30 November 2023

Pouring 2

The readers also gather for the shows, so the House band may include wind (trumpet and sax/flute) or presumably strings, although I haven't seen the violins sitting in yet. And then the professionalism of the House band just rings true to my ears, sitting there with charts, perhaps messy and jotted over which is a common refrain, and the in-ear monitors and the rest for this professional cadre, in the big sounding space of the Princess Theatre, so different from the Piazza or public spaces of the dance bands and entertainments. And the effervescence of the singers, especially Chilean Maria out front of Sunset and often out front singing directly to the audience or the low-slung punky bass presence of Graeme from Greta's Secret as he accompanies the inevitable line dance to Nutbush City Limits. It's obvious how a cruise can bring out the most ridiculous and joyous of the audience, at least in Australia. Then there's the covers, not least Grace's Secret tribute show to the Beatles, but being of the Beatles era I did feel some lack of connection from the much younger band. That low-slung Mustang bass suggested Nirvana to me more than Paul and the songs didn't include my sentimental fave early Pauline ballads but maybe that's my problem! Of course, listening to pop music and seeing the joy and involvement that shares widely from our mobile, smiling Chilean singer Maria just had me musing over the value of entertainment, the effectiveness of simplicity and repetition, the frequent indulgence of improv, the communication inherent in melody and lyrics and the beauty of vocal harmony. And then a few latins tunes sung in original language followed by a rock track from Midnight Oil had me further musing over the natures of different cultures. But musing that is...

Sunset comprised Maria Mare (vocals), Pablo Gaete (drums), Robinson Ibaca (keys incl bass synth) and Edoardo Salzado (guitar). Grace's Secret comprised Jennifer Hall (vocals), Oliver Miles (guitar), Chip Dragan (keys), Peter Boldy (drums) and Graeme Heath (bass).

29 November 2023

Pouring 1

It never rains but it pours. I'm on a short cruise with my Mum. This is a very generous replacement for days lost to Covid on our cruise last year which ended locked in cabins. It's generous by Princess and much appreciated, although they are pretty much in a bind. Nonetheless we are here. This is just a quick 6 days Sydney to Hobart and back. To give you a feel of the entertainment, here's just an overview of bands and shows. I'm surprised quite how much there is this time. I have seen or glimpsed rock or related bands Sunset Quartet (ex-Chile) and Grace's Secret (UK) as well as the House band (or at least its rhythm section) playing jazz. The House band obviously backs the stage shows so they are well trained and capable readers. Solo artists and duos included pianists Tetiana Shabaieva (classical) and Jose Milanes (jazz from memory), piano-man Kevin Brando (who apparently plays Las Vegas), guitarist Scott Kruser (of the House Band playing classic real book jazz), guitar/singer Ercobel and pop violin duo No Strings Attached. Plus DJ Hammer laying out pop and beats. These people can have interesting backgrounds. Kevin Brando was in the New Mickey Mouse Club at age 5, has acted and performed with Lily Tomlin, Ricardo Montalban and more and voiced over Schroeder in Peanuts and is still the voice of Pinocchio in Disneyland. There are also a string of singers and dancers for the stage shows and individuals to lead a few concert presentations. The bands and solo performers play various locations on the ship at different times, so they can be busy...

Solo performers included Kevin Brando (piano, vocals), DJ Hammer (DJ), Ercobel (guitar, vocals), Tatiana Shabaieva (classical piano), Jose Milanes (jazz from memory) and Scott Kruser (guitar), No Strings Attached comprised Iryna Khaschenko and Tetiana Sapozhnikova (violins).

