25 December 2019

Catholics getting it right

Christmas Mass is an annual pilgrimage with my Mum. This year she's over in Canberra and mass was at St Christopher's. Not the midnight mass, but the 11am mass which I guess is the same: longish and musically accompanied, and this time a huge musical pleasure. I always enjoy singing along to hymns, but these renditions had me stopping to listen. The tunes were obvious enough: O come all ye faithful, A little town of Bethlehem, We three kings, The first noel, Away in a manger, Silent night, Hark the herald angels sing. There was a responsorial psalm and a few other snippets of musical fillings. We were provided with words so invited to sing, at least with the obvious hymns. That was easy enough until the sopranos went stratospheric and complex with lovely counter melodies that I recognised but couldn't sing but admired as deeply satisfying. They got the high notes then proceeded to confound and impress with several more great arrangements. The organ was lovely and Julie Watson on trumpet featured so sweetly with gloriously soft tone and delicious counterpoint. My God! ... a response that's apt and fitting. It was maybe a little unexpected but apt in a modern, casual mass, that the parishioners clapped the music when the mass was over, then hooped and hollered after the final Handel, admittedly the mega-popular Hallelujah chorus, but done with real aplomb. I expected to enjoy some singing (if the key was right - I've found keys often haven't suited me at Catholic masses) but I was blown out by the effectiveness and satisfaction of this mass. I wasn't the only one who laughed at the joke that the Catholics don't usually do it so well. This time, they did in spades. Congrats to Julie and choir and organist.

Julie Watson (trumpet) performed with several soloists, choir and organ at St Christopher's Cathedral, Manuka, for Christmas mass.

09 December 2019

Red shirting

Never let it be said that Maruki shirks. I've said it before and this latest concert is just further proof: Dvorak Slavonic dances 1,2,8; Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue; Tchaikovsky Symphony no.4 Fmin op.36. Anne Stevens soloed for the Gershwin then took up her normal position in the violas. The turnout was good with visitors from NCO and elsewhere and the audience was solid, partly there for Gershwin. It's a popular piece, and as I recognised while Anne worked through the syncopations and diverse key signatures, not easy. It wasn't too bad for the orchestra (although I was pleased to get the offbeat triplet scalar runs towards the end: they were a doozy). The big challenge was kept for the Tchaikovsky, especially the first movement. At first blush, the fourth movement looked scary with its quick semi-quaver scalar sequences, but the varied syncopations of the first movement were killers. The time was 9/8 feel at a reasonable speed so that was not the issue but the dotted feels were. As for the bowing, that can await my next take on this very big challenge. The Dvorak was more presentable, as Dvorak seems to be. I never seem to find him an insurmountable challenge. But as always, when John puts on his threatened red shirt, we do our bit. Not perfect but decent and performance is the best way to get to grow accustomed to any piece of music. Again, a big program and a decent take on it.

Maruki Orchestra performed Dvorak, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky at Albert Hall under John Gould (conductor) with soloist Anne Stevens (piano) and Paul Hubbard (concertmaster).

08 December 2019

Young and younger

My God, they are getting younger! We went to the Canberra Youth Orchestra last night and the soloist was a 12 year old who made the rest of the orchestra look like mid-lifers. Christian Li was little, young, wildly capable, a winner of international awards, now studying at ANAM. He played the Bruch violin concerto with confidence and clear virtuosity and an understanding which far passed his years. That was the final piece for the night. Before that, the orchestra itself had performed in full form, a decent size, and we were hugely pleased. Intonation was nice; dynamics impressive (something to learn there!); interpretation apt. Perhaps later, after interval, after we moved and could hear the full ensemble more clearly, I caught some slips or mis-pitches, but minor. The first half was under Max McBride. Then Max retired to the bass section and Rowan Harvey-Martin took the baton. First half was Enescu Romanian rhapsody no.2 and Holst Perfect fool, both little known at least to us. The Holst was quite a strange piece but entertaining in its oddities, fitting the title. The second half was Delius Walk to the Paradise Garden and Bruch Violin concerto no.1 Gmin. Most impressive all round and the group grows younger and younger. But another positive, the numbers: are they growing? It was mentioned by the hosts and I didn't hear a call for violas and basses before this concert. All round, a great listen and a positive local outlook. We hope, as the arts shrinks in governmental thoughts. Carbon prevails, I guess. Proof: the night ended with an announcement to not fret: the hall was not on fire. Just that the smoke from bushfires outside Braidwood had entered the aircon. Outside, it was smokey and ANU alarms were in whooping. Our brave new world.

The Canberra Youth Orchestra performed at Llewellyn Hall under Max McBride and Rowan Harvey-Martin (conductors) with soloist Christian Li (violin).

