30 May 2022

Expected ferocities

What a night!  I topped off Changi with Brahms, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky at Llewellyn.  The ANU Orchestra was playing a free concert I got to hear most of it.  I missed some Beethoven, came in towards the end of Brahms symphony 2 mvt.1, then a chamber orchestra playing Vivaldi concerto for 2 cellos Gmin then an end on Tchaikovsky symphony 4 mvt.3,4.  Nice to drop in on.  Some really satisfying bass from 3 bassists and a pretty satisfying performance overall.  I enjoyed the Brahms, having played it numerous times in rehearsal and knowing it reasonably well.  I was discussing with  fellow players afterwards how fabulous is the knowledge of a work after working it up for performance.  The Vivaldi was lively and lovely.  But the Tchaiks was the star, one movement a mammoth outing of pizz, quick playful.  Then into the ferocious final movement.  You could only leave on a high and we did.  Everyone was starry-eyed in the foyer after, all smiles and jokes.  The conductor of it all was Max McBride.  Great job done not just on the bassists!  What fun and what an opportune pairing in one evening.

Max McBride (conductor) led the ANU Orchestra at Llewellyn Hall.

29 May 2022

Unexpected histories

What an interesting outing.  First up Street Theatre and Chris Latham and a preview for a tiny audience of a work under development although well advanced, the Changi Songbook.  Chris is currently an artist in residence at the AWM and the first musician to be one.  The Changi songbook is a presentation of story telling and associated songs of Australians in Changi, perhaps another camp, and their musical and theatrical activities.  It was fascinating and unexpected stuff.  They built a theatre, presented plays, wrote music and performed it.  Quite an incredible story and obviously a morale sustainer for the period, and a tough period it was.  There was some great performances.  Neil Pigott recited and sang and I think developed the script.  He's a TV and theatre actor with an interest in military history.  Quite incredible to see such relaxed professionalism so close up.  Tobias Cole also sang both male and female parts.  The role of female impersonators was a major theme of the story.  And the musical backing was Bill Risby, noted Sydney jazz pianist.  All very impressive and intriguing and an impressive display of professionalism.  They had only rehearsed together for 4 hours but the sharp cuts and structure was often to die for.  It was a fascinating and involving story well told and should become a theatre work and subsequent recording later in the year.  I was lucky to be there to make a minor recording of the event.

The Changi Songbook preview was presented at Street Theatre 3 with Chris Latham controlling images, Neil Pigott (story telling, vocals), Tobias Cole (vocals) and Bill Risby (piano).

27 May 2022

Across oceans

The program was entitled From Berlin to New York : Popular songs of the early 20th Century so I expected jazz and we got that but I hadn't thought of cabaret although it was obvious enough.  Especially with composers with surnames Schultze and Siegel and most obviously Kurt Weill.  So it was varied.  Hilda provided accompaniment for two women singers, Madeline and Maike and they were different voices for the different selections.  Madeline is a soprano trained locally and did wonderful renditions of early jazz numbers.  I don't always like the operatic takes on jazz but this worked nicely on songs like Danny Boy and Misty and Summertime and an end with that lovely Richard Rogers Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.  It's still on my mind next day.  Maike is an alto trained in Europe but also locally and this was different. Firstly, in German, so accompanied by descriptions of the themes of lost loves and jilted women and feisty ladies, always with the performance presence which is cabaret.  SO very different but all a pleasure.  What an unlikely and diverse Wesley concert!

Hilda Visser-Scott (piano) accompanied Madeline Anderson (soprano) and Maike Brill (alto) singing early US jazz and German cabaret at Wesley.

