31 March 2012

Reminder: turn your mobiles on

It was a thoughtful gesture. Conductor Nicholas Milton reminded the audience, before the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of its annual series, to turn on their mobiles after the concert. Effective and wry. This is family, I thought, and we’re part, if only second cousins. Second cousins because we don’t attend every event, but like a family picnic, we enjoy it immensely when we get there. It’s a generous wing of the family that puts on this event. This concert had an overture (Beethoven’s Egmont overture), a concerto (Beethoven’s Piano concerto no. 3 in C minor Op.37) and a symphony (Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony No 6 in B minor Op.74). It’s like having a lamb spit and endless grog laid on. And the cousins all came along to this one. They are performing this concert on two nights but attendance was such that the Llewellyn had opened the dress circle.

It’s not a big orchestra, but the volume was loud enough when it needed to be. I thought the strings were a bit quiet against the rest but I actually enjoyed this: the flutes and bassoons and the rest were unusually clear in intent and tone, and the brass once had me jumping from my seat. The funding for our local orchestra is none too generous, so I can understand the limits on size. But I felt they did a grand job with these works. It was a popular program and I guessed not too tortuous, but they sounded great: fine time, fine intonation, fine interpretation. I found it impressive and eminently entertaining. The audience clapped between movements a few times, but I quite like that (clapping only at the end is a 20th century affectation). I like it when people express their involvement and it spurs on the performers. Nicholas dealt with cheers after the third movement of the Tchaikovsky really well. I think they were chuffed but the orchestra segued smoothly into the final movement with considerable ease and good will.

As for the music, that was great. Beethoven is passionate, but more importantly, he seems so unforced to my ears. I never feel he’s thrown ideas together; everything melds one line to another. It’s obvious why he’s so admired. The Egmont was loud and impressive and bombastic from the start. (As PlayerOfPiano says in a comment on YouTube: “Forget Metallica, Beethoven invented headbanging”). The 3rd piano concerto was satisfying, even if I sometimes lost detail in the piano lines. But all the flourishes of piano and the tonal contrast of a concerto are a pleasure. Gerard Willems was the pianist and he played it with ease, presumably as an old friend. And I’m liking the romantics more. Tchaikovsky was not so inevitable in composition as Beethoven, but I enjoyed numerous passages. The famous line in the first movement, of course, but also the waltz-like feel played strangely in 5/4 in the second movement that was sometimes dance-like, other times syncopated and a devil to count, the power and excitement of the penultimate movement and the forlorn feels throughout and especially in the final movement.

Lovely. I can only leave with a refreshing joy. Our local CSO is a little gem. The Canberra Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor Opus 37 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6 in B minor (Pathetique) as the first concert of its 2012 season at the Llewelly Hall with Nicholas Milton (conductor) and Gerard Willems (piano).

29 March 2012

Calm amongst frenzy

It was a big guitar night in Canberra, and I guess most guitarists were at the Satriani/Vai/Lukather gig. I love screaming guitars but I didn’t think my ears could take the onslaught or my mind the endless rock repetition, but I didn’t miss out on the guitar front with Song Fwaa. They were playing to a much smaller audience at the Loft, but I dare say the level of musical intellect could have been higher. This is not your standard jazz. My ear was first taken by David Reaston on an electric classical, (nylon-strung) guitar, a slab with wings and presumably a piezo pickup. It had an unusual amplified sound, a woody tone with lots of attack, made more unusual with various effects including an otherwordly Moog. He played with pick or with classical technique and a few times with e-bass style, but I was most taken by the rich chording, the concurrent bass and treble lines interspersed with chords, the ascending exercise-like arpeggios with extensions over the full neck (not easy!), and some oddly inventive ostinato lines that took a bass role. This was not jazzy, although structured often like jazz and with improvisation, but more classical in sensibility and instrumentation. I was later informed that he’d studied jazz then classical guitar and composition and it didn’t surprise at all. This was great technique and a very different sensibility and some very complex and intricate compositions.

I was also watching Jamie Cameron on drums. This is a bass-less band, and I noticed again the prominence of the thuddy kick drum at the bottom end. But also the open eyes that Jamie had for the others, and the way he followed and spoke in unison with both David and Martin Kay on alto sax, sometimes to state some contorted melody, sometimes to slap in unison, sometimes launching into a solo against a band ostinato (on the final tune - some things never change), sometimes just deliciously feeding off a solo. Lovely drumming that spoke the tunes rather than laying out a groove, and drumming of considerable dynamic range of loud slapped toms or open spaces.

