30 June 2023

Taking care of business

It's not a common event for me, but we got to a 50th anniversary celebration for a business we know and it was in a salubrious location, at Zinc in Federation Square, opposite Flinders St Station and beside the Yarra in Melbourne, and the food and drink was laid on and some entertainment and some speeches and we chatted with an interesting Italian couple. But for the purposes of Canberra Jazz let me tell you of the entertainment: a duo, called SaxOnCello, obviously sax (alto) and cello with recorded backing. They dressed for the occasion, performed a lively presence, played fairly sparingly but effectively against their recorded accompaniment, all purchased and legal rather than self-developed. And a singer appeared to perform We are family, perhaps associated with the duo or maybe not. It was loud and effective and involving as parties should be. The women were attractively presented and the bloke had a hat and presence. This is all the nature of commercial performance and they did it with panache and presence and volume and persistence. I've caught a few bands around Federation Square and this is the nature of the local commercial scene. Interesting and involving and well done.

SaxOnCello are Ashley James (alto) and Lily Thornton (cello). They performed at Zinc in Federation Square, Melbourne.

29 June 2023


We always get to the National Gallery of Victoria when we are in Melbourne. This visit was no different. We'd heard of the Bonnard exhibition but it was not all; there was a Rembrandt exhibition, too. Wow. But we just got to the Bonnard. The Rembrandt was mainly from the NGV collections, they told us, so his four NGV paintings plus etchings. Interesting but. The Bonnard had works with owning institutions from out of town, NGA and AGNSW but also National Gallery of Art Washington DC and a string from Musee d'Orsay. So this was the big one. It took us through his friends, studies, artistic changes and long presence of his partner, model and later wife, Marthe de Meligny, AKA Marthe Bonnard. Interesting to see the involvement of photography and movies, of his colours and movement, of his sense of perspective (all tables and dinners and card games viewed from high viewpoints) and his interest in photography. There were also diversions into film with Alfred Jarry Ubu Roi and endless pics of various types of Marthe. It must be somewhat stressful to be always on display for an artist, but at least most was painted over time rather than immediate and photographed. I came to associate with his sense of colour and softness and movement in place of edges and lines and definition and appreciate his domestic and natural world but I'm not sure I fully appreciate his importance. That's for some more study. In the meantime, I continue to prefer other eras.

Pierre Bonnard : Designed by India Mahdavi was at the National Gallery of Victoria.

28 June 2023


NCO held its anniversary concert and I hadn't realised, but this is another venerable institution in Canberra.  40 years for this community orchestra.   It's not a huge history but it is significant, especially in the context of a short-lived town like Canberra.  I was amused at some of the discussion around Albert Hall in the same way by NCO members new to Canberra.  Our Albert Hall was a product of the first round of building for the national capital, opening in 1928, replacing the Causeway Hall (seen that?) as the largest place of entertainment in Canberra and succeeded in 1965 by the Canberra Theatre.  Thus this program was called Anniversaries, celebrating NCOs's 40th and Canberra with the Andrew Schultz Symphony no.3 written for Canberra's centenary and played ten years later and Rachmaninov's 150 birthday with his Paganini Rhapsody.  And a third piece by Ukraininan-Australia composer Catherine Likhuta.  It was a daring combination and a challenging play and NCO did it justice as always, not least with Rach soloist Kristian Chong.  Just a few pics but also a memory of the history that makes us all.

National Capital Orchestra performed Likhuta, Rachmaninov and Schultz at Albert Hall underLouis Sharpe (conductor) with soloist Kristian Chong (piano).