07 December 2019

The pleasure of displeasure

It's hard to laugh at the state of the world these days, not least the state of Australian politics, but it's easier when you are in an obviously like-minded group. Even more so when you realise you'd missed a few things that they'd caught. That's a fairly rare occurrence for me, as I keep abreast of the news, but I'd missed that Pauline Hanson had mistaken (or misspoken?) NRMA for NRA. ScoMo mostly doesn't make such errors although his lump of coal in Parliament will never be lived down. But that was another political year, not 2019, which was what Shortis and Simpson were serenading and recounting. They are a great local treasure, or perhaps Bungendorian pleasure, but not known widely like the Wharf Review. Not quite as flash professional but equally witty. It was a sad story they had to tell, the political story of 2019, and the laughs were tragicomedy rather than belly, until their spoonerism routine came towards the end of the night. How clever was that! ... to quote another theme of the political year. Aptly they started with just that, singing "How good is Australia / How good is 2019" with ScoMo providing the first notes. As the marketer he is, he'd no doubt consider this a great success, his line searing into the thought patterns of the country. The next song was of the drought, again, searing into the thought of the country, with no thanks to the LNP. Then on through the characters, Bill and Albo and Trump. I won't give away the joke, but the decision on the relevant element for ScoMo, after he was dubbed "Man of Titanium" by Trump was a great laugh. Folau got in there with a Mark Twain quote I'd never heard "Go to Heaven for the climate, to Hell for the company". Then on through the Prince of Whales (apparently another mistake, this time by Trump, and also one I'd missed). Then horses and 11,000 climate scientists and Hawkie's demise and Boris/Brexit, of course, and the election and the surplus and School excursions to Parliament and Greta and a few shorties on Medievac, NSW Abortion bill, NBN and an encore on their home town, inviting ScoMo to Bungendor-ière. And lessons, too, for Canberra locals who drive through, about the bears and that mysterious hubcap. Well, I never! We ended in uproarious laughter but the year remains what it was. Bad and probably just getting worse.

Shortis and Simpson are John Shortis (vocals, piano, ukelele) and Moya Simpson (vocals) and they performed their annual political satire show at Smiths.

05 December 2019

Baroque down south

I think the group Latitude 37 is from Melbourne and my check of Melbourne's coordinates semi-confirms it (-37.840935, 144.946457). Lat37 are a baroque trio but they were joined by Bendigo (?) resident Lucinda Moon on a second violin. Otherwise the band is violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. They did a lovely concert that concentrated on Corelli (Italian, here played with a German harpsichord with good reason that was given). It included three Corelli trio sonatas, a Bach fugue on a Corelli theme, a "dissertazione" on a Corelli work by Veracini and, to finish, a work by Couperin celebrating Corelli at Mount Parnassus with the Greek muses. It's an odd invention but relevant to the times. The concert was fairly short, in one set, with explanatory chatter, mostly for four, but with two pieces for just the core trio. The effect was blissful, all soft gut strings and short movements and fairly simple statements and internal dynamics within phrases and notes, something that appears to my ear more in the style and with gut. It was stately but not evidently aristocratic. Just lovely, personal and immediate. The playing was a pleasure. Interesting, too, to compare the two violins. Visitor Lucinda's was clearly softer than leader Julia's so they were quite distinct and identifiable. I don't expect much Baroque was played at lat.-37 in those days and not quite even at lat.+37. Rome is +~41, but Palermo gets close at +38. Corelli was near enough.

Latitude 37 performed at Wesley. Lat37 comprises Julia Fredersdorff (baroque violin) Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba) and Donald Nicholson (harpsichord), this night with guest Lucinda Moon (baroque violin).

04 December 2019

Nothing to prove

Some people have nothing to prove and it's lovely to see and hear them. Mike Nock has earned that position with his long term influence here and overseas. He's joyous, capable, relaxed, knowing and apt in his interpretations. It's easy, never forced, not uncomfortable, but that's not to say it's not challenging, for it often is, or not interesting, for it certainly is. He's playing with younger offsiders these days, as could be expected. He's not so young now, although light of heart. Those offsiders are Brett Hirst and James Waples and they are easily with him, respectful of his lead but also adventurous and virtuosic while understated. All that sounds like a blissful gig and it was. The tunes had a few lesser knowns but featured a string of standards. Bernie McGann appeared in Spirit song. They started with Lady be good and Lollypops and roses and finished on Poinciana, which only became evident as the song itself after some time. Moanin' got in there. A few I didn't know were Golden earrings and Fresh water. He led with a piece that he called Curl that turned out to be a baroque piece of ~1600. I didn't catch the original title, but it sounded eminently modern as they did it. They also merged Summertime with So what and that worked a treat. What I noticed, though, was an immense respect for melody. It seemed to be present throughout his playing and to some degree from the others. It's not the thing of bebop, which takes the chords after using the melody just for a starter. This was more a consideration throughout. That interested me. And he was just a nice, chatty, jokey presence on stage, too. Again, nothing to prove except to play the music and display jazz. Great stuff and a lovely trio.

