Above: Composer Ben Hoadley, whose Clarinet Quintet ‘Broken Songs’ was premiered in the concert. Featured Image : violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto.
The first Master Series concert for the Omega Ensemble this year was a standing-room-only event at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. ” The crowd was treated to exciting versions of masterpieces for string quartet and clarinet quintet, as well as the premiere of Ben Hoadley’s new clarinet quintet, Broken Songs. ” A capable backbone for all items on the programme was the assembled string quartet of Natsuko Yoshimoto, Ike See(violins),Neil Thompson(viola) and Paul Stender(cello)
In general across all works this quartet securely delivered playing of precision and sensible dramatic depth. We were given an introduction to newer works on the programme and rediscovered well-known ones. A scintillating blend of individual expression resulted from this quartet’s balanced playing. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE-HAYDN AND MOZART @ THE UTZON ROOM→
This was not your standard Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) concert, but as always it featured absolutely superb playing by the ACO who were in inspired form and dynamically led by the charismatic, bouncing, at times close to dancing guest violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who has taken the place of Richard Tognetti, who is currently in residence at the Barbican in London. (The ACO will play at the Barbican next month).
The concert was divided into two halves,as befits the concert’s title. There was a fascinating blend and contrast of blues grass folk songs sung and played on guitar and banjo by guest artist Sam Amidon, with a turbulent, passionate Janacek piece (his first string quartet, The Kreutzer Sonata, as well as a dazzling version of a John Adams work entitled, Shaker Loops (1947) .
In the first half, Murder, the turbulent , at times quite spiky Janacek piece was magnificently played by the ACO. The wprk was inspired by the Tolstoy novella of the same name. At one time there was a stormy argument between sections of the orchestra tensely, breathlessly played, and this was contrasted with more melancholic and reflective sections .
Amidon’s folk songs, played in both halves, appeared at first to be simple tunes but then proved to be more complex. In the first half, in the work Way Go Lily, there were rippling flowing rhythms. How Come That Blood featured a fluid, clip clop almost galloping rhythm – Amidon on banjo , the orchestra accompanying him, and there was an interesting use of pizzicato.
For the first half the songs were arranged by Nico Muhly. Amidon’s rough hewn, sincere vocal style gave his retelling of these folk songs a powerful punch. Amidon’s raw playing contrasted with the more refined tomes of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
The Redemption set opening the second half was a selection of songs performed by Amidon and Kuusisto alone, in a delightfully intimate yet casual and relaxed manner. This contrasted with, and allowed some relief, from the darker subject matter of the program’s first half.
Kuusisto treated his violin more like a folk fiddler, and occasionally joined his voice to Amidon’s in a delightful performance that also included a showy violin solo.
This half also featured an acapella like, haunting and powerful version of Brackett’s Simple Gifts, (the most famous hymn of the Shaker sect) as sung by Amidon.
John Adams work Shaker Loops was rich and multi layered and featured an aching ‘centre’. At times, the piece evoked the ‘music of the spheres’, shimmering and delicate, at other the playing was strident, with bubbling violins and cellos rumbling underneath.
This was a dazzling concert with a running time of two hours and ten minutes.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s toured the concert MURDER AND REDEMPTION nationally between the 2nd and 14th February.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra in Murder and Redemption was on national tour February 2 -14
Just finished reading WORKING CLASS BOY the first instalment of the story of James Dixon Swan, aka – Jimmy Barnes. As usual I am about six months behind the times, the book was published to much fanfare last year, ironically when Barnsey was doing publicity for the book at various venues in Sydney I was in Glasgow. In a pub, about ten minutes from Cowcaddens, the rough area that Barnes lived in until the age of five. That’s just how life is sometimes, but back to the real story.
Barnes’ home life in both Glasgow and Elizabeth, SA (where he spent most of his youth) was shambolic, the family lived in poverty and violence was commonplace. The stories he tells make your hair stand on end, the two bottles of vodka a day that became a regular feature of his later life start making sense. His substance abuse was not the usual garden variety abuse of the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Barnes was in need of more anesthetizing, to banish the memories of his troubled upbringing. Yet he tells it with such candour and humour that the reader is drawn in to the grey streets of Glasgow and South Australia willingly and we are happy to take the journey with him, and to some pretty dark places.Continue reading WORKING CLASS BOY : THE EARLY LIFE OF JIMMY BARNES→
Without confirming or denying whether I might have been involved, I can report that there was a kind of geriatric mosh pit for the finale of TAPESTRY: THE SONGS OF CAROLE KING with Debra Byrne and Vika Bull. I can also report that the encores were played to standing audiences and that the roof was raised. It was a marvellous concert. Wonderful songs that have stood the test of time and voices to soothe the savage beast of some very hot and cross looking audience members on a 43 degree day.
