed, and I think of the chops and training on stage and the immense pleasure of it all and the commitment needed for the art. Let’s put the numbers down to a preceding thunderstorm. Numbers were small but in no way was the music. It was capable and original and purposeful, as music should be. Have a listen and maybe download a copy. Belinda Parsons Beetet is on Bandcamp and the other streaming sites. Loved it.

Belinda Parsons (vocals, compositions / arrangements) led her Beetet at Paris Cat. They performed tracks from her album Choices we make. Beetet were Belinda with Nina Ferro and Fem Belling (background vocals), Jordan Murray (trombone), Rob Romero (tenor), Gillian Gregory (guitar), Philip Rex (bass) and Ryan Menezes (drums).

30 November 2021

Shopping

It’s not a museum or a concert but I was out shopping in Melbourne. I’m not a great shopper but this was enjoyable and the goods were second hand. First up was BC Galleries, a shop selling antiquities from Egypt, Athens, Rome, through middle East and Far East and into the Pacific. My particular fondness is for the European but that’s my background. I can also long for a Netsuke or Hindu divinity. Then Armadale Antiques, a classy and impressive collection of antiques for sale, plenty of china and figurines and pretty or playful indulgences. Well, not shopping but rather window shopping, because I didn’t buy anything. But the visits were fascinating. Genuine old, meaning from 4KBCE and the like through to lovely Lalique and more recent comelies. We have some decent museums in Canberra but these shops are not matched that I know of. But then, I remember an antiquities shop outside the British Library which was a cut above again. It’s a pleasure to dream.

BC Galleries (antiquities) and Armadale Antique Centre are in Melbourne.

26 November 2021

Early Advent

Maybe it was the War or maybe the depression but St Andrews was never finished.  It lacks its dome and nave but it's big and impressive, has lovely detailed timberwork and deco-gothic stonework and stained glass and bells (Ellacombe chimes) and a grand organ.  This was one of the concerts of the Royal Society of Church Music (ACT Branch) and I went to hear the organ and we got a few choral numbers and generally a happy program of Advent/Christmas music.  Nice stuff.  The organ was grand, but didn't sound quite so big in such a large space and it was off in one transcept with a decorative facade to the west with smaller pipes and a cloth-covered facade to the east with the big pipes and the swell.  We heard some quite dainty sounds but the big, deep ones arrived and they are always a pleasure.  The choir sang several tunes which I didn't recognise but there were some obvious ones towards the end, especially taken from Handel or old melodies.  Nice stuff in an impressive location that's awaiting completion.

Beth Cathcart (organ) performed with a reduced St Andrew's Choir (8 soprano/alto, 1 tenor) at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Forrest.

25 November 2021

Calling Gabriel

The Bach was instantly recognisable and so was the Morricone.  Not so the Saint-Saens.  A wonderful program, but more than that.  This was a wonderfully performed outing.  I was touched by the effective interplay of violin and oboe, and the softer harp replacing the harpsichord.  Presumably, that's the original, at least for the Bach.  I was enamoured.  Poor Zoe was working between movements to keep her oboe clear and effective.  She succeeded.  This was a beautiful, sinuous tone throughout.  And Lucy's bowing was a great joy, slinky movements but rich tone and a lovely reading, moving in and out with Zoe on the Bach, or just stating with immense clarity on SS.  Rowan's part was different, being harp not keyboard, and less percussive, but always relevant, providing melody but also interesting choices in arrangement.  There was a real interplay between all three.  The SS was just two, Lucy and Rowan, who share a house so presumably play together lots.  Amusingly, their other house share buddy didn't come to the performance; she'd heard it all many, many times.  (Sounds like Megan with my recordings: I understand).  Have I been clear on how impressed I was?  This was a series of wonderful interpretations, at times blissful.  Zoe was a little dismissive of Morricone Gabriel's Oboe, but I'm a big believer in connecting thorough music that people know.  Once connected, people have open ears for new stuff.  And it's an infectious melody.  And the Bach (BWV1060, mvt.III) was a  Philip Adams LNL theme, so also already in many ears.  The SS was rare but just so good.  So in all, I was entranced.  Fabulous concert.

Lucy Macourt (violin), Zoe Loxley Slump (oboe) and Rowan Phemister (harp) performed Bach, Saint-Saens and Morricone at Wesley.