27 June 2023

Clever folk

It's a long time since I've interested myself in folk music.  Perhaps when I attended some Irish jams in pubs in Adelaide yonks back.  Or when I played in White Cockatoo (bush band with rock rhythm section) around the Bicentennial.  Since then, I've had this idea it's all strummy guitars and singer songwriters.  But I can be wrong and it was proven to me by Veronica Milroy and Rowan Phemister at Wesley.  Now these are capable and well-trained musicians: Veronica sings in Luminescence Chamber Choir and Rowan in the CSO.  They presented what is essentially Irish folk, but it was far more than three chords.  This was complex, written stuff.  My Lagan love was traditional but it was gloriously beautiful and presented with immense capability and interpretation with depth.  They did two tunes by Loreena McKennitt, both musically complex and touching stories and four tone poems from Mirian Hyde in a series on the sea in which you could just feel the lapping of water in the melody overlaid on the lyrics.  It's another of those times that lyrics determine melody.  I've felt this before with Beatles, Bacharach and clearly here, and it just empowers the story and enlivens the melody.  And an amusing thing called Shipping song by Lisa Knapp dedicated to the much loved BBC Shipping forecast, now well past its 150th anniversary.  It was just the last tune, Don McLean Vincent, that fitted my strummy simple folk impression, but it's a great enough tune anyway and beautifully presented by this pair.  None-the-less, it's that early, busy, complex folk that will remain for me from this concert and reinvigourate my interest in (some) folk music.

Veronica Milroy (soprano) sang Irish folk with accompaniment by Rowan Phemister (harp) at Wesley.

26 June 2023

Living stories

Another pianist, this one a world star: Garrick Ohlsson.  It was during this concert that I realised I hadn't heard much solo piano recently; piano yes, perhaps in a concerto or trio or in jazz, but not solo classical.  To hear a master like this was a revelation.  He's a big man, so a decent grand piano doesn't seem so large and the stool seems small.  His knees only just seem to fit under the piano.  I guess his hands are large, too, which often seems a great advantage to a musician.  Certainly, I note big strong hands suits double bassists.  Then his interpretation: delicate, hugely varied dynamics and phrasings and great flexibility in tempo and delays and pauses and commas throughout.  I described it as "telling a story"; a pianist friends spoke of colour.  For there was immense interpretation here, every line, every phrase considered over much practice.  He played a 10-page original composition commissioned for this tour, Thomas Misson Convocations, and introduced it with admiration.  Interestingly, he said he's spent more time on this over the last 3 months than the rest of the program.  Even so he was reading.  It says something about how much input was granted to the rest of the memorised, complex pieces before that.  Practice makes perfect, even if aptitude is also required.  Otherwise, he played his program 1: Schubert impromptu, Liszt sonata Bmin, a series of shortish Scriabin pieces and a Chopin Nocturne as encore.  The Liszt was a star piece and I am told is Liszt's best or near to.  My pianist friend said he'd looked at it and decided to refrain.  Whatever, he didn't make anything look easy, but he did make it all look well considered and deeply imbibed and scarily well performed.  This was really an eye opener to this admirer of local ambition.  It's a big world out there and Garrick and a string of Musica Viva performers bring some to us.

Garrick Ohlsson (piano) performed at Llewellyn Hall for Musica Viva.

This is CJBlog post no. 2,650

25 June 2023

Kids today

I reckon the kids I see around me these days are mightily impressive.  Thus it was with the friends of our two sons.  Thus it is with occasional young pianists I hear at Wesley, not least Angela Zhu.  She was pretty unassuming in receiving applause and just sat between tunes, presumably contemplating her next piece.  She played with no music, so contemplation / preparation this is understandable.  And what did she play?  Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Poulenc.  A suite of renowned and popular performers and done with huge presence, commitment, memory and interpretation.  She's still at school, but working towards AMEB LMusA, the highest of the AMEB levels.  It shows: steady, insistent Bach; firm, loud Mozart, playful at times, light and bouncy with sudden interplays; lyrical, emotive, sometimes explosive Chopin; soft, modern, impressionist, French Poulenc with flowing passages, occasional dissonances amongst flowing passages.  This was a concert of immense satisfaction for the audience.  You felt it in the applause and impressed chatter after.  Kids today!

 Angela Zhu (piano) performed Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Poulenc at Wesley.

