Music

LIVE AT MECCA : A ‘LIVE AT YOURS’ EVENT – BEN ADLER QUARTET AT MECCA COFFEE ALEXANDRIA.

Above : ‘Live At Yours’ creators Eleanor Lyons and Vladimir Fanshil. Featured image: Ben Adler Quartet in Mecca Coffee Alexandria- Ben Adler (violin), James Larson (cello), Beth Condon (viola) and Caroline Hopson (violin). Photo Credit-both images: Hellene Algie.

Live at Yours is the brainchild of conductor/pianist Vladimir Fanshil and wife, opera singer Eleanor Lyons. Courtesy of the pandemic the duo were unable to return to their adopted home of Vienna,
following Eleanor’s successful debut as Donna Anna in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni in pre-COVID-19 Sydney.

The couple, determined to preserve the inimitable spark of live music performance from being lost to the ether and the internet in streamed events, searched for a safe way to keep the music they and so many others needed to hear and perform through late 2020 and beyond. Continue reading LIVE AT MECCA : A ‘LIVE AT YOURS’ EVENT – BEN ADLER QUARTET AT MECCA COFFEE ALEXANDRIA.

OPERA AUSTRALIA : BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

OA’s production of ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ Production photography by Prudence Upton

Standing out in stark contrast to the rest of this year’s offering, Opera Australia (OA) offers the modern creation of Béla Bartók, BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE. A story of intrigue, innocence, violence and cunning.

As a young man, Bartók set off to travel with his friend the poet Béla Balázs (the two Belás), and sometimes with fellow composer Zoltán Kodály, collecting folk stories and tunes from all around their native Hungary. This became an important record of what makes up the culture of their country. It continued to influence Bartók’s work throughout his life. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA : BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

AUSTRALIAN VOCAL ENSEMBLE TO LAUNCH IN APRIL

Katie Noonan

Nothing can stop the music for Brisbane’s Katie Noonan. Not winning five ARIAs or being nominated 27 times, not producing 20 albums, not seven platinum record sale moments, or being named as one the greatest Australian singers of all time. Because music is in her blood, and her next sound adventure may just be her biggest as she launches AVÉ – Australian Vocal Ensemble – a national first acapella quartet focused on celebrating old and new Australian stories.

AVÉ sees Katie joined by three extraordinary, internationally renowned artists in Mezzo-Soprano Fiona Campbell (Perth), Tenor Andrew Goodwin (Sydney) and Baritone David Greco (Sydney). Continue reading AUSTRALIAN VOCAL ENSEMBLE TO LAUNCH IN APRIL

AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA : HANDEL’S ROME @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and choir are back for 2021, and the start of a complete live concert reunion of its Australian based musicians is just as accessible, elegant and exciting as ever.

In Rome from 1706, Handel, who later became an expat superstar of opera in London, realised the Roman Catholic Church would not welcome such entertainments. He made do by creating exciting music for this institution with great results.

In the absence of collaboration with soloists they typically attract from overseas, Artistic Director Paul Dyer dealt with the current environment and drew on his formidable stable of early music specialists to fulfil all needs for talented soloists and ensemble stars to render this programme a hit. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA : HANDEL’S ROME @ CITY RECITAL HALL

WILLIAM BARTON FEATURES IN A FREE RECITAL @ POWERHOUSE MUSEUM

 

William Barton
Delmae Barton, William Barton, Veronique Serret
First Nations Dance Troupe
First Nations Dance Troupe
William Barton
William Barton & Veronique Serret
First Nations Dance Troupe
Delmae Barton

 

Powerhouse Museum recently programmed a series of free events on a Thursday night which run from 5 to 9pm.

Most recently Australia’s preeminent didgeridoo player William Barton was invited to create an evening of indigenous talent ranging from musicians, filmmakers and performers representing a journey through Australian First Nation cultural history. Alongside collaborator and violinist Veronique Serret, Barton performed an original composition piece as a tribute to his mother Delmae, after a year where he had not been able to physically connect with her. Continue reading WILLIAM BARTON FEATURES IN A FREE RECITAL @ POWERHOUSE MUSEUM

OPERA AUSTRALIA’S ‘TOSCA’ @ JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Photo Prudence Upton

The Joan Sutherland Theatre was roaring with applause in the first opening opera night this year to be permitted full capacity audience after almost twelve months. The crowd was keen, the performers were keen and the mutual admiration left everyone in a high vibe mood.

