30 June 2017

The happiest band

They were happy. I was intrigued and amused to watch the various faces, sometimes concentrating, often smiling, actually doing both. Australian Haydn Ensemble were beaming. So was their guest, Melvyn Tan. They were dressed in black and white with red features. Some features were pretty insignificant, not that they should have been too flashy. A few socks and some waistcoats and cravats. I hadn't noticed the colours as a theme until James told me afterwards. Just the smiles. Smile, and so they should. Skye has crafted this ensemble over several years into a worthy, international-level group playing with period authority and a relaxed elan. They don't always play as such a large ensemble, but they did record this way, and they do return at least yearly in a large format. I loved the music, of course, Chevalier de St-George, Mozart and Haydn, from that early classical era, and I especially loved how they played it (that explains their smiles and mine). The dynamics were so detailed and shared, with swells and dims and cres turning on a note and phrases that were spelt out in notes and dynamics that moved together. So well done; so strong and together. This is what matters, the shared expression in and around the melody and the driving consistency of the rhythms, and this had all these. Melvyn Tan just played one piece, the Mozart Concerto for keyboard no.18 K456, leading from the chair with music oddly on a stand to his left. He played fortepiano, so softer and less sustained than a modern piano. We were sitting right in front and even for us it could hide behind a decent forte from the orchestra. Melvyn, too, was all smiles, obviously a generous and welcoming guest, bent over the keyboard for his solos or twisted to the orchestra and waving in leadership. The other pieces were Chevalier's symph op.11 no.2 Dmaj and Haydn Symph no.85 Bbmaj 'La Reine', dedicated to Marie Antoinette. Of these, the Haydn was the more demanding with some tortuous lines in a few places. But mostly I notice the easy speed. This music is pretty regular and reasonably easy to read and play, but to spell the phrasing and to easily hold the swift lines demanded of all the instruments (bass gets its share) and to do it all with lightness and vivacity is the challenge. AHE does it with ease and aplomb and much good humour. So, congrats to Skye and her group for the development so far, and it'll be interesting to watch just how far this can go. Just a wonderful, joyous concert with considerable historical authority.

Melvyn Tan (fortepiano) appeared with the Australian Haydn Ensemble at Albert Hall. AHE comprised Skye McIntosh (violin 1, artistic director, concertmaster) with Matt Greco, Simone Slattery and Lathika Vithanage (violins 1), Rafael Font, Stephen Freeman, Annie Gard and Alice Rickards (violins 2), Deirdre Dowling, James Eccles, Gabrielle Kancachian and Martin Wiggins (violas), Anthony Albrecht, Anton Baba and Natasha Kraemer (cellos), Jacqueline Dossor (bass), Melissa Farrow (flute), Ingo Müller and Amy Power (oboes), Takako Nugumi and Simon Rickard (bassoons), Doree Dixon and Darryl Poulsen (horns).

29 June 2017

Always dress up

They must be the niftiest dressed band around Canberra, but that's part of the gig. The Woodwinds of the RMC (Royal Military College, Duntroon) Band were playing at Wesley but they could have been playing for the GG or pollies or even the Queen, so the dress is formal and expected. Short blazers, black with crimson piping with a chain to join the front, badges of rank and other insignia, red cummerbunds and black bowties. Natty. But off stage were some others who weren't playing on the day and they were in jeans and a photographer in camouflage gear. Quiet a range, from the very formal to extremely practical. I just wondered what the women would do with their long skirts if the war came to Wesley, but it didn't. I jest. But I really liked this concert. Another incongruity was the music. I tend to think of a military band as playing pop tunes or marches, but this was Bach, Poulenc and Dvorak, so it showed my uninformed preconceptions. They are all trained professionals, so not surprise they can do it all, and no surprise they would cover the field. And they did more. The Bach was his Keyboard Concerto no.4 mvt.III but it was played on Cor Anglais by Carl Brumfield who had arranged it for this format. Congratulations. Skills that cover the waterfront. That was played by a sextet led by cor anglais with clarinets, harpsichord continuo and bass. Then a duet, Poulenc Flute sonata, three movements, played by flute accompanied by piano. I was impressed by flute, flighty and birdlike sometimes, but also strong and full, and the piano that drove through the various changes of tempo and style with admirable firmness. Nice. The the major, longest work, Dvorak Serenade for wind instruments Dminor. This group was large with visitors: 12 players on oboes, clarinets, horns, bassoons, cello and bass. Cello was a invitee from the School of Music (there are no cellos in the RMC Band, although there is bass) and presumably the horns were invited from the brass players. This was nicely together, led by one clarinet, nice intonation, convincing swells and satisfying dynamics, and some nice deeper lines from cello and bass, and perhaps joined by the contra-bassoon. So, a very satisfying lunchtime concert. Next RMB Band outing at Wesley is Pictures at an Exhibition by the Brass Ensemble.

