30 July 2023

Something else different

My last post was about an unexpected kids' moral tale in a theatre in Adelaide.  This is back in Canberra, but again a change for me.  This is pop music, a covers band.  I'd met Dave, a neighbour of a friend, at a theatre performance and it turned out that he played bass in a covers band.  His band was Topshelf and they were playing one suitable Saturday at the Burns Club and we are members given a session we attend regularly and we could have dinner and the band was free so why not.  Well, it was loud but they were a capable and comfortable outfit and the room was abuzz with dancers up front and some woman was inviting us to dance or organising seating for us (not a staff member, but friendly in the whole thing) and I jived along at the side as Megan took to the floor and this was a wonderfully entertaining and happy outing.  We ate too much, as one is wont to do at a buffet but that was good too.  The music was too loud, but I had my trusty tissues.  I recognised plenty of songs but given my intelli-jazz orientation found it hard to name them.   But I could search lyrics.  And there was a string of guitars to swap and a mandolin and a light show and they even play a keytar although I didn't catch it.  And Dave gave me a touch on his bass that I didn't recognise and it had neat action and a lovely thumpy feel with flatwounds and a semi-acoustic body.  Nice.  Not that I've played e-bass for a few years anyway.  So it was somewhat a blast and a thing from my past but gee it's nice to have fun with music and pop-rock can do that and Topshelf did it capably and with energy and some sweat.  Again, not jazz, but great fun!

Topshelf played at the Burns Club.  Topshelf are Brad Hartland (vocals, guitar), Craig Elphick (keys, vocals), Dave Kirwan (bass, vocals) and Ian Heffernan (drums).

21 July 2023


Well this was unexpected!  I'm in Adelaide visiting family.  It was early afternoon and I had an hour to kill and I strolled across the road to see what's on at the concert hall at the Norwood Town Hall and the door slid open (usually locked) and the lady inside invited me to an event. What, I didn't know.  How long?  An hour.  She was about to close the doors.  Ticket, no worries, just come in.   What is it?  She'd tell me afterwards.  Ah, why not?  I entered to a smallish theatre set to find lots of primary aged kids sitting on the floor in red hats and a string of mothers around the perimeter and something about to commence.  Then a moral tale, obviously suitable and written for kids, of a hunter's son who receives a knife passed down through the family and goes on his first golden fox hunt, then through a series of adventures and encounters and characters and life lessons and a final act of saving his by-then golden fox mate from his father's hunt only to again encounter the dreaded Wommolly.  There were themes of survival and its demands and experiencing the world outside (a theme in the zeitgeist with the Barbie film) and "love conquers all".  I enjoyed it as did the kids and very much admired the music and the themes.  But this was not just a play, but musical theatre.  It had several feature solo songs were really good, nicely apt in style, and one that blew me out with a glorious melody as in the best musicals and background orchestral instrumental music that was involving and interesting.  No program so throughout I was wondering what was this work.  I met up with my host on leaving and found that this was an original work written by the fox himself.  Wow, impressed!  The work was The Boy with the Golden Fox written by Benji Riggs and performed by the Flying Elephant Company.  It was premiered in 2022 and is now seeking to tour schools throughout Australia.  Playwright/composer Benji Riggs has an interesting bio, having studied in the UK at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and performed with State Opera of SA and The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival let alone the World Children's Theatre Ensemble and the African Children's Choir.  He's also written another children's musical and works for string quartet and founded the Flying Elephant Company.  And he offers a recording studio and mixing/mastering.  Impressed.  In the meantime, I had an amusing and satisfying hour enjoying a fantasy moral tale for kids.  Yep, unexpected but time that was not at all wasted.

The Boy with the Golden Fox was written by Benji Riggs and performed by the Flying Elephant Company at the Don Pyatt Hall at the Norwood Concert Hall (prev. Norwood Town Hall).

