18 July 2017

When words speak

I met Sandie White when she came to Smiths to hear the impeccable Michelle Nicole. This was Sandie's return to play the room, on a Sunday afternoon, down from Sydney, with Welsh import Esmond Selwyn on guitar and our own local, Eric Ajaye on bass. When IU listen to jazz singers, I remember that songs have themes, words, meanings that are evident, often sentimental or maudlin, occasionally tender. The songs of the jazz era were like that, but I love it. Sandie sang some lesser-knowns like Peggy Lee I never knew, Lee Wiley Oh look at me now, Nat King Cole Just me just me, along with Misty and September in the rain and the like. All lovely, all poignant, but the jazz improv showed through, too. Sandie sang several scats that rang with jazz movement. Nice. Esmond accompanied with celerity, all staccato chords and lithe, hasty lines and sweeps, and a free take on one-man improv especially over the ballads. And how great to hear Eric again - it's too seldom these days. All smooth and flowing and mellifluous, but quick and endlessly conversational. Loved it. A pleasure to hear in such an intimate, drummerless grouping. Great that Sandie discovered Smiths and came for the outing. Perhaps next time, for an evening with a more generous gathering: it may have been warm within, from heating and an inviting performance, but the sunny arvo had a bitter breeze.

Sandie White (vocals) performed at Smiths with Esmond Selwyn (guitar) and Eric Ajaye (bass).

16 July 2017

Daily duties

It was an orchestral practice interrupted to set up for a Tilt gig. I was sorry for the first, enjoying Mendelssohn and missing a Tchaikovsky symphony (no.2 - it's great). But duty calls in the form of a gig at Mercure Canberra, long known as the Ainslie Pub, for the Canberra Truffle Festival. Truffles in an adjacent room; bar through another door. We had the stately lounge for jazz and it was a blow from the first. Busy, some dancing, easy chatting and a few listeners. We played jazz and standards and blues and some modern with substitutions and polyrhythms and the like, and also some jazz-twisted pop tunes, not least a new one from Daft Punk. At least new to me. I'm a great believer that everyone should have something they recognise: when they do they come onside and are open to standards, Shorter, Miles, whatever. I sometimes wonder how we can get paid to do this, but they like it and so do we.

Then next day, the Smiths jazz blow. Strong on bassists. Brendan Clarke was playing as I arrived. Eric Ajaye was inside to play a gig after the jam session. The house bassist was Jace Henderson with fellow bandsters Josh Buckler, Hugh Barrett and Mark Levers. I played a few tunes with a singer, not least Honeysuckle Rose, then Beatrice again to finish off. Thanks again to Josh and co.

12 July 2017

Distant ecospheres

We were in Adelaide for a few days and caught the Kegelstatt Ensemble playing very locally, at Burnside Ballroom. They were seriously satisfying, playing to a small audience of 50-or-so in a heritage '50s ballroom, performing four works in four different combinations, all modern and testy and challenging. There's lots to note, but much of interest was how unknown these players were to me. Adelaide is a good distance from Canberra, so we get few visitors from there. This group was interested in touring to Canberra if promoted - they were playing this program at the Melbourne Recital Centre salon in a few weeks, but that's relatively close. Like many groups, no doubt. Canberra shares some of the Sydney scene for both jazz and classical, given its proximity, and occasionally the Melbourne scene, given its location on the path to Sydney. I remember a few Brisbane and Adelaide and Hobart and even Perth visitors, but that's dropped away with the diminishment of our music school. So no surprise that I didn't know of this group. But they were interesting and capable. A challenging program of modern works: Schulhoff, Elliott Carter, Ginastera and Prokofiev, and a capable series of players, presumably out of Adelaide or graduates of the Elder Con, some now interstate, playing for the Adelaide and Melbourne Symph Orchs amongst others. And interesting for the techniques of modern works. The Elliott Carter Esprit rude esprit doux was introduced with examples of polyrhythms that suffuse the work and demanded much practice (30-hours for 4-minutes); the example was 6 against 5. I'm amused when I discover the crossovers between jazz and classical, like diminished runs in Beethoven, and polyrhythms are common in contemporary jazz circles. I've attended several workshops on jazz polyrhythms and written them up on CJ (Will Vinson, Ari Hoenig). The Prokofiev Quintet Op.39 was a favourite, six short movements, some rabidly challenging writing performed with lithe clarity. I noticed especially on the strings, which I understand better, and especially from bassist Esther Toh, so sharp and well timed semiquaver runs and capable up into stratospheric harmonics and high thumb positions, and with such a satisfying tone from a determined bow and her modern Italian bass. It all happened in a little decorated '50s ballroom where my mother has danced, red piping with rope features, timber floor, rest bays and an odd inverted-V bandstand with a glowing aquamarine double border. It's the location for the Ballroom Series concerts of Adelaide's CMA (Chamber Music Adelaide). All unknown to me, from Canberra, quite far and in a different arts ecosystem. All worthy discoveries out of this fabulous concert.