21 November 2021

Telling on our times

It's not a good time these days, with Covid and climate and government so maybe that's why I didn't get so many belly-laughs at the latest Wharf Revue.  Yeah, they were funny and I did laugh outright at the skit on Jacquie Lambie.  The swearing helps with its shock value, of course, not that that was the only skit with swearing.  But I also warm to Jacquie: a rough jewel but she speaks truth and owns up to mistakes.  Not so our PM or the party in general.  Not so much some of our media.  Murdoch got a run with Mephistopheles in a skit on selling souls, but, if I caught the humour right, it was a turnaround with Murdoch doing the selling and Satan the buyer.  An interesting twist.  My heart sank with a big skit on housing with Dorothy as a hopeful home-seeker and the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion as various real estate people and, interesting, the Wizard as Philip Lowe, head of the Reserve Bank.  The ScoMo skit was meagre like the man and Albo didn't even get a skit.  That says something.  His one appearance was as a potential planetary saviour as seen by despairing aliens: one pic on a screen, that's all.  There was a decent Trump skit; a big cabaret number by Michaelia Cash; Barnaby Joyce showing three others through his man (coal) cave; a Kublai Khan rehash for Xi Jinping; an impressive Armenian song, with balalaika, for Gladys B; some ex-PMs, Rudd and Howard; Pauline Hanson, of course.  So on for 90 mins.  All somewhat sad and pretty telling of our country at present.  The response, too, was indicative: supportive but not overwhelmed.  I only noticed one standing ovation.  Nonetheless, good on the Wharf Revue and shame on our politics.  Pretty costly though, but that I can understand: artists don't sell furniture.

The Wharf Revue 2021 was entitled Can of worms.  The WR is created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott and Mandy Bishop joins them in performance.

  • Thanks to the WR for the use of their banner.  I trust they won't mind.

18 November 2021

Just what is that fingering

I love piano and the last few concerts have been solo piano and there was a piano for this concert, but the feature instrument was clarinet.  Not an instrument I hear too often, for jazz or classical, at least not outside an orchestral setting.  This was interesting.  Helena is a recent graduate from Elder Con in Adelaide and she was accompanied by Lucus, an ANUSOM graduate from a few years back.  The clarinet was clear in this context, woody, earthy.  I was close and could see the fingering and that was slick and very fast with lots of long scalar runs.  I believe the fingering doesn't repeat on the octave, but I'd have to investigate.  It's a difficult instrument not least for clear and reliable tone but Helena did well.  And she didn't select her music to get an easy pass.  The selections of Weber, Louis Cahuzac and Saint-Saens were all challenging.  The Cahuzac was Arlequin and it was a solo clarinet piece.  I was just blown over by the speed.  I could see Helena take a breathe quite often.  Lucus was different, of course, reading capably, straight backed, eyes lifting when a phrase will be led, the model of accompaniment, no breathing issues here other than to remain calm.  So a fresh sound and a virtuosic outing.  Great stuff.

Helena Mayer (clarinet) was accompanied by Lucus Allerton (piano) on Weber and Saint-Saens and played solo on Cahuzac at Wesley.

16 November 2021

Delta VI

The final MusicACT Delta Session was Genesis Owusu and Citizen Kay presented by UC Live.  Genesis opened with nice steady, driving grooves with rap above.  Unison lines with some lyrics and those sung not spoken.  Music moving in and out, suddenly, voice moving through  "Wait / Could this be true / I don't need you, don't need you / Aaah / could this be true / I don't like you / don't like you"  Then stop.  Into another music groove, another performer, Citizen Kay, slipping winds, "Yeah" into deep bass groove and rap.  Nice stuff, strong, firm, steady, rhythmic.  Spoken word verses then sung choruses, four steady chords, varied dynamics, as is this style, some unison bass and something higher pitched, flute or whatever, then space, rest, decay.  "I'm saying who are you / who are you to tell me what to do / I'm saying, I'm pulling through / I'm looking through the bullshit that you say" (did I get it all?)  And wow, a wonderful jazz sax solo, perhaps sampled?  I liked this performance.

Genesis Owusu (vocals, production?) and Citizen Kay (vocals, production?) appeared on the final Delta Session of UC Live.