The Woodwinds of the RMC Band played Bach, Poulenc and Dvorak at Wesley. The players were Carl Brumfield (cor anglais, oboe), Nerida McCorkall (oboe), Kirsty Bird, Steve Wylks and Natalie Dajski (clarinets), Lenore Evans (alto clarinet), Suan Waterman, Josephine Smith and Carly Brown (french horns) Laura Long and Lizz Affleck (bassoons), Mark Jones (contra-bassoon), Elspeth Forster (flute), Andrea Clifford (piano), Carla Allmich (continuo), Thomas Powles (cello) and Barnaby Briggs (bass). Escuse no ranks.

25 June 2017

Big and bigger

I find it intriguing that, as I play more, I hear more. In this case, it's classical, orchestral music and what I hear is the details, the difficulties of a piece, the approaches and capabilities of the players. It's to be expected. The pieces I have played are even more understood, so more clearly observed. Last night was the CYO, the Canberra Youth Orchestra, in two formations. Firstly, as a string orchestra playing Philip Glass with Gabi Sultana. Secondly, as a symphony orchestra in large array playing Mahler symphony no.1. I don't know either piece in particular, but I'm mightily impressed by the commitment. These are both major works. PG's Tirol concerto is a later work displaying his regularity, twists and turns, minimalism in common parlance, but I thought with more investigation and variation, and although it displayed some trade mark rhythmic patterns and harmonies, there seemed also to be dissonant harmonies and different approaches to rhythm that I wouldn't so obviously have picked. So this was interesting. I was surprised when it all started with Gabi Sultana playing a solo piano introduction; I enjoyed the PG regularity and fluctuations and mutations; I savoured the bass ostinatos in the last movement. Nicely played by the orchestra with considerable affinity and counting. I wondered if it could have used more dynamics, but maybe that's PG again. And I was surprised by the warm reception of this PG piece: minimalism is not always so warmly welcomed, so this also was instructive. But I shouldn't have worried about dynamics. The next piece was Mahler and it was big and long and softly varied and playful with fanfares and popular song and the CYO's dynamics were great: well interpreted, unforgiving, apt. This is 55 minutes in four movements. It twists and plays and insinuates its melodies, starting with the slightest of sustained sounds with various injected features from muted brass or horn (lots of) or other, but welling, and by the end of the first movement, blaring, and leaving me wondering just how we'd gotten there. Then a louder scherzo and into a delicate waltz. Again, how did that happen? Then a solo muted bass playing Frere Jacques (thanks Hayley) that moves through the orchestra with various other folk melodies and a outspoken final movement. Hayley's notes talk of a return to D major marking a heroic victory. It was certainly a heroic and successful outing by the CYO. Easy and intense dynamics, capable ensemble playing, decent intonation and impressive technique, a very able take on a very substantial work. Lots of horns (8?), lots of brass, lots of players: it's certainly a massed work. I read 72 names in the program and assume all played for this piece. I note a few (more mature) CYO alumni were invited back to expand the masses, I guess to make up the extra forces needed for a Mahler. So, a massively successful concert that will presumably form an indelible memory for these players. Congratulations to Lennie and his arrayed mates.

Canberra Youth Orchestra performed Philip Glass Tirol concerto with Gabi Sultana (piano) and Mahler symphony no.1, called the "Titan" at Llewellyn Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor).