The Kegelstatt Ensemble performed Schulhoff, Elliott Carter, Ginastera and Prokofiev at the Burnside Ballroom in Adelaide. The performers were: Alexandra Castle (flute), Renae Stavely (oboe), Steph Wake-Dyster (clarinet), Emma Perkins (violin), Anna Webb (viola) and Esther Toh (bass).

6 July 2017

Relations devout and otherwise

This may have been the most harmonious Harmonia Monday gig that I've done. It started with a thing of beauty, Saint-Saens Ave verum corpus, then Stravinsky Ave Maria. The Saint-Saens was just heavenly and I liked the Stravinsky for its changing counts and unexpected rhythms and intervals. Then a few Victorian-soundings things that invited apt accents and a strange one, Banchieri Contrapunto bestiale alla mente. That one sounds strange and it was but it amused and was easy to learn and remember, mostly for tenors who just barked (yes, arfs) regularly as a bridge between Fa-la-las. There were tunes from Schubert and Mendelssohn and Grainger and Elgar and the like with themes ranging from religious to indulgent, even carnal. But along with the glorious religious songs above, I fell for a few madrigals dated around 1450, from Morley, Sing we and chant it, and Dowland, Come again sweet love. There's some schmaltz out there, of course, not least from Schubert with lyrics by Shakespeare. Unlikely? Try Who is Sylvia? Lovely, fair, wise and with swainly commendations. But it's a good way to learn something of singing and reading and the music ranges widely and informatively. That's Harmonia Monday.

Harmonia Monday performed its bi-annual open day under Shiela Thompson and Oliver Raymond (conductors).

4 July 2017

Cool jam

The sun was out but it had been -7degC overnight, so it wasn't hot. Nonetheless, the Smiths jam session was outside on the footpath using the public piano with its keys missing a few ivories. Cool out of the sun but it was a great session. The standard tunes. Josh leading with the house band. Sit-ins included recently relocated Brendan Clarke and Wayne Kelly for Miss Jones. I sat in for Beatrice with Hugh and Mark and Josh and others. Anthony Irving is the house bass: first time I've seen him and I was impressed. He's a leftie playing a bass set up as right-handed; think Hendrix. Some really nice music and good cheer and pleasant in the sun, until it got low and the cold set in. Then it was the end. Much enjoyed.

The Smiths Jazz Jam house band was Hugh Barrett (piano), Mark Levers (drums), Anthony John Irving (bass) and Josh Buckler (tenor). Amongst other sit-ins were Brendan Clarke (bass), Wayne Kelly (piano), Eric Pozza (bass).

2 July 2017

Bach to Bush Capital

Two great concerts in two days; a pleasure. The second was Anthony Albrecht on his Bach to the Bush tour of ~20 locations throughout the Eastern states. It's an intimate thing, with a chat and even Q&As on offer, but that's not to diminish the music or its performance. Obviously there's Bach. Anthony played two Bach cello suites, no.1 Gmaj and no.2 Dmin, introducing them with discussions and quotes on the nature of each key. The Gmaj is the best known and joyous and optimisitic. The Dmin is darker: we learnt that Dmin has been described as the "key in which a ghost would speak". Then later, a caprice by Dall-Abbaco written in Ebmaj, an "indescribably gentle" key. Also a Chaconne by Giuseppe Colombi and, at the top, a fascinating introductory piece that was very much out of left field, Reclaiming the spirit by Sarah Hopkins. This work was commissioned and played at the renaming of Uluru and it vividly portrayed Australian bush sounds and the didj. It took mammothly different technique, a readiness to break long training and a regular concert bow to play and was engrossing and convincing. All the tunes had a story as an introduction: a recognition of the local Ngunnawal people; a discussion of the cello's appearance (mid C17th, Italy, as a smaller bass instrument with the new technology of gut strings sheathed in metal); an introduction to Anthony's own 1740s English cello; music as acknowledgement of dark places; of Bach's own history, his loss of 10 from 20 children and his devout religion and composition that was structured in lines with this devotion (eg, in St Matthew's Passion, counted bars, multiplied by the golden mean, bring you to the crucifixion!). All informative but this is not the music. I loved the Hopkins Australian piece, all vivid bush and didj. I was intrigued by Anthony's takes on Bach, light, sometimes flighty across strings, using the more delicate baroque bow. How he paused on the root notes of a phrase, then floated over the arpeggios and scalar phrase that followed. Not the even, determined baroque we sometimes hear or expect moving through exercised sequences, but deeply expressive and delicately phrased, speaking through harmonies of heavenly spheres. Baroque spoken by another age. So, lovely and informed by era and deeply satisfying.