26 May 2022

For bass nerds only

Tilt played again at Molly and it was a great gig.  But the most important change for me, and for the band, was a return to my digital amp.  Now that's a nerdy thing, so no need to read further.  I've recently been using a hefty rocky amp (Eden Nemesis) that's heavy in weight too and have for yonks used a small preamp (Fishman) but the combination's not been right, even if it's been powerful.  So I returned to my digital amp (EA iAmp Doubler) with no preamp and settings pretty flat and it worked.  Strange that, but it requires one observation.  It worked well enough for solos, but best in ensemble.  I was using the acoustic bass pickup input with pretty flat (but preset) EQ.  Alone it sounds sharp, somewhat without body, I thought, but in ensemble it cut through, clear and present.  I'd had various suggestions for new amps (Barney's, James' were suggested) but I knew my gear was of that quality.  The question was settings and I could have just used the basics.  And it's so much lighter to lug and easier set up.  Unexpected but a nice find.  BTW, my box is Bergantino 1x12 and my pickup Underwood.

Tilt played at Molly.

21 May 2022

Melting moments

I'm now listening to Emma Kirkby and Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music playing Mozart Requiem and they are better than SCUNA was last night.  But that's saying nothing.  I still melted in the ensemble passages, the power and commitment were there with nice intonation and some standout voices peaking through.  They were missing one bass soloist (the other covered) and others from Covid or whatever, but they were still eminently satisfying.  And the soloists had nice voices and worthy intonation, if a little more projection might have helped.  But they didn't have the support of a period orchestra, just a pipe organ, but again, well played by one of our local stars, Anthony Smith, under the baton of another, Matthew Stuckings.  This is music to draw tears and I did feel the pull at times from power and pensiveness and serious intent.  It's from another era of course, but eternal in a cultural way even for those less religious.  An alternative to social media?  Yeah.  Be drenched in a major choral work and rediscover your soul, eternal or otherwise.  So not Emma Kirby and AAM?  No, but SCUNA have history and commitment and, even as a non-auditioned choir, that intent and capability and intelligence that is endemic in Canberra and is why I love this town.  And I've hardly even mentioned that Mozart is a god and these works are to die for.  I melted over this.  Great work!

The ANU Choral Society (SCUNA) performed Mozart Coronaton Mass and Requiem at Wesley under Matthew Stuckings (director) and with repetiteur Anthony Smith (pipe organ).

19 May 2022

Out of the woodwork

I'd only heard Jacob Wu as an organist and then as one of 12 from the ACT Organ School.  But then I heard this concert, on piano, of Chopin and Liszt, and it was seriously a blowout.  The works were major, Chopin Piano sonata no.2 Bbmin and Liszt Ballade no.2 Bmin.  Ballade?  The intensity and cloudy sheathes of arpeggios and forceful statements and cascades of descending chords and the occasional delicate melody and the final gentler resolution spoke strongly and demanded virtuosity.  Jacob played from memory and with fitting application.  Stunning.  And that after Chopin, again a work of virtuosity and intensity, of rippling arpeggios and 2 and 4 feels and handfulls of notes and again still and contemplative melodies in quiet passages and again application and memory.  Maybe more organ-like was the Marche funebre mvt.III, that quintessential funeral theme played for Churchill, Kennedy, Brezhnev, Andropov and many more.  But mostly not like a work of organ so somewhat unexpected but mightily admired.  I was nowhere near the only one be floored.  This was a musical blast and a virtuosic tempest.  Seriously well done.  BTW, JC is a current ANU music student.  It bodes well.

Jacob Wu (piano) played Chopin and Liszt at Wesley.

16 May 2022


Brindabella Orchestra played on Sunday and I sat it.  Nice program, nicely developed orchestra with Shilong Ye as the current conductor, nice cello solo on a Dvorak Rondo for cello and orchestra and overall a great little program.  None too difficult but musically interesting.  More Dvorak with a few Slavonic dances and Gounod Faust for more dances, although more balletic in style.  Both those were lively outings.  Faure Pavane was mightily different.  Not hard but demanding soft, responsive pizz throughout and really quite beautiful.  I relax with pizz, being a jazzer, but it taxes my sense of time.  I do tend to sit ahead of the beat in jazz to drive the swing, but classical requires pizz right on the beat and it can be unforgiving as pizz from a string of instruments arrive at different times.  It can happen.  The Cello Rondo, too, had some lovely touches, bowed, but reminiscent of pizz, a two feel that moved behind the cello melody from solid and tight to bouncy and balletic.  It was a very satisfying change and a similar thing appeared in our last work, Brahms Academic Festival Overture.  It's the third time I've played this in concert so my understanding is expanding.  Brahms is perhaps my favourite composer, not for difficult or busy lines but for clever constructions and variations.  AFO is a hoot, they say drinking songs and the university theme song, written to announce his honorary doctorate.  It just seems like all manner of styles and snippets thrown in together, brilliantly contrived, gorgeously humourous, mostly pretty playable, but a few testing syncopations and descending themes.  Great stuff.  It often brought me a chortle at the audaciousness of it all.  Thus another concert much enjoyed. Thanks to Brinda and Shilong and Sam and Celeste who invited me.

