22 August 2018


It was a rushed job to get there and record (after a night in Yass with Bassano) but I enjoyed Forrest National Chamber Orchestra's concert in the CGGS Chapel. It's a mixed group of experienced players and young students. The music is always satisfying. This program featured Albinoni, Elgar, Haydn, Vaughan Williams and Bizet. The Haydn was his Cello concerto no.1 CMaj performed by Samuel Payne, now a teacher at CGGS (Canberra Girls Grammar School). He's youthful but a graduate of Sydney Con, ANAM, a performer under Zubin Mehta in the Australian World Orchestra and a CSO member. His performance was graceful and firmly spelled out and played from memory. I like that determination in performance: neat and precise. The Greensleeves was a lovely thing, with some piano. The Bizet was one I know well as I've played it. The Elgar was his Elegy for strings op.58 was fairly short and pensive. The other piece was Albinoni Sinfonia Gmaj, all baroque dignity and danceability. FNCO was variously conducted by Gillian Bailey-Graham and Shilong Ye. Nice one

Forrest National Chamber Orchestra performed in the CGGS Chapel under Gillian Bailey-Graham and Shilong Ye (conductors) with soloist Samuel Payne (cello) playing Haydn.

20 August 2018

Bassano ... del Grappa

Bassano is a town in the Veneto in North Italy. It's renowned for the distilled drink grappa, for asparagus, for Napoleon's stay for six months-or-so, for a famed bridge designed by Palladio which was destroyed in WW2 and rebuilt. It's a place I know moderately well, having had family there and visited a few times. Bassano is the name I've taken for my solo bass gigs. Solo bass? Sounds dull. I played a test gig at a friend's birthday party the other day. It felt a little dull playing while others were busily drinking and chatting for a cocktail party. It can be lonely playing solo without mates but it's good practice and it went off well enough. All pizz. Mostly jazz with piano/bass accompaniment (which I just heard but others didn't given my dismissive sound system), heads and walks and solos, some pizz Bach. The venue was very cool: Tootsie Not a Gallery, Fine Art and Design, in Yass. It worked well enough to try again. Not sure it's worth what it might pay, without mates to chatter and drink with in the break. But it's a gig.

Eric Pozza (bass) played solo bass as Bassano at Tootsie Not a Gallery in Yass.

16 August 2018

Discovering Schubert

Despite their reputation, I hadn't warmed to Schubert's songs before but this was different. Australian Haydn Ensemble came to town with guest singer David Greco. The ensemble was restructured at the short notice after a death in the family meant leader and first violinist Skye couldn't make it. Simone moved from second to first violin and Rafael sat in on second. Otherwise the team was James and James and Jacqueline. The program also changed with mostly alternating Schubert songs and miniature string quartets from The Four Seasons by Felicien David. FD was also new to me but generally much more light and joyous than the Schubert. The whole was presented as a single set with no interval and with discussions and translations of Schubert's songs ad backgrounds by David. Delightfully and unexpectedly, the concert went off with no applause until the end. This was a pleasure. I've come to dislike clapping for jazz solos and the response here was blissfully uninterrupted. It may leave the performers a little lost between tunes but it carries the flow of music purposefully. The playing was neat and involved as always. Jacqueline was solidly tested in a later song, the famed Der Erlkonig, but her presence was rich and full throughout. So were the others. I wondered about balance at one time as passages passed between strings, but it's relatively trivial, and the commitment, especially from Simone, was captivating. David's interpretations were stunners, with big, rich voice, clear enunciation (although given that it's German, I didn't catch much anyway) and emotive, even dramatic, presentation. His tonal formation was to die for. My choir does nothing of the sort: I'd love to hear the choirs he's appointed to, given this sample (Westminster Abbey and Sistine Chapel, no less!). It was a short program given the last-minute changes but deeply satisfying so the repertoire change was no disappointment and it taught me the impressiveness of this Schubert song repertoire. So, it went well. Our condolences to Skye.

David Greco (baritone) sang with the Australian Haydn Ensemble at ANU University House. Tonight AHE comprised Simone Slattery and Rafael Font (violins), James Eccles (viola), James Bush (cello) and Jacqueline Dossor (bass).

09 August 2018


Again I heard Gravy 'Trane as openers. GT are a quartet of students from the Jazz School, obviously a formidable group. Here they appeared with a different drummer as Hugh was to play with the main band. They laid down some seriously capable solos against Bird, Steven Scott, Coltrane's Naima, Miles' So what, Sonny Rollins' Oleo and one original. I particularly liked Caleb's floating chords in various spots, Thomas' and Isaac's fluent and purposeful solos and Alex also laid down some committed fours and eights and the like. The original was interestingly more floating, calling naturally for those more meditative sounds of Caleb's floating chords. But then he could also move through different feels with considerable ease. Sometimes, perhaps I felt some over-excitement in grooves or fills, but the student life is a settling period to do just that settling. Nice chops and melodies and ideas evident. GT are very satisfying now and only promise more.

Gravy 'Trane were Thomas Coleman-Bell (alto), Caleb Campbell (piano), Isaac Said (bass) and Alex Wanjura (drums).