28 November 2023


The Museum of Modern Electronic Music is a new place tucked into a S-Bahn station just by Katarinakirche.  It's not big; it's pretty new; it's known as MOMEM; it claims it's not a museum but an art and cultural centre.  Here in Frankfurt, a centre of this music.  It was my last outing before the flight home.  It has a series of sessions, DJ workshops or academic discussions, but not this day and probably not in English anyway.  There was a display of the birth of techno ('70s/'80s) and the early interactions between Berlin and Afro-American Detroit.  There was another of "Milestones", the top historical techno hits as identified by a series of working DJs.  The list is updated with visitor recommendations and it can be heard as a playlist on Spotify.  In person, it's an array of headphones , one for each hit, and accompanying pics of party-goers of this scene; all very sexy, very earthy and sweaty.  There's a small display of digital instruments of the era but behind glass, Moog synths and Roland drum machines and the like.  My first encounters with synths were '70s Mini Moog and Arp Odyssey and neither made an appearance.  Techno was slightly later; mainly from the '80s.  There was a screen with drum machine and sequencer apps and that was fun.  My invention was a 4-bar loop on the alt scale.  The most fun was an area where you could play with small physical machines of this style with your own private headphone.  The Boss DR-3 was my favourite: so easy to use and with great samples and grooves although maybe for the newbies rather than the aficionadoes.   This is techno and related dance musics, which is a subset of the broader genre of electronic music.  It was not a big visit (MOMEM is new and perhaps has a limited audience) but a bit of fun to round off the trip and to delay that dreaded return flight.

The Museum of Modern Electronic Music (MOMEM) is in Frankfurt.

27 November 2023


As I write this I can truly say I am a world away.  My last day was long and without a base.  I left my bag at the hotel.  First filler of course was a favourite charity cafe for a decent coffee and a time waste.  Then the Städel and Holbein and the Renaissance in the North.  I'd seen ads for a special exhibition on Holbein but it was to start 2 Nov.  In the end, I was back in Frankfurt after 2 Nov but then it was closed on Monday but Tuesday was perfect.  Suffice to say I loved the Holbein; discovered, and for some works, preferred his sparring partner Hans Burgkmair; ambrosiated in an appearance of van Eyck; learnt a good deal; came to understand some of the altar art designs of the period and the folding panels that were exposed on whatever day.  And to finish, I got in a quick visit to the Städel's permanent collection, the old masters and especially my Botticelli girlfriend (Sandro Botticelli. Idealised Portrait of a Lady [Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph], ca. 1480–1485).  It seems I shared her with Giuliano de Medici as a mistress, and perhaps with Botticelli as a female face in a string of his paintings.  Not the greatest gallery ever, but a favourite of mine.

Holbein and the Renaissance in the North was an exhibition at the Stadel Museum, Frankfurt.

26 November 2023

End of time

It sounds dramatic but it was a dramatic final musical outing of this trip. Again it was in St Katharinakirche. This was one of a series called Apokalypse. There's lots of talk of it these days. I haven't fathomed why this church has as musical event with this theme, but it is a Christian theme (other religions have their own eschatologies, too). Scott Morrison is looking forward to it, but then he's got it made ... at least so he thinks. The music was truly profound, touching but also exploratory and inventive to a profound degree. The main work was Quartet for the end of time and it's famed and difficult and I hadn't heard it live before but I was floored. The works were Hindemith Four Rilke songs, Messiaen again with a huge organ work and increasingly dissonant, Apparition of the eternal church, Hans Abrahamsen Autumn song (Rainer Maria Rilke) and the end on Messiaen Quartet for the end of time. I tried to track down the musicians: they were very good. At least two taught at the local Hochschule (university) for music and one played in a local radio orchestra. But for all four instrumentalists, I was floored. And also for the mezzo-soprano who sang 1 and 3. Again, powerful and experienced. So a first class outing with stunning fluency, expression, composition, relevance. Wow. There's light (or perhaps darkness) to be seen here and it's emblazoned, and there's also stunning musical intelligence at work. A truly devastating final musical outing for this trip. PS. Just to confirm the thesis, I passed the famed Euro-Skuptur outside the Eurotower (once the seat of the European Central Bank) and three stars and a large part of the blue bottom of the € was unlit. Just goes to show...

Maria Hilmes (mezzosoprano), Jaan Boussier (clarinet), Laurent Weibel (violin), Kristin von der Goltz (cello), Günther Albers (piano) and Klaus Eldert Müller (organ) variously played Hindemith, Messiaen, Abrahamsen and Messiaen at St Katarinenkirche, Frankfurt.