Puccini’s TOSCA is a dramatically dark story originally based on a massively successful French play written for Sarah Bernhardt. She acted the role of La Tosca for many years, even touring the production around the world in 1889 including Australia. 

The play was still hot and touring when Puccini was granted the rights to create the opera several years later. The story is set in a momentous time in history in Italy. A little background is useful here…

After the French Revolution Napoleon headed out to create his empire annexing every plot of land he could find. He had invaded and won Northern Italy in the War of the First Coalition, ruled for a few years but, on removing his troupes, discovered the Italians taking back their own country – shock horror – with the support of the Austrians.  Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA’S ‘TOSCA’ @ JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC & CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA: ‘ILLUMINATE’ @CITY RECITAL HALL

Above : Director of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, Rachael Beesley. Featured image, The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra in City Recital Hall. Stage design by visual creative director James Browne, James Browne Presents. Photo credit for both images : Robert Catto.

Like many performing arts groups, Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra recently returned to the live stage following 2020’s reduction of performances to a safe distance via streaming only. This return to live music making across four venues in NSW and Victoria brought the popular orchestra back to audiences  like we have not seen them before. 

This orchestra’s typical excellence of interpretation, crystal clear articulation and superb string orchestra blend was in evidence during this vibrant comeback. It saw the orchestra’s dynamic voice speak in Historically Informed Performance accent whilst discussing later works than we are usually treated to in their concerts. The chance for Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra musicians to accompany a vocalist was also a rewarding change. 

Another stunning addition to this live event was an arresting stage design by James Browne Presents. Emphasising the twentieth century slant of a lot of the programme and the compositional dates of works by Max Bruch and Benjamin Britten being close to the start on both World Wars, the stage was swathed at a height by suspended parachute fabric dropping down towards the musicians. This sheer fabric was lit with subtle rosy effect. There was  equally beautiful lighting design employed around the stage area to depict a calm village scene about to be illuminated by all the shockingness of war. 

Orchestral black dresses were also complemented by musicians in white shirts, black pants and braces. This was an effective costuming for the also effective opening fanfare/march (CPE Bach’s March-For the Ark Wq.188) played by the period brass and timpani of this orchestra. 

Marches continued in the colourful Serenade for Strings after Swedish Melodies (1916) by Max Bruch. Expertly characterised, articulated and never overplayed, this clever work with vivid vignettes was very nicely rendered. With streamlined interplay between string sections of the orchestra, the symmetry of march-slow-fast-slow march unfolded in broad strokes and with great respect for Bruch’s post-Romantic narrative. 

Above:  Soprano Jacqueline Porter performing ‘Les Illuminations’ by Benjamin Britten in in a stunning collaboration with the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. Photo credit : Robert Catto.

The highlight for me of this dramatic programme was a stunning leap forward in time to the music of Benjamin Britten. His setting for soprano and string orchestra of Rimbaud’s sensual and luscious poetic extremes in Les Illuminations Op 18 (1939).

The complex French texts and shifting characters in movements full of instrumental and vocal fireworks were consummately conquered by this orchestra and lithe voice of soprano Jacqueline Porter. The momentum was terrific here, in a dense setting that could be less than slick in the wrong hands. The illuminating and bristling delivery smashing this orchestra’s mission statement to ’Inspire-Educate-Enlighten’ comprehensively in the one work. 

Founding Artistic Director the late Richard Gill AO would be looking down from well above the Angel Place parachute set with pride at such a rewarding snapshot in music history as the English compositional style was turned on its head by the virtuosic Britten. He would be thrilled with the inclusion of Britten in the musicological presentation, as well as the bold swoop of this performance. 

Britten bookended by inimitable and varied dramatic scenes from Max Bruch and Tchaikovsky with student rush tickets on offer also would satisfy the agenda of this late and great musician-educator as well as the young but firm tradition of excellent programmes  from this compelling musical group which never disappoint. 

Above : Soprano Jacqueline Porter and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. Set and lighting design  by visual creative director James Browne, James Browne Presents. Photo credit : Robert Catto.

Director Rachael Beesley led the string band with energy and enthusiastic choreography of nuance. Her direction of gesture as the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra played Tchaikovsky was brimming with the signature startling freshness we have previously discovered in versions of the earlier Mozart and Beethoven.  