Anthony Albrecht performed at Wesley on his solo Bach to the Bush tour.

30 June 2017

The happiest band

They were happy. I was intrigued and amused to watch the various faces, sometimes concentrating, often smiling, actually doing both. Australian Haydn Ensemble were beaming. So was their guest, Melvyn Tan. They were dressed in black and white with red features. Some features were pretty insignificant, not that they should have been too flashy. A few socks and some waistcoats and cravats. I hadn't noticed the colours as a theme until James told me afterwards. Just the smiles. Smile, and so they should. Skye has crafted this ensemble over several years into a worthy, international-level group playing with period authority and a relaxed elan. They don't always play as such a large ensemble, but they did record this way, and they do return at least yearly in a large format. I loved the music, of course, Chevalier de St-George, Mozart and Haydn, from that early classical era, and I especially loved how they played it (that explains their smiles and mine). The dynamics were so detailed and shared, with swells and dims and cres turning on a note and phrases that were spelt out in notes and dynamics that moved together. So well done; so strong and together. This is what matters, the shared expression in and around the melody and the driving consistency of the rhythms, and this had all these. Melvyn Tan just played one piece, the Mozart Concerto for keyboard no.18 K456, leading from the chair with music oddly on a stand to his left. He played fortepiano, so softer and less sustained than a modern piano. We were sitting right in front and even for us it could hide behind a decent forte from the orchestra. Melvyn, too, was all smiles, obviously a generous and welcoming guest, bent over the keyboard for his solos or twisted to the orchestra and waving in leadership. The other pieces were Chevalier's symph op.11 no.2 Dmaj and Haydn Symph no.85 Bbmaj 'La Reine', dedicated to Marie Antoinette. Of these, the Haydn was the more demanding with some tortuous lines in a few places. But mostly I notice the easy speed. This music is pretty regular and reasonably easy to read and play, but to spell the phrasing and to easily hold the swift lines demanded of all the instruments (bass gets its share) and to do it all with lightness and vivacity is the challenge. AHE does it with ease and aplomb and much good humour. So, congrats to Skye and her group for the development so far, and it'll be interesting to watch just how far this can go. Just a wonderful, joyous concert with considerable historical authority.

Melvyn Tan (fortepiano) appeared with the Australian Haydn Ensemble at Albert Hall. AHE comprised Skye McIntosh (violin 1, artistic director, concertmaster) with Matt Greco, Simone Slattery and Lathika Vithanage (violins 1), Rafael Font, Stephen Freeman, Annie Gard and Alice Rickards (violins 2), Deirdre Dowling, James Eccles, Gabrielle Kancachian and Martin Wiggins (violas), Anthony Albrecht, Anton Baba and Natasha Kraemer (cellos), Jacqueline Dossor (bass), Melissa Farrow (flute), Ingo Müller and Amy Power (oboes), Takako Nugumi and Simon Rickard (bassoons), Doree Dixon and Darryl Poulsen (horns).