It was only at the end that I moved my attention to Martin on alto. He’d introduced the tunes with a literate angular wit that had us all chuckling. (I never saw the Fantastic Terrific Munkle, one of his earlier projects, but I’d heard the CD and I’d enjoyed their humour and iconoclasm immensely). His alto was again not jazz-trained. The lines were often scalar snippets moved modally or through keys, fast and accurately formed with skilled technique, coloured with breaths and key slaps and the like. His training, too, was classical and it was evident in his conception and performance.

How else did the band show classical training? Intricate compositions and good reading and references to Ligeti and Cage. A series of tunes were called Tacit studies. They were highly truncated snippets of melody that the band read and played in unison - stunning for long silences and intense, rapid-fire fills. Ligeti made an appearance with his goat. There were a series of extended epic settings of tragic, heroic animal stories: Ligeti’s goat taken into space by Haile Salassie and returned to Earth; the happy song of recovered polar bear (until he was shot); the seven times cloned animal interpreted as loops. There were two covers, too, one of Scott Joplin’s Maple leaf rag and another of Tina Turner’s What’s love got to do with it, but the interpretations were very well coloured and disguised. John Cage made his appearance in Cage the Gaoler that responded to conservative reaction to Cage’s music. Whether these were all stories on the night or not, I don’t know, but this was ironic and fun as well as being musically challenging and inventive. I liked it, I wondered on it, I revelled in the technical skills, but I could well imagine it to be too demanding for some who might not return for a second set.

Song Fwaa (=Sangue froid, Fr. Cold blooded) comprise Martin Kay (alto sax), David Reaston (guitar) and Jamie Cameron (drums). They played at the Loft.

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
  • 26 March 2012

    Announcing a virgin birth

    It’s coming on to Easter and there are choral concerts a plenty. This one was Igitur nos performing music on the Annunciation. In these post-religious times I should explain. The Annunciation is the announcement by angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God, third person of the Trinity, by a virgin birth. It’s a strange story when you think on it (and who’d believe it from a teenaged daughter?), but thems were different times. This is the music of believers, from an era when all believed and shared a common belief, a time when they built monuments to this belief, the great cathedrals (and the sanctification of god-given monarchical power). And despite this being music of deep belief, it was also the business of the time: glorious, otherworldly, heart rending music fit for European stone and reverberant spaces that people earned their living from. Despite the all-too-human business of it, the sacred choral tradition is a thing of beauty even for non-believers.

    I loved this concert for the sounds of soaring soprano, the interplay of counterpoint, the malleable male voices, the beauty of a few intoned strings. Igitur Nos is a very capable group. There were some times I felt uncomfortable with intonation or harshness of voice or string, but I only mention this because they were so few. From the first powerful words of Gorecki’s Totus tuus through Byrd and Pergolesi and names lesser known to me, this was rich and symbolic and well performed. The feature works were selections from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Durante’s Magnificat. The Stabat Mater featured soprano Sarahlouise Owens and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Carmichael with mingling and interlaced voices singing the tragic loss of Mary at the cross. It’s beautiful but intensely sad. I particularly enjoyed the exaltation of the Magnificat. A friend of conductor Matthew Stuckings wished to use it for her wedding. I could understand. This was soaring, joyous, annimated music. Sarahlouise and Rebecca performed as a pair, as did Jonathan McFeat and Peter Laurence at other times. The Gorecki was a powerful and unexpected introduction of forte block chords for all voices then a wash of deeply emotional murmurings on a Marian theme. JS Bach made an appearance with the Sinfonia from Cantata BWV169 featuring a locally made chamber organ and chamber orchestra. This was typically flowing, jaunty melody and a total joy. Otherwise, there was Elizabethan and chants right up to modern. A wonderfully intimate program well performed in an apt environment of stone and timber. Soul stirring and much enjoyed.

    Igitur nos performed with a chamber orchestra and organ at All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie. Matthew Stuckings conducted. Featured singers were Sarahlouise Owens, Rebecca Carmichael, Jonathan McFeat and Peter Laurence. Terry Norman played the chamber organ constructed locally by Trevor Bunning and Roger Jones.