24 June 2023

It's a wrap

The wrap up was Mr Ott again, this time with Nick Garbett in place of Ellen Kirkwood.  I've written of them from last night, so no particular report.  Suffice to say the vibe was infectious and joyous with lots of dancers and chatter and a few glasses and hamburgers.  I'd missed all the local Canberrans and a few notables that I know of and a few other names that I didn't know.  Given four venues with one a little hike away and single sets, it's not always feasible to get to everything.  You miss too much in the walk-time  But what I saw was enough and invigorating and stimulating and a nice update on SIMA and Sydney improv jazz and related arts.  On the way out I passed the local cultural centre (theatre, gallery, museum, library, cafe).  It was a sunny and warm winter's day (by Orange standards) so I managed a quick perusal of the local museum (small but these things always have interest) and a decent cappuccino so I was ready for the 3.5 hour return drive.  It's a hike but most do it, from Sydney or Canberra.  Otherwise, a nice town and we can only wish OWJF a long history.  It's a worthy outing on a long weekend.  Thanks again to SIMA.

Mt Ott played the Lord Anson for the end-festival party.

23 June 2023


It was pretty much the ending but we had some seniors of the SIMA scene in the Sandy Evans / Andy Robson Quartet with offsiders Brett Hirst and Hamish Stuart.  Well, that's a mighty team and it showed with a range of original compositions in all manner of modern styles, latinish, dedications, ballads, memories of James Greening and Ornette Coleman, some simple and folkloric, some burning modernist, all done with grace and joy and immense competence and commitment.  It was a pleasure to see the interest and smiles from Andy at a Sandy solo and Sandy at an Andy solo.  Great and not unexpected but always appreciated and welcomely imbibed, melodious and entertaining, good mannered and inviting, stimulating and challenging and rich in references to other cultures.  And devastating with chops that were quick but purposeful.  Do no wrong; present no hype.  How can you not love this music?  They've all played together for yonks through all manner of bands and are now preparing for another album in this formation, I guess with these tunes.  One to get.

Sandy Evans (tenor, soprano sax) and Andy Robson (baritone, alto sax) led a group with Brett Hirst (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums).

22 June 2023


The Lord Anson is the hearty hub of the OWJF.  It's got beer, it's got disco-ish lighting and chatter and dancing and fun.  We dropped in just to hang out for a while between other acts and it was Queen Porter Stomp playing.  This is song with harmonies, trumpet and squeeze box and banjo.  Not modern but alive and humourous with a touch of seriousness (relationships and taking boats to work were mentioned in patter) and very welcomed dancing.  Perhaps a bit early in the night for too much dancing, but the toes were tapping and the seats were jumping.  Great with a beer and a top-tapping smile.  Love this stuff.

Queen Porter Stomp are Crystal Barreca (vocals, ukulele), Julian Curwin (banjo), Louise Horwood (trumpet), Matt Lamb (bass) and Alex Masso (drums).  They were missing their usual trombone player and I missed the name of the accordionist.  My apologies.

21 June 2023

The song continues

It's seldom that a jazz festival will feature two singers in a row, at least a modern festival.  But thus it was, and both revisits, and both to die for.  I'd heard Lisa Oduor-Noah at the closing concert of the CIMF and was mightily impressed.  This went further, perhaps given the more intimate surroundings and perhaps a more atuned audience.  For this is modern soul with intimacy and connection and joy and purpose.  And a voice to die for.  All sharply stated but fluid and joyous and rich in embellishments and delirious lifts to the heavens.  She could sing high!  And we got to join in, in our wary, insular, Australian way.  It must help singers like Lisa to have an audience on side and showing it.  We were onside but reticent.  I wonder of singing in her native Kenya or dens in the USA.  This Uniting church was not that, but it was loving and she was deeply appreciated.  Her accompaniment this gig was Daniel Pilner, otherwise keys with Mr Ott.  It was mostly restrained Rhodes accompaniment but nicely articulated and correct.  He deserved the Swahili anthem that we all sang to him at Lisa's prompting.  This was modern, personal stories of love and optimism and the like, merged with visits to Lisa's history and some social commentary.  "Down by the riverside / I've found things take time".  Lauren Hill got some quotes, for musical and sociopolitical reasons, and that's understandable.  And I liked the opportunity to join in, if confusing pitches.  I might say I would love to sing...  But it was that personality and that glorious soulful voice that did it.  Varied and accurate with ecstatic embellishments.  Think studio accuracy.  I could just imagine how this inventiveness could be layered and groups and harmonised for a rich studio result.  So cool, so quiet and so, so deeply, deeply grooving.