PS. I missed mention of Gabi's encore rendition of George Crumb Cadencza Apocalittica (Tora! Tora! Tora! Makrokosmos II). My apoliges to Christian. This was a work of intense action. Christian tells me it recounts the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour: high tinkering chords, then a heavy full handed dropping gliss over the full keyboard and rumbling low notes, then final slaps on lows strings under the lid. Then again, sometimes some chords. Repeated, finally played against a call of Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese, intense, threatening, ultimately deadly and unyielding. Apocaliptic. Such a difference from the other two pieces, so heavy and modern and a strong and committed performance by Gabi. A stunning piece of program music, and like all such, made immensely more interesting by knowing the narrative.

22 June 2017

Down veils

There's constant chatter and considerable despair about climate change, at least in my readings. Not sure it is so common amongst readers of the Right or the coalies. I don't understand Palaszczuk or Turnbull and Abbott and their mobs. It's all so perverse given the science and so dumb given the economics. I don't understand the cockiness of those who will argue against the science, or who will argue for coal or will twist facts for their political purposes. It seems to me there's an unavoidable limit here, at the existential, at the possible demise of civilisation, at a rate that seems to be quickening. I've written letters to a string of pollies saying just that: "How will you live with yourself". A recent graph just highlighted this, where young women/mothers/scientists placed bars for themselves, their children and their grandchildren on a chart of expected global temperatures (Caring about climate change: it's time to build a bridge between data and emotion / Ketan Joshi. IN The Guardian, 7 June 2017). View that (below) and try not to weep. Then a run of letters to the editor of the Canberra Times. Amusingly, I wrote a letter on the psychology of denial which happened to be published under one that questioned CO2's role and also whether temperature is changing unduly. My letter: "I'm intrigued by the psychology of denial. Is it a deep internal conflict that expresses itself in phrases like "I don't question the science, but..."? Or in claims of "technology neutrality" associated with demands for coal, or attacks on the "ideology" of others while ignoring or twisting the science. Or worse, maybe they are just lying through their teeth, or have sold their souls. Remember, we're talking end of civilisation here. Not trivial. I wouldn't want that on my conscience. " (CT letters 16 June 2017; the Editor removed my last sentence). Then a letter in response attacked me for 'using emotion-charged terms like "denial" and accuses people of "lying through their teeth" and "[selling] their souls" for daring to express a dissenting point of view"' and claiming scepticism for those questioning this "new hypothesis" (that CO2 might be related to warming) that "might be ... untestable" and "this is the difference between science and faith" (CT letters 17 June 2017). Mmm. My response was not published by CT but here it is " Oh, ..., the response came quicker than I thought! I used climate "denial" with reason. In the same way that Chesterton and recently Finkel said "do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out". I'm no scientist so I accept the overwhelming advice of the experts - I'm conservative in that way. And I've long thought there's a Nobel prize for anyone who disproves climate change to the satisfaction of science, but no-one's claiming it!". And otherwise recently, there's ongoing Adani, GBR bleaching, hottest years and the rest.

Thanks to Ketan Joshi and Lesley Hughes - see link above

That's just a preamble to how I found the book launch by Anna Krein at the ANU interviewed by Will Steffen. Well, I heard little new for those who read reasonably widely. Nothing much positive, either. Some themes or topics included: Adani; GBR; Q&A (esp Brian Fox and Malcolm Roberts); communicating to cross divisions; conviction and science; the foolishness of investment in coal; the requirement for rapid change and how some others are doing it; science and entrenched power; politics. obviously, and negligence by pollies; Finkel and the Climate Council; Shell's scenario planning; correlations of inequality with social and health problems; lies and misleadings; bad outcomes coming earlier than expected; feedbacks and runaway climate change; Paris and Stockholm; moral reprehensibility and the argument "the GBR is already cactus so why not keep digging"; jobs, coal and prime agricultural land; regulation; cities and states replacing federal action; the SA blackout; newspeak and pollie talk (or non-talk) on climate. Newish to me was the argument that if Adani goes ahead, so will other mines in the Galilee Basin. I wondered about the discussion of economics post-WW2. I see key problems arising with Neo-Liberalism after the '70s, at least in our ability to deal with issues, even if CO2 was increasing back then, too (it was, but it was little known). I was particularly interested in the latest updates on where various tipping points are expected. WS suggested 2degC, perhaps 2.5degC, definitely by 4degC. WS and colleagues have written an update article for PNAS that's currently under peer review, due later this year. It's a concern of the Stockholm Resilience Centre where he has recently spent time. There was some discussion on the recent Finkel report, its "blind acceptance" of an inadequate 26-28% cut vs. 2005 (lowest of G20 countries), lack of effective action, approach limited by politics (and, I expect, the terms of reference). Anna was asked what the "long goodbye" in the book title refered to, but it's not defined. Rejection of the word "belief" regarding climate change, preferring "acceptance" (nice observation - I too have wondered about that word, belief, in the context of science). Some questions about the "critical decade", which is now coming close to an end, and its little achievements (expect another report from WS and mates about this later this year). The last decade of cc politics and communications. Rudd and Penny Wong came in for some questioning on their politics playing with Turnbull and also for not communicating with some affected populations that sought change (Port Augusta, Gippsland region). And the quality of day-to-day politics, with, as an example, the derision around Whish-Wilson's quote of "and then we wept" from GBR researcher and students. (this got me: "My veil is down ... I have cried. I have broken down in front of cameras. This is the most devastating, gut-wrenching fuck up" / Prof Justin Marshall, re GBR bleaching). Yep, couldn't have said it better.