Byrne and Bull hit the stage bare footed. You know it’s going to be good when artists want the freedom to move easily or plant their feet and belt. WAY OVER YONDER begins and the voices fill the room and wrap around us before the power of a yearning bass guitar sneaks in. Calm descends and “true peace of mind” is sweet and longing as the artists swap leads back and forth.
Their blend is just lovely, Bull with those magnificent top notes deliciously combining with Byrne’s rich, full lower notes. The crowd went nuts about this time, and it didn’t let up through I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE when the seating started to shake with the audience’s rhythmic nod-along.
Byrne and Bull spoke often to the audience, explaining their joy in celebrating with us the work of Carole King, about the history of the album and titbits concerning their relationship with the songs. Bull was five years old when TAPESTRY came out. But Byrne, like the older women and slightly fewer older men who made up most of the crowd, found that for every life experience, King had written a song. As the singer explained , they couldn’t do them all but they gave it a bloody good try.
The Brill band, named for the iconic building associated with Carole King and explored in the BRILL BUILDING LEGENDS recording series, are lovely in support but the night belongs to the two women. And their moves.
Byrne has lost none of her YOUNG TALENT TIME dance skills. She glides and stomps and taps around the stage yet the highlight of the night for me was the two of them on stools: still and soulful. Seated downstage centre for YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND the voices melded in the sheer joy of wonderful piano orchestration and the love of expressing emotion. Goosebumps! TAPESTRY was also superb as they stood together in that downstage area, arms around each other in a soft amber light.
Everyone seemed to have their favourites. The band would give the first few bars of any intro and a cheer would go up somewhere. Byrne and Bull rollicked or gently meandered through I THINK I CAN HEAR YOU; SMACKWATER JACK; BEAUTIFUL; GOING BACK and heaps more.
Second favourite? COME DOWN EASY with Bull’s unparalleled harmonics, and featuring only bongos and triangle behind Byrne’s soulful rendition. No wonder I was out of my seat for the encores. Oops!
TAPESTRY: THE SONGS OF CAROLE KING, with Debra Byrne and Vika Bull, was performed for one night only, Friday 10th February at the Enmore Theatre.
The contemporary arts festival Cementa is back for 2017, offering an entirely FREE four-day showcase of independent and experimental arts spread across the New South Wales post industrial town of Kandos from Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 April.
Cementa17 will present the work of over 60 artists at the vanguard of Australia’s creative community and artist collectives. Since its debut in 2013, Cementa has grown to become a popular destination event with its total focus on arts, community and the environment.
Cementa is an independent not-for-profit Australian cultural festival event that takes place in Kandos, a small regional town located on the side of Coombermelon Mountain between Lithgow and Mudgee in Central West NSW. The region provides the backdrop to which artists make, exhibit and perform work relating to the social, historical, or environmental context of the town and its surrounds.
A unique festival experience, Cementa17 will offer four days and nights of performance, sound, cabaret, interactive and electronic arts, video, installation, painting, photograpy and ceramics spread across more than twenty venues. Artworks will pop-up in Kandos’ shopfronts, cafes, on the streets, in the local museum & nursery, at parks, garages, cars, backyards, the tennis courts, a golf club, community halls, church yards and for the first time beyond the town perimeter to include two new satellite sites – the natural arena of Ganguddy, (Dunns Swamp picnic grounds and nearby Bird’s Hut) and a local farming property, Marloo.
Building on the success of the previous two festivals, Cementa celebrates the state of Australian contemporary art across the spectrum of practice, from emerging to established, from urban to regional.
Highlights include: A performance by ‘Dauntless Movement Crew’, a Fairfield Parkour, hip-hop and tricking team that will adapt their technique to the unique pagoda rock formations at the stunning landscape at Ganguddy (Dunn’s Swamp).
‘Super Critical Mass’ – a large-scale found object orchestra composed of regional choristers with up to 40 participants performing in The Kandos Community Hall.
‘Correspondence of Imaginary Places’ – an exchange of work between seven Australian artists with seven New York artists, (with the Australian work being installed in Manhattan and the New York artist’s work being installed in an historical hut outside of Kandos).
Artist John A. Douglas remaking scenes from sci-fi classic, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, adapted to the local landscape.
Installations from acclaimed Aboriginal artist Tony Albert and a portrait series by legendary documentary photographer, Mervyn Bishop, plus much much more.
Cementa17 is a celebration of contemporary art in Australia and of the small town that hosts it – developed and fostered by three creative directors who live and work in the region: Ann Finegan, Christine McMillan and Alex Wisser.
