28 May 2021


It was another tough outing to record at Wesley.  Well, I jest, of course: it was a great pleasure.  Today was current CSO Kingsland Resident Artist, Lucy Macourt, playing with accompanist Anthony Smith.  I say mixtape with some truth, given a violin solo Piazzola tango etude to start and an arrangement of Gershwin Summertime from Porgy and Bess to end.  But the core was most of the program and it was nothing like this: Cesar Frank and Fritz Kreisler.  The Kriesler is well know, his Praeludium and Allegro. Not so sure of the Frank Sonata in A major.  But both were a pleasure and quite a challenge.  Lucy did it all proud and loud.  She's not a meek voice on the violin.  Strong and determined and very definite.  I liked it.  Anthony is always a pleasure.  I do wonder how these accompanists do their job.  They must be great readers, especially given the complexity over varied lines and chords and hands on a piano.  All beyond me, but this was a great pleasure.  Then strangely, as I left, I saw a mate from FNCO and MdC, Sally, and it turns out she's Lucy's aunt.  Clearly a musical family; I wonder what that would be like.

Lucy Macourt (violin) performed at Wesley with accompanist Anthony Smith (piano).

24 May 2021


I find Art Song is its own world and oddly outside our modern experience.  I don't feel that with Beethoven or Bach or with choral music and I love the voices and the accompanists can be superb.  I heard some today, a fabulous pairing of Susannah Lawergren and Maciej Pawela: her great voice that singes the atmosphere, strong and broad and high; his detailed and delicate piano that told stories that matched her lyrics.  I think it's the lyrics determining the music that presumably makes art song.  (It's something I think also of the Beatles and how they wrote music).  So Susannah at one stage sang of lapping waves and I could hear it in the accompaniment.  Quite a feat.  But the lyrics can be so much of the romantic era, so much of love or nature or passion.  In fact, these four works spoke of the Australian sky, the Norwegian sky, the Australian beach and the Swedish spring (with a tragic love story thrown in).  Apparently the Swedes have an obsession with Spring which doesn't surprise me given their northerly climate.  So told us Susannah, apparently she with Nordic ancestry.  So the singing and the accompaniment were to die for, if the themes were strangely romantic.  So, I enjoyed it but it dumbfounded me in some ways.  But I learnt a few words of Swedish while following the lyrics.  So good.

Susannah Lawergren (soprano) sang with Maciej Pawela (piano) as accompanist at Wesley.

22 May 2021

Handing over

Given the science and the dire implications, I reckon climate change denial and the presumably corrupt climate-related actions of governments should be tried as crimes against humanity.  Them and media.  That they are not is a product of a slowly reacting politico/legal system.  Thus we treat our kids.  There's lots of identity politics in this: any self-respecting radical righty must call out the doctor's wives and latte sippers and take the side of coal, or now gas.  Even those who reluctantly recognise climate dangers must set their goals to avoid economic harm, as they see it, in a short-sighted sense meaning harm to their current mates and influences and media despite immense costs just decades away.  The sensible view is to determine the science as best we can and work to its limits.  Given our delays, net-zero CO2 by 2050 is now inadequate.  Certainly for 1.5degC.  We are currently at 419ppm and we added 2.98ppm in one Covid year May 2020-2021 (https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2).  We once talked of 450ppm for the onset of tipping points.  This is immensely threatening, given fires and droughts and floods, but a topic of derision or evasion by some pollies and some media.  Open a new gas plant, perhaps, to run 9 days per annum at immense real cost.  Who benefits?  Not business because they wouldn't do it.  All costs and no benefits, despite rhetoric, other than perhaps a by-election victory.  But it's the way for Subs and NBN and Robodebt and refugees and more, so non unexpected.  This is what we are leaving our kids.  It will be interesting to watch Australia avoid being in the spotlights at Glasgow COP26.  I can only hope that we are desiccated in the heat: it's already late, perhaps too late given tipping points, but any further delay is catastrophic and confirmatory.  But we've twisted out of our responsibilities before; think Howard and Kyoto.  In the meantime our kids are out, at least some of our kids, and I can only support them along with many others of our earlier generations.  Suffice to say, there were notable numbers of grey hairs on the march and a good few parents.  Not enough, but plenty.  So what happened?  We got together in Glebe Park after many, many email reminders.  We were a moderate number: the news said 300, the organisers 1,000; either way it's not enough.  Marches have little impact these days anyway: think Reconciliation and Iraq war.  There was a band, Post Irony, that played groove and improv with alto, effected bass and drums.  I liked it: school kids from Dickson College.  Extinction Rebellion turned up to lead a Discobedience session to the music of Staying alive.  It started with six dancers, then the kids started up in the audience, then rushed the stage and it was a danceathon.  Great fun.  There was a march to Garema Place and back.  There were some posters but not too many.  One I liked was carried by some girls "The world is getting hotter than Kurt Cobain".  That worked for me; the same line with Harry Styles didn't.  I left feeling happy although desperate.  These numbers won't influence stubborn, ideological, corrupted pollies and media.  Thus we hand over to our kids, with the threat of +2-4degC by the end of the century.  That's just 79 years away: one lifetime.  And just for kicks, they can have overpriced subs, declined industries, obsolete fossil fuel businesses, a slow and expensive NBN, EV-incapable infrastructure, impossible housing prices, tax benefits for various lurks and the rest.  They claim the saving grace is the military goods industries.  God help us.