29 June 2017

Always dress up

They must be the niftiest dressed band around Canberra, but that's part of the gig. The Woodwinds of the RMC (Royal Military College, Duntroon) Band were playing at Wesley but they could have been playing for the GG or pollies or even the Queen, so the dress is formal and expected. Short blazers, black with crimson piping with a chain to join the front, badges of rank and other insignia, red cummerbunds and black bowties. Natty. But off stage were some others who weren't playing on the day and they were in jeans and a photographer in camouflage gear. Quiet a range, from the very formal to extremely practical. I just wondered what the women would do with their long skirts if the war came to Wesley, but it didn't. I jest. But I really liked this concert. Another incongruity was the music. I tend to think of a military band as playing pop tunes or marches, but this was Bach, Poulenc and Dvorak, so it showed my uninformed preconceptions. They are all trained professionals, so not surprise they can do it all, and no surprise they would cover the field. And they did more. The Bach was his Keyboard Concerto no.4 mvt.III but it was played on Cor Anglais by Carl Brumfield who had arranged it for this format. Congratulations. Skills that cover the waterfront. That was played by a sextet led by cor anglais with clarinets, harpsichord continuo and bass. Then a duet, Poulenc Flute sonata, three movements, played by flute accompanied by piano. I was impressed by flute, flighty and birdlike sometimes, but also strong and full, and the piano that drove through the various changes of tempo and style with admirable firmness. Nice. The the major, longest work, Dvorak Serenade for wind instruments Dminor. This group was large with visitors: 12 players on oboes, clarinets, horns, bassoons, cello and bass. Cello was a invitee from the School of Music (there are no cellos in the RMC Band, although there is bass) and presumably the horns were invited from the brass players. This was nicely together, led by one clarinet, nice intonation, convincing swells and satisfying dynamics, and some nice deeper lines from cello and bass, and perhaps joined by the contra-bassoon. So, a very satisfying lunchtime concert. Next RMB Band outing at Wesley is Pictures at an Exhibition by the Brass Ensemble.

The Woodwinds of the RMC Band played Bach, Poulenc and Dvorak at Wesley. The players were Carl Brumfield (cor anglais, oboe), Nerida McCorkall (oboe), Kirsty Bird, Steve Wylks and Natalie Dajski (clarinets), Lenore Evans (alto clarinet), Suan Waterman, Josephine Smith and Carly Brown (french horns) Laura Long and Lizz Affleck (bassoons), Mark Jones (contra-bassoon), Elspeth Forster (flute), Andrea Clifford (piano), Carla Allmich (continuo), Thomas Powles (cello) and Barnaby Briggs (bass). Escuse no ranks.

25 June 2017

Big and bigger

I find it intriguing that, as I play more, I hear more. In this case, it's classical, orchestral music and what I hear is the details, the difficulties of a piece, the approaches and capabilities of the players. It's to be expected. The pieces I have played are even more understood, so more clearly observed. Last night was the CYO, the Canberra Youth Orchestra, in two formations. Firstly, as a string orchestra playing Philip Glass with Gabi Sultana. Secondly, as a symphony orchestra in large array playing Mahler symphony no.1. I don't know either piece in particular, but I'm mightily impressed by the commitment. These are both major works. PG's Tirol concerto is a later work displaying his regularity, twists and turns, minimalism in common parlance, but I thought with more investigation and variation, and although it displayed some trade mark rhythmic patterns and harmonies, there seemed also to be dissonant harmonies and different approaches to rhythm that I wouldn't so obviously have picked. So this was interesting. I was surprised when it all started with Gabi Sultana playing a solo piano introduction; I enjoyed the PG regularity and fluctuations and mutations; I savoured the bass ostinatos in the last movement. Nicely played by the orchestra with considerable affinity and counting. I wondered if it could have used more dynamics, but maybe that's PG again. And I was surprised by the warm reception of this PG piece: minimalism is not always so warmly welcomed, so this also was instructive. But I shouldn't have worried about dynamics. The next piece was Mahler and it was big and long and softly varied and playful with fanfares and popular song and the CYO's dynamics were great: well interpreted, unforgiving, apt. This is 55 minutes in four movements. It twists and plays and insinuates its melodies, starting with the slightest of sustained sounds with various injected features from muted brass or horn (lots of) or other, but welling, and by the end of the first movement, blaring, and leaving me wondering just how we'd gotten there. Then a louder scherzo and into a delicate waltz. Again, how did that happen? Then a solo muted bass playing Frere Jacques (thanks Hayley) that moves through the orchestra with various other folk melodies and a outspoken final movement. Hayley's notes talk of a return to D major marking a heroic victory. It was certainly a heroic and successful outing by the CYO. Easy and intense dynamics, capable ensemble playing, decent intonation and impressive technique, a very able take on a very substantial work. Lots of horns (8?), lots of brass, lots of players: it's certainly a massed work. I read 72 names in the program and assume all played for this piece. I note a few (more mature) CYO alumni were invited back to expand the masses, I guess to make up the extra forces needed for a Mahler. So, a massively successful concert that will presumably form an indelible memory for these players. Congratulations to Lennie and his arrayed mates.

