29 July 2021


Occasionally you really get a surprise in any field of life.  Mine this time was at Wesley at a piano concert by young-gun Christopher Taylor.  He's still at school, Year 11; it's early in a musical career; he lacks that maturity of age (and tiredness).  Perhaps I shouldn't have been too surprised given he was playing the program from his successful licenciate exam.  He arrived in time but not early, as I've noticed other students do, in uniform.  They come from classes, after all.  His first piece was a Bach Prelude and fugue and that was just a little uncomfy, but he soon settled in with the Bach as a warm-up, into a technically demanding but humourous Haydn sonata and then a seldom played Chopin Fantasy and by this time I was in awe, then a final Miriam Hyde with its own demanding flourishes.  By the end, it was admiration and joy at young talent.  Just astonishing and a great pleasure.

Christopher Taylor (piano) performed Bach BWV885, Haydn HobXVI:52, Chopin op.49/CT42 and Hyde Valley of rocks at Wesley.

25 July 2021


It's been a long road to my Brahms German Requiem.  I missed recording it here in Canberra years back, then heard it days later in Amsterdam, at the Concertgebeouw, no less, under Mariss Jansons, sitting in the back row and entering very informally with the choir, then heard it in English as an Australian Requiem at CIMF2014.  But I finally got to play it.  Despite Lenny's video intros and the rehearsals, I still feel it's a mystery, strangely complex.  But it was a huge pleasure to play at Llewellyn with the Canberra Choral Society and a total of 100+ performers on stage.  There are passages to die for, deeply satisfying, exultant or depairing.  For bass, it's mostly the odd mingling of passages that I find in Brahms. He's nothing like the cerebral order of Bach, or playful neatness of Mozart and still beyond Beethoven.  Not beyond as better, just different.  I had to sit out one movement at rehearsal on the Llewellyn stage and it was such a thing of beauty and profundity.  I expected it, but when playing you are a bit focussed on your part, even though aware of others.  Just to listen was a delight.  So, now it's done.  On stage with Lenny leading, although given Covid/Sydney, he could only rehearse the last week.  Otherwise, Louis Sharpe and Lizzy Collier took sessions for the orchestra alone.  The soloists also were Covid affected, so the Sydney-based advertised singers were replaced by locals Rachel and Andrew.  Regardless, it's a thing of wonder, even if still of mystery.  But I guess that's how a requiem should remain.  Nice, too, to play with a member of the SSO who sat in for the day.  Congrats to the many all.

National Capital Orchestra performed Brahms German Requiem with the Canberra Choral Society at Llewellyn Hall.  Leonard Weiss (director) conducted.  Dan Walker (chorus master) sang with the choir.  Soloists were Rachel Mink (soprano) and Andrew Fysh (bass-baritone).  The bass section (see pic) comprised Geoff Prime, Troy Davey and Eric Pozza (basses).

  • Thanks to Kat for the post-concert sectional pic with Lenny

23 July 2021

Flutes and whistles or neither or both

It's a strangely pure and simple sound, even though this was an orchestra and there were a string of different pitches amongst the performers.  It was the Canberra Recorder Orchestra and they played at Wesley, in the church.  It had to be in the church because there were so many members.  I was first aware of the purity of tone from the sub-contrabass.  It's a strange squarish thing, nothing like the image of a recorder, and it was surprisingly loud and present and organ-like amongst the many other ranges.  But it's still essentially the same as the other recorders, ie, a flute with a whistle mouthpiece.  Director Margaret spoke of 10 pitch ranges (I note from Wikipedia that there are 5 ranges in each of C and F) and that only garklein (=sopranino) was missing.  It was a little thing.  There were plenty of lower enders, though: bass and "great" bass and that one sub-contra bass.  Whatever, the program ranged from Handel and Gabrieli through to modern composers and even an Irish traditional piece.  Unusual, perhaps, but nicely pleasant and pure.

The Canberra Recorder Orchestra performed at Wesley Church under Margaret Wright (director) with accompanist Bronwyn Roberts (piano, keyboard)

21 July 2021


Gawd.  A few more best eva gigs and you could have tickets on yourself.  I guess it's age.  You get over playing for others, comparing, fretting and just accept you're as good as you'll ever be.  And you get better!  Strange, that.  How does that happen, I wonder?  But a great gig, none-the-less.  And several ideas for future projects.  And a really nice pale ale on tap.  Couldn't beg for more.