19 July 2023

Just friends

This was Miro, John, Eric and Chris at the Drill Hall so just friends.  It fits perfectly, even if they didn't play that tune.  In fact, Miro spoke of pondering the gig and coming up with a theme of Ornette and OC is a world away from Just friends ... or maybe not.  Ornette is modern and challenging but somewhat jovial and he's still from the same tradition.  But it's not that Miro played Ornette all night.  In fact we just got two Ornettes, When will the blues leave and Happy house, and tribute that I didn't know.  And interestingly, Mingus Pithecanthropus erectus which is a hugely menacing thing that develops into something playful.  Weird but a work of Mingus' genius.  I think it also fits somehow with Ornette.  And we always get a string of Miro's Wanderlust tunes and it's a huge pleasure to hear them from the composer.  Today's were Delicatessence, Bronte Cafe and Dakkar.  They are old friends and hugely inviting melodies.  A work of Miro's melodic genius just with his friends.  And a few old friends to fill things out: John playing solo on In a sentimental mood and the band playing Monk Rhythmaning and, of course, Footprints to finish up.  So these were friends all round, on stage and played as the program.  And what great playing.  It's a while so I had a fresh ear and I was learning tons from Miro's and John's tones, the solo structures of dropping scalar elements turned into temporary home pitches.  Horns do that rather than basses.  And Eric just fluid and rich in slides and vibratos and with yet another instrument.  Eric is adventurous with his instruments.  This was a 1/8th bass loaded with three pickups and more, sometimes bowed, otherwise expansively soloed.  It sounded great.  And Chris with a very defined and precise take on very expansive rhythmic interpretations.  So the whole was just friends but a revisit to some hugely satisfying playing.  The venue is pretty wet, but the playing was sharp.  Fabulous.

Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), John Mackey (tenor), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums) played at the Drill Hall Gallery.

17 July 2023


I reckon that voice is the most intimate and natural thus most significant instrument there is, so it's no surprise that I love a choir.  But this concert was beyond the pale.  I was stunned, touched, by Oriana Chorale singing with the Phoenix Collective (string quartet) and pianist Jem Harding under Dan Walker.  Maybe partly because it was intimate in a smallish space, us being in the effective front row at the Larry Sitsky Room, or because of the programming which was diverse and interesting but also consistsent,, from Depeche Mode and Sigur Ros to Elgar and Rach and trad, or because of the number of performers, somewhere around 45.   Not just because the singing was exemplary as was the accompaniment.  This was also the second performance of the night, and I always love a repeat performance.  They sit so much better.  I find it hard to identify a fave piece.  The pop songs by Depeche Mode and Sigur Ros were all suitable for this format and interestingly complex pop tunes with a touch of minimalist electronica interpreted by strings and piano.  A pair of pieces by Ola Gjiela, Dark/Luminous night of the soul, were gloriously hopeful.  Ella Macens Look up: The sky is glowing was long and satisfying and as all the rest deserved hearing the lyrics (which I didn't manage) and Rachmaninov Hail Gladdening Light from Vespers was classic glorious religious music.  Phoenix did a string quartet Scandi-folk number called Waltz after Lasse in Lyby and perhaps the most complex, most intense of all was Lux Aeterna from Nimrod Variations by Elgar as an unaccompanied vocal piece, presumably with multi parts beyond SATB.  This seemed the hardest of the night and the most uncomfy for Oriana.  So what.  I blissed out on the parts, the soaring sopranos and the clear harmonies in Elgar and throughout the night and the intimate accompaniment that came with little preparation as Oriana had only sung with the Phoenix that morning, but that's the way with such professionalism.  It just works like that and it did work a treat.  Beyond a treat, it worked an emotional tsunami.   One to treasure in memory.

Oriana Chorale performed under Dan Walker (director) with Phoenix Collective (string quartet) and Jem Harding (piano) in the Larry Sitsky Room at ANUSOM.  The Phoenix Collective comprise Dan Russell (violin 1), Pip Thompson (violin 2), Ella Brinch (viola) and Andrew Wilson (cello).

14 July 2023


A free, unused ticket to a Selby concert was unexpected but the outcome was a surprise in other ways too.  I see/hear lots of local musics and I like to support it, but sometimes (not always), when I get to a major outing, like a visiting New Yorker jazzer or Musica Viva, I am floored by how good these people are.  It hit me last night with Kathryn Selby and her guests Natalie Chee and Julian Smiles.  I was taken aback by the delicacy of the bowings, by the clear communication and close interpretations, how pauses would sit in the air and dynamics move together or apart to feature one instrument or another.  It's the nature of good playing and this was well deserved.  I should not be too surprised given their histories, but still I was.  They played a program of fathers with informative intros from all players.  Haydn first up, after being introduced as the father of the symphony, the string quartet and the piano trio.  Then a young Schoenberg before he fathered 12-tonal music and finally Dvorak, father of national musics in the classics.  I actually most liked the Haydn, then the Schoenberg.  Dvorak is seldom a fave of mine.  But the lesson in this for me was the immense capability of top pros.  I wonder about people just hearing these players, just attending the visiting stars, but I can value the possibility even given my own immersion in local culture.  I've often wondered about mediaeval life with just a visiting troubadour or minstrel every now and then.  What with recording and travel, we live such wealthy cultural lives if we choose to.  But then many choose reality TV or sports instead.  Strange that but it takes all.