Over the years Sydney Arts Guide has keenly followed the progress of this eclectic group. Next Sunday, The Marais Project begins its 2017 season with the concertIT TAKES TWO : A VIOL SPECTACULAR, the first of three very diverse events in its 18th year of fine, distinctive musicianship.
Since its founding by Jennifer Eriksson in 2000, The Marais Project has released 5 CDs, three of which have been selected as “CD of the Week” on ABC Classic FM. A 6th CD will appear in 2017. The group regularly features in national and local studio broadcasts and radio interviews. They have performed across Eastern Australia and as guest artists in New Zealand.
The Parkes Elvis Festival is held in the 2nd week of January to coincide with Elvis’ January 8th birthday. It was started 25 years ago by some Elvis fans who ran the Graceland Restaurant when at that time of year, tourists were non existent.
Elvis had an early hit with Mystery Train, whose lyrics inspired indie writer/director Jim Jarmusch to make a cult film with the same name, but the Elvis Express is anything but enigmatic.
The exuberance, joie de vivre and sense of anticipation at Central Station on January 12th was infectious. Thousands of fans lined up, first to be entertained by some excellent Elvis impersonators and then to queue for the rebranded XPT.
The variety of costumes of the train travellers to Parkes, would have added a riot of colour to the 150 events with this year’s theme – Viva Las Vegas.
The town’s population triples, as 25,000 visitors are hosted by a majority of Parkes’ 12,000 residents.
The Sydney Baroque Music Festival’s fourth venture will take place at the beautiful Glebe Town Hall. The festival is an entirely student-driven initiative bringing together young musicians from all over Australia who share a passion for early music. The musicians will be working intensively through the week of January 16-20th, to present the concert NOBLE YOUTH.
This was the Australian Haydn Ensemble’s (AHE) final concert for the year. The concert focused on the ‘Sturm and Drang’ movement of the 18th century, this concert was a treat in every way. The Sturm and Drang movement was characterised by drama and passion with sudden shifts of dynamics and rhythm. The four works presented in these concerts delivered these in spades.
The quirky Camelot Lounge, owned by Monsieur Camembert’s Yaron Hallas, was the venue for this ‘unknown’ group. Whenever I hear of Australia’s most forgotten impressionist I always know that it is John Russell because he is mentioned as such so I can’t forget it.
This wonderful group formed in 2001 has a cult like following. Despite playing for fifteen years and having won overseas singing competitions, this group is truly forgotten and unknown to the general public. In a men’s shed like fashion it brought together a bunch of guys from all walks of life who lived in the Blue Mountains area. As time evolved some of the group moved from the Blue Mountains to Canberra with its leader and chief composer Stephen Taberner moving to Melbourne. Continue reading A SPOOKY NIGHT WAS LOVED BY ALL @ THE CAMELOT LOUNGE→
JINGLE BELLS XMAS FAIR is an exciting new festive event that puts the fun back into Christmas shopping. This retro Christmas shopping and entertainment extravaganza features a carefully curated array of vintage, retro, festive and rock ’n’ roll stalls. It’s an all weekend Christmas party too featuring a fantastic line-up of swing, retro and rockabilly bands, plus swing and rock n roll dancing lessons for adults and kids.
10/12/16 10am – 7pm and 11/12/16 10am – 5pm
VENUE – The Concourse, 409 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood.
After receiving their Awards several of the winners made themselves available for photographs and interviews. The following artists attending the Media Room were Best Group and Rock Album – Violent Soho, Breakthrough Artist – Montaigne, Best Urban Album – Drapht, Best Adult Contemporary Album – Bernard Fanning, Best Adult Alternative Album – Sarah Blasko, Best Country Album – Sara Storer, Best Children’s Album – The Wiggles, Best Video and Apple Music Song Of The Year – Troye Sivan, Best Australian Live Act – The Hilltop Hoods, Best Blues and Roots Album – Russell Morris, Best Album, Best Male Artist, Best Dance Release, Best Pop Release and Best Independent Release – Flume. Hall of Fame Inductees- Crowded House.
Featured image – Flume. All images by Ben Apfelbaum(c)..
Have you ever considered the fate of the humble childhood toy “Jack in the box” ?
Well, Rosemary Dobson has:
“He crouches low and supplicant/His elbows knocking on the wood…/He waits the tapping at the locks/He hears the children calling”Jack!”…/They think he sleeps, but how he weeps/His small tears falling with no sound……”
Rosemary Dobson was a distinguished and prolific Australian poet who died in 2012 at the age of 92. Her poetry is somewhat more intellectual and detached rather than visceral…but nevertheless she still writes movingly of the human experience.