Lisa Oduor-Noah (vocals) was accompanied by Daniel Pilner (keys) at the Uniting Church.

20 June 2023


It was a small break and the Con trail to Michelle Nicole.  Now I know Michelle well and have delighted in her performances in the past and this was just expected.  I'd been speaking glowingly of Michelle to the mostly Sydney audience and she wasn't so known.  Perhaps not a core group of jazz followers.  She didn't disappoint.  From the top it was detailed, distinct, subtle, emotional, exquisite.  She was playing with new guitarist James Sherlock and he fitted easily and with some expansiveness.  Pretty sure he was reading the dots for Bach and more, and his solos were exquisite works of sequences and slightly dirtied guitar.  And Tom's solos were beautiful, long arpeggiations over the fingerboard and intermediate detailed semitonal colours and sweet melody.  Ronny is recovering from an injury so was slightly subdued but he's always quietly delicate and supportive so still a pleasure.  And Michelle just always stuns and ingratiates with her intimate presence and singer's singer meticulous perfection.  This was their Bach project, something Michelle had designed as the jazz component at a classical festival and has now recorded and is touring.  A subtle mix of wordless fugues and minuets and sung standards.  Really a fascinating and successful exercise in arrangement with a composer who isn't out of place with modern song.  OK, the voice sometimes got lost in the mix but my neighbours at the gig were equally entranced when we chatted as we walked back to festival central.  Just a lovely return to Michelle and her band.

Michelle Nicolle (vocals) performed at the Orange Conservatorium with James Sherlock (guitar), Tom Lee (bass) and Ronny Ferella (drums).

19 June 2023


Vazesh were a different experience again.  This is jazz as world music as international (if not really internationale).  This is meditative, pensive, slow and built on the alternative sound of the tar.  Tar is a Persian instrument, guitar-like but more resonant, more trebley, plucked but with a different pick, thicker, more rounded, more pointy.  It all started with bass clarinet for an extended period, then a bass entry with bow and harmonics, then the tar, then into a groove at low tempo (~minum=40?).  After perhaps 15 mins a change to tenor sax.  Calm and unexcited. There's a message here and it's not post-bop.  Nice and not quite as different as I suggest.

Vazesh are Hamed Sadeghi (tar), Jeremy Rose (sax, bass clarinet), Lloyd Swanton (bass).

18 June 2023

Young guns

I was chatting to some of my generation after Tessie Overmeyer Trio's concert.  They were stunned like me by the maturity and chops and effectiveness of these three.  And by their ages.  Maybe that's a thing that comes with age, but so does maturity and this trio had obvious musical maturity.  Just another way I admire our upcoming young (another is their politics but more on that elsewhere).  The trio is led by altoist Tess with Chloe Kim and bass Jacques Emery.  Jacques played with excellent crystalline tone and an extension: I'd seen him recently at CIMF (classical) so this fits.  He used it for one low riff, but he was all over, quick with eighth and sixteenth notes up and down the neck and lots of long intervallic double stops and the like.  Hugely effective playing.  Tessie led on a Zappa tune but also a series of bluesy post-bop drivers.  She'd often play blues scales and with great inventiveness and interest, but then also ready to drop into various more complex harmonic colours.  All with purpose.  Then Chloe who I've written about elsewhere this weekend.  A responsive, varied drummer of great subtlety.  Her latest project is for 6 basses.  I joke that the AWO/Katz-Chernin did one for 8 basses, but that's just a joke.  They are both incredible investigations.  Tessie included a slow, sparse solo sax piece that developed into a mostly tempo-free improv with bass bow and drum noise and more.  Then a bluesy funky 4/4 with interesting structure and that Zappa (Little umbrellas) and a 70's driving hard-bop original Ecki thump.  (Wikipedia confirms this is from a 1975 Goodies episode.  Our more aged cohort recognised this!)  Then another effective, impressive, inventive bluesy finisher.  Great band!  Please excuse the mushy pic.