Kathryn Selby (piano) led Natalie Chee (violin) and Julian Smiles (cello) playing Haydn, Schoenberg and Dvorak at the theatre at the National Gallery of Australia.

13 July 2023

Hits of 1875

How could you not love a concert with this title, the Hits of 1875.  I was looking forward to this one.  It was the Aeolus Wind Quartet.  I've played with them all, in NCO and MdCC.  They all feature in the woodwinds of the National Capital Orchestra (and, FYI, the woodwinds are held in high regard by the strings).  Aeolus comprises flute, clarinet and bassoon and they've been around for 40 years.  They played some Quantz and Berlioz and Verdi and Milhaud, so there was a modern and playful edge to the classical, but they also played Londonberry air (=Danny Boy) and Campdown races and a touch of jazz with Swingin' Molly (Cockles and mussels...) and even Bach goes to sea which is a take on the Popeye theme, otherwise known as the Sailors' hornpipe.  So it was a mixed bag, as is necessary for a performing band  and with some very informative intros from Dave.  So what of the sound?  It's so different.  The pitches and tones are varied so they remain quite distinct.  The bassoon with its confident blurt at the bottom and the flute with its flightly firmness at top were super distinct.  Just perhaps the midrangy clarinet in the middle could more easily get lost.  But the competence and the interplay were fabulous, all the harmonies and repetitions at diverse pitches and counterpoints, all done with wonderful skill and awareness of the nature of otherwise simple tunes.  For this didn't end up simple, even if the folk originals were.  This was rich: a composite work of three parts in playful interaction.  So, this one was no let down.  Loved this one.  PS. Wikipedia states Aeolus was the name of three characters  in Greek mythology, but you'll probably find him on the Net blowing wind as the Keeper of the winds.

The Aeolus Wind Trio comprise Jodie Petrov (flute), Lis Hoorweg (clarinet) and David Whitbread (bassoon).  They played at Wesley.

10 July 2023

Reverie of an era

Now is an era of climate and wars and Robodebt and populists and sometimes you just need a laugh and Home I'm Darling seemed amusing.  At least the title.  It's an award winning play performed by Canberra Rep at Theatre 3 and we finally got to the last night last night.  I was surprised to see a 2hr20min length (with an interval) but it didn't really seem so long in the end.  It was done well by our venerable company (91st year this year of Canberra Rep; congratulations due).  The cast was great.  Karina Hudson was exemplary as Judy, the housewife with a dream of domesticity and had a fabulously projected voice to carry it off.  Hubby Johnny had a less intense role but presented it authentically, especially the end-time resolution, and Mum and boss and friendly couple were all admirable.  But it was Judy/Karina who had the floor.  During the play Mum argues against playacting the '50s from a feminist POV, friend Fran dabbles in advanced housekeeping with vinegar and lemon juice and crystalised soda and her husband Marcus just dabbles and his partnership is suspended for dabbling in staff harassment and boss Alex is misunderstood then understands and finally helps solves the couples' problems and all is resolved in the end.  So, there was humour, yes, but not outright belly laughs.  And there was resolution, but a pretty obvious process and outcome.  So, I left somewhat underwhelmed, not by the production, for that was good, but by the play which was award winning.  I am not a regular theatre goer or even film watcher, but it seemed pretty tame to me.  Amusing, maybe; profound, not at all.  Should it have been?  I'll leave that to the theatre discriminates.  Maybe I should give up on therapeutic humour and return to climate or politics or something I better understand.  Or maybe The complete works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)[Revised] to end the year with Canberra Rep?  PS.  Some people just thought it was cute.

Canberra Rep presented Home I'm Darling at Theatre 3.  The cast were Karina Hudson (Judy), Ryan Street (Johnny), Natalie Waldron (Fran), Terry Johnson (Marcus), Adele Lewin (Sylvia) and Kayla Ciceran (Alex).