Brindabella Orchestra performed Dvorak, Faure, Gounod and Brahms at the Weston Community Hub.  Shilong Ye (conductor) led and Sam Payne (cello) soloed on Dvorak Rondo op.94.

14 May 2022

How many?

Now this was fun.  Six is the musical story of the six wives of Henry VIII.  We went on advice from a musical-theatre friend and it was a ball.  Nothing like the serious classical stuff. This was theatre as Reality Game show with six contestants telling and singing their stories, here all related.  And it was a women's event.  Women were mightily represented in the audience, the six wives were obviously women, but so were the four Ladies in Waiting (the band) and even the sound and lighting guys were gals.  There was a feminist theme at the end, well observed but none too strongly stated, and a good deal of competition between the six (I thought of another word to my shame).  Not that there weren't males involved (the writer was a bloke and there are others amongst the "creatives") but the women's theme was maintained.  The songs were modern pop, so lively and harmonised and thumpy, and the six were on stage for the whole 75 minutes, singing or reciting or harmonising or dancing (mostly all at once) and generally working their hearts out.  We went to the 6pm session and they were on stage again that night.  It's not a long show but it is energetic.  But they were trained for this: the dancing was impressive, the harmonies were neat, some were better solo singers than others but they all used their voices well.  And the band was there but not too obvious, except for their  introductions with the searing guitar and slapping bass and thumpy flashy drums.  We were involved and conversed with (much more than just "Hello Canberra") and the audience was onside and standing to dance at the end.  And the staging was drenched in bright light, sometimes flashed with tight sound, very strongly feeling like the proscenium that this theatre is, or perhaps like a TV.  As in Reality...  Did I mention that we enjoyed it?  Yeah, I did and we all did.  Walking out with a jump in our steps, with Megan telling me of the survivor and her life-love and later husband who she found in flagrante delicto with future queen Elizabeth.  And how the story was pretty well told.  So huge fun well done and true too.  What's not to like?

Six was performed at the Canberra Theatre.  The six wives were played by Phoenix Jackson Mendoza (Catherine of Aragon), Kala Gare (Anne Boleyn), Loren Hunter (Jane Seymour), Kiana Daniele (Anna of Cleves), Chelsea Dawson (Katherine Howard) and Vidya Makan (Catherine Parr).  The Ladies in waiting were Clare Healey(MD, keys), Kathryn Stammers (drums), Debbie Yap (guitar) and Amanda Jenkins (bass).

PS.  Obviously better pics at their website

12 May 2022

Much nylon

Today's Wesley was a six string of classical guitars from ANU, mostly playing solo but one trio.  Playing Bach and various Spanish and Latin American composers.  It's a common repertoire for this instrument and attractive.  I thought at one stage of guitar as one of those instruments that's a "whole orchestra".  I say that about piano and it's the great instrument of this type, but guitar does it too.  I think it's the ability to play multiple lines, melodies and chords, contrasting harmonies and even sometimes rhythms.  I felt that in some of the Spanish styles, if less in Bach.  Three of the four finished the concert with an intriguing trio piece that was very different, not least for being an ensemble work.  First up a bass line and opening chords that suggesting blues changes then into more classical structures, then passing melodies and accompaniment between the players with short stops for thematic and role changes.  The work was Maximo Diego Pujol Fin de Siglo (1995).  That's one to chase up.  So an interesting survey of classical guitar by a capable quartet of players.

Abel Lawson, Hong Anh Do, Benjamin van der Niet and Shane Campbell (classical guitars) played Bach and more at Wesley.