08 August 2018

A visit from Graz

This was one of those times you realise it's good to have a music school nearby. In this case it was visiting saxophonist Julian Arguelles, professor of sax studies at the relevant jazz school in Graz. This was particularly interesting as we saw and heard a matchup of two master sax players, Julian with our own John Mackey. Two vastly different interpretations, different sounds, different approaches, both impressive and fascinating. They were joined the local jazz and jazz school community: Hugh Barrett, Brendan Clarke, Greg Stott, Hugh Magri-Bull and Alex Manjura. It was essentially a jam, these people just meeting Julian in recent days, I guess. The tunes were standards: After the rain, I hear a rhapsody, Sophisticated lady, Stella, Bye bye blackbird. But with such players we expect fireworks and/or depth. We got both at various times, highlighted by two tenors soloing in conversation at various times, or listening and responding otherwise. Then a delicacy of guitar in several solos by Greg and some laid out fours by Hugh and Alex and Hugh's intriguing explorations and Brendan's melodicity and plain virtuosity. It's not something people outside jazz really get - that these players can do it so neatly, impressively but immediately. I was about to say unpreparedly, but it isn't that. There are years of preparation and listening to be able to interact so easily and fluidly at first meeting: this is no trivial pursuit. The two tenors spoke and conversed, even if almost in different languages. Julian was fat, rounded, mostly tonal, fast, from bottom to top of range; John was more atonal or substituted (how? pentatonics?), more edgy-toned, again extended ranged, more bucking. Both master, but different. Two views of the same standards. But a great and informal community concert.

Julian Arguelles (tenor) performed with John Mackey (tenor), Hugh Barrett (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass), Greg Stott (guitar) and Hugh Magri-Bull and Alex Manjura (drums, percussion).

06 August 2018


Cello was the theme of this NCO concert. The feature was the famed Elgar cello concerto in the nice key of Dmin played by Canberran international and SSO member, Christopher Pidcock. Suffice to say, it's fairly difficult given its breath-like timing, in/out, fast/slow, but Lenny was there to follow and he's a master of the prompts so it mostly went well. Chris did a great job, virtuoisic and expressive, played from memory, obviously superbly imbibed. It was the last item of the night, other than Chris' encore of a movement of a Bach cello concerto (4th?) which was done with far more solid time than the concerto, even more steadily than I might have expected. Before the interval things were different. First up was Holst Somerset rhapsody, apparently Holst's first success and a rendition of several English folk songs. I liked the war-like steady bass runs most, but that was our feature. Then a world premiere from Chloe Sinclair called Autonomy. It was fairly short and an easy read other than for the timing: 3/2, 3/4,2/4, some 4/2. It looks tricky but that timing became self-evident as we played it and I liked this one. Then the hard one. Counting was an issue with Elgar, but the Vaughan Williams symphony no.8 Dmin had everything: space, speed, urgency, all manner of changing keys and syncopations. Lots of accidentals (how often do I play Fb?); odd timings like notes on 3 and 5 of 6/8; hazy interleaved themes; sudden accelerations. Even a movement that's just winds, then another movement that's just strings. It was modern, written just in the mid-1950s. I liked the complexity but it's this very thing that takes time to appreciate and double time to learn. Sometimes you never quite get there. Depends on skills and practice time and even memory for the particularly quizzical bits. But so it was. A few errors and a few passes but mostly acceptable and hugely satisfying to have studied and performed. This was at TheQ, a favourite theatre, under Lenny Weiss, a favourite conductor, to a full house. Megan got the last seat, only available after a no-show. And we played as a full, 4-member bass section. Great. Thanks to all.

National Capital Orchestra performed Holst, Siinclair, Vaughan Williams and Elgar at TheQ under Leonard Weiss (conductor) featuring soloist Christopher Pidcock (cello) and a world premiere from Chloe Sinclair (composer). The bass section was Roger Grime, Kate Murphy, Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza (basses).

01 August 2018


The Mendelssohn is a classic of the form and the Spohr is a prelude to it. These are two pieces for 8 string players. Spohr's was written at age 40 when he was well respected; Mendelssohn's when he was just 16. Spohr's is a double quartet, inventive but essentially two string quartets playing together. Mendelssohn's is more a work for 8 players playing together, soaring, lyrical, intricate, as the program says, with exuberant joy. Famous enough that you're expected to remember the first time you heard it. I remember, at least, hearing this group do it some time back at Tuggeranong Arts Centre. The group is a relatively new one, eight strings, professional players from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, led by BJ Gilby, with various faces mostly from front desks. Impressive. And well presented. Quiet and effective entries and bows. Barbara likes that: you have to be the musician people expect, confident in performance. Her style shows in a presence that's engaging. This was another in the High Court foyer, so a large audience, well versed, frequent attendees, listening with that reverberence of concrete and marble. And the black against the bright, sun-lit, tree-blown windows. Professional, serious but relieved, well punctuated music; phrases and scales dropped from strings like honey; busy and intricate in the passing of passages through the members. I found it fascinating to follow some of these passages, starting with one cello then to the other, through violas to violins and a final exhuberant embellishments on the first violin. Wonderful music in a wonderful space with wonderful local musos. Much enjoyed

Canberra Strings comprised Barbara Jane Gilby, Doreen Cumming, Pip Thompson and Isobel Ferrier (violins), Jack Chenoweth and Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola) and Matisha Panagoda and Julia Janiszewski (cello).