23 January 2018
Off to Castlemaine for two concerts. The first was a lovely concert of Mozartiana on a very different style of organ. It was originally a Fincham organ of 1888, but updated with electro-pneumatic action by still extant Geroge Fincham & Sons in 1953. Thus the organist and manuals were on one side of the altar and the organ in a niche on the other side. Presumably impossible with a mechanical organ. But it was a big sound, able to fill a large and dark space. All Mozart. Not least his variations on Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman, or as we know it, Twinkle twinkle little star. And the well known Ronda alla Turka wht its references to the music of the Turkish Janisseries. And his Leipzig (Eine keine) gigue which was apparently written in a visitors’ book by a young Mozart in appreciation of the chance to spend time on an organ. Or his Andante K.616 which originally accompanied automatons or waxwortks displays in the court his was working at. All fascinating snippets of Mozart’s spirited genius and all well played by visiting New Zealander Douglas Mews in a very dark and foreboding early gold-era church.
Douglas Mews (organ) performed Mozart at Christ Church Anglican Church on Agitation Hill in Castlermaine.
22 January 2018
One can’t live by music alone, but this is just another arty thing. We went off to the Bendigo Art Gallery to catch a visiting exhibit on costume designer Edith head. I’d never heard of her before, but she’s considered the most significant costume designer in film history (with 8 Academy Awards to her name). The display was more than 70 suits and day dresses and gowns and the rest, mostly form women but just a few jackets for men, along with a few film clips of the costumes in film (amusing) and films and sketches. It was no surprise that the attendees were 95% women, but I enjoyed it immensely, not least thinking of a tailoring-lineage. First up was a beautiful white suit worn and well known by Audrey Hepburn. Then costumes for Gloria Swanston, Olivia de Havilland, Helen Lamour, Jane Russell, Hedy Lamarr, Shirley Temple, Natalie Wood (many others) and a few special performance outfits for Fred Astaire, Bob Hope and Yul Brynner. One interesting factoid was that women were outfitted but men were usually expected to provide their wardrobes. Watching a few accompanying clips had me thinking it’s such a plaything, but the costumery was intriguing, subtly creative and, from Edith’s own words in one interview, corrective. One other thing: there were some seriously narrow waists amongst the actresses! Unexpectedly beguiling. Otherwise the Gallery was a great little pleasure. And we even found some jazz-age art on the way to Bendigo, at the Overwrought metalwork and garden art gallery in the little town of Blampied.
The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood was a temporary exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood was a temporary exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
21 January 2018
This one was a gentle return to the earlier, more sedate, dignified music of Mozart and Bach, except, due to sickness, a group version of the Goldberg Variation selections was replaced by a new viola player and several pleasant but relatively light quartets by Cimarosa. The other work was Mozart Quintet for Flute, harp and string trio KV299. I followed the second movement well enough (I’d played it with NCO). The other movements were less known but identifiable, but then all Mozart seems like that. His melodies just fall off the pen with immense inevitability. How could they be otherwise? The Cimarosi were played by a quartet of flute, violin, viola and cello. I wondered if the flute part is switched from or easily transposable to another violin. The Mozart added a harp and I wondered similarly about its role relative to piano, but the chords and accompaniment were sparser and the melodies less accompanied by another hand. Probably fairly different, although I remember NCO harpist Elizabeth once playing the harp part on piano in rehearsal. Interesting. Some nice playing, too. I particularly enjoyed the sit-in Helen Ireland and violin Natasha Conrau. Also flautist Andrea Dainese, although wind is an unknown quantity to me. Lovely
The Trio Leonardo performed Mozart and Cimarosa with visitors. Trio Leonardo are Andrea Dainese (flute), Elisabetta Ghebbioni (harp) and Giancarlo Di Vacri (viola). This night Helen Ireland (viola) replaced GdV. Guests were Natasha Conrau (violin) and Miriam Kriss (cello).
20 January 2018
This was different from the rest so far and a stunner, for me at least and for some I was chatting with. Different? Rachmaninoff Elegie Op.3, Barber Sonata cello & piano Cmin and Shostakovitch Sonata cello & piano Dmin. Yes, different, although they did encore with a more sedate Schubert Serenade. I loved it all. A strong, youthful and loud performance from Luke Severn and mostly from memory and a mature and relatively quiet performance from Elyanne Laussade on Steinway. When is a Steinway quiet? Was it a mark of Luke’s volume? But I was up close, second row. The Barber surprised and pleased me. I only know the common Barber which is attractive, but this one was more daring, more modern and yet hinted at those beautiful melodies (one phrase somewhere was almost identical) and based on a series of odd intervals on 2-3 of the bar if I remember correctly. Interestingly, the Shostakovitch was written just 2 years before, but in different countries. They are different. Shostakovitch was just fabulous, virtuoisic, fast or slow, bombarding or lento. And I felt more modern-comfortable with the harmonic movement in Shostakovitch; Barber seemed a bit less comfy to my ears. Great, challenging modern music (well, 100 years old now) and a change from Bach and Vivaldi (despite their comfy genius) and some players who did it justice. Fabulous and challenging.