09 July 2023

Middle of what

Tangents followed.  They were the longest set of the night and presumably, given their entry in Wikipedia, the stars.  Certainly they have toured and variously lived internationally and recorded several albums and are a managed act.  There was an unfortunate delay with electronics to start, but such is digital life!  Then into a long set of hypnotic sounds moving through rises and falls and presumably improvised changes.  Structurally and even harmonically, I found it quite similar to Ben and Chris, but the style was more rocky.  I thought Radiohead and post-rock at the time, but not really.  This was cello, synth, piano/keys and drums.  The cello was a gloriously toned thing, variously pizz or bow, sometimes playing the role of bass, otherwise melody or counterpoint or pads or other fills.  The piano was sparse, scalar, chromatic, variously defining some of the backing.  The drums really held all, busy but quite soft in tone and that deep woof of the kick as with Chris, moving through rhythms and grooves, in many ways defining place.  There was a laptop, too, but not so prominent in tone, but no doubt essential in presence.  I occasionally heard percussion that wasn't being played on the drums and presumably other live or otherwise sampled sounds appearing softly, gently in support.   The set was very much the longest of the night.  I looked around to see nodding heads moving with grooves.  This was not so much jazz although clearly with plenty of jazz and classical training.  This sounded rockier, louder, and used such traditions, techniques and grooves, harmonies.  Thus post-rock.   I loved on some cello melodies and drooled on some sparse piano melodies of long intervals.  Minimalist, colourful, insistent, effectively repetitious.  Again those little-changing minimalist harmonies and simple scales (perhaps Bb-A-G-D /F) but then some deliciously complex solo piano drops that spelt jazz training. 

Thus the night ended. I thought Miles and Zappa and Radiohead during the night and thought of jazz history and I mused on the series title, Midpoint.  We are probably always at the midpoint of musical and cultural life.  This stuff never reaches an end, at least we hope.

Tangents closed the first evening of Midpoint at Ainslie Arts Centre.  Tangents comprised Adrian Lim-Klumpes (piano, keys), Peter Hollo (cello), Ollie Brown (electronics) and Evan Dorrian (drums).

08 July 2023

Opening the middle

I could only manage one of two sessions, but each evening at Midpoint at Ainslie Arts Centre had three performers so this was still a generous vision of the style.  The style was electronica-cum-dub-cum-pop whatever.  The classifications have exploded so I might talk of one tonight as post-rock.  Whateva.  But I always expect an intellectually satisfying outing at AAC and it didn't disappoint this night.  

First up were locals Ben Marston and Chris Thwaite.  Both well renowned in jazz circles, trained at the SOM, appearing variously, if these days less frequently, in jazz or such outfits.  Ben had his trumpet of course, and a table with laptop and various effects and perhaps triggers or keys; Chris had his kit with a drum pad and laptop (I guess) beside him.  And that overegged floppy bassy kick that remained for the night over the PA; probably apt for the style.  You could hear the jazz chops as they worked through various improvisations.  Ben would play with electronic tones with just a hint or occasional quote from his brassy-clear trumpet themes.  The harmonies are not complex in this music.  I noted a pretty simple scale with a few flats and notes dropping Bb-A and Eb-D and Cs and Gs ad Fs.  A feel might change between those themes, or when Chris reappeared after a break or when he played with some gorgeous polyrhythms or moved accents within bars.  This music moves, subtly, slowly, mesmerically.  There were some slips with too loud noises, but electronics do this occasionally: they are so literal!  Then for a later theme, a lovely octaver on trumpet, then some descending chromatic arpeggios.  I'm thinking '70s Miles.  Great stuff and not too indulgent, perhaps ~35mins.

A younger generation and different gender followed.  Two young women appearing as Shāyú, I think a take on their names.  One controlled a laptop with controller; the other read poetry, spoken word.  The laptopper started with a heavily reverbed welcome to country, then, if I got it right, a recorded female voice from a university library speaking of love and dating with plenty of giggles, all backed with big  orchestral-like sounds moving slowly between adjacent pitches or chords, then into several spoken word works, poems, by the poet of the pair.  I couldn't catch all amongst the accompaniment, but it could be jokey and mostly returning to the theme of dating and relationships.  Like, ask what is the most common item in your wardrobe, socks, that was so funny.  Or her fave, Devotion is a river, about parting in the morning, of kisses and a face like the moon, a common love of Arianna Grande and compared playlists.  Thus are concerns of this age and gender, and good on them.   It makes me feel old and withered.  Or another on food fads after a relationship ends, with music mostly droning in accompaniment, but climaxing with the relationship's end.  An interesting conversation and promising new duo.