11 May 2022

Aussie, French, Czech

Someone couldn't use a ticket so I got to a Selby concert.  It was Selby on piano with her selection for this concert, a piano quartet, violin, viola, cello.  And it was a quite a worthy set of players and instruments, not least SSO and Brodsky Quartet amongst many others.  The mention of instrument makers had me listening for preferences.  I particularly liked the Guadagnini violin and found the Amati viola somewhat nondescript, but there are so many factors.  Not least Llewellyn Hall which always seems cavernous and particularly so for this lineup.  They played Stanhope, Faure and Dvorak in that order and that's the order of my preferences.  From talking with other audience, I got the feeling Dvorak was the fave and Stanhope the unwelcome.  Certainly he was different, all odd counts and more modern harmonies.  I found myself trying to count while phrases seemed to fall as 5 then 5 then 4 then whatever, but probably sitting within 4/4 bars.  I was not sure but intrigued.  The Faure was also soft but, given the informed introductions to each piece, had me thinking French vs German and I could feel the difference and that intrigued me.  Then Dvorak, with pretty simple underlying chord structures and mostly predictable parts over.  There were some spots I warmed to (mvt.4?) but mostly it just seemed obvious stuff.  This music has gone on for a few centuries and can become ordinary without the churn of change to disrupt and enliven it.  But just my uninformed musicological thoughts.  The works were Paul Stanhope My song in love unknown (2000), Faure Piano quartet no.1 Cmin, Dvorak Piano quartet no,2 Ebmaj.  Comfy keys...

Kathryn Selby (piano) convened Andrew Haverson (violin), Tobias Breider (viola) and Miles Mullin-Chivers (cello) at Llewellyn to play Stanhope, Faure and Dvorak.

05 May 2022

And basketball

Today at Wesley, another student, this time Year 10, again a student of Jinbo Huang and a competition winner and wonderful pianist and with an entertaining and varied program.  Damien Ruan played a solid hour of solo piano: sonatas from Haydn and Scarlatti, themes from Grieg and Debussy and a crowd favourite from Chopin, his Military waltz op.40 no.1.  There was a lot of melody here, lots of open handed chords, hands over, fast and furious but also those killer tunes, so the program was a great pleasure.  The Grieg was his Wedding Day at Trolhaugen, instantly recognised like the Chopin.  And he played it all with skill and aplomb.  And he plays trombone in local concert bands ... and basketball and Taekwondo.  Kids with talent.  I admire their seriousness but also their easy-going commitment.  A blast; thanks Damien.

Damien Ruan (piano) played at Wesley.

04 May 2022


Well I dropped my phone and cracked its screen as I waited to enter The Great Divide, a CIMF concert at the Fitters' Workshop, but I came around in the end.  It was an intriguing mix of styles and they shouldn't really work but they did.  First up was Luminescence Chamber Singers directed by Roland Peelman singing mediaeval Spanish cantigas and Portuguese motets.  Six singers, 3 men, 3 women, occasional percussion and foot stamping, religious themes of Mary and women variously as saviours and whores, so clearly unwelcome in today's thought.  I was amused or maybe concerned with women singing this stuff, even as we realise the diverse times and thinking, this being a very earthy and religious age, but the historical denigration of woman's role was pretty obvious.  Strange and confronting to our ears and yet would have been unquestionable in those days, I guess.  Then an interval and a wine and I could forget the phone for a few minutes and I was intrigued by Jason Noble playing Steve Reich New York Counterpoint on clarinet.  I wondered how it would be accepted in this crowd, given he was plugged in, effected, multitracked, whatever.  I asked him later; if I got it right it was 8 clarinets plus two bass clarinets, all multitracked and no effects, just the rich resonances of the space.  I enjoyed that.  Then Orava playing Shostakovich String Quartet Gmaj no.6.  Again I felt some discomfort around me at the quite difficult melodies but I enjoyed it immensely.  Nicely expressed, accurately intoned, earthily bowed and intriguing as a composition ("a masterpiece of Soviet optimism post-Stalin" / CIMF concert program).  So a fascinating and satisfying concert if the lead-up was less pleasing.