Anna Krein was interviewed by Will Steffen at the launch of her new book, The Long Goodbye : Coal, Coral and Australia's Climate Deadlock / Anna Krein [Quarterly Essay 66].

21 June 2017


David Braid visited again from Canada, again at Canberra Grammar School. Last time he played solo and I heard a rich mix of classical and jazz, in solos, in compositions, so the lines weren't just be-bop runs spelling arpeggios and scales from chords, but richer, subtler, informed by jazz but crossing into classical. His latest visit has just taken that and expanded it. So here he was visiting with the Penderecki Quartet, a classical string quartet of inestimable quality, in residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario since 1991. There's long-term interchange in the quartet and it showed. I felt the some comfort with David, although his recording of these works is with another quartet, the Epoque Quartet. There's rich composition and orchestration here, plenty of unison lines and intriguing harmonies, but also improv. David's improv is closer to the be-bop vein and wonderfully full in rich and correct and with also satisfyingly complete lines, sequences that are untruncated although a sometimes just cleverly left hanging. The improv from the string players was not so obvious to my ears. Classical improv often tends to rhythmic and repetition, strong in its own way but not boppy. I easily caught a later violin improv, but wondered a few times if viola or cello solos were written musics. I presume they weren't. Written or improvised, they were firm, strong, together, expressive. This was a strong quartet. Together with David and his compositions, this was strong music. Just occasionally hinting at heads, sometimes developing grooves, from a piano left-hand or a cello pizz walk, but the chordal structures weren't 32-bar or similarly evident. This is jazz/classical crossover, just accentuated by the sound of classical strings, and gloriously satisfying. And the compositions were nothing light-weight. Joya variations lasted about 13 minutes and the variations were none too obvious, nothing baroque-like although there were spots where the piano sounded Bach-ish. Chauvet was dedicated to the paleolithic cave paintings, starting heavy piano chords with string glissandi and lasting around 20 minutes. There was one touch on standards jazz, I've never been in love before from Guys and Dolls. David had provided the jazz score for the recent film on Chet Baker, and had rearranged the standard for this format. Then a few other tunes, one a picturing of cohesive diversity on a Toronto subway. Overall, a fabulous crossover between classical and jazz from a unerringly committed group of musicians playing intriguing original compositions. I don't know where it sits in the spectrum of music (but neither does Canberra Jazz these days, nor much of the world of music) but this was a world-beating and deeply satisfying outing.

David Braid (piano, compositions) playing with the Penderecki String Quartet comprising Jerzy Kaplanek (violin), Jeremy Bell (violin), Christine Vlaik (viola) and Katie Schlaikjer (cello).