14 November 2021

The priest and the others

Twice delayed by Covid but finally it arrived.  This was Phoenix Collective as a trio: Dan on violin with the local pairing of Clara on cello and James on harpsichord.  Dan noted they were local baroque exponents (from Limestone, CBE and more) and they were a nice fit for a program of baroque favourites.  It was a change from the normal quartet given Covid.  And what a satisfying program it was!  It was entitled The priest, the intellect, the eccentric and the pirate.  The main composers were four (Vivaldi, Bach, Biber, Pandolfi) with interesting introductions from Dan.  Corelli appeared at the end, probably as an encore (although a generous one with 22 variations on La follia).  Not sure where he fit in those personifications.  Very good playing, too, although there were some issues with balance.  Dan is a pleasantly flashy and entertaining and inventive player and the Corelli and Biber showed this off wonderfully.  Clara was certain and reliable and very present but introspective and the music didn't always demand so much of her, lots of long notes, but a few lines in Bach blew me out, so quick and sharp.  Sadly, maybe from my location or acoustics or just the instrument itself, I didn't catch most of James, except a generous solo passage in the Bach which was lovely.  So the mix was sadly problematic but a great collection of tunes and some capable playing.  I'm charmed nonetheless.

Dan Russell (violin) led the alt. Phoenix Collective, this time with guest Canberra musicians, Clara Teniswood (cello) and James Porteous (harpsichord).

12 November 2021

One (or four) to remember

The Schubert impromptus are renowned but I didn't really know them.  Mark Jurkiewicz played the first four (apparently there are eight) them from memory on Wednesday at Wesley.  It was an impressive performance.  He's been entranced by them since first hearing them so I guess they are central to his musical life.  Certainly, they sounded well imbibed and much loved.  They are not really movements, so the audience clapping is maybe to be expected, but it obviously wasn't something Mark expected; he stood and bowed but the breaks were short.  This was a solid performance, a stolid application, an impressive memory and an honest interpretation with real history.  Hugely impressive all round.  Hope to hear the other four next year.

Mark Jurkiewicz (piano) performed Schubert Four impromptus D.935 op.142 at Wesley.

11 November 2021

Picking dates

I like to choose a release date with some significance.  The first were trivial: New Years Day and Easter Sunday.  I also got a family birthday in there, and I just missed the anniversary of the start of the Occupy Wall Street.  My latest album is a playful pomo classical outing, again by The Pots (appearing as The Potsherds), called Play midi for me.  It's a mix of midi instruments and samples and classical and pop and jazz.  A bit of fun, really, and a change from my political and climate rants.  And the release date is 11 Nov, the date of ... the hanging of Ned Kelly.  I thought that fitted my purposes, although I could have chosen some other event that occurred on this date.  Not to demean that event, especially not the deaths of so many Australians (or then British citizens?) and others in someone else's war.  After all, there has been some change.  We now go to wars for a different country.  But, remember, this is an album with no rants.  Have a listen to Track 1 Pergolesi if nothing else.  Fun to create and hopefully fun to hear.

Play midi for me / The Pots (appearing as the Potsherds) is the fifth album by The Pots. Have a listen on these or other streaming sites:

10 November 2021

Wonders

It's not just work from home with Covid, but also concert from home.  The Net is an embarrassment of riches.  Nothing new there and it's great to hear the locals, but the world is also waiting.  Streams, live, historical, etc.  I've been taken in recent days by an wonderful concert with Jack Dejohnette, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and Dave Holland from 1990.  Wow!  Then I stumbled on Dan Tepfer doing one of his online duets this morning.  I just heard the end, a few tunes, one free improv.  Just stunning.  We've seen him here, at Smiths, at the Fitters Workshop, even at Mt Stromlo, for the mostly-classical Canberra International Music Festival.  He has an advanced degree in astrophysics, as I remember, so a mind for the tech, too.  The advanced astronomy students I've known have all been capable coders.  He's been working to make online group playing easier, with JackTrip and Farplay.  This is a seriously interesting musician.  Serious in that admirable NYC way.  Wow, what magic is this?  And for the musos, check out JackTrip and Farplay.

Dan Tepfer (piano) performed a livestream duet with Hermon Mehari (trumpet).