The Luminiscence Chamber Singers under Roland Peelman (director), Jason Noble (clarinet) and Orava String Quartet performed at the Fitters' Workshop for the Canberra International Music Festival 2022.  Luminescence comprised AJ America, Veronica Milroy, Dan Walker, Lucien Fischer, Jack Stephens and Roberta Diamond.  Orava comprise Daniel Kowalik and David Dalseno (violins), Thomas Chawner (viola) and Karol Kowalik (cello).

02 May 2022

Red flagging it

It was May Day and it's a strange and forgotten event in these days of neo-liberalism and post-Economic Left and almost post-unions but I was amused by a Red Flag carried outside the windows of Smiths and the bloke came in.  He was a lifetime unionist and maintaining whatever rage is possible these days and a nice guy and there were plenty of others, surprisingly there from the very start and they saw The Pots.  The Pots appeared as the first act.  I had another appointment so Nigel gave me the opening spot.  I was performing a few songs from my albums with DJ deck and mic and just for a lark I ran The Internationale (Russian version, huge choir) as a lead in.  Given the age of the audience, I reckon they recognised it.  Playing it to our kids and their friends later, it's clear it's forgotten.  Then on to Hope%less ("This is coal, don't be afraid, don't be scared") and Double down (general rant) and Power (Trump and his Bible).  I got some applause and hopefully my listeners will increase (Spotify: recently +400% to 5 monthly listeners! Next month?).  I would have liked to stay; its good manners to stay for the other performers at these events.  I did hear Karlo Paarsonen singing some very amusing lefty numbers, including with singalongs, then had to leave as a woman was introducing a song about the Tolpuddle Martyrs.  I knew the name but again I doubt my kids' generation would.  So history goes, gone and forgotten, with ideologies and inequalities, but it was a good turnout and I enjoyed my rant on stage.  And good on the singers preparing outside, not least Mel.  And  again I missed Cuddlefish...

Smiths staged Songs of Protest for May Day (1 May).  Eric Pozza (DJ deck, spoken word) opened as The Pots.  Karlo Paarsonen (vocals, domra?) performed and was followed by numerous others.  Mel Kordek (guitar, vocals) was amongst the singers outside.

01 May 2022


There were seven days of Creation and they were covered within parts 1 and 2 of Haydn's Creation at the Canberra International Music Festival, if I got the lyrics right.  So what of part 3, after the interval?  It may have been Adam and Eve enjoying each other, for there were some lyrics thus suggesting.  But then I didn't get all the lyrics.  I was entranced by the truly excellent bass playing of Kirsty McCahon sitting tall and up front and I didn't catch much of the rest.  Even the whales that James mentioned at interval.  Well, maybe they were a big bass part (?) but I was just watching the bowing and hearing the incredible projection of one baroque, presumably gut, bass amongst such a large ensemble and the way she seemed to almost ignore the music and look around constantly.  I downloaded the music this morning and it's not so difficult to read, being baroque, but still, I was in awe.  But otherwise, the individual singers were very good to great, the chorus was impeccable, the orchestra based on the Australian Haydn Ensemble was tight and expressive and Chad, who I drove the other day, the keyboardist, was Euro-confident and again someone who knows when to raise his head from the music, the baroque horns just sounded great and Roland was his hyper-energetic self as conductor and driver of it all.  I was in awe from the first few minutes from the tightness and clarity and precision and overwhelming baroque beauty, and it just continued for the two-or-so hours of the performance, but then, for the sake of the occasion and the musical beauty, I was prepared to ignore some distinctly dated, particularly non-feminist awareness.  Did I say I enjoyed it?  Yeah, and the bassist was good too.

Haydn Creation (Die Schöpfung) was performed at the Canberra International Music Festival by Roland Peelman (conductor), Skye McIntosh (concert master and leader of the...) Australian Haydn Ensemble, Chad Kelly (keyboard), Alexandra Oomens (soprano), Andrew Goodman (tenor), James Ioelu (bass), Sydney Chamber Choir (vocals) with Kirsty McCahon (double bass).