Throughout the four movements of Souvenir de Florence Op 70 from 1890 Beesley pushed the group to produce a lush powerhouse sound on their period instrument imbued with warmth and control, which would make orchestras with more modern instruments green with envy. Or at least rethink and search for ways of creating a similar depth of sound and agile approach to maintain Tchaikovsky deep need for expression with such clear and colourful punctuation. 

This concert series, with beautiful modern fullness yet clean trajectories for the rendering of composers’ development of ideas, was supported by the usual fascinating ‘Voyage of Musical Discovery’, with Rachael Beesley and Nicole van Bruggen leading the musicological discussions. A contrasting contemporary work by saxophonist Nick Russoniello was used to further extend the illustration of motivic development in music from the late-Romantic palette and later. 

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra performs its next series of concerts, ‘Evoke’ with works by Beethoven and Berwald from Anzac Day. Following this exploration thematic development in late Romantic works, these earlier chamber music works in HIP guise will be equally unmissable. 

 

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET #1 STRING FANTASY @ PETERSHAM TOWN HALL

Above: TMO Principal Flautist Svetlana Yaroslavskaya played the Bizet/Borne ‘Carmen Fantasy’ .  Featured image, TMO Chief Conductor, Sarah-Grace Williams ans TMO Strings at Petersham Town Hall.

Last year the first live concert by TMO musicians post-2020 pandemic silence featured members of TMO strings in a commanding reclaiming of the stage. In stunning expansion from that small group it was the larger TMO strings who began the 2021 Met Concert Series at Petersham Town Hall on Sat February 20. The group charmed, wowed and dazzled us with new repertoire as well as their signature reliable intensity and diverse expression. 

The carefully structured programme allowed the group to be well showcased and speak in widely varied voice. It was complete with a new version arranged just for this ensemble, new works to discover  for the safely distanced audience and a live event with fifty percent Australian content.  

These works by living, treasured and prolific composers of the Australian music scene alternated with lesser-known creatives from the late nineteenth century. Short, dynamic pieces from Elena Kats-Chernin and Paul Stanhope were smoothly complemented by a longer, rarely performed symphony by Danish composer Asger Hamerik which concluded the interval-free celebration of string ensemble music. 

Above : Elena Kats-Chernin, composer of ‘Fast Blue Village 5’.

In true TMO Met Series style the musicians also collaborated with an instrumental soloist to provide a balanced and exciting performance. This inclusion of flute with the strings provided great timbral contrast. It also demonstrated the musicians’ innate and developed skill as guided by maestra Sarah-Grace Williams in expressive conversation as an accompanying body. 

The Met Series 2021 got off to a rocketing start with a powerhouse performance of the expanded string quartet Fast Blue Village 2, now transformed to a meaty work for TMO strings and renamed Fast Blue Village 5. The ensemble’s signature intensity referred to earlier came into its own here in a strong rendering of this music’s edgy, complex rhythm and driven gesture. 

Kats-Chernin’s unique voice shone in TMO String’s delivery of this piece’s variegated and angular forward-pushing force.  As often with this composer, the concentrated thematic concerns yielded a terrific outpouring of many diverse shades of utterance, reflection and resonance. 

TMO principal flute Svetlana Yaroslavskaya joined her colleagues in a focussed and exquisite variation of much-loved melodies from Bizet’s opera classic in Carmen Fantasy. The fiendishly demanding filigree in flautist-composer François Borne’s relentless work was devoured seemingly effortlessly and with Carmen-esque courage  by the virtuosic Yaroslavskaya 

There was a wonderfully intimate exchange full of integrity between flute and the members of each  TMO string family here. Clear,  elegant pacing of phrasing and motivic direction enabled the soloist to deliver the entropy of each theme’s variation with an entertaining easy musicianship. 

Above : Composer of ‘ Morning Star’, Paul Stanhope.

Following from this work was Paul Stanhope’s Morning Star in full string orchestra guise. Resonating with an indigenous melody from central Arnhem Land, the themes delicately tossed across the ensemble in its opening movement were presented in subsequent sections with chameleon characterisations and much energy by TMO string players and maestra Williams . 

Paul Stanhope’s requisite powerfully evocative style was in good hands here as various moods and parts of the expressive narrative were explored deftly by the performers. Such playing carved out  penetrating storylines in the ambient and responsive Petersham Town Hall acoustic. 

This Met Concert concluded with Sarah-Grace Williams and TMO Strings introducing us to Hamerik’s Symphony No 6 – Symphony Spirituelle (1897). This was commandingly delivered, instantly endearing us to the work’s crystal clear late-Romantic period directness.  