Tessie Overmeyer (alto) led a trio with Jacques Emery (bass) and Chloe Kim (drums) at the Uniting Church.

17 June 2023

Sunday not early

It was first up but not too early.  I got in some writing and a family emergency (nothing too serious) and a meetup with some performers and got to the Con early enough to avoid a queue for Torrio!  That's the name of the trio of Paul Grabowski, Mirko Guerrino and Niko Schauble.  Serious stuff.  The most complex piano I've heard with similar free flowing drums.  The first tune was soft, introduced with gloriously dissonant, rich, complex chords and indefinite, colour cymbals.  Paul's solo was similar, rich and complex, rolling piano lines with sudden truncations, left hand bass of long intervals.  Then into a more tonal sax solo, ecstatic runs and emotive tonguing, and chromatic chordal improvisations.  The next tune was by Niko, a drummer's tune of odd timing (3-3-3-4-3-3-3-5?) then into Taxi in Rome.  I could understand as a Roman visitor for several years yonks back.  Latinish starting with unison post-bop styled head.  Then a descant recorder and a more laid back tune.  Thus it went.  Hugely complex and substitutional, coloured, sophisticated piano and expressive, more tonal wind and subtle, response, relatively soft drums.  Quite a stunner, really.

Torrio! performed at the Orange Conservatorium.  Torrio! comprises Paul Grabowski (piano), Mirko Guerrino (tenor, winds) and Niko Schauble (drums).

16 June 2023


Happy is my favourite tune by Public Image Ltd.  Mr Ott didn't play Happy or anything like it, but they did produce it.  The Lord Anson was jumping within minutes and in ecstasy by the end of the set.  This was tight, infectious, classy, on top and joyous, with memories of Ethiopia and Sun Ra (to my ears and those of muso Darren beside me).  The whole place was dancing or tapping or, if not, looking out of place after a few tunes.  The tunes were tight, the movement were welcoming (Matt's steps and Ellen's claps), the band was hugely impressively ready to sit, and the solos by all were delightful and punchy and welcoming and playful and always apt and that bass could repeat and that's a skill in itself.  Jazz is all chops and serious study and we can too easily be serious and miss the joy.  Mr Ott does not do this and it's an infectious pleasure.  Loved it deeply.

Mr Ott entertained the Lord Anson as the last band on Saturday night.  They were Matthew Ottignon (tenor, baritone saxes), Ellen Kirkwood (trumpet), Dave Panichi (guitar), Daniel Pilner (keys), Jan Bangma (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums).

15 June 2023


It requires a special mood to partake of a Necks concert.  I had it once before in the Street Theatre and missed it this evening in Holy Trinity.   But it was deeply interesting to see how three very capable musicians can go from nil to intense to nil again over 75mins and be authentic and interesting.  And they were.   I came in 5 mins into the concert, but it was just starting.  No bass yet and sparse piano and African percussion.  Over the next hour the piano went from simple but satisfying major then minor pentatonics, then some inserted semitones and unison octaves and complex minor harmonies.  The drums added steady, regular cymbals and perhaps more, always with that afro percussion and bass went from bowed long notes to immensely busy RH pizz of octave note and joining slides and similar.  Ultimately, all back to nil.  Of course you feel the movements up and down, the changes in harmony and busy-ness and urgency and I was particularly fascinated by the back and forth flow over the underlying movements.  It's a time of envelopment, of engulfment.  It's also a massively successful musical project here and overseas and good on them for that.  I may not have been in that mood that time, but I can only admire the project.