25 November 2023


I'd thought it was more, but this was probably only the third time I've heard Martin Lucker performing one of his free 30-min organ concerts in St Katharinenkirche in Frankfurt but this was no.3917 in his series and he's played most of them. I imagine it's something quite exporatory for locals who can come to them regularly, because he doesn't play the overly obvious repertoire. After the first 2000 I reckon you are exploring widely for your material. The Bach today didn't have a BWV number but was noted op. posth., Prelude and fugue Gmin. If I heard correctly, the fugue was really not what I'd expected, more two-part interplay than fugue, but I'll bow to Bach. Then Jehan Alain Fantasie and Max Reger Fantasy on the chorale "Don't punish me in your anger" op.40 no.2. Again, if I got parts, movements, etc identified correctly, this last was all repeating arpeggios moving up and down scales and some meeker responses; mostly loud and insistent and big. So a big earful from our committed organist, presumably on a goodly loud organ.

Prof Martin Lucker (organ) performed 30-min orgelmusik no. 3,937 in St Katharinen, Frankfurt.

24 November 2023

Four to Three

It was another two nights somewhat unexpected in Frankfurt and it's like home these days. Jazzkellar is the biggie in town and they had a visiting NYC quartet but pricey and sold out anyway and like many well known dives, they can be populated with the non-jazz scene despite some worthy offerings. Mampf had a trio and I enjoyed my last visit and local can be worthy. Not least, they had somewhat a story of heartache for this gig: their drummer who died suddenly weeks earlier fo a heart attack. No secret but obviously affecting the group and the quartet decided to proceed as a trio in tribute. And a worthy tribute. This was post-bop, nicely done, quick and easy walks and twisty heads and little inserted passages and endless, playful, lyrically rich solos and harmonically suggestive accompaniment. And a tenor with a sweet, soft tone and slithery, sinuous phrasing that could drop into fast lines but never in your face. Lovely. Piano was the one pro amongst them and he wrote most of the music, but then pianists do. They can. So another successful night at Mampf, jokingly my sister to our Smiths Alternative.

Vitaliy Baran Quartett performed at Mampf, Frankfurt, as a trio comprising Christian Müntz (tenor), Vitaliy Baran (piano) and Paul Schmandt (bass). Their fourth member, Markus Eschmann (drums) had died suddenly just weeks before.

23 November 2023

Bach today

Megan set off for London but I managed a slightly later train and a final Leipzig motette. It was the Sunday morning outing at Nikolaskirche. Last week it had largely been a repeat of the motette the day before at Thomaskirche although with a longer service. This week same same but different. Ensemble Amadeus was performing but this time up front behind the altar so I could see them. You don't see performers at Thomaskirche. And they had additional singers and maybe additional instruments. The director, organist and ensemble were listed in the program but this time also SATB singers and also two oboes and a horn. The service started with the first aria from the Bach cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort BWV60.1 for alto and tenor, and the rest of the canatata appeared later along with various liturgical matters and a screed of Gemeindeliede. Nice. I enjoyed the music and also the singing, although my pronunciation or la-las admitting defeat were a little embarrassing in context of the German gentleman beside me. Some music was also written with no bar lines and I got some hang of how that works (repeated notes of a pitch seem to imply note length rather than repeats, and you just have to feel the pauses between lines). And the religious event was quite joyous, with children catered for by their own kindergottesdienst and this modern host dipped in wine and handed to the parishoner by female assistants ("lektoren": Google Translate suggests editors or lecturers?). All very different from my Catholic days, several decades and a pandemic ago. But this in not totally a meeting of the faithful and they know it. There are clear tourists who get out the camera as soon as the service ends but they/we remain dignified and respectful throughout and are welcomed, and several members of the ensemble did not stand with the parishioners. Thus is our diverse world. But a much enjoyed final 90-minutes of contemplation and quiet and music. As for the music, it just worked better today with several works of joy, not least a Bach movement of an oboe concerto nicely played and another movement form Mozart during communion. It wasn't particularly difficult music but pleasant and well received. And as for the ensemble, I counted 1xbass, 2xcello, 3xviola, 8xviolins 1&2 and added 1xhorn and 2xoboe. And pretty sure the four string bass and other strings were steel strung and played with modern bows. This was my lucky 5th and final and maybe last Leipzig cantata event. And to top it off, my first dachy alert in Leipzig and only my 4th in Germany for this visit: a wirehaired 7yo male called Kasimir walking in Marktplaz. Good outing all around.