Canberra Youth Orchestra performed Philip Glass Tirol concerto with Gabi Sultana (piano) and Mahler symphony no.1, called the "Titan" at Llewellyn Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor).

PS. I missed mention of Gabi's encore rendition of George Crumb Cadencza Apocalittica (Tora! Tora! Tora! Makrokosmos II). My apoliges to Christian. This was a work of intense action. Christian tells me it recounts the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour: high tinkering chords, then a heavy full handed dropping gliss over the full keyboard and rumbling low notes, then final slaps on lows strings under the lid. Then again, sometimes some chords. Repeated, finally played against a call of Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese, intense, threatening, ultimately deadly and unyielding. Apocaliptic. Such a difference from the other two pieces, so heavy and modern and a strong and committed performance by Gabi. A stunning piece of program music, and like all such, made immensely more interesting by knowing the narrative.

22 June 2017

Down veils

There's constant chatter and considerable despair about climate change, at least in my readings. Not sure it is so common amongst readers of the Right or the coalies. I don't understand Palaszczuk or Turnbull and Abbott and their mobs. It's all so perverse given the science and so dumb given the economics. I don't understand the cockiness of those who will argue against the science, or who will argue for coal or will twist facts for their political purposes. It seems to me there's an unavoidable limit here, at the existential, at the possible demise of civilisation, at a rate that seems to be quickening. I've written letters to a string of pollies saying just that: "How will you live with yourself". A recent graph just highlighted this, where young women/mothers/scientists placed bars for themselves, their children and their grandchildren on a chart of expected global temperatures (Caring about climate change: it's time to build a bridge between data and emotion / Ketan Joshi. IN The Guardian, 7 June 2017). View that (below) and try not to weep. Then a run of letters to the editor of the Canberra Times. Amusingly, I wrote a letter on the psychology of denial which happened to be published under one that questioned CO2's role and also whether temperature is changing unduly. My letter: "I'm intrigued by the psychology of denial. Is it a deep internal conflict that expresses itself in phrases like "I don't question the science, but..."? Or in claims of "technology neutrality" associated with demands for coal, or attacks on the "ideology" of others while ignoring or twisting the science. Or worse, maybe they are just lying through their teeth, or have sold their souls. Remember, we're talking end of civilisation here. Not trivial. I wouldn't want that on my conscience. " (CT letters 16 June 2017; the Editor removed my last sentence). Then a letter in response attacked me for 'using emotion-charged terms like "denial" and accuses people of "lying through their teeth" and "[selling] their souls" for daring to express a dissenting point of view"' and claiming scepticism for those questioning this "new hypothesis" (that CO2 might be related to warming) that "might be ... untestable" and "this is the difference between science and faith" (CT letters 17 June 2017). Mmm. My response was not published by CT but here it is " Oh, ..., the response came quicker than I thought! I used climate "denial" with reason. In the same way that Chesterton and recently Finkel said "do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out". I'm no scientist so I accept the overwhelming advice of the experts - I'm conservative in that way. And I've long thought there's a Nobel prize for anyone who disproves climate change to the satisfaction of science, but no-one's claiming it!". And otherwise recently, there's ongoing Adani, GBR bleaching, hottest years and the rest.