Luke Severn (cello) and Elyanne Laussade (piano) performed Rachmaninoff, Barber, Shostakovitch and Schubert at the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts.
19 January 2018
I’m learning about pope organs. For instance, there are 44 in Canberra (!), mostly in churches, but also in 3 private residences. Also, that there are homeless organs ad they get moved. It’s obvious, really that these loved, artisan instruments are valued by their (mostly) congregations. This concert was in a local town, Creswick, at St John’s Anglican Church, a lovely old bluestone construction from the time of the gold rushes. The organ was another Fincham & Hodbay (1989) which had been gifted by the Barkly Street Uniting Church when they sold the premises. The move was in 2015 so the setup is recent. It fully mechanical and unusually the mechanism is visible from the organ loft. Unlike St Pat’s low tuning (well below A=440), this organ is slightly sharp (~A=444). It seems that all mechanical organs are somewhat varied in pitch. Understandable, as they are clearly a mammoth job to tune. Christopher Trikilis is a Melbourne-based organist. He performed a lovely set by Vivaldi arr. Bach, Lemmens, Bach, Zipoli, Mendelsshohn, Bajamonti, Wesley and Dubois. I expect the organ has its own collection of composers. He played wonderfully, with clear enunciation and steady timing and informative chatter. There was some inevitably noisy footwork but this organ is fully mechanical and we were sitting right under the pedals. We learnt of Italian organs having no pedals, thus the Alberti bass: an arpeggiated obligato pattern moving through chords and inversions (1-3-5-3, etc). And CT was playing with a camera that projected on a crean up front, so we watched his hands and he’d nod to applause. Fun. A lovely concert with great organ and touching venue.
Christopher Trikilis (organ) played at St John’s Anglican Church, Creswick. And to learn more of pipe organs in Australia, visit Organ Historical Trust of Australia.
18 January 2018
Just a quick mention of Kym Wilson. Kym is over from Adelaide to record the full Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields festival. He’s originally from Canberra and started recording under Annabel Wheeler at ArtSound. I’ve run into him previously here and also in Adelaide at a concert. Nice to see his approach, using a few different Rode and AKG layouts. Enough of that: chatter of mics are just recorders’ porn. Cheers to Kym.
Kym Wilson (audio) recorded the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival.
17 January 2018
Are all operas romantic comedies? Maybe it’s the Italian blood in them, for most of the arias in this concert were by Rossini or Verdi or Puccini. Just a few from Bizet and Mozart, but they were pretty much in the mould. Why not? Romantic comedies are popular and opera was a popular form in its time. Before TV and movies. The singing was good and there was that stylised acting and we were mostly told of the background so we could appreciate the heroine’s dilemma or the cad’s cad-ness, but I still couldn’t catch much of the language. Such is this singing. I went out singing the final pop-aria to myself and it is seriously catchy (Libiamo ne' lieti calici [La Traviata] / Verdi). Operas aren’t my thing, and more so those collections of best-of arias so I’ll leave it at that. For those who obviously enjoy it, I’m sure the quality was there and the pleasure too.
Olivia Cranwell (soprano), Carlos E Barcenas (tenor), Stephen Marsh (baritone) and Phoebe Briggs (piano) from Victorian Opera performed arias.
16 January 2018
So it is when you attend an organ concert in a church. In concert halls they are up the front, but in churches, the organs are usually up the back, over the entrance, and the pews face forward. It’s a good opportunity to listen, and I saw some closed eyes for this concert, but also perchance to dream. This was New Zealander Martin Setchell playing the George Fincham & Sons, built 1930 with tubular, pneumatic action. It’s highly regarded. MS introduced his works, a Bach prelude, an air and gavotte by Samuel Wesley, Elgar Pomp & Circumstance no.4, a fountain reverie and four more works in the form of a symphony, but by four composers. An interesting caprice. This was a large organ, ably filling this huge space, varying though all manner of gentle tones through to the grand, deep pitches. I tested with some apps. The low notes seemed to be ~50Hz and the pitch was well below A=440. But that’s just tech. I feel there’s an artefact in organs with slow formation, especially of low notes. I guess it’s the nature of moving that air. But how satisfying is a big tone, the deep notes and the high floating tones ad what’s this festival without it.