19 June 2017


Musica da Camera was on tour over the weekend ... to Cooma. This was a one-off concert of favourites. Rosemary Mcphail led us in a historical meander: Bach Brandenburg concerto no.3, Mozart Eine kleine nachtmusik, Grieg Holberg suite, Holst St Paul's suite and a couple of Brahms Hungarian dances (no. 1 & 5). There was some devilishly quick runs, not least the sequences in Bach, but still not as quick as in rehearsal (Rosemary was being generous). The Holst quoted some cute English folk music not least Greensleeves. The Hungarian dances were a buzz and the Mozart was a joyous pleasure. But the Grieg was my favourite with a few featured bass notes and some cool double stops but very tricky counting on the gavotte. A pleasant and decent audience and a town with some very attractive period buildings. I noticed a string of deco frontages on the main street as I drove in but Cooma dates back (gazetted 1849) so it features several architectural eras, even modernism arriving with the Snowies Scheme. The town deserves better than first impressions of tacky snow-themed service stations. Next tour is in August to Gunning on Sunday 20 August but locals can hear it in Cook on the Saturday afternoon. Unless you yearn for the country drive. Thanks to all for a great little concert.

Musica da Camera was led by Rosemary Macphail and performed in Cooma.

  • MdC playing Bach Brandenburg concerto no.3 at Cooma >
    mvt.1 / mvt.2,3
  • 18 June 2017

    Playing daze

    It was great to be invited to a chamber music playing day. I knew of these, where chamber musicians get together to read various works in various combinations. I was invited for the Beethoven Septet and that was great. For the first half, I sat in with four cellos, and this had me more on edge. I play bass and cello parts are different, harder to read, busier, with added tenor and treble clefs, still requiring transpositions for low notes and perhaps clumsier for a bass tuned in fourths. That's my excuse. But the Beethoven was a bass part and very comfy. I enjoyed that one immensely. The Canberra Chamber Music Players are the local chapter of the Australian Chamber Music Society. CCMS meets monthly-or-so at the ANU School of Music, for reads and for afternoon tea. About 30 attended this session, spread into about 9 groups of various combinations, different for each of the two sessions. Lots of fun, good company and some very satisfying Beethoven. Not least for the chance to play with Chris Griffiths, visiting horn player for the Royal Northern Sinfonia and brother of my invitor Heather Powrie. A pleasure.

    The Canberra Chamber Music Players met at the ANU School of Music. For my Five cellos session, the players were Terry Neeman, Andrew Usher, Laura Kirkby and Tracy King (cello) with Eric Pozza (bass). For my Beethoven Septet session, the players were Sue Bailey (clarinet), Chris Griffiths (French horn), Sue Plaistowe (bassoon), Christopher Gleeson (violin), Heather Powrie (viola), Teresa Neeman (cello) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    15 June 2017

    Concert for Cancer Council

    It was the day of the big morning tea, supporting the Cancer Council, and the concert was attached to the morning tea at Wesley and it was also big and varied. I guess it was brought together from those who were available for the gig. Horn player Chris Griffiths was in town from the UK (he plays with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and studied under Barry Tuckwell at the Royal Academy of Music) but then I discovered his sister is here so a family visit. Stuart Long supported Chris on piano, and both Stuart and Chris played with Louise Keast, and Louise also played with pianist Colleen Rae Gerrard. And Jonathan Lee sat in on organ to play a surprisingly jazz-inspired piece. Not a long concert but rabidly mixed. First up was JS Bach Ave Maria on horn and piano. The some songs from Brahms, Wolf and Bellini and notably Gounot's Le soir from Meditations poetiques. Then Ravel Pavane pour une infante defunte and Jonathan's performance of Ad Wammes Miroir with its distinct jazz-like melody and chordal movements. And to finish, two movements of Mozart Horn concerto Eb. Some tunes were distinctly well-known and popular but always a pleasure. Chris played a good bit from memory. So, mixed an d popular but also interesting and well played. A pleasure, unlike cancer.

    Chris Griffiths (horn), Stuart Long (piano), Jonathan Lee (organ), Louise Keast (soprano) and Colleen Rae Gerrard (piano) performed at Wesley.