Thanks to Ketan Joshi and Lesley Hughes - see link above

That's just a preamble to how I found the book launch by Anna Krein at the ANU interviewed by Will Steffen. Well, I heard little new for those who read reasonably widely. Nothing much positive, either. Some themes or topics included: Adani; GBR; Q&A (esp Brian Fox and Malcolm Roberts); communicating to cross divisions; conviction and science; the foolishness of investment in coal; the requirement for rapid change and how some others are doing it; science and entrenched power; politics. obviously, and negligence by pollies; Finkel and the Climate Council; Shell's scenario planning; correlations of inequality with social and health problems; lies and misleadings; bad outcomes coming earlier than expected; feedbacks and runaway climate change; Paris and Stockholm; moral reprehensibility and the argument "the GBR is already cactus so why not keep digging"; jobs, coal and prime agricultural land; regulation; cities and states replacing federal action; the SA blackout; newspeak and pollie talk (or non-talk) on climate. Newish to me was the argument that if Adani goes ahead, so will other mines in the Galilee Basin. I wondered about the discussion of economics post-WW2. I see key problems arising with Neo-Liberalism after the '70s, at least in our ability to deal with issues, even if CO2 was increasing back then, too (it was, but it was little known). I was particularly interested in the latest updates on where various tipping points are expected. WS suggested 2degC, perhaps 2.5degC, definitely by 4degC. WS and colleagues have written an update article for PNAS that's currently under peer review, due later this year. It's a concern of the Stockholm Resilience Centre where he has recently spent time. There was some discussion on the recent Finkel report, its "blind acceptance" of an inadequate 26-28% cut vs. 2005 (lowest of G20 countries), lack of effective action, approach limited by politics (and, I expect, the terms of reference). Anna was asked what the "long goodbye" in the book title refered to, but it's not defined. Rejection of the word "belief" regarding climate change, preferring "acceptance" (nice observation - I too have wondered about that word, belief, in the context of science). Some questions about the "critical decade", which is now coming close to an end, and its little achievements (expect another report from WS and mates about this later this year). The last decade of cc politics and communications. Rudd and Penny Wong came in for some questioning on their politics playing with Turnbull and also for not communicating with some affected populations that sought change (Port Augusta, Gippsland region). And the quality of day-to-day politics, with, as an example, the derision around Whish-Wilson's quote of "and then we wept" from GBR researcher and students. (this got me: "My veil is down ... I have cried. I have broken down in front of cameras. This is the most devastating, gut-wrenching fuck up" / Prof Justin Marshall, re GBR bleaching). Yep, couldn't have said it better.

Anna Krein was interviewed by Will Steffen at the launch of her new book, The Long Goodbye : Coal, Coral and Australia's Climate Deadlock / Anna Krein [Quarterly Essay 66].

21 June 2017


David Braid visited again from Canada, again at Canberra Grammar School. Last time he played solo and I heard a rich mix of classical and jazz, in solos, in compositions, so the lines weren't just be-bop runs spelling arpeggios and scales from chords, but richer, subtler, informed by jazz but crossing into classical. His latest visit has just taken that and expanded it. So here he was visiting with the Penderecki Quartet, a classical string quartet of inestimable quality, in residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario since 1991. There's long-term interchange in the quartet and it showed. I felt the some comfort with David, although his recording of these works is with another quartet, the Epoque Quartet. There's rich composition and orchestration here, plenty of unison lines and intriguing harmonies, but also improv. David's improv is closer to the be-bop vein and wonderfully full in rich and correct and with also satisfyingly complete lines, sequences that are untruncated although a sometimes just cleverly left hanging. The improv from the string players was not so obvious to my ears. Classical improv often tends to rhythmic and repetition, strong in its own way but not boppy. I easily caught a later violin improv, but wondered a few times if viola or cello solos were written musics. I presume they weren't. Written or improvised, they were firm, strong, together, expressive. This was a strong quartet. Together with David and his compositions, this was strong music. Just occasionally hinting at heads, sometimes developing grooves, from a piano left-hand or a cello pizz walk, but the chordal structures weren't 32-bar or similarly evident. This is jazz/classical crossover, just accentuated by the sound of classical strings, and gloriously satisfying. And the compositions were nothing light-weight. Joya variations lasted about 13 minutes and the variations were none too obvious, nothing baroque-like although there were spots where the piano sounded Bach-ish. Chauvet was dedicated to the paleolithic cave paintings, starting heavy piano chords with string glissandi and lasting around 20 minutes. There was one touch on standards jazz, I've never been in love before from Guys and Dolls. David had provided the jazz score for the recent film on Chet Baker, and had rearranged the standard for this format. Then a few other tunes, one a picturing of cohesive diversity on a Toronto subway. Overall, a fabulous crossover between classical and jazz from a unerringly committed group of musicians playing intriguing original compositions. I don't know where it sits in the spectrum of music (but neither does Canberra Jazz these days, nor much of the world of music) but this was a world-beating and deeply satisfying outing.

David Braid (piano, compositions) playing with the Penderecki String Quartet comprising Jerzy Kaplanek (violin), Jeremy Bell (violin), Christine Vlaik (viola) and Katie Schlaikjer (cello).