    25 March 2012

    From the pumpkin patch

    It’s a brave soul who will demean a gardener’s pumpkin patch, so it was quite an honour that the host had cleared it out for the band to have a spot to play. So was the story recounted. We were standing on cement; I think pumpkins have runners. Goss4 was playing a gig in a back yard in Yarralumla. It was a Garden Party and all were dressed appropriately. I wish I had pics of some of the women in flapper attire. It was a luscious and playful era and the 20/30-something dressers were dashing and attractive – men and women. It’s nice to see the generations. This was a 30th birthday and I reckon there were 4 generations present. The band dressed too, but we can only be so grand. Here’s a pic. Nice playing, though, and nice wine, nice company and surprisingly nice weather. Much enjoyed.

    Uke beauty!

    Text by Jason Lee; pics with permission by Stephen Taylor

    When the ukulele is mentioned, one does not immediately think of jazz. Perhaps George Formby and his 1940s British music hall stylings come to mind, a la 'When I'm Cleaning Windows'. Perhaps Tiny Tim's 'Tiptoe Through the Tulips' come to mind. Younger people might recall Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's 'What a Wonderful World'/'Over the Rainbow' medley, Train's 'Hey, Soul Sister', or the rash of YouTube covers of Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours' played on the ukulele. In this age of internet video, surely you would have come across Jake Shimabukuro's uke version of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'?

    But I'm getting off track. I am, after all, talking about jazz. In the ukulele's history, it does have a connection. The little chordophone's first boom period was the 1920s Jazz Age, when many of the Tin Pan Alley tunes of the American Songbook were written. Of course, many of these were "Hapa Haole" (half-white) tunes with pseudo-Hawaiian lyrics.

    Look, I'm getting off track again. Let's get back to talking about jazz. There have been a few players who have used the ukulele primarily to play jazz. Some names to mention are Lyle Ritz, Herb Ohta, Benny Chong and even Australia's own Azo Bell. Hmmm... I mentioned Benny Chong...

    A week ago, I came back from Melbourne after four nights of ukulele excess: The Melbourne Ukulele Festival. Among the many and varied acts of the festival, from all over the world, from all sorts of genres, one stood out head over heels for me: Benny Chong.

    He came on as the second last act of Saturday night, starting off with two pieces that he played solo. From the first note, one could sense a change in mood in the audience, with the "oohs" and "aahs" and stifled bits of applause, as Benny in his understated way brought out sound after sound after sound after amazing sound. This was not, by all means, a jazz audience, and they were frankly being blown away by what Benny was doing. When he started playing his ukulele in thumb position, in the manner of a bassist/cellist, the excitement in the room notched up another level... I've seen many ukulele players and he is the only one I know who plays in thumb position, pulling out intervals about two octaves wide. This was probably the first time many in the audience had experienced, rapid-fire chord-melodies, in extensions and substitutions waaaayyy beyond common triads; the first time they had their ears assaulted, nay treated, with live melodic sounds of the bebop, diminished, lydian dominant, diminished-whole-tone kind.

    Then he introduced the audience to bassist Ben Robertson. You dear reader, would probably know who Ben Robertson is, but I don't think many of the audience did. I certainly didn't. They proceeded to play through standards like 'The Nearness of You', 'My Romance', 'I Remember April' (with a quote from 'Tequila' for good measure), 'Cherokee' and 'Cheek to Cheek'. You talk about cranking the dial to eleven. This was to twenty and beyond. The night was about cutting one notch after another above what had just been cut a moment ago. As Ben and Benny traded solos, you could tell that they were really enjoying themselves and cooking. They audience was j**zing itself. I know I was. It was multiple audio orgasm for me. My non-jazz-fan mate sitting next to me was laughing at me, saying "Hey man! I've never seen you this excited before at a gig..."

    When Benny and Ben finished their all too short set, the applause was wild! A standing ovation that was very rare throughout the whole festival. Even though they were running over time, Benny was the gentleman and explained that there was an act to follow... But Ben and Benny gave us an encore... again, thrilling the audience.

    When the MC came on, he raved on about how Benny and Ben had just met five minutes before the gig.

    Anyway, Benny happens to have a sister in Canberra. And Benny happens to be staying in Canberra till mid April before he returns to Hawaii. And Benny will be playing a very cheap last-minute gig at the Front Gallery and Cafe in Lyneham on Sunday the 1st of April, 7pm. $10 cover charge. Children under 12 free.