    This is CJBlog post no. 1800

    13 June 2017

    A Baroque meet

    Two of all things: two baroque concerts this weekend; AdHoc Baroque combining with Limestone Consort for one. This was a concert of the meeting of AdHoc and Limestone at All Saints, although there's a certain degree of Venn diagram overlap between these two. I'm sure I've heard at least one of the singers, Greta or Maartje, performing with Limestone Consort, and cellist Clara is common to the two groups and their programs pretty much overlap in period. This was a nicely mixed concert with varied combinations of performers, one or two or no singers, one or two violins, double bass and viola or not. And introductions were also varied, by Limestone's Lauren or AdHoc's Peter. The works were Purcell, two Telemann church cantatas, the Swedish composer Roman, Geminiani and Hasse. They were mostly religious works, instructing the congregation to stifle their eagerness to indulge in a spiritual life, or to shake off darkness and enjoy the light of the peace of the Lord in a harmonious world. Sounds good. We heard of connections, of Geminiani to Avison, of Roman to Handel and Bach's brother, of Hasse to a young visiting Mozart. It must have been a vibrant period of music. We heard of Telemann's financial successes and his readiness to adjust to his consumers (as we would envision it these days) and a hint at an unreadiness to stifle his eagerness and of working for the church or the big kahuna, Emperor Frederick the Great. Notes would have russled in that court. And we heard the music, jigs and aires and minuets, larghettos and allegros and recitatives and pomposi, and Salve Reginae and benedictiones. I loved the voices, especially in harmony; I was physically close to the viola for once and came to better understand its responsive role; I followed the bass and cello and their similar parts and bowings; I drifted with the loud but less assertive organ tones; I followed the violins, in harmony, or Lauren's leading melodic role. The playing was a pleasure and the music was delightful. Two makes one, when AdHoc met Limestone.

    AdHoc Baroque met Limestone Consort at All Saints, Ainslie. Performers were Peter Young (keyboard), Greta Claringbould (soprano), Maartje Sevenster (alto), Lauren Davis and Matthew Witney (violins), Michelle Higgs (viola), Clara Teniswood (cello) and Kyle Daniel (bass).

    11 June 2017

    Gentle truth telling

    It's of a time but it tells truths. It's just a musical but an important one, one of the early ones that dealt with social issues, that had some complexity, not too B+W. It's nothing like our daily diet of political anger as it talks of race and mixed marriage and love and death and humour in the face of war. Not that there was so much war, at least then and there, in the South Pacific, in real life in Vanuatu looking out on Tanna, called here Bali Ha'I. The Americans are in the tropics; the central character nurse Nellie Forbush falls through love with local French plantation owner Emile de Beque; the local worldly-wise mother Bloody Mary pairs her daughter with Lieutenant Cable; Seaman Luther Billis is ever witty and on the take, the Navy's response to Bloody Mary. Mostly it's a quiet military life, waiting for action, entertaining each other, mingling, but the war intervenes. One of the lovers is lost, one finally commits to love, Japan's navy leaves the neighbouring island. If you're of a certain age, you've at least seen the film, remember the shower scene, can sing a few tunes. The tunes are great and memorable - this is Rodgers and Hammerstein, so from a great era of American music: Some enchanted evening, Bali Ha'I, Younger than springtime, I'm in love with a wonderful guy, even jingles like Dites moi or set numbers like Nothing like a dame. Simple but memorable melodies, innocent words. On the outside, all innocence; on the inside, dealing with real issues with the deceptive innocence verging on wisdom with a dose of sentiment. Characters may wrong others, or misunderstand them, or find they are at cultural odds, but it's done in good faith through honest weaknesses and they discover themselves in the process. It's a big call for a Broadway musical, but the great era of American musicals and film and music was a great era for a reason. South Pacific was performed here at TheQ by the Queanbeyan Players, with generous amateur cast and orchestra. One friend raved of the quality of the music, the memorable tunes; he was comparing to modern musicals of recurring leitmotifs and few numbers: I agree. Another friend saw misogyny in Nothing like a dame and more and it is out of our time and conversation, but I saw difference and attraction rather than demeaning. I was taken by Cockeyed optimist, a lesser known number, that spoke of being hopeful in the midst of WW2 which resonated, for me, with Obama's hope in a time of climate, environment, terrorism and the rest. And by the wry irony of one song (can't remember which) that argued that kids need to be educated early to see difference and know their tribes. I richly enjoyed the medleys that are overtures in these musicals; I was blown out by one particularly twisted instrumental reprise; I was amused by a walking clarinet (?) feature against one song. Suffice to say, South Pacific was great, we enjoyed it immensely, the Queanbeyan Players did it justice with good singing and believable acting and some decent dance numbers. Very worth doing and very well done.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific was performed by the Queanbeyan Players at TheQ. The actors included Ellen Scott (Nellie Forbush), Michael Moore (Emile de Becque), Anthony Simeonovic (Lt Cable), Tina Robinson (Bloody May) and Andrew McMillan (Luther Billis). The production team included Janet Tweedie (director), Jenna Hinton (musical director), Jenny Tabur (vocal director) and Belinda Hassall (choreographer).