19 June 2017


Musica da Camera was on tour over the weekend ... to Cooma. This was a one-off concert of favourites. Rosemary Mcphail led us in a historical meander: Bach Brandenburg concerto no.3, Mozart Eine kleine nachtmusik, Grieg Holberg suite, Holst St Paul's suite and a couple of Brahms Hungarian dances (no. 1 & 5). There was some devilishly quick runs, not least the sequences in Bach, but still not as quick as in rehearsal (Rosemary was being generous). The Holst quoted some cute English folk music not least Greensleeves. The Hungarian dances were a buzz and the Mozart was a joyous pleasure. But the Grieg was my favourite with a few featured bass notes and some cool double stops but very tricky counting on the gavotte. A pleasant and decent audience and a town with some very attractive period buildings. I noticed a string of deco frontages on the main street as I drove in but Cooma dates back (gazetted 1849) so it features several architectural eras, even modernism arriving with the Snowies Scheme. The town deserves better than first impressions of tacky snow-themed service stations. Next tour is in August to Gunning on Sunday 20 August but locals can hear it in Cook on the Saturday afternoon. Unless you yearn for the country drive. Thanks to all for a great little concert.

Musica da Camera was led by Rosemary Mcphail and performed in Cooma.

  • MdC playing Bach Brandenburg concerto no.3 at Cooma >
    mvt.1 / mvt.2,3
  • 18 June 2017

    Playing daze

    It was great to be invited to a chamber music playing day. I knew of these, where chamber musicians get together to read various works in various combinations. I was invited for the Beethoven Septet and that was great. For the first half, I sat in with four cellos, and this had me more on edge. I play bass and cello parts are different, harder to read, busier, with added tenor and treble clefs, still requiring transpositions for low notes and perhaps clumsier for a bass tuned in fourths. That's my excuse. But the Beethoven was a bass part and very comfy. I enjoyed that one immensely. The Canberra Chamber Music Players are the local chapter of the Australian Chamber Music Society. CCMS meets monthly-or-so at the ANU School of Music, for reads and for afternoon tea. About 30 attended this session, spread into about 9 groups of various combinations, different for each of the two sessions. Lots of fun, good company and some very satisfying Beethoven. Not least for the chance to play with Chris Griffiths, visiting horn player for the Royal Northern Sinfonia and brother of my invitor Heather Powrie. A pleasure.

    The Canberra Chamber Music Players met at the ANU School of Music. For my Five cellos session, the players were Terry Neeman, Andrew Usher, Laura Kirkby and Tracy King (cello) with Eric Pozza (bass). For my Beethoven Septet session, the players were Sue Bailey (clarinet), Chris Griffiths (French horn), Sue Plaistowe (bassoon), Christopher Gleeson (violin), Heather Powrie (viola), Terry Neeman (cello) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    15 June 2017

    Concert for Cancer Council

    It was the day of the big morning tea, supporting the Cancer Council, and the concert was attached to the morning tea at Wesley and it was also big and varied. I guess it was brought together from those who were available for the gig. Horn player Chris Griffiths was in town from the UK (he plays with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and studied under Barry Tuckwell at the Royal Academy of Music) but then I discovered his sister is here so a family visit. Stuart Long supported Chris on piano, and both Stuart and Chris played with Louise Keast, and Louise also played with pianist Colleen Rae Gerrard. And Jonathan Lee sat in on organ to play a surprisingly jazz-inspired piece. Not a long concert but rabidly mixed. First up was JS Bach Ave Maria on horn and piano. The some songs from Brahms, Wolf and Bellini and notably Gounot's Le soir from Meditations poetiques. Then Ravel Pavane pour une infante defunte and Jonathan's performance of Ad Wammes Miroir with its distinct jazz-like melody and chordal movements. And to finish, two movements of Mozart Horn concerto Eb. Some tunes were distinctly well-known and popular but always a pleasure. Chris played a good bit from memory. So, mixed an d popular but also interesting and well played. A pleasure, unlike cancer.

    Chris Griffiths (horn), Stuart Long (piano), Jonathan Lee (organ), Louise Keast (soprano) and Colleen Rae Gerrard (piano) performed at Wesley.