    He played the Vanguard in Sydney with Craig Scott, Chair of jazz at the Sydney Con before Melbourne and apparently got rave reviews there too. Don't miss Benny in Canberra!

    23 March 2012

    The joy of buses

    It was a day at work at Woden, but a quick trip on the frequent Blue Rapid bus got me to Civic and a percussion concert with Ensemble Evolution, DRUMatiX and, unexpectedly, Kor Phai, a Thai ensemble visiting ANU for a Thai music festival at Llewellyn Hall. How fabulous is this? International percussionists for an intimate and free lunchtime concert.

    Ensemble Evolution is a trio based in Piteå, Sweden, but they are eminently international. Charles Martin is a Canberra local, trained at the ANU; Maria Finkelmeier and Jacob Remington are from the US. The trio performed their Solstormen program on marimba, vibraphone, electronics, cymbals and other percussion. This was three works, joined as a medley, each composed by a different performer. Charles presented Taxi to Kalifax that records the long taxi journey to the nearest airport; Maria presented Dancing Lights drawing on the Aurora Borealis; Jacob provided Seven Forty-One describing lengthy band rehearsals over long, arctic nights. Surprisingly, I could hear the representations in each tune. The Taxi was groove-based and rolling and lively with what sounded to be jazz-like improvisations over a repeating chord structure. The Lights were meditative, mystical, gently polyrhythmic and rich with tones like swelling cymbals and bowed metals. The band practices were endless and repeating, sometimes quiet and slow and searching, other times excited and confident. All spot on. The sounds were the thud of timber from the marimba, then ringing metal of the vibes, the crashes of cymbals and the drone of electronics. Attractive and so accessible that I wondered if it was radio-ready.

    DRUMatiX joined Ensemble Evolution for a larger-scale piece that was less detailed in its composition, more flowing and less unexpected in arrangements, and obviously bigger in instrumentation. I thought I heard solos here too, along with richly busy rhythms which decayed to a tonal rubato that changed tone when Thai musicians cruised on stage and joined in with their Asian sensibility.

    The sound changed mightily when the Thai Korphai Ensemble took over. Their name means “bunch of bamboo” and they play traditional Thai (piphat) percussion music. Korphai dates from the 1980s and is led by musical director Anant Narkkong, professor of ethnomusicology and composition at Silpakorn University, Thailand. This is Asian tonality. It’s strange to my ears; reminiscent of gamelan but not the same. It’s a ringing sound that seems to jiggle to my ears, as if it’s indefinite in pitch, but it’s most likely just non-tempered, non-European scales. But the whole conception is different from the West. This is not harmonic but melodic. Most of this melody is from tuned percussion, although there was also what seemed to be a short, stubby oboe, wooden with double reeds. The rhythms are simple and clear and unadorned and were layered with four-on-the-floor drums and regular sixteenth in melody. The pitch is high and bell-like, with just drums to offer a low end. And surprisingly, there were dancers that added to the pleasure and humanity of it all: a woman and a man, all bent limbs and splayed hands and a delightful sense of balance, dancing an obvious story of romance. Bodies flexible and arched and sensual like those famous ones from Hindu temples. Strange and uncommon to our senses but very beautiful in person.

    So as the musicians took the bows, then relaxed into playing each others’ instruments and an on-stage workshop, I took my bus back to work, enlivened by an international melange of percussion and driven by my trusty bus driver. How I like buses! Ensemble Evolution comprise percussionists Charles Martin, Maria Finkelmeier and Jacob Remington. The DRUMatiX percussion group comprise Stephen Fitzgerald, Veronica Walshaw, William Jackson, Yvonne Lam, Bryce Leske, Bart Haddock, Jonathan Griffiths and are led by Artistic Director Gary France. Kor Phai is led by director Anant Narkkong.

    22 March 2012

    The sound of snow and long nights

    The Reuben Lewis Quintet concert was called Scandinavian reflections and it started just as I expected: slow, meditative, rubato feels or barely implied beats, long crescendos, bass pedals, piano arpeggios, cymbals and rolls and mallets. These are the sounds of snow and chill and white to my ears, and this seems perfectly appropriate for Scandinavian jazz. This jazz sounds as you see it.