    10 June 2017

    Salut chooks

    Salut! Baroque had me thinking of a few things at their concert last night at Albert Hall. Firstly, about the history of music. This is music played with informed authenticity in the period tradition, all harpsichords and recorders and baroque instruments. They must have been an early incarnation of this practice in Australia. S!B are in their 22nd year. But what gets me is the olde sound against the dates of the composers: several were extant in the 1600s and one in the 1500s, but a good few only died in 1770 or thereabouts. JS Bach died before this, but he's somewhere in this ballpark for music and Mozart's short life was around this time, but Beethoven was born in 1770 and he's worlds away. For this, I read that various conceptions of music existed contemporaneously and change can be quick. It may not have looked like that at the time. Thinking of today, there's something pretty similar, with all manner of musics being played and even written. So it is in all art, I guess. The other thing I notice is the bowing and the approach to bass, but that's about me and my learning. But this was such a lovely concert, changing through varied combinations of players and associated sounds. The strings sounding fairly modern, the harpsichord spelling the gentler sounds of that era, the recorders sounding earlier again, but they all took similar roles at various times, with melodies passing to baroque cello or the three recorders taking melody and counterpoint roles, perhaps balancing against the strings. There was just one piece with three recorders alone, otherwise several with strings and harpsichord and with various combinations of recorders. And one with harpsichord and a conversing pair of violins. I noticed one violinist with a jazz in his background (jazz in not totally forgotten here!). Rachael Beesley was leading on violin and she was a great pleasure, committed, expressive, leading. I enjoyed the informal presence of Monika Kornel on harpsichord who would twist from the stool to be able to follow Rachael's or others' leads. Such a great little concert, close and intimate, fairly quiet but expressive and even musically humourous in the last piece with the final movement Pour la caille (=For the chook). For the chook seems a strange name for a movement after the allegros and prestos and adagios of most of the other pieces, but the recorders' squawks or clucks fitted the title. A lovely and entertaining period concert that passed so easily. BTW, the theme was how we know about musical performance in this period - partly through the treatises by various of the composers, Quantz, Avison and others.

    Salut! Baroque performed Avison, Corrette, Quantz, Ortiz, Biber, Geminiani, Mattheson, Rameau and Fux at Albert Hall. Performers were Sally Melhuish, Hans-Dieter Michatz and Alicia Crossley (recorders), Rachael Beesley, Rafael Font, David Rabinovici and Meg Cohen (baroque violins), Valmai Coggins (baroque viola), Tim Blomfield (baroque cello) and Monika Kornel (harpsichord).

    06 June 2017

    Weekend 2

    One big weekend. It continued on Sunday with setup in Albert Hall at noon, warmup at 1pm and concert at 3pm. This is Maruki Community Orchestra, a keen mob of ~50 players who take on the serious repertoire that musical director, John Gould, likes. This is mainly classical to romantic, but some baroque sneaks in occasionally. This concert was a big presentation. Mendelssohn Midsummer night's dream overture, Quantz Flute concerto Gmaj, Ravel Bolero and Brahms Symph no.4. Big. The Mendelssohn was lively and theatrical. Everyone loves Bolero except the performers, as John joked, but it's something to have performed: for the basses, it's 2 notes to have performed very many times. The Quantz was the surprise, relatively unknown, hit. It's a lovely baroque piece written by a prolific composer of works for flute and played by with real and infectious musicianship by Rebecca Carpenter. Then after interval, the major work, Brahms Symph no.4. It was a revelation to me, a piece of ever-changing beauty and movement, soft but mobile, infectious in its upending times and beautiful, unforced melodies. And that assertive third movement. I loved this piece to death, even if it deserved more justice. But this is an orchestra that takes on the full deal, not just a movement or so, but the full work, the challenge, and I like it for that. A big program to take on and a solid response by a community orchestra.