Ensemble Amadeus performed Bach, Mozart and more at Nikolaikirche, Leipzig. EA were led by Nomann Kastner (conductor) and accompanied by Frank Berger (horn),Christian Weikert and Anne Schulze (oboes), Markus Kaufmann (organ, harpsichord) and singers Clara Beyer (soprano), Anna Schuch (alto), Christoph Pfaller (tenor) and Kurt Lachmann (bass). Dachy Kasimir was walking with his family in Marktplaz.

22 November 2023

No Bach today

Why is it so? We are at Thomaskirche for a Motette as we were just yesterday. Strictly, there is some Bach but there's no cantata and it's not that the music is not interesting, it's just not Bach and Bach is sort of expected at Thomaskirche. This was more monophony: Renaissance, limited harmony, limited movement of lines, still beautiful but I imagine the composers, mostly 40 years or so BB (Before Bach) might have slit their wrists on hearing the new boy in town. Otherwise, I might have luxuriated in the simple lines, the authenticity, the glorious high sopranos (to F#5 if I got it right), the largely unaccompanied purity of the voice. And this was a session to listen rather than partake of with just one Gemendelied, our congregational singalong that I so love. I shouldn't question a decision that promotes variation, even if not of complex interleaving parts. The Ensemble Amadeus was performing and they were really very beautiful with those simpler musical lines of hardly similar times, with singers and just a few instrumentalists (violin, viola, viola da gamba, basso [continuo]) and a visiting organist on the night. I have yet to learn of the ways of Thomaskirche. But then walking back to our stay, another demo in Marktplaz. Germany does have them and good on a culture that does have some outspoken politics. This was a Palestinian outing to match the Israeli outing of the other night in the same square. This was noisy chanting and flags rather than the quiet names lists. Still plenty of cops around and we saw them readying for action when one argument was threatening. I'd read something today about the Germans and their support through guilt (if I read correctly) after the Holocaust. Yes, something to answer for there, and I respect their preparedness to honesty respond. Let's see a similar preparedness on both sides of this current war to recognise the pain of each of their actions.

The Ensemble Amadeus performed for a service at Thomaskirche, Leipzig, under Norman Kastner (musical director) with Ivo Mrvelj (organ).

21 November 2023

New plays new world

Just a short walk and a wine later and we were in Gewandhaus Grosse Saal for another student orchestra. I'd love to have seen the professionals but they are now on tour in China and my one personal contact is in London. This was the Music Schule Leipzig Johann Sebastian Bach playing Hamish MacCunn and Poulenc and Dvorak New World Symphony. It's a big orchestra of perhaps 90 with four basses. the MacCunn felt like a fanfare, all lively and outgoing. The Poulenc Le biches suit FP36b seemed similar to my ears, adventurous and busy. Then after interval, the New World in four movements, the tempo not too extreme despite the fuoco, but still some challenging bass lines at least. This is a student orchestra and I did pine for some extra volume for some loud passages (but then what must have been an fff followed and I was satisfied) and there was some rushing on tricky lines (funny how the hard lines get played faster with some nerves) and sometimes the balance or awareness of other parts needed something, but this was just so much pleasure. We both glowed at the end. They deserved their standing ovation, presumably from family and friends and the pretty-much sellout hall. And what a theatre to play in! Famed but also intimate for the size and apparently renowned for its acoustics. It certainly sounded nice when I concentrated on tonality. So a joyous outing to finish an evening in Leipzig.

The Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Leipzig Music School JS Bach performed Hamish MacCunn, Poulenc and Dvorak at the Gewanthaus Grosse Saal under Ron-Dirk Entleutner (conductor).

20 November 2023

A liberal tradition

We attended another Motet at Thomaskiche but this time no Bach. It was a surprise but structured much the same way. Organ opening; various readings as song by choir and soloist/s; some congregational singing; a sermon and the Lord's prayer and benediction; organ to finish. But this music was strange to our ears, from synagogues. A young slick man in front of me was dicreetly videoing the sermon and more although this is "strictly prohibited for copyright reasons and in the interest of an undisturbed event". I wondered at any political implications given the current war and an Israeli event in Marktplaz days before, under lights and PA and attendant Police vans, announcing those 1,400 losses to Hamas. No mention of deaths from the response. And that music from Synagogues (Synagogengesange). Then an awareness that this was a performance by the Leipzig Synagogue Choir from the liberal traditions, formed in 1962 and recorded in the German register of intangible cultural assets and a member of the Tolerant Saxony Network and had taken on a quasi-ambassadorial function between East and West in the Cold War. So, a worthy history. Still, somewhat a challenge to my ears. And I'd love to know just what that bloke planned to do with those recordings.