This work’s accessible musical effectiveness included joyous sharing of content between the separate string choirs, and a sensibly graded organic development towards several stunning climaxes. The string  sections here bounced extremely well off each other’s vocalisations and  allocated thematic material.  Interacting well was also the assembled talent and passion performance in addition to an obvious  joy in surviving as an arts organisation to make music together live in 2021 and be streamed globally . 

The next TMO event is its Chamber Music Concert #1: The 8 Cellists of TMO. It will include works by Tavares, Paert, Wagner, Fauré, Piazolla Ravel and Led Zeppelin. 

AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE : PRUSSIAN QUARTETS : CITY RECITAL HALL

In the late 1800s, Berlin was the vibrant seat of a kingdom that stretched from the Baltic states, Silesia and up to modern Denmark, and boasted a lively salon culture. These salon gatherings encouraged intelligent conversation, the exchange of ideas, and most importantly, the chance to perform ‘new’ music.

The reign of King Friedrich Wilhelm II was relatively brief and his greatest claim to fame today is the building of the Brandenburg Gate. But as a patron of the arts, many notable chamber works were penned for him, including all three quartets featured in this program.

The dedication to King Friederich is said to have come about after Haydn received a letter from him praising Haydn for the Paris symphonies. The letter enclosed a gift of a golden ring. To honour this, Haydn dedicated the Op. 50 quartets to him.

Mozart’s set of three Prussian quartets, with their prominent cello solos, were almost certainly written to please the amateur cellist King. The third quartet in F major was one of the last quartets he composed, and it displays many of the composer’s trademark qualities – uneven phrases, sudden tempo changes, ingenious rhythms and novel harmonic shifts. The ending is a poetic stroke of mastery in itself, with the music lifting and dissolving into the ether.

Pleyel, a student of Haydn (of whom Haydn was quite proud), also dedicated twelve quartets to the King. Of these, the AHE Quartet presents Quartet No. 9 in G minor.

Sydney – Sunday March 14 @ 3pm City Recital Hall

AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : RAPTURE

Led by Richard Tognetti, this was a magnificent concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra filmed at City Recital Hall, the first of their online Studiocasts.

The concert opened frenetically with explosively emphatic strings in Schubert ‘s ( arr.Tognetti ) ‘Quartettsatz in C Minor D 703’. While only one of four planned movements, it is striking and organically formed to stand alone. There were strong, pulsating melodies and a fiery dialogue between the two sections of the Orchestra. The music ebbs and flows, swoops and dives, swirls and rapidly cascades. The same busy chords that open the movement wildly come full circle to close it. The restatement of those chords also sees the return of the emotionally eloquent second theme which is presented in a different tone to how we first hear it. The third theme is the same piece but now in C major, and the work combines to bring the movement to its conclusion. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : RAPTURE

A STAR ON HER DOOR : THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JUNE BRONHILL

This is an affectionate, delightful look at the life of June Bronhill, one of Australia’s theatrical legends, by Richard Davis.

The book has twelve chapters, a list of June’s stage performances (this reviewer saw her several times in various productions), a list of the recordings she made and a select bibliography as well as an index and a loving forward by Marina Prior. All the photos included are in black and white.

June’s career included performances in grand opera, comic opera/operetta, musicals, straight plays, variety, radio, concerts, television and assorted recordings. Her extraordinary talent brought her success, fame and the devotion of a legion of fans. There was a private June the public rarely saw. Continue reading A STAR ON HER DOOR : THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JUNE BRONHILL

THE SONG COMPANY ESPERAR SENTIR MORIR (TO HOPE, TO FEEL, TO DIE)

An intimate, rich and inspiring concert presented by The Song Company and Jewish Arts, this features soprano Roberta Diamond and harpist Hannah Lane.They had a splendid rapport.

The title of the program comes from the song ESPERAR, SENTIR, MORIR  (which can be translated as – to hope, to feel, to die).
The concert presented Baroque and Renaissance music of the Iberian Peninsula , traditional exquisite Sephardic melodies and its affect that spread throughout Europe.

Most of the works presented were romantic in subject, passionate and tender, depicting both the highs and lows of love and loss. The traditional Sephardic melodies of exquisite beauty, rarely if ever performed here in Australia were interspersed  with theatre music from the Spanish Golden Age.