Andree Greenwell is a dynamic singer and award-winning composer with a catalogue of almost 100 scores, including credits for Sydney Theatre Company, Symphony Australia, Australian Dance Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, Belvoir and the Queensland Music Festival where she was commissioned by director Deborah Conway to compose Behind The Cane with David Bridie.
The Sydney Chamber Choir launched its 2017 season at an inner city function. Founded in 1975, the Choir has forged a reputation as one of Australia’s leading choral ensembles.
Highly regarded for its interpretation of Renaissance and Baroque works, it is also a champion of contemporary Australian choral music, having commissioned and premiered scores of works by many established and emerging Australian composers.
In 2017 the Choir will be singing music by Hildegard von Bingen, Monteverdi, Buxtehude, Purcell, Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner, Schoenberg, Britten and others. Cantatas, opera, lyric scenes and chant will be heard resounding throughout the Great Hall at the University of Sydney, a perfect venue for this remarkable ensemble of musicians to display their talents.
As is the Sydney Chamber Choir’s tradition most of the soloists will come from the Choir. However Richard Butler will sing the role of St Nicolas in the eponymous Britten cantata. The N.S.W Public Schools senior singers, under the direction of Elizabeth Scott, will join Richard Butler and the Choir in this work.
Featured pic – Lorenza Borrani. Pic by Edwina Pickles.
Under the excellent direction of guest director and violinist Lorenza Borrani, who clearly had a great rapport with the Orchestra, we were treated to a superb performance by the ACO.
The SCHNITTKE Sonata for violin and chamber orchestra was a striking, most unusual work in four movements that made us sit up and prick our ears.
The opening was questioning, sharp, spiky and emphatic. The second Allegretto movement was dance-like in atmosphere. The orchestral ensemble was very focused and driven. There was a use of pizzicatto. Sometimes the music felt like the whirling and turning of the spheres. The third movement was emphatic with ominous deep double bass. Borrani was amazing in her solos, fiery and hypnotic yet tender and liquid as well.
Featured image: Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams conducts TMO.
The final concert in TMO’s Met Series for 2016 was as diverse and rich in entertainment value as all others this year. Two exquisite and challenging orchestral favourites were programmed alongside a recent Australian work featuring TMO’s Andrew Doyle as basset clarinet soloist.
Acacia Quartet’s most recent concert, Harbour Light, flowed with luminous success around an appreciative audience in the Utzon Room space. The audience were given no less than two commissioned world premiere works by Australian composers. The concert’s title work, Harbour Light, was performed for the first time in a shiny new intimate guise for string quartet, pared down from its original orchestration for larger string ensemble.
The innate skill of Acacia Quartet to create and convey layered atmosphere came to the fore to unify the programme of six diverse works. The sprawling concert sequence evolved with successive and separate styles of light. Works with extra-musical hues and unique structures were finely wrought by the quartet. Regardless of compositional character, the communication to the audience was clear, beautifully balanced and evocative.
On a daylight-savings evening so close to our beloved Sydney Harbour, Australian composer Nick Wales’Harbour Light was a textural treat linking us to our immediate surroundings with which to start. As we listened, sitting close to the water, the piece shimmered, shone, moved fluidly and offered much in the way of colour and compact sentiment. In the guardianship of Acacia Quartet, it did not suffer in the process of reduction from larger forces.
Compact sentiment and exquisite minimalist rendering followed in the quartet’s interpretation of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No 2‘Company’. Well nuanced and never overplayed, it was an accurate salute to Glass’ aesthetic and intricacies of revolving thematic minutiae.
Prior to interval, we heard Acacia Quartet present two very distinct voices in contemporary Australian composition. The world premieres of two Australian compositions were effectively juxtaposed with the individuality of Philip Glass. The new works were as arresting for their sonic effect as well as the impact on a concert environment in the way Glass introduced listeners to a new concert experience.
A highlight of the evening was the premiere of Sally Whitwell’s String Quartet No 1, the rewarding local soundscape with the subtitle ‘Face to the Sun’. Each of the four movements sketches aspects of Australian flora. Time periods which once inspired emblematic transfer of these qualities to people’s names, such as in the time of Whitwell’s grandmother, named Beryl Boronia, are celebrated via this fine musical illustration.
This clever writing draws on a legacy of lush quartet sound from yesteryear as well as effects from the very modern arsenal of string playing. Both styles of playing were capably offered up by Acacia Quartet, as the shapes and character of banksias, boronias, everlasting daisies and gumnuts were brought to life via charming and exciting vignettes from shifting time periods.