The James Woodman Trio (today AKA Tilt Trio) appeared at Molly.  In this incarnation, JWT is James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

18 July 2021

Pleasurable annoyances

Super Rats has been around a while but this was my first hearing.  They are an impressive and energetic group playing music that I somewhat recognise but don't know.  But it's busy and driving and oddly timed and foreign in many ways.  In language, of course, but also in approach.  And instrumentation, given the core instrument is a cimbalom.  Cimbalom?  A form of hammered dulcimer developed in the Balkans.  Tim gave me a little introduction to the 145-stringed instrument, its techniques and structure.  I got lost after the chromatic bass strings.  The SR site claims Ottoman court music, Balkan peasant folk, Roma (gypsy) music along with a touch of tango and jazz.  My impression was lots of two-feels, jumpy and danceable, entertaining and driving, the sharp and jangly paired notes of the cimbalom at the centre of it all, with a nicely damped, thumpy bass and an accordion that took its share of solos and Pip's blistering violin.  Our group heard some similarity to bluegrass or US folk, but probably the similarity was from Eur to US.  I admired some tricky repeating bass lines and demanding counts generally throughout the group.  There was a readiness to play ostinato behind solos and a resultant drive and thrill.  And some Romanian vocals that were interpreted to much delight.  Not without reason that this band takes its name from a Romanian word meaning annoyed ones.  Not that they were annoyed or annoying, but they to performed it with panache.  Tim was cimbalom, vocals and the core of the band, having studied at the source for some time so this was both authentic and playfully Aussie-local.  And the band he gathered is capable in its own fields (jazz, classical) and eminently satisfying in this.  What a great local treasure: an authentic, modern take on Balkan music.  Saves a trip to Bucharest in these locked-down times.

Super Rats played all shades of Romanian music at Band Bang Cafe.  SR are Tim Meyen (cimbalom), Alister Price (accordion), Pip Thompson (violin) and Simon Milman (double bass).

15 July 2021


We can be pompous about the arts, their deep connection with our souls and the like, so the sheer entertainment of good company and close relationships or even playful seductions can be forgotten or disregarded.  Even this statement is doing much the same, meaning, intellectualising the everyday and playful.  Linus Lee did a concert that had me bopping in my church pew and smiling big smiles.  He called it European Dance Afternoon.  He played it in the Wesley church, variously with their relatively grand organ and Yamaha grand.  Again, pipe organ in a church is not normally throught of as a thing of playfulness, even less so of seduction.  But it was all there, with the seductive program cover and the polkas and boleros and various dances.  He had a range of tunes, many very well known, from Strauss II, Bartok, Brahms.  I knew Csardas but not Vittorio Monti.  Trust an Italian!  Several dances derived from national folk music, Norwegian or Hungarian or Bartok's Romanian.  SS's Dance macabre.  It was a mix of tones, with the majesty and depth of the pipe organ sandwiching the percussive business of a competently played grand piano.  Linus did both with panache and involvement and joy.  What a wonderful, joyous concert. 

Linus Lee (piano, organ) performed various shades of dance music at Wesley Church.

11 July 2021

Pencilled pop

The National Portrait Gallery has an array of musics including their Drawn In sessions where they provide easels and paper and pencils and visitors are invited to draw to the accompaniment of musicians.  Today's was with nonbinarycode.  They got me in mentioning that they'd grown up on grunge, punk and stadium rock.  Sounds cool and good fun.  I could expect some renowned anthems and searching lyrics.  nonbinarycode was a duo: Hardman and InkBits.  Well, I got their names chatting to them later and they were wonderfully welcoming and not at all hard or bitsy.  The sound was Maton acoustic guitar into a decent PA, vocals and occasional harmonies.  No auto-drums or the like, but nicely solid strummed rhythms and committed voice out front. Structurally simple but attractive and inviting with tunes like Scar/Missy Higgins, One/U2, Never tear us apart/INXS, Broken bells/Greta van Fleet.  Popular and satisfying and most intriguing hits.

nonbinarycode performed in the foyer at the National Portrait Gallery for a Drawn In session.  nbc are Jolene Mifsud (vocals) and Stephen Harden (guitar, harmony vocals).

10 July 2021


But of course there was more at B!B!B!B!B!  It was essentially a singer-songwriter night, but there was a mix.  First up was pop-rock band Winning Combo Band playing mostly originals from the pen of the singer.  I didn't get names, but this was tight with short songs.  Then The Pots, then Anthony Glynn.  AG was fairly playful, quite confident, nicely rhythmic with a stomp box and his ukulele played over the top.  I noticed a different skew on politics from The Pots and considerable comfort from regular busking.  Interesting.  Then Minh.  I didn't get a full name, except maybe a stage surname, Slowjam.  This was not at all slow jam.  This was singer-songwriter with very rich and fascinating harmonies.  Very nice piano.  Then we caught just a tune from Sanjiva de Silva.  Very capable, presentable guitar-vocals, capable and settled on each skill.  Impressive.  Nice to encounter new styles and people around town.  But this is Canberra and this is Smiths and both bode well for interesting experiences.

Winning Combo Band (pop-rock quartet), Anthony Glynn (vocals, uke, stomp box), Minh (piano, vocals) and Sanjiva de Silva (guitar, piano, vocals) performed at Smiths.