The Necks are Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Tony Buck (drums).

14 June 2023

Two monsters

These were not really jazz other than that all music can be, or is influenced by, jazz.  First up was Moussa Diakite Trio.  Afrobeat, huge fun, demandingly danceable, fascinatingly rhythmic.  I tried counting at times with some failures.  Nice to see they had plenty of whoops and a few up and dancing in the Uniting Church.  Just three blokes, all with hats.  Strange, insistent, immersive rhythms that demand movement, then stop suddenly or twist with some odd unison line, and those harmonies simple but sure.  I was intrigued by the relationship of bass and drums, sometimes obvious enough, other times strangely various in rhythm.  But it all worked, despite my disorientations.  And that classic jagged guitar that also goes with the territory.  A huge joy here and lots of foot tapping.  Then a taste of something completely different.  Monstress.  It's an amusing name.  Four 20-something women impressing both with musical skills and awareness and also purpose in lyrics.  Again not that I caught the lyrics but the tunes were introduced.  There was a wonderful funkiness, nicely structured and easy pedalling and an awareness of the hypnotic and the value of statement.  I heard Meshell Ndegeocello in the first tune and Sarah later acknowledged the influence.  And she volunteered Esperanza Spalding.  Well chosen influences create worthy music.

The Moussa Diakite Trio comprised Moussa Diakite (guitar vocals), Lenny Samperi (bass, vocals) and Junior Jones (drums).  Monstress were Sarah Homeh (bass, vocals), Jade Slater (keys), Jenna Lewis (tenor) and Hayley Chan (drums).

13 June 2023


These were two duo performances that I caught in just short bursts.  Both were capable and with interest but not so much for me on the day.   Harry James Angus was a significant player in The Cat Empire and they were of great note in their time.  He appeared with drummer Freyja Hooper.  I arrived to a minimalist number on trumpet, LH piano and drums which I found interesting, insistent and somewhat Milesian.  Then to piano, drums, voice with demanding times on drums and otherwise a rocky feel.  I seldom catch vocals so can't speak of the topic other than that Harry told of exhausting his writing on all manner of common themes so then delving into Greek mythology: specifically this one was of Helios, the sun god.  Amusing.  Then off to The Lord Anson pub for a singer-songwriter duo.  They were quiet and thematic and deserved listening to lyrics.  One half was Nick H,  bass in Underwards who spoke of rushing to arrive for this gig.  Very different from the heavily effected and challengingly timed bass in the previous band.  Also a touch apologetic for playing a venue like this, more noisy.  An amusing comment and a capable folkish duo.

Harry James Angus (trumpet, piano, vocals) and Freyja Hooper (drums) performed at Holy Trinity.  Little Clouds performed at Lord Anson and comprised Nick Henderson (vocals, guitar, banjo) and Emily-Rose Sarkova (vocals, piano, accordion).

12 June 2023

Trumpeters' melodies glow

I don't know what it is but trumpeters seem to write great melody.  I guess it's a function of the instrument and the fingering and the harmonic sequence that underlies it all.  I walked up to the Orange Con to hear Underwards given that Hillary Geddes was playing with them.  In the end I was stunned by the compostions by leader and trumpeter Ellen Kirkwood, intrigued by the bass lines and effects and hugely impressed by both Hillary and drummer Alex. All odd times and strange, heavily effected, composed bass lines, unexpected divisions and mellifluous distortions against glorious clearly spelled beautiful trumpet melodies.  This was space and dynamics but always with a purpose.  The purpose was nature or indigenous history or more; always with reason and true emotion.  Deeply sensitive, intellectually inquisitive, modern and of today.  I don't like to be too demeaning of traditions (I love them) but I also like honest searching and development and this seemed just that.  Breaking the jazz coma.  Do I need to say I was mightily impressed and deeply affected even as the bass was deeply effected.

Underwards are Ellen Kirkwood (trumpet), Hillary Geddes (guitar), Nick Henderson (bass, synths) and Alex Inman-Hislop (drums).