    Maruki Community Orchestra was led by John Gould (conductor) with Elisha Adams (concertmaster) playing Mendelssohn, Quantz, Ravel and Brahms. Rebecca Carpenter (flute) soloed in the Quantz. The bass section comprised Jennifer Groom and Eric Pozza.

    05 June 2017

    Weekend 1

    One big weekend. It started with rehearsal in Llewellyn Hall on Friday night (missing the Sirens and Vampires at the Street) only the second time that National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Society has come together for this concert, and the first time with the soloist singers, although they only sang on one piece. Also the first time we the main composer of the night, Carl Vine, had a listen and made his comments. All that was exciting but it was only the start of the weekend. We met again on Saturday early afternoon (missing the final Maruki rehearsal) for a warmup and finally for the performance. Called Wonders, all of contemporary Australian music, at Llewellyn on Saturday night. The music was a challenge: lots of odd time signatures changing one after the other, counting consecutive 7/8,5/8,3/5 and the rest, jazz swing written in 12/8, impossibly quick unison semiquavers where even the quavers were challenging enough, odd scales, tricky repeating bowings and the like. Contemporary is like that, not the dissonance of early C20th (although there was one dissonant line by the choir that was blissful). And interesting words, in Semitic Akkadian and ancient Greek, the words of Homeric hymns and Babylonian creation myths and Walt Whitman and even Machiavelli ("It is better to be feared than loved". All an odd synthesis and not a Bach oratorio in sight. Plenty of opportunities to slip up, especially in the counting in the choral symphony or in the swift and sudden lines in the Hindson. There was some humour amongst all that. But this is a capable orchestra and choir, despite the tardy delivery of hired scores. Many NCO players floor me with quick reading and capable chops and there are visitors who fill in with little preparation but perfectly able playing. The basses had one of them - Hayley Manning of the CYO who joined us just a few days before the performance. Not too large and audience, as is likely for a more challenging program, but an exhilarating, testing evening and the real deal with the presence of Carl Vine, the composer of 2 of 4 works. My thanks to Lennie and all. Drinks after should have been a preparation for rest, but there was more to come this weekend. BTW, the works were Graeme Koehne Tivoli Dances, Carl Vine Symphony no,6 'Choral', Matthew Hindson It is better to be feared than loved and Carl Vine Wonders.

    National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Society performed Vine, Koehne and Hindson at Llewellyn Hall. Leonard Weiss conducted. Penelope Mills (soprano) and Christopher Hillier (baritone) sang the solo parts in Wonders. Dianna Nixon (artistic director) led the CCS. Carl Vine attended and presented the pre-concert talk. Basses were Roger Grime, Hayley Manning, Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza. Therese McMahon (violin) was concertmaster.

    02 June 2017

    NYC visits

    The day Smalls came to Canberra. At least that's the way it looked to me. Smalls is a NYC Greenwich Village jazz club with bands earlier and jams later. It's well known for its daily live video feed (search Small live). I've watched three of these players on the feed: Ari frequently; Or often; Nitai at least once. I don't think I've caught Yotam. But there they all were, on the stage at the Street Theatre, on their way to the Melb Int'l Jazz Fest and Sydney. There was a good turnout, too: not full but enthusiastic. I spoke to the women next to me after the gig. They didn't attend jazz but were animated by the lithe musicianship and attractive music. There were solos - all virtuosic, with an ecstatic commitment especially from Ari - and complex melodies, often piano/guitar unison, over comely latin and other rhythms. It was easy music to like, very attractive. There was good humour on stage, too. Or smiled frequently at Ari. Ari of the polyrhythms that I couldn't disassemble and the sharpest of snappy playing with the most delicate of stick control, and Or with his deeply syncopated accompaniment, spelling harmonies and segments and just occasionally mirroring guitar or other melody. It was mostly original, although there were a few latins, a milonga and a tune written for mandolin, and one piano/guitar duet on Polkadots and moonbeams. Just one set, 90 mins, as I like it. Short and sweet and wonderfully satisfying. NYC can come for a visit anytime, but in the meantime, it'll have to be Smalls online.

    Yotam Silberstein (guitar) led a quartet with Nitai Hershkovits (piano), Or Bareket (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums) at the Street Theatre.

  • Smalls Live (NYC) requires registration (free)