School Strike 4 Climate marches around Australia and in Glebe Park here in Canberra.  Extinction Rebellion gyrated.  Post Irony performed, comprising Jai Malik (alto), Shivi Vachaspati (bass) and Luca Stevens (drums).

21 May 2021

Another exhibition

Exhibitions.  There are a few in my life at present.  Botticelli is the obvious one.  And I'm about to play Pictures at an exhibition again.  Then this turned up: Sam Row playing the original Mussorgsky piano version of PaaE at a Wesley lunchtime session.  I was there to record and it was a wonderful reminiscence and visit to the music.  And impressive, too, how he played the work from memory.  Not just that, but also an encore, Frank Hutchins By the river.  I've spoken before how you come to know music so well by playing it.  My experience here was just more proof.  I'd played the Ravel orchestration which is the version everyone knows, but it was very similar.  Unless I haven't imbibed quite as well as I thought, the music was essentially identical.  The colours of various instruments were not there, but all the lines were.  To me, it was the same.  I sat back with eyes closed and marvelled at the vivid and various dissonant responses to the artworks and the variations on the recurring promenades.  Just a thing of huge pleasure and a thing of great admiration for Sam who did this all, so competently, and with no music.  Loved this one.

 Sam Row (piano) played the original piano version of Pictures at an exhibition and Hutchins at Wesley.

17 May 2021

A smaller chamber

Back to the stage.  We got to ACO for their first concert tour.  It was small, but neat.  Nothign like the 20-or-so normal players.  This was six players over 2 quintets.  Beethoven, with doubled violas and Schubert with doubled cellos.  It seems the Schubert quintet is hugely admired.  I didn't find it as interesting as the Beethoven.  Simpler harmonies; simpler conceptually; less thrilling; more dramatic, yes.  The Schubert was String quintet Cmaj D.956; the Beethoven was String quintet Cmin op.104.  The playing was great, of course, although not without some slight, very slight weaknesses.  So be it.  I could only melt at the delicate lines and the purposive tones and the neat interactions.  Wonderful, but nothing unexpected to be said here.  Intimate and nice stuff.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra appeared in a smaller format playign quintets by Beethoven and Schubert.  Performers were Richard Tognetti and Helena Rathbone (violin), Stefanie Farrands and Elizabeth Woolnough (viola) and  Timo-Veikko Valve and Melissa Barnard (cello).

13 May 2021

C20th repertoire

Stuart Long may be quietly spoken but he's anything but behind the keyboard.  He played a concert of C20th solo piano, partly to display the vibrancy of this repertoire.  Certainly it was alive, demanding, strongly rhythmic, varied and harmonically challenging.  For this, read virtuosic.  This was no slouch outing.  I was not the only one dumbfounded at the end.  He played three pieces, but each was a set of smaller works.  Carl Vine Five bagatelles had five works (obviously); Prokofiev Visions fugitives contained 20 much varied works; Ginestra Danzas Argentinas had three.  They were all demanding to play and to hear, much varied in dynamics and feels, and Stuart exposed them with committed approach and intense dynamics, respectful always to the music.  So impressive.  I'm in awe, of the music and the musician.  I wasn't alone.

Stuart Long (piano) played Vine, Prokofiev and Ginestera at Wesley.