    I was thinking of how this varies from US jazz, or perhaps the jazz of warmer countries. Partly, through the influence of ECM and its stable and its uncompromising recordings. But some of the tunes sounded more American to me: livelier, stronger grooves. Luke was playing a Rhodes, and although he tells me there are plenty in Europe, I hear Euro-jazz with classical (and folk) influences and played on fine grand pianos. The Rhodes is more swampy to my ears, especially when effected. And while Reuben in very influenced by this jazz (he mentioned Tomasz Stanko), I often heard bop conceptions in Max’s playing. (No problems there: I actually prefer it). But it was as I meditated on Reuben’s introduction that mentioned “melody and communication”, and as I listened to Simon’s sparse but clear and concentrated bass lines, that I felt the difference. There’s an intensity of interaction and a love of pure, unaffected tone here, along with a slow, folk-affected melodic sense. Simon was just defining one chord, but every note was a treasure and every interval was well considered. Aidan’s drumming sat the same way: sparse and melodic, story telling rather than rudimental. This was a unified whole rather than a soloist and rhythm section. It’s not such a new discovery, of course. Musicians have been concerned with this since the ’50s from the cool and modal and free eras but this style is at a high level and riddled with solitary intensity. This is the music of people thrown together for long nights. It’s not urgent or urban. It’s close to music of the very late night jazz club. But there’s also a feeling of darkness and unspoken closeness and unfilled time in this music. Slow or single chords, open rhythms, internalised thought spreading quietly. Even a pop song, when it arrived, was like this. They played Bjork’s tremulous Hyperballad, and the intriguing melody appeared occasionally amongst more obscure improvised meanderings. Nice but icy.

    Anyway, that’s how I heard it. Reuben Lewis (trumpet) led a quintet at the Gods Café with Max Williams (tenor), Luke Sweeting (Rhodes piano), Simon Milman (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
  • 20 March 2012

    Information is the currency of democracy

    So said Bob Brown, but of course it’s been said before.

    I was at the launch of a new book by David McKnight on the political power of the Murdoch media empire (Rupert Murdoch : An investigation of political power / David McKnight. Crows Nest, NSW : Allen & Unwin, 2012). The event was organised by the Australia Institute and it occurred in the backyard of the Manning Clark House. The session was a discussion with David and Bob, led by questions from the AI’s Exec Director, Richard Denniss, and some audience questions. It wasn’t a large group in attendance and I wondered if they were disproportionately grey-haired. Perhaps the printed media is considered old hat, but they retain their agenda-setting importance and this inevitably gives political power, and this political power is very poorly contested in Australia, with only 2 major newspaper chains (News Ltd and Fairfax) and News Ltd having 70% of the overall market and several markets to itself. This allows News Ltd a great ability to share costs or cross-subsidise across its fleet of papers. There’s plenty of discussion of the power of media barons, and Murdoch/News Ltd in particular. Some interesting themes were: “everything comes down to the market” as an “emaciated view”; democracy is getting ideas out, yes, but not just selected points of view; exclusion as a key tactic in moulding political thought; big parties are restrained on climate change and politicians are “supine”; “the problem is .. you seek consistency” rang a bell; the call for inquiries by media, but the fretting over Finkelstein’s mild suggestions; more positively, the ultimate success of alternative themes in the face of media obstruction over recent decades, eg, feminism and environmentalism; the threats to media power when they break the rules and are seen to do so; the dangers for any power when it chooses the wrong side, eg, against science (Physics waits for no man); “we live in a work where wealth counts” evidenced by the ability to gain Australian residency with $250K in your pocket; “Australians are generous, good-hearted people, but fear is a great motivator” in reference to boat people; the power that comes with massive wealth is plutocracy - now in battle with democracy; the effectiveness of Murdoch as a great business person and the business-centred biographies written over the years. I felt it was an interesting encounter if sometimes disheartening. Despite the GFC, plutocracy keeps gaining, and we get closer to various emergencies: climate change, peak whatever. But I was thinking of another quote by the end: death comes to all men.

  • Abstract of Rupert Murdoch : An investigation of political power
  • 19 March 2012

    Stings classical to romantic

    Such a pleasurable afternoon it was! Yes, lovely weather, but I was inside for the Canberra Concerto Orchestra (CCO) String Quartet. They performed the final concert of an 11-gig tour through Victoria and NSW, and it was a gem. Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky. In my classical-ignorant way, I knew none of the works, but they were all well spoken. I checked out the Beethoven (String Quartet no.1 in F major) before I went, so I felt comfortable when the first strains appeared and expected the affectionate and passionate Romeo & Juliet second movement and the rest. But the Mendelssohn (String Quartet no. 2 in A minor) was a delight, and the Tchaikovsky (String Quartet no. 1 in D major) was, to my surprise, perhaps my favourite. The change of eras, from classical to romantic, was obvious. I don’t see myself as a lover of the Romantic period, but these works got progressively more modern, less courtly, and perhaps the quartet also settled into the gig and played with more ease.