09 July 2021


Now this was fun!  Smiths runs an open-mic session called Bang!Beng!Bing!Bong!Bung! and The Pots appeared there in their incarnation as a DJ set.  Well, The Pots playing snippets from Pumpkin Discomforts.  The Pots have produced 3 albums but this was their first outing as a CD launch with Bassist EP doing the transitions and intros and just a touch of effects and giving some introductions and apologies for the tunes ("Beware: Political themes!").  All a good lot of fun even if those political themes were not so rosy, sounding great over Bevan's PA at decent volume, even bringing some dancing shoes out, at least to shuffle about to my fave, Power.  What a fun outing.  I have ideas for another, more live incarnation.  Maybe.  TBC.

The Pots is a project of Bassist EP.  The Pots performed as a DJ set at Smiths.

Thanks to Rich for the pic

08 July 2021

Jelly's roll

Mila was rushed at first, arriving quite late, for some reason held up.  It showed for some of the Bach prelude that started the concert.  She was playing solo violin this piece, and the arpeggios over the fingerboard gradually got more convincing and settled as she settled.  I have no problem with this.  Then into some confident, rich playing on the following fugue then the Mozart, Ravel and Prokofiev, all with accompaniment from Anthony Smith.  The first pieces didn't surprise me at all, Bach being Bach and Mozart also being his joyous self.  The Prokofiev was different, initially sparse, but then into busy and intriguing, not least the pizz.  It was a violin concerto as were the others, but quite a different beast,.  And then to the most different, very far from Bolero, Ravel Tzigane,  He'd written the piece for Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi from a commission.  Lots of feature solo passages with harmonics or screeds of notes then into bouncy then dissonant pizz stuff with piano.  Even a touch of danceable fours.  A strange but fascinating piece, no doubt a show piece for both Jelly and Mila.  Mila did it great justice.  So impressed with this intriguing piece of great unexpectedness.  Mila did a great job.   They teach them great and young. 

Mila Haydon (violin) performed the music of four European masters with accompaniment from Anthony Smith (piano) at Wesley.

06 July 2021

A view from the bottom end

NCO is rehearsing Brahms German Requiem.  It's a great work and I have a history with it, chasing rather than playing it.  Now I get to play it.  Maybe.  The story is that we should perform it with the Canberra Choral Society at Llewellyn on 24 July 3pm.  That's 150 people on stage.  How I love these choral outings at Llewellyn.  An absolute blast and a great pleasure.  But Lenny, our conductor, and our two solo singers are in Sydney, and given COVID and a string of recent cancellations (incl. Mike Nock and Brendan Keller-Tuberg), it's up in the air.  We can just hope.  In the meantime, here's a pic from rehearsal as seen from the bottom end.

National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Society may perform Brahms German Requiem at Llewellyn at 3pm, 24 July.

03 July 2021

Band hang at Gang Gang

I'd had a coffee at Gang Gang Cafe one afternoon, but not gone to any gigs there.  I should have.  I've seen the names and they are a worthy summary of local players, jazz on Friday with Free entry and indie and other on other days, free or with a cover charge.  So we got to play last night and it was a hugely pleasant outing.  Seriously nice staff, a very decent beer on tap, comfy surroundings and easy parking.  It was cold and in Covid times, though, so not too many turned up.  The piano's not perfect, a bit well worn, but it is a Yamaha grand.  Likewise the PA, also mostly Yamaha.  The space was good, the audience gave some claps and we had a great outing.  Our recent Molly outing was somewhat a "best eva" gig and this wasn't too far off.  Much enjoyed.

Tilt Trio played at Gang Gang Cafe in Downer.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

01 July 2021


I admit I was wary of attending a concert of piano students, presumably from a very young age.  What could I learn from kids hardly up to my waist?  But I was wrong.  This was a huge revelation.  The younger kids would play music relevant to their age and musical development and do it surprisingly capably.  So the Bach lines were satisfying and the Haydn pleasant.  This from 9, 8, 10 years olds.  But then to watch the development of older students was a revelation, as they played more complex, rhythmically demanding, dynamically interesting, emotionally more profound pieces.  You could observe human development here, in the course of 11 short but lengthening pieces.  So we got into Beethoven and Chopin and ultimately Grieg and Rachmaninoff.  If I had a favourite, it would be Mykhail Anufriiev playing Rachmaninov Prelude C#maj op.65 no.2 "Bells of Moscow" for both the music itself and the wonderfully mature performance.  And then to finish with two movements of a Mozart sonata by a duo of 10yo Charlie and adult violinist Jason Li, who I had recorded leading the Black Mountain Piano Quartet just days before.  The playing was different and developing with age but always worthy and interesting.  The joy of it all was infectious and only helped by the sight of slightly nervous kids on stage.  The training must have been excellent, from teacher Jinbo Huang, (BMus ANU, PhD UCLA).  Maybe unexpected but a great pleasure.

Piano students of Jinbo Huang performed at Wesley.  The students were James Li, Lingwen Chen, Charlie Sanoubane, Naomi Feng, Frank Huang, Hongkai Chen, Michael Danilov, Damien Ruan, Mykhail Anufriiev and Charles Huang.  Jason Li (violin) joined Charles for a final Mozart sonata.