09 May 2021

Sharing the Queen's altar

I once drove by St Paul's in Manuka and saw the Queen with a retinue of a hundred-or-so people.  It's indicative of the relative disinterest in royalty these days that the normal activity of Canberra Ave and Manuka was proceeding as the Queen was visiting and it's as it should be, I reckon.  Nonetheless, it amuses me given I attend concerts and now perform at St Paul's.  Lofty connections, indeed.  Gillian Bailey-Graham's Forrest National Chamber Orchestra played St Paul's last night and I was sitting in as the only bass and it was demanding and satisfying and impressive despite a few foibles, not unexpected given some of the program.  First up was Bach Prelude and fugue in Dmin.  We all know it as a magnificent and overwhelming organ piece with an attendant fugue.  We played an arrangement for string orchestra with occasional features from the impressive organ at St Paul's.  Fabulous piece.  Then Faure with soloist Gordon McIntyre, Lalo with soloist Ben Aquilina, Achron and an end with the biggest challenge of the night, Tchaikovsky Souvenir of Florence, mvt.1.  To me, the difficulty was in varying placements of phases.  The whole was structured in 4-bar groups, but phrases moved all over, so the feel was not obvious.  Dangerous unless you count and read well or know the piece intimately, especially with a minimal bass chart.  I discussed this with several others.  Bach had similar trickiness, but not to the extent of the romantic phrasings of Tchaiks.  Bach mostly just  placed phrases on the three, so more constant and less intricate.  The secret is counting, of course, but counting can slip as we feel more comfortable, then...  Conscious counting is powerful.  But it all went well and the occasional foibles are nowhere near as bad on the recording so we can all look back with pride.  Well done crew.

Forrest National Chamber Orchestra performed Bach, Faure, Lalo, Achron and Tchaikovsky at St Paul's Anglican Church, Manuka, under Gillian Bailey-Graham (conductor) with soloists Gordon McIntyre (cello) and Ben Aquilina (violin).

06 May 2021

Musical anachronisms

I'm taking on recordings for Wesley lunchtime sessions.  Nice to help out and there are some very capable players to hear.  This time it was two from WA's WAAPA, Helen Brown and David Wickham.  David's in town to study FS Kelly at the National Library.  Helen visited for the week.  I am more comfy with instruments than voice so I could easily hear and see the fine capability in David's accompaniment.  Helen entertained with her emoting the parts which were amusing in themselves and varied.  A string of seven Spanish songs by Manuel de Falla featuring a number of "cross women" (as observed by Helen, after stained cloths, bitter loves and the like) and the piano aping guitar.  Six songs by Septimus Kelly which really showed their age in their deeply melodramatic romantic lyrics by Wordsworth and Rossetti and Byron and the like (I did find these hard to take for the lyrics if not for the music).  Several songs in dialect of the Avergne collected by Joseph Canteloupe, amusingly telling of love and lust and possibly subjects for modern day cancellation.  But I joke.  Helen presented with verve and presence and relevance and a lovely, powerful, telling soprano.  All nice stuff, even if the music seemed somewhat unfitting our times.  As if some times only existed!

Helen Brown (soprano) sang at Wesley and David Wickham (piano) accompanied.

03 May 2021

Different ages, different certainties

My concerts are relatively few C(ovid)E but Limestone Consort is one I have got to.  Their concerts are small and intimate; the music is delightfully aged, often somewhere around Bach but also challenging Mozart; the composers are lesser knowns and we hear talk of them from Lauren and the others.  What is it about this era that I so delight in?  It's dignified and stately, presumably written for courtly life, often relatively simple and frequently very danceable.  Dancing is one of its functions, along with impressing visitors and sometimes providing music for the lords and families to perform.  All those things, and that other world of one religion unto God and the associated certainty.  Our only certainty is climate failure and civilisational collapse (listen to Parliament and you wouldn't know it) so it's nice to take an hour off for Quantz and Dall'Abaco and Scheidt and Lanzetti and a Bach that has an precarious provenance and sounded just a little odd to me.  Such a pleasurable outing with entertainment and information from Lauren and Clara and James with visiting flautist Jennifer.  The balance was just a little awry, the flute was mild but the harpsichord was diminutive, but the playing was heartfelt.  They played a mix of combinations so I could hear James playing solo variations by Scheidt and it was lovely.  Clara was firm and omnipresent on cello which pleased this bass-ender.  These are the lines we play in counterpoint and harmony and she did them with real purpose.  Lauren was joyous and melodic above and also Jennifer, if not so prominent.  The flute and violin playing together were lovely in reference and response to each other.  Again, the nature of the style.  As were the gut strings and baroque flute and genuine harpsichord.  So lovely and satisfying and too soon ended.

Limestone Consort performed Quantz, Dall'Abaco, Scheidt, Lanzetti and Bach at Haydon Hall, next to St Christopher's Cathedral in Manuka.  LC comprised Lauren Davis (violin), Clara Teniswood (cello), James Porteous (harpsichord) with Jennifer Brian (flute).