The songs ranged from joyous and exuberant to fiery, sad and wistful for example ‘Triste está el rey David’. (King David mourning the death of his son Absalo ), ‘Vuestros ojos’ with its bounding jumping rhythm as well as the reflective ‘Sé que me muero ‘(I know I’m dying) by Jean-Baptiste Lully and the memorable ‘Aura tiema, amorosa’ (Tender, loving breeze) by Juan Francisco Gòmez, the last two duets with Lane, both from the 17th century.
Diamond , who specialises in the interpretation of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music with a flourishing international career, sang with a charming, supple voice, expertly creating rhythmic lines. In songs like seventeenth-century composer Jose Marin’s ‘No piense Menguilla ya’ we heard an assured fashioning of the melodic line. The balance between voice and harp was deftly created, her solos performed with great precision.

Lane, who frequently performs with many leading ensembles throughout Australia and Europe, playing the Baroque triple harp, was also featured in captivating solos. (This particular style of harp consists of three parallel rows of strings instead of the now more ‘standard’ single row). At times the music sounded like raindrops, at other times there was an unfolding circling rhythm , or  the contemplative, rippling (1510 – 1566) ‘Ancor che col partire’ (Even with leaving) by Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566 ) from the 16th century was just one highlight.

A delicate yet passionate concert . I look forward to further concerts coming up.

Running time just over an hour.

https://the.song.company

ZAPPA : ICONOCLAST TO ICON

Frank Zappa in a reflective mood contemplating the mysteries of life

ZAPPA, a film by Alex Winter of ‘Bill & Ted’ fame, is the First All-Access Documentary on the Life and Times of Frank Zappa, and obviously a must for Zappa fans but also for the general public as it is an eye-opener on creativity.

Winter was given access to Zappa’s vast vault, a treasure trove containing a plethora of paraphernalia that chronicles his life – tapes, manuscripts, scores – it seems everything was documented, nothing was thrown out. When it came to his creative output, Frank was a lord of the hoard. Continue reading ZAPPA : ICONOCLAST TO ICON

QUEENIE VAN DE ZANDT : BLUE – THE SONGS OF JONI MITCHELL

A concert featuring the wonderful songs of Joni Mitchell is sure to entice an enthusiastic audience to Parramatta’s busy and pulsing Riverside Theatre. Queenie van de Zandt delivers a polished and informative show to the appreciative crowd. An excellent trio comprising Hugh Fraser on bass, Gary Vickery on guitars and Daniel Edmonds on piano and stand in musical director supports Queenie. These talented musicians were a highlight of the evening and featured some delightful and entertaining arrangements. Queenie skill as a singer is impressive. She covers the extraordinary vocal and dynamic range required for Joni Mitchell’s songs although in a different style than the passionate folk music reflectiveness of Joni. Her style of singing and warmth suits the cabaret and storytelling format of the evening.

Queenie opened with ‘Blue’, one of Joni Mitchell’s great love songs that appears on her album of the same name. The album ‘Blue’ features on various lists as one of the greatest albums of all time so it almost selects itself as a song to include in the show. This raises the difficult question what songs should be included in a performance showcasing Joni Mitchell songs. On Joni Mitchell’s website there is an article listing the thirty greatest songs of Joni Mitchell. It acknowledges that this a subjective list and is assembled with assistance from Roger McGuinn, Matthew E. White, Graham Nash, Linda Perhacs, Mike Heron and others. David Crosby was asked to pick a best song and said that there are thirty or forty best songs. Continue reading QUEENIE VAN DE ZANDT : BLUE – THE SONGS OF JONI MITCHELL

DRUMMER QUEENS : A GRAND SPECTACLE OF SOUND, LIGHT AND ACTION

DRUMMER QUEENS, a spectacle of sound, light and action, is a high energy celebration of female percussion. I feel ‘Drummer Queens’ is almost a misnomer as the light show, choreography and musical backing are major components of this exciting performance.

DRUMMER QUEENS is being performed at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star, which is an excellent venue. In a smaller venue this extravagant show would be overwhelming. The Sydney Lyric Theatre is compact enough that the audience does not miss out on the subtle interplay between the performers or the more delicate moments. Continue reading DRUMMER QUEENS : A GRAND SPECTACLE OF SOUND, LIGHT AND ACTION

DRUMMER QUEENS : OPENING TOMORROW NIGHT @ THE SYDNEY LYRIC THEATRE

When one thinks of famous drummers one can start at Gene Krupa through to Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Phil Collins. Very few female drummers come to mind. I can only think of two well known female drummers, Sheila E, who was percussionist for Prince, and Karen Carpenter, who drummed for the Carpenters. 