In a real shift of character prior to interval, the second premiere work was by the Australian-born Joe Twist. It was an exciting caricature and romp through stock standard musical styles. Spongebob’s Romantic Adventure continued the crescendo in boldness and momentum of colour which this concert programme’s first half was providing. Melodrama, stylistic tongue-in-cheek proximity and ultimately an hilarious hoedown variation of the Spongebob TV theme were played vibrantly, ensuring the work’s impact in a formal audience setting. The piece has many future performance possibilities for the quartet. Families and children would love it.
Following interval, larger works from American composers brought the listening experience into a new dimension with evocative music from Gershwin and film score composer Bernard Hermann. These sustained works were a satisfying way to conclude the evening’s diversity. Lullaby (1919) by George Gershwin goes a long way past its original purpose as an exercise in harmony for the student.
From its opening, the challenging and delicate exchange between quartet members created a seamless fabric under a high but hushed first violin. The inclusion of this piece was an extension of the calibre of string quartet blend and atmosphere heard in the rest of the concert. It also introduced the beautiful work and Gershwin’s output in this genre to many.
The sprawling and fantastic Echoes for string quartet by Bernard Herrmann led us through filmic, intense and purely beautiful soundscapes which filled the Utzon Room space. The complex and segmented work with shifting inflection and mood was well negotiated by Acacia Quartet.
The excited reception of this and all works from the audience was proof of Acacia Quartet’s effective gifting on this night to us of delicate narratives, intensities, colours and shapes found in compositions for the string quartet from last century to now.
This Concert was at the City Recital Hall last Thursday at 7.30 pm. For those who have not been there it is quite an unusual venue. Whereas the Opera House sits grandly on Bennelong Point at night its shells like grand ghost sails rising out of the dark, the Hall is tucked away, almost hidden in the bowels of the city.
But while the acoustics of the Opera House are somewhat indifferent the acoustics here are superb and plush regal purple seating and wood panelling make this a delightful concert setting.
Now to the Concert.
There were four items. The first by Haydn, the other three by Mozart.
Le Matin, “the morning” by Haydn is the first of two others: Le Midi (noon) and Le Soir (evening). It was lively performance centred in part on a number of flute vignettes beautifully played by Eric Lamb. Then followed the Clarinet Concerto played at times somewhat breathlessly by Paul Meyer, but nevertheless an exuberant rendering of this the most wonderful of melodic concertos, written by Mozart in the final year of his life.Continue reading THE OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS THREE PARTS MOZART→
For the latest concert combining the marvelous talents of the Willoughby Symphony and Choir, the concert hall at the Concourse was packed to the rafters and we were privileged to hear some ravishing, glorious playing and singing.
The program opened with a delightful , somewhat boisterous rendition of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture Op.80. Written for the University of Breslau, the piece was given a brisk, dynamic reading. Rather lighthearted, Brahms develops and expands the melodies of four well known student drinking songs and the piece features triumphant horns.
This was a marvelous, exuberant concert by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra as led by Paul Dyer AO and featuring the Israeli superstar of the mandolin Avi Avital who dazzled in a bravura performance .
Dyer emphatically led from the keyboard of his harpsichord. The Orchestra, for this concert trimmed to ten players, was in golden form, giving a performance which featured some lush, delicate playing and some finely nuanced phrasing.
Beethoven could not have imagined a more glorious backdrop to his music than we experienced on Saturday 15th October! Not the cherubs and ornate cornices of the Viennese concert halls but the heavenly vista of Sydney harbour seen through the panoramic windows of the Utzon Room at Sydney Opera House.
We listened to a most interesting rendering of Beethoven’s 4th piano Concerto in G major and his Second Symphony, both transposed for a chamber ensemble and performed by the talented and enthusiastic Australian Haydyn Ensemble.
Jane Stanley, composer of Cerulean Orbits, which is receiving its world premiere performances during this Musica Viva International Concert Season Tour.
Musica Viva’s International Concert Season for 2017 continued this past week with a stunning concert by Benjamin Beilman and Andrew Tyson, a violin and piano duo from the United States. This weekend concert in Sydney continued the tour which had already taken the pair to Perth, Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Adelaide, Newcastle as well as Sydney earlier in the week.
The chosen programme was a solid vehicle with which to demonstrate Beilman and Tyson as individual virtuosi as well as an exciting duo. The performances of interesting and evocative works were always intensely emotional and absorbed in their mindset as well as their physical execution.
Attention to changing musical detail across styles from 1787 through to 2016 was always keen and works were articulated with an appropriate flair fitting their four distinct time periods. Intricacies of conversation from this skilled pair showcased the blend of their two instruments when used by various composers as an expressive chamber music force.