11 June 2023

Late starter

I was relaxed in arriving at the Orange Winter Jazz festival this year.  My first concert was the last few mid-afternoon tunes of Bungarribee.  It's a project of Gary Daley of The catholics fame.  He's collected a quartet of odd combination to play a style of chamber music influenced by jazz and classical and more.  How's this for a format: piano/accordion, various winds, cello and drums.  The names are notable: Gary with Paul Cutlan, Oliver miller and Chloe Kim.  I came in to music soft, meditative and unexpected and bass clarinet solo.  Then to finish they started with free piano-based introduction leading to a gentle and pretty 4/4 with wind melody.  This was in Holy Trinity, a cathedral with considerably live sound, pretty obvious for this performance.  Wish I'd heard more.  Then off to Chloe Kim playing a solo outing in the Uniting Church which I remember as my favourite acoustic from last year.   Chloe had played a concert of 100hours solo drums over 10 days at MONA.  She subsequently selected 28 themes and improvised as a CD.  This was her first live performance of those selected themes, 1 minute allocated to each.  I doubt I've ever attended a solo drums concert but this entranced especially with the themes listed, like Cymbal peak or Dance! or Push and pull or Garbage truck.  It was Garbage truck that first got me.  Chloe had seard a garbage truck outside during her 100 hours and took the constant pulse as an improvisatorial prompt.  You could hear that truck.  Not all the themes were so clear but they were intriguing and honest and presented with connection.  Stunningly good.  
Bungarribee comprises Gary Daley (piano, accordion), Paul Cutlan (flutes, saxes, clarinets), Oliver Miller (cello, electronics) and Chloe Kim (drums, percussion).  Chloe Kim (drums, percussion) played a solo gig at the Uniting Church.

09 June 2023

Small world

It can be a very small world.  We all remember where we were when we heard of the 9/11 attacks and the collapse of the Twin Towers in NYC.  Given jazz and a couple of visits, I feel quite a connection to NYC.  It's easy to feel that, given its ubiquity in modern culture.  But what of real connections?  I had a first cousin there on 9/11 with an apartment facing the Empire State building and that was considered a possible target.  We visited NYC just a week before the Occupy Wall Street demos and it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and I carelessly missed a Presidential cavalcade in town for the memorial.  And most relevantly, Megan had a second cousin who was deviated to Gander airport, Newfoundland, on 9/11.  I read his diary entry before attending Come from Away.  Come from Away is a Broadway musical now at the Canberra Theatre.  It tells the story of Operation Yellow Ribbon, when the US closed its airspace due to the terrorist attacks and Canada hosted diverted flights.  Gander had been a major refuelling stop in the days of prop planes, but was then reduced and attached to a town of ~9,000.  But for these several days, the town doubled and the visitors were well supported.  There must be tons of associated stories.  This musical has 12 cast and a small band that presents an array of people and narratives.   Some are to be expected (obviously the unexpected love story) and some are deeply touching (a female friendship of a local and a visitor who's son is a fireman in NYC or the pilot mother chasing a pilot son).  The cast all play an array of parts and the script is machine-gunned at times.  There's plenty of humour and some inevitable loss, initial confusion and distrust and developing respect and love.  I love musical voices and the harmonies were hugely pleasing at times.  I was initially disconcerted by the accents (to my ear almost Irish, but maybe that's Newfoundlanese) and then by the music and dance (which were again Irish-like), all heels up, bodrham, fiddle, squeezebox and mandolin (and drum kit, violin, telecaster, JB, keys at other times).  I'm still pondering if there's a connection.  The cast were on stage virtually throughout so I could only admire their stage-fitness.  This was a demanding gig.  The stage was pretty simple, a timber backdrop, some suggested trees, tables and chairs.  Amusingly, a scene of two lovers admiring scenery had them idling along as the stage revolved and chairs were moved for their calm stroll.  That worked!  Much did.  There were laughs a plenty and a standing ovation from a full house for an obviously well prepared cast.  Impressive and not at all easy.  We learnt of Gander, of this specific aspect of 9/11, felt the goodwill and also the desperation and loss and fear associated with the act.  Interesting.  It was a small world for these people who eventually flew into Texas, even if our local connection was more distant and mediated by media.  But we all know this event and this is a positive aspect of a terrible tragedy.  Much enjoyed.