    This is CJBlog post no. 1800

    13 June 2017

    A Baroque meet

    Two of all things: two baroque concerts this weekend; AdHoc Baroque combining with Limestone Consort for one. This was a concert of the meeting of AdHoc and Limestone at All Saints, although there's a certain degree of Venn diagram overlap between these two. I'm sure I've heard at least one of the singers, Greta or Maartje, performing with Limestone Consort, and cellist Clara is common to the two groups and their programs pretty much overlap in period. This was a nicely mixed concert with varied combinations of performers, one or two or no singers, one or two violins, double bass and viola or not. And introductions were also varied, by Limestone's Lauren or AdHoc's Peter. The works were Purcell, two Telemann church cantatas, the Swedish composer Roman, Geminiani and Hasse. They were mostly religious works, instructing the congregation to stifle their eagerness to indulge in a spiritual life, or to shake off darkness and enjoy the light of the peace of the Lord in a harmonious world. Sounds good. We heard of connections, of Geminiani to Avison, of Roman to Handel and Bach's brother, of Hasse to a young visiting Mozart. It must have been a vibrant period of music. We heard of Telemann's financial successes and his readiness to adjust to his consumers (as we would envision it these days) and a hint at an unreadiness to stifle his eagerness and of working for the church or the big kahuna, Emperor Frederick the Great. Notes would have russled in that court. And we heard the music, jigs and aires and minuets, larghettos and allegros and recitatives and pomposi, and Salve Reginae and benedictiones. I loved the voices, especially in harmony; I was physically close to the viola for once and came to better understand its responsive role; I followed the bass and cello and their similar parts and bowings; I drifted with the loud but less assertive organ tones; I followed the violins, in harmony, or Lauren's leading melodic role. The playing was a pleasure and the music was delightful. Two makes one, when AdHoc met Limestone.

    AdHoc Baroque met Limestone Consort at All Saints, Ainslie. Performers were Peter Young (keyboard), Greta Claringbould (soprano), Maartje Sevenster (alto), Lauren Davis and Matthew Witney (violins), Michelle Higgs (viola), Clara Teniswood (cello) and Kyle Daniel (bass).

    11 June 2017

    Gentle truth telling

    It's of a time but it tells truths. It's just a musical but an important one, one of the early ones that dealt with social issues, that had some complexity, not too B+W. It's nothing like our daily diet of political anger as it talks of race and mixed marriage and love and death and humour in the face of war. Not that there was so much war, at least then and there, in the South Pacific, in real life in Vanuatu looking out on Tanna, called here Bali Ha'I. The Americans are in the tropics; the central character nurse Nellie Forbush falls through love with local French plantation owner Emile de Beque; the local worldly-wise mother Bloody Mary pairs her daughter with Lieutenant Cable; Seaman Luther Billis is ever witty and on the take, the Navy's response to Bloody Mary. Mostly it's a quiet military life, waiting for action, entertaining each other, mingling, but the war intervenes. One of the lovers is lost, one finally commits to love, Japan's navy leaves the neighbouring island. If you're of a certain age, you've at least seen the film, remember the shower scene, can sing a few tunes. The tunes are great and memorable - this is Rodgers and Hammerstein, so from a great era of American music: Some enchanted evening, Bali Ha'I, Younger than springtime, I'm in love with a wonderful guy, even jingles like Dites moi or set numbers like Nothing like a dame. Simple but memorable melodies, innocent words. On the outside, all innocence; on the inside, dealing with real issues with the deceptive innocence verging on wisdom with a dose of sentiment. Characters may wrong others, or misunderstand them, or find they are at cultural odds, but it's done in good faith through honest weaknesses and they discover themselves in the process. It's a big call for a Broadway musical, but the great era of American musicals and film and music was a great era for a reason. South Pacific was performed here at TheQ by the Queanbeyan Players, with generous amateur cast and orchestra. One friend raved of the quality of the music, the memorable tunes; he was comparing to modern musicals of recurring leitmotifs and few numbers: I agree. Another friend saw misogyny in Nothing like a dame and more and it is out of our time and conversation, but I saw difference and attraction rather than demeaning. I was taken by Cockeyed optimist, a lesser known number, that spoke of being hopeful in the midst of WW2 which resonated, for me, with Obama's hope in a time of climate, environment, terrorism and the rest. And by the wry irony of one song (can't remember which) that argued that kids need to be educated early to see difference and know their tribes. I richly enjoyed the medleys that are overtures in these musicals; I was blown out by one particularly twisted instrumental reprise; I was amused by a walking clarinet (?) feature against one song. Suffice to say, South Pacific was great, we enjoyed it immensely, the Queanbeyan Players did it justice with good singing and believable acting and some decent dance numbers. Very worth doing and very well done.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific was performed by the Queanbeyan Players at TheQ. The actors included Ellen Scott (Nellie Forbush), Michael Moore (Emile de Becque), Anthony Simeonovic (Lt Cable), Tina Robinson (Bloody May) and Andrew McMillan (Luther Billis). The production team included Janet Tweedie (director), Jenna Hinton (musical director), Jenny Tabur (vocal director) and Belinda Hassall (choreographer).