    The quartet was made up of professional and student players. Charlotte Winslade (first violin) is the musical director of the CCO. The CCO “exists to create the most inspiring and highest standard training opportunity for aspiring musiciians, mentored by some of the country’s finest professionals”. I could believe it. This music had lovely feel, nice comfortable tempos, the players worked together well, with eyes frequently on Charlotte. As a bassist, I was watching cellist Anne Ewing at the bottom end and it was a delight. It was a lesson in watching your colleagues and following a chart and the playing was luscious, too. There was one oddly groove-like passage in the Tchaikovsky, but there were also passages passed through the ensemble and low-pitched melod parts and some very pacey lines. The violins were edgy at times, but high strings are that way to my ears. But they, too, were in synch with Fia Walsh (second violin) also watching closely. Thad Shadduck (viola) was watching under his brows, too. The skills of all were glorious to watch: lithe, fluid, well read. But what a range these instruments have! They are tuned in fifths (unlike the fourths of the double bass that I know) so just one position covers a generous range. And while the cellist has to move liberally over a larger instrument, the viola is small, but the violins are diminutive. Charlotte went way into the stratosphere with some notes, and they all covered extended ranges with little arm movement. But I fear the intonation issues: these semitones are seriously close, especially when venturing up the violin’s neck. But thus is the life of a violinist. I hear that Fia and Thad are both students seeking to enter a conservatory program. I couldn’t see how they could fail. They performed perfectly comfortably with their senior colleagues. This was a concert of 3 major works and unusually with two intervals. Perhaps not CD-release-perfect but very impressive. Just another lovely Sunday arvo in Canberra, but Canberra’s like that. I’ll be back for more.

    The Canberra Concerto Orchestra (CCO) String Quartet comprised Charlotte Winslade (first violin), Fia Walsh (second violin), Thad Shattuck (viola) and Anne Ewing (cello).

    17 March 2012

    Festival fare

    I chanced the rain: I went to Stage 88 to see the Australian Ballet for the Canberra Festival. This was a free performance, the cultural leadup to the following night’s pop extravanga, Skyfire (urgh). I was surprised to find a generous audience sitting under umbrellas with their picnics despite a heavy downpour an hour before and the spitting rain at the start.

    What was this show? The skills, the strength, the balance, the stunning bods are evident, but you have to ask why. I wonder if this is inevitable with an allcomers show of this type. This was clearly the equivalent of opera’s favourite arias. You can understand this. The unwashed (I include myself here) don’t know the repertoire or understand the style or customs of the art. Maybe it’s just that, but I’m mulling further. On the morning after, the Canberra Times featured a half page review of the Australian Ballet performing Infinity in Sydney (Extreme triple bill a challenging delight, by Michelle Potter, in Canberra Times, 17 Mar 2012, p. 24). I was thinking what to write here so I read this with some interest. Michelle obviously was impressed and the three works comprising the show were far more complex and purposeful than this show, but what surprised me was how little there was to say. Ballet and music are both wordless arts so their messages are ill-defined, received differently by different audiences, emotional rather than rationally explicable. I’m not sure I say much in these pages other than that a technique is thus or a purpose is sound. Seeing an art form that I don’t understand leaves me at a loss and somewhat unsatisfied. Ballet is a highly refined form, and French at that, so can seem mannered and affected. The little girls in tutus rollicking in the mud before the stage enjoyed the playtime, and I enjoyed the skills and strength and beauty, but I can’t say I was sorry when it ended. It’s a stunning artifice, perhaps a pack of cards, and I need to see the sharp end before I could form any half-valid opinion. I once saw Nureyev and what I remember was just the hero calisthenics. There was a bit of that here, too, and it garnered the most applause (and it was impressive). I used to attend modern dance. That was also skilled and obscurely metaphorical, but at least it seemed closer to home without the formal artifice of a pre-Revolutionary French court. This show was like your favourite top hits album - but then it didn’t claim to be more. It made for a classy picnic, even in the rain, and a goggle at impressive skills. But I await a more profound connection.