Mike Nock (piano) played with Brett Hirst (bass) and James Waples (drums) at Smiths.

03 December 2019

Our Veggies for the day

Ya gotta love the NCO Christmas concert. A few years ago they were opportunities for members to solo on various movements of various concerti. That's good but now they are Family concerts and they are fun. This year was NCO with The Vegetable Plot. You may wonder! It's a kids band but with wit to spare that features a few sly jokes for the adults in the room. I got caught out for a few secs with a pun on pea/pee. And plenty more references to peas (they seem to be a favourite) and other vegetables and some amusing lyrics about life in Sydney and whatever and nice popular tunes underlying it all. We played accompaniments arranged by Leonard and Belinda Weiss and threw in a few more classical outings, Habanera and Zarathustra and a few Nutcracker waltzes (how beautiful are they! I want to play in a ballet orchestra!) and Sorcerer's apprentice and a snippet from Pictures at an Exhibition. Otherwise the tunes were written by Aspara Gus (AKA Luke Escombe). The rest of the Veggies were Ru Barb (Paige Hoorweg), Sir Paul McCarrotney (Nick Hoorweg) and Pa Prika (Jess Ciampa). Some really pleasurable music and harmonies and percussion and bass. Lizzy Collier oversaw the whole caboodle with considerable skill and fun involvement. Great work. And the orchestra sounded terrific. It was all video and audio recorded so I'll look forward to something reaching YouTube, sometime, with luck. In the meantime, we can just mull over the smiling parents and gushy kids. Great fun all round and nicely professional to boot.

National Capital Orchestra played with The Vegetable Plot. Lizzy Collier (conductor) directed. the VP are Aspara Gus (Luke Escombe, vocals, guitar), Ru Barb (Paige Hoorweg, vocals), Sir Paul McCarrotney (Nick Hoorweg, vocals, bass) and Pa Prika (Jess Ciampa, percussion). Leonard and Belinda Weiss scored the arrangements. Basses were Jennifer Groom and Eric Pozza.

02 December 2019

Radio waves

Finally we've made the radio. Tilt Trio recorded a session at ArtSound way back in August. Since then, we've played gigs, travelled, ArtSound has undergone challenges (still underway), but finally our session has been broadcast. It's a humbling experience to hear yourself on radio, but I expected nothing less. Some nice playing but also some needs for improvement. All inevitable and the daily experience of music. But thanks to Chris Deacon for his huge efforts over time for radio in Canberra and specifically Friday Night Live and his recording of Tilt. And thanks to ArtSound, such a gem of culture in Canberra. Thanks, too, to James and Dave for the great playing. Greetings from ArtSound live.

Tilt Trio were broadcast on ArtSound. Chris Deacon (audio) recorded and hosted. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

01 December 2019

Truth be told

This performance had me in a right quandary. There were so many issues to mull over and recoil from and despair of. I could have expected such a thing from our local group, A Chorus of Women. Their first performance was at Parliament House in 2003 in protest against the Iraq War. Not that it did any good, like the other protests, despite no WMDs and clear evidence against them from UN investigations at the time. And this performance was at the War Memorial, in the presence of its retiring head, a minister in the government that sent Australia to that very war. He introduced the concert by talking of a new exhibition about peacekeeping under an intrusive, illuminated sign for the sponsor of the theatre, itself a weapons producer. He announced that the peacekeeping exhibition will become permanent with the $500m AWM expansion which has been met with such disapproval, this being democracy and all. ACOW gave an abridged presentation, part concert, mostly slide-supported discussion, on the women's movement for peace around WW1. The full work was performed a year-or-so ago as The Peoples' Passion by Glenda Cloughley. Glenda was a major participant this day, too. Johanna McBride conducted. The choir is ~16 mature women, here accompanied by Lucus Allerton, John Smiles and Chris Latham. They took us through the stories of Jane Adams and the Traumatine March, Vida Goldstein, Eglantyne Jebb and various others, the 1915 International Congress of Women and its unanimous resolutions and their influence on the League of Nations, Julia Grace Wales and the Wisconsin Plan, the blockade and starvation in German/Austrian Europe after WW1 and the formation of the Save the Children fund. They spoke to the like-minded, introduced stories that are sadly little known, welcomed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. So my quandaries? That our marches and actions have such little influence; that we can so easily drop into tribal thought and speech (I have a go at the Left for this, being as I am a privileged, white, boomer male); that all this happened here, at the AWM, once so pure, increasingly a tool for the culture wars; that the welcome to country was so heartfelt while AWM refuses to recognise our own frontier wars. ACOW is for the good but I'm not sure how much change they can influence. Nor the rest of us given climate, Iraq, housing, NBN, subs, robodebt [now found illegal!] ... and SM's recent election victory. Nonetheless, I wish them well.

A Chorus of Women performed at the Australian War Memorial under Johanna McBride (conductor).