Martin Setchell (organ) performed in St Patrick’s.
15 January 2018
Well, it’s only really a century or so before the classics but it felt like forever. The program was called Echoes of the Celts and the band was La Compania. They are a Melbourne-based group playing early (pronounced er-lie?) music with sackbuts and viole da gamba and cornetti and the like and with a singer who was at home with gaelic. To my ears, this was music to drink by. I could only think of such a band in a field or a tavern with ales and meads and dancing women lifting heavy skirts. And another thought: love songs are forever, not surprisingly going with those dances in taverns. Just about every song was a love song, and mostly by women A later one was a tender song from a grandmother to her long-time spouse and otherwise they were of young love lost or sought. Just one was a political song opposing the Brits and there were a few instrumentals. I enjoyed the sackbut, the early trombone that played the bass line, and the pairing of the violin and cornetto, in unison or swapping lines. And the thuds of percussion and the accompaniment from early guitars or harp or lute and viola da gamba. And singer Lotte Betts-Dean was a standout. I guess she was soprano (ah, the program says mezzo) but I didn’t take much notice of that. This singing was different. Fast as, so even when I could read the lyrics they were tough to hear, but then there was the gaelic and its odd sounds that I could seldom read against the text. They were a bit dour, for the style, but the location was hardly a pub so to some degree that’s expected. But this was a revelation and an unexpected pleasure.
La Compania are Lotte Betts-Dean (mezzo-sprano), Danny Lucin (cornetto, director), Lizzy Walsh (baroque fiddle), Glenn Bardwell (sackbut), Victoria Watts (viola da gamba), Rosemary Hodgson (baroque guitar, lute, harp), Denis Close (guitarino, bodhran, frame drums), Christine Baker (bodhran, bones, frame drums).
14 January 2018
This was a mid afternoon concert at Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts. A generous and impressive place for a school hall, but this apparently belongs to the Ballarat Grammar (the headmaster was thanked for providing it). This was the core of the classical repertoire: three sonatas, two by Beethoven (no.5 Fmaj “Spring” and no.1 Dmaj), one by Brahms (no.2 Amaj). And the players were superb. Monica Curro, an assistant principal at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Stefan Cassomenos. SC had played the previous night for the opening concert. Here the piano was a generous Steinway and we were close up. I fell in love with the close spelling of the tune the shared sense of dynamics and phrasing, the frequent delicacy of the violin and the strength and forcefulness of the piano. Just superb renditions, informed and reasoned and most importantly shared. These two play together in a modern group, Plexus, and this was not that, but their mutual understanding showed. SC would often look up to MC awaiting a lead; MC was oddly positioned to not easily look to SC, but it all worked. Truly, a great treat! How the classics should be played.
Monica Curro (violin) and Stefan Cassomenos (piano) played Beethoven and Brahms sonatas.
13 January 2018
This place was called Snake Valley and the concert was in a lovely old Uniting Church (built Presbyterian, 1861) in a field behind trees on the country road. The feature was a Fincham and Hobday organ. You get to know these names at this event. They were makers in Melbourne and this one dates from 1894. Some problems that appeared during the first up Bach were presumably remedied for the rest of the concert, but this is the nature of such a beast. I expect funds are tight for maintenance. The players were Anthony Halliday and Tomomi Kondo Brennan. AH plays organs around the world, not least in London and Leipzig, and has appeared here before. TKM has a history on violin from Japan through Canada and is now an associate principal with Orchestra Victoria. OV is the Melbourne-based orchestra supporting the Australian Ballet and Opera. So no slouches. The music was a mix of solo organ and duets from Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, Elgar, Mozart and Widor and Vitali. There were some tech hitches with the Bach but we could still enjoy the variations in tone and power that pipe organ can display, and some very capable playing of multiple parts. The duets featured the violin, with the organ surprisingly reticent when accompanying but also when taking a phrase. Perhaps the tech issue or perhaps AH’s artistic judgement. I much enjoyed TKM’s bowing as a class in itself, being close up, especially some very effective and even slurs and bouncing passages. Lovely ll round.
Anthony Halliday (organ) and Tomomi Kondo Brennan (violin) performed at the Uniting Church Snake Valley for the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival.