The Thursday Motet at Thomaskirche featured the Leipzig Synagogue Choir with Anja Poche (soprano) and Ivo Mrvelj (organ) under Philipp Goldmann (conductor).

19 November 2023

Two for one

We got to the Museum of Leipzig in the Alten Rathaus, the Old Town Hall, on the Marktplaz and I enjoyed it more than I''d expected. Partly for the lovely old wares, especially more Cranachs young and old and studios of Cranachs and mediaeval religious paintings stored in attics after the interior of St Nikolai was updated with its absurb but fascinating leaves extrusions and palmed columns. This is not something we see in Australia (or at least rare) and thus somethign I crave. Unexpectedly, there was also a piano concert in the dining/reception hall. This is a seriously big room that luckily survived WW2 bombing when its roof burnt and caved in. It had previously been restored and the reinforced concrete roof over the upper floor prevented the flames from spreading. The pianist was Lutfiye Dalgic playing Robert Schumann Fantasie Cmaj and Prokofiev Piano sonata no.4 Cmin. Pretty much equal lengths, both busy and impressive and very nicely played, not least with pregnant pauses. The piano was a Bluther, another product of Leipzig. The concert was ~45mins then the museum. More paintings, big chests, less portraits, basements for the treasury and upper floors for the meeting and court rooms. And apparently the veritable, at lest claimed, original, from life, Bach painting. Strangely, to take on employment he needed ot provide a portrait, no lettle thing in those days. So interesting and unexpected. Just a few pics.

The Museum of Leipzig is in the Alten Rathaus, the Old Town Hall, on the Marktplaz, Leipzig. Lutfiye Dalgic (piano) performed Robert Schumann and Prokofiev.

18 November 2023


Kassa Overall was listed in the translated Leipzig jazz guide as Kash Overall and I didn't even know he was a performer, but he looked interesting when I interpreted the name. Originally form Seattle, 15 years in NYC, a Seattle return during Covid, a drummer and rapper with several albums and various features and some hot soprano and keys soloing and a line in percussion that harked back to my love of percussion-heavy afro-roots jazz of the '70s. So I got a ticket and worked out the travel and locations and arrived at UT Connevitz, an old picture theatre converted to a rough space with rear arch and phase array PA and the like. It wasn't the biggest turnout but it was welcoming for the band and the music was great, if a little less jazz than I'd expected. But this was thrumming percussion and effective soprano and key soloing and Kassa up front a few times talking of Snoop Dogg and rapping and the band moving frequently between instruments. Both sax and congas swapped at least once to drums and bass was from a Novation keyboard (the other keyboards were Nord and Moog) with the pianist and at least sax come across once to lay down a bass walk the Novation. There was one jazz cover that I recognised although, Max Roach Libra, a percussion heavy drummer's post-bop; I loved it. Otherwise 4/8/16-bar rhythm pattern changes, prominent echo on vocals, several drum pads, congas and bongos and strings of bells. This truly appeared a group effort with Kassa up front but all taking prominent roles, even leading audience actions and singalongs. Singalongs: always fun in Bach or other! As for Bach, I adored one song with a glorious melodic twist that I thought I'd heard before. I did a lyrics search and found it as Darkness in mind by Kassa Overall and played it later to Megan and it was Bach with Kassa's lyrics. That explains the melodic genius. But all the music was effective, even if not of the style/genius of Bach: busy, varying, absorbing, heavily percussive and infectious, playful at times, sometimes sung sometimes rapped, grooves or sometimes more chordal, always changing so a little unstable, quite arresting, and what lyrics I heard, thoughtful. So a great mix that pulled the crowd. They were only 100-or-so but convinced. They played one set, ~100mins, with a final song on a playful Om theme, one encore for return, plenty of hugs in the band and the merch table after. Entertaining, interesting and infectious. I got just what I was hoping for: jazz as is.

Kassa Overall (drums, vocals, rap) performed at UT Connevitz, Leipzig, with his quartet Tomoki Sanders (soprano sax, percussion, vocals), Bendji Allonce (percussion, vocals) and I missed the pianist's name.