 

09 November 2021

Delta V

This week, Smiths Alternative and MusicACT presents Rebecca Mann and Small Town Alien, introduced by out host, Nigel.  Again, Rebecca is a singer-songwriter with strummy steel-strung guitar and nice voice and personal stories.  First up, Operate, from her recent live EP.  "I told them, that I'll not operate that way / I told them / I may change another day".  Then Faith, from the EP and also released before as a single.  It's one of her faves.  "I play cards with the Devil as he reached over my head /// You're so full of sorrow / we've both been suffering / Don't you tell me, darling / that you are losing faith / I'll tell you that / I believe in something / but it's not written down / anyway."  Personal stuff.  Then Small Town Alien, from his upcoming album.  First up, the King of Canberra; totally fictional!  About a public servant concerned about the "listening agency".  "I work in Woden / at the Dept of Expression / I'm not Ed Snowden / nor ... / 'cos the agency is listening / always listening ... Call me the King of Canberra / call me the King / it don't mean a thing".  Then into a little rap; funny. "I don't know if this song is anthemic / but I need it to distract from the pandemic".  Cool line and a interesting structure!  Then Heartbreak forever for the hopeless romantics, perhaps entitled Love kills.  "Too ... / Let's walk into heartbreak together / forever and ever / too rich, too poor / too...".  This guy is strummy and purposely nasal (I can talk?) but interesting in music and themes.  The name alone suggests a performance and a character and we get it.  I'm enjoying this.  Short snippets from a series of performers that I've mostly heard of but not heard.  Not always my scene, but always good to be aware of what's around.

Rebecca Mann (guitar, vocals) and Small Town Alien (guitar, vocals) performed for the Delta series.

04 November 2021

Honesty and French revelations

France is in the news recently, as is Covid, so a first Wesley post-lockdown concert of French piano music seemed so apt.  Stuart Long was playing solo piano on Poulenc, Satie, Ibert, Debussy and Chaminade and he's an Aussie and no liar so this was a wonderfully expressive outing and an eye/ear-opener for me.  I hadn't heard a whole concert of French music before, so it suddenly took on a new sense of investigation, playfulness, lightness, modernity with tradition.  So it was an education.  Now this fascinates me.  I've visited Paris and travelled in France, but my Australian experience is subtly coloured (by Anglo/Franco history, Henry IV Pt.1, French/US revolutions, Italo/Franco variations) and I always feel this is not a culture I really know.  So this was quite a revelation.  Stuart did a great job and has obvious love and respect for this music, treating it with gentleness and intimacy.  And being a return concert, this was doubly significant.  Too bad about our Pants on fire bad manners of late.  But nothing unexpected there.

Stuart Long (piano) played French music at Wesley.

03 November 2021

Canberra Cosmo Capital?

CJ's Belgian correspondent reporting.  Seeing we cannot experience the music scene in Belgium this year the next best thing was to check out what is happening locally.  Smiths Alternative has kicked off with an outdoor Spring series starting last weekend to help us all get out of the COVID lockdown blues.  The series is held under the new marquee on the pavement and can cater for 90 people under the current rules, no mask wearing, except when going inside.  Drinks and food however can be ordered from the window. Each session only costs $10 so inexpensive entertainment.  The series started on Saturday with The Burley Griffin. We only caught the last song as we were wandering around Civic from elsewhere, a great local band.  Decided to come again on Sunday to see the Brass Knuckle Band.  Now I must admit I can never keep up with who are the members of this group.  At least I did recognise Tom Fell on sax, what bands doesn’t he play in?  A great afternoon of music in the balmy weather.  A few tunes recognised but I blame the ales for not remembering them now.  Thanks Smiths and the musicians for helping us to open up again.

Pic and text by Neal Gowan

PPS / Ed.  It seems that the Smith's Spring series is now cancelled due to noise complaints ... for a quiet, early Saturday afternoon gig (2-4pm) of an unamplified New Orleans-style brass band.  Well, brass is noisy, but it's fun.  So much for Canberra Cosmopolitan Capital.  See the Facebook comments below.  Oh well, oh well, oh well.  Thanks Neal, even if it's a sad story to tell.  Not the first of those in CJ over the years.

PPS2 / Ed.  Rethink!  Well the series seems to be still on.  Probably inside.  Canberra reigns supreme ... sort of.  Good on ya, Smiths, Nigel, Beth.  Check out the Smiths Alt. Calendar online for the Spring Series.