Ben Marston (trumpet, electronics) and Chris Thwaite (drums, electronics) opened the first evening of Midpoint at Ainslie Arts Centre.  Shāyú followed.  They comprised a laptopper and a poet but names unknown.

05 July 2023

The kids return

I write in jest as I always do for the students of Jinbo Huang.  This is the third outing that I have attended and I remain quite in awe.   It's still that the younger ones don't have that adult emotional awareness but they have skills and chops which will support their emotional interpretations as they grow older.  They take on Bach and Haydn and Beethoven and the rest with real competence at all ages, then on to a first year university student (Michael Anufriya) and we hear delightful delicacy and clarity in the playing.   And the ages do vary.  Charles Huang is not one of the older players, but he is impressive and capable and verging on that mature interpretation of the adults.  And the range of works is another pleasure.  Bach and Beethoven are popular, but also Faure and Sibelius and Bartok and something more obscure, Michael Carmichael.  And agian, they mainly played from memory.  One advantage of a young age, perhaps?  Just another Wesley Wednesday concert, and just another great pleasure.

The Piano studio of Jinbo Huang performed at Wesley.  On the day, the performers were Frank Huang, Charles Huang, Naomi Feng, James Jin, Charlie Sanoubane, Michael Anufriyva and Damien Ruan (piano).

02 July 2023

Staying home

Perhaps my first concert with Musica da Camera featured Bach Brandenburg Concerto no.3.  Now that's a fabulous piece and a challenge but also very mainstream and established.  Sally Greenaway led MdCC for its latest concert and it was anything but BBB.  Sally is a capable and renowned Australian/Canberran composer and she obviously knows the composer community so we got a fabulous collection of Australian and Canberra-based compositions to play.  Now these were not unapproachable or experimental as new works are something thought to be.  These were attractive, lyrical, expressive, rhythmic, providing pictures of footprints or trees or animals or more.  Sally's was the fascinating response to post-WW1 poplar tree plantings around country towns.  Plus Lachlan Skipworth with a fanfare called Fanfara; Leanne Bear with a pastorale and a (purple possum) dance; Marian Budos with three of seven gifts, a religious dedication; Brenda Gifford with Bardju (footprints), a jazzy groove with an offbeat fills; Tristan Coehlo with Rustic dances, all nature in varied feels and some really challenging timings; Ann Carr-Boyd with an arrangement of a popular tune by Peter Sculthorpe, his Left Bank waltz.  As you can imagine, this was a varied collection and a demanding learning process, some pieces not even being available for a listen.  We were lucky to have five of the composers at the concert and a decent audience who clearly enjoyed the new music, attractive and expressive as it was.  It was a pleasure to play our contemporary Australian music and hopefully a pleasure for the composers to hear our takes on it.

Sally Greenaway (musical director) selected and conducted Musica da Camera in Australian music by Skipworth, Bear, Budos, Gifford, Greenaway, Coehlo and Sculthorpe arr. Carr-Boyd.  Featured soloists were Gabriel Fromyhr (cello), Shane Campbell (guitar), Jodie Petrov (flute) and Elizabeth Alford (harp).

01 July 2023

Score seeks movie

Score seeks movie is my latest (8th) home studio album, under my nom-de-plume of The Pots.  The movie music theme was a suggestion of Megan's.  I quip that she finds instrumental themes so I don't sing or indulge a political rant but I manage at least one song on this album, even if it's a jokey, '80's new wave thing called Party.  Otherwise, it's various orchestral and prog rock electronica with a score-like presence.  Have a listen.  In the meantime, here's my album note description to ponder: "Another story of modern love over dating apps.  This time, a sprightly score strives to secure a monied movie.  Let's see the outcome.  A mix of prog rock, electronics, orchestral and one poppy plaything.  And not a word of politics!"

Score seeks movie / The Pots is available on Bandcamp and all the main streaming sites.
The Pots on ...
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  • Spotify > https://tinyurl.com/2p9252z4
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  • Also on Apple Music and many other streaming sites