12 January 2018
First up was the opening concert at St Patrick’s Cathedral (huge and impressive and reaching for the stars and bedecked with ribbons). The Gloriana Chamber Choir performed with Carlos E Barcenas and Stefan Cassomenos and Argentinian percussion. They started hidden in the choir stalls with chant, unison, high and female, then a second piece of chant, this time in harmony, with mediaeval-like drums accompaniment and a slow walk to the altar. Nice. I liked this one. Then Ariel Ramirez Missa Criolla. It’s a setting of the mass in post-Vatican II non-Latin with accompaniment of South American folk idioms and indigenous instruments. I found this is bit unsatisfying for its harmonies, but others claimed this as their piece for the night. My fave for the night was two movements (3,4) form Joby Talbot Path of miracles, telling of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. It was sung mostly in English but with some Latin, accompanied by various percussion instruments, using frequent obbligato passages and the like. My favourite for the night. Very nicely sung by the Gloriana Choir, a very strong tenor voice from Carlos and some very decent accompaniment.
Gloriana Chamber Choir was led by Andrew Raiskums (conductor) with Carlos E Barcenas (tenor), Stefan Cassomenos (piano), David Richardson and Ben Smart (Argentinian percussion).
11 January 2018
We’re into 2018 and CJ returns but not to Canberra. We are in Ballarat to look after a friend’s house and dogs. Ballarat is a stunningly beautiful town, perhaps with the dark underside so common with wealth and beauty, or past wealth and beauty. Its buildings certainly display past wealth even if there seem to be plenty of discount stores amongst the impressive stone of the golden past. It was, for 2 years, the richest metropolitan area in the world but that’s ~150 years ago now. And the dark side we’ve been hearing of through a Royal Commission. The fence and gates outside the Catholic cathedral had been festooned with ribbons. I’m told they were taken down by the church at the end of the RC but they reappeared within days. More dark side maybe, and not particularly hidden. It’s heartening that some are not for forgetting even in this era of forgetfulness. To bide our time, we are attending the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields festival, so expect a string of (short) reports on various classical and related concerts around the area, many featuring local pipe organs. Ballarat is rich in them (18 in Ballarat and lots more around the area). Just more remainders from the era of wealth.
31 December 2017
Tilt is not playing for NY Eve so this is end year for us. We played the Tradies again and I expected a quiet night, given the date between Christmas and New Year and Canberrans being down the coast and all, but there was audience. And we were graced by a friend who was over from Belgium, Alysa Ingles. I've known Alysa in Canberra as a friend of one son. She's now in Belgium studying but back for a family visit. She sings in Belgium with a band of professionals. My impression is their repertoire is the pop/gypsy-jazz. We worked out a few keys and played half a dozen songs, standards like Honeysuckle rose, All of me and Bluesette and she did a great job, nice voice and aware enough to deal with odd entries and the like. Well done and thanks to Alysa. Always nice to play with a singer. The audience loves it and our roles become just that little bit more relaxed and complementary. Otherwise, it was our repertoire of modern jazz, hard bop and a few standards.
Tilt played with Alysa Ingles at Dickson Tradies. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).
28 December 2017
I've been watching Charis' new choir for a year or so now. It's only in 2016 that I Progetti appeared. Charis had been with SCUNA in my awareness, but this was her new project. Projects, perhaps? I Progetti is a small chamber choir, working alone or with others, with unfamiliar choral repertoire. I imagine a repertoire from the Renaissance or thereabouts, but they also sing new material, not least by one of their singers, bassist Mark Chapman. Touche! I love performance and perfection, but it's also nice to see some creation beyond interpretation or improvisation. I've been feeling that recently, noting various indie musos who write music rather than just perform it. But back to this performance. It was free, days before Christmas, in the lovely space of the NPG foyer with its high roof and timber and acoustics. Other than Mark's composition (called Welcome Yule!) it was C16-C17 with a touch of C18. Think Josquin des Pres, Monteverdi, Purcell, Praetorius and a string of more obscure names. But so nicely done! These voices really did sit well together with three per SATB section. The basses were rich and sonorous, the sopranos reaching into the sky, the altos spelling those balancing harmonies and the tenors firm and incisive. I was particularly struck by some lofty soprano singing in the audience participation at the end. We were all invited to sing Ding dong merrily on high and Hark the Herald angels sing. This is Chrissie after all, and the joy was shared. Such a lovely, artful performance complete with audience involvement. How could you not love it!
I Progetti is Charis Messalina de Valance (director), Deirdre Clink and Ngaire Breen (sopranos), Mary Harwood, Mary Woodhouse and Susannah Bishop (altos), Alex Moruya, Paul Francis, Steven Harris and Tristan Struve (tenors) and Mark Chapman, Peter de Vries, Phill Grant and Steven Strach (basses). Anthony Smith (chamber organ) provided accompaniment.