PS.  Thanks to Canberra Theatre Centre who provided us with a few gratis tickets.  Also, thanks to the Canberra Theatre Centre Come from Away site for the pic.  Given no pics in the theatre and the CTC invitation and this report, I guess it's OK borrow this pic.

Come from Away was a musical with thematic connections to 9/11 at Canberra Theatre.

08 June 2023

Song of Joy, no less

National choirs are a thing and I've even sung in one (Italian) but I don't always expect much.  They are community choirs and are welcoming rather than auditioned and that's good, so they have a social as well as an artistic or cultural role.  They often play the free circuit of aged homes and fetes and the like but not so often the more skilled reaches of the concert hall, but the Austrian Choir appeared at Wesley and they were a great pleasure.  We heard some decent harmonies and interesting costumes and skilled accompaniment from Linus Lee on the very good organ and piano at Wesley Uniting Church and some capable leadership from Geoff Roberts, but the thing that ultimately impressed me was the repertoire.  I'd expected folk tunes from a nattily dressed national choir but we opened with Beethoven Song of joy, no less.  Beethoven 9!  And that was a very decent rendition with nicely clear and correct harmonies.  There was another Beethoven, too, and a Mozart.  Mozart was from current Austria (b. Salzburg).  Beethoven wasn't (b. Bonn) but I decided a Germanic culture can claim these names so OK.  Perhaps not Ketelbey who was also sung and was English, but that went into Kyrie Eleison which must have common ownership over all Europe.  The songs from a few musicals (You'll never walk alone, Climb every mountain) were harder to claim but they were inviting, and the Louis Armstrong reference (What a wonderful world) was also pretty new world USA.  Linus got in an organ solo by Vittorio Mondi and there were a few  songs that are popular in newer religions and this seemed more new world  but maybe not and they are really infectious tunes (Guide me O great Jehovah, You raise me up).  But then to finish a final musical number that talks clearly of Austria (Eidelweiss from Sound of Music) even if it was originally received with "disdain by Austrians" (Wikipedia).  As in the film, it was the final number and we were invited to sing along so it was a great pleasure.  As was this whole program and concert.  I enjoyed this concert.

The Austrian Choir Canberra performed at Wesley Church under Geoff Roberts (conductor) and with accompaniment from Linus Lee (organ, piano).

05 June 2023

Confounder factor

I've probably said it before but this was perhaps the most difficult piece I've played (until next time?).  Maruki does the repertoire and doesn't flinch on the programs, eg, next concert includes two Russian symphonies.  But this time, it was the standard format, an overture, a concerto and a symphony.  First half was Rossini L'Italiana in Algieri and a to-die-for lovely clarinet concerto by Mozart.  They went well although of very different styles.  Rossini is all operatic Italian flair and Mozart is dignified, super-pretty and downright touching.  Both done pretty well and Beth doing a great job on the solo clarinet.  But the second half was Sibelius Symphony 2.  Variously delicate, demanding, noisy, unrelenting, with huge changes of tempo throughout, the longest bass solo I've played and the strangest score that just seemed to express itself through various unrelated parts adding to make up one story.  Strange, that; confounding at times.  A huge count demander.  Mozart was never thus.  I wish we could have played it again in performance the next day.  It would have been so much more settled on day 2.  Like the professional orchestras who get to play a repertoire regularly.  There's so much more closeness and comfort then.  But no, this was just a single outing and we did not perfect but not bad.  Another to add to my list.

Maruki Orchestra performed under Kristen Simpson (conductor) at Albert Hall.  Beth Bantrick (clarinet) soloed in the Mozart.  The bass end was Jennifer Groom and Eric Pozza (basses).