In this production – ‘Drummer Queens’- you have eight virtuosos on drums. They are Georgie Anderson, Stef Furnari, Niki Johnson, Selina Myat, Lisa Purmodh, Claudia Wherry, Ned Wu, Sasha Lian Diaz  who are joined by Peter Anderson, who not only performs but is also the choreographer for the show.  Continue reading DRUMMER QUEENS : OPENING TOMORROW NIGHT @ THE SYDNEY LYRIC THEATRE

OPERA AUSTRALIA : GIUSEPPE VERDI’S ‘ERNANI’ @ JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

One of the most popular opera composers in the world today is Giuseppe Verdi. His writing is full of drama, adventure, memorable melodies and magnificent orchestration. Some favourites he wrote which you’ll recognise are Aida, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Il Trovatore, Falstaff, Otello and Don Carlo. When you’re a Verdi fan you’re bound to want to see his lesser known operas as well. Verdi completed 26 of them, after all. 

This is one of Verdi’s early works titled ‘Ernani’. His fifth opera which he completed when he was about 30 years old. The story comes from a controversial play penned by Victor Hugo about 15 years earlier which caused a physical riot in the theatre on opening night at the Comédie-Française in Paris. Even though the French Revolution and the Great Terror were still deeply etched in the minds of Parisians; the opera Classicists thought it completely outrageous seeing the King make his entry from hiding in a cupboard and later hiding in a crypt.  Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA : GIUSEPPE VERDI’S ‘ERNANI’ @ JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

MET CONCERT # 1 : STRING FANTASY

The Metropolitan Orchestras (TMO) concert on February 20 will be the first in a uniquely designed 2021 concert season which will see all of TMO’s mainstage Met concerts presented from charming and intimate local venues.

Led by Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams with TMO’s dynamic string section, the String Fantasy performance includes works from two well-known Australian composers along with two fabulous pieces from international composers.

The evening commences with a premiere from acclaimed Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin who has created a new orchestration of ‘Fast Blue Village’ specifically for this ensemble.

Following is the ‘Carmen Fantasy for Flute and Strings’ by Bizet which has been arranged by Brett Thompson and features TMO Principal Flute, Svetlana Yaroslavskaya.

Paul Stanhope’s ‘Morning Star’ and Asger Hamerik’s ‘Symphony Number 6 ‘will complete this showcase evening to kick off TMO’s exciting and distinctive 2021 season.

Conductor: Sarah-Grace Williams
Soloist: Svetlana Yaroslavskaya

‘Met Concert #1 String Fantasy’ will take place at Petersham Town Hall on Saturday 20th February, 2021.

Due to Covid, live access to this event will be strictly limited.

http://www.metorchestra.com.au/tickets/

 

 

THE MANY WORLDS OF JONI MITCHELL

 

“I slept last night in a good hotel

I went shopping today for jewels

The wind rushed around in the dirty town

And the children let out from the schools

I was standing on a noisy corner

Waiting for the walking green

Across the street he stood

And he played real good

On his clarinet, for free.

 

Now me I play for fortune

And those velvet curtain calls

I’ve got a black limousine

And two gentlemen

Escorting me to the halls

And I play if you have the money

 

Or if you’re a friend to me

But the one man band

By the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good, for free.

 

Nobody stopped to hear him

Though he played so sweet and high

They knew he had never

Been on their t.v.

So they passed his music by

I meant to go over and ask for a song

Maybe put on a harmony…

I heard his refrain

As the signal changed

He was playing real good, for free.”  

 

‘Real Good For Free’ has to be the best song poem ever written about buskers. 

It comes from the pen of the unique Joni Mitchell. Here she is a famous singer staying at a plush hotel. Playing for fortune and those velvet curtain calls. Being driven to her concerts in a black limo. 

Joni leaves the hotel. She’s in the mood to go jewellery shopping. She’s waiting for a traffic light to turn green when she spots a guy on the other side of the street playing a clarinet really well. It stops her in her tracks. She’s tempted to go and join him but the lights change…

From what I have read about Joni Mitchell, she always had something of an ambivalent attitude towards fame; how deserved it was, and how deserved were the riches that came her way. If only other famous people were as equally pensive and circumspect.

Which brings me to this. The inimitable music theatre performer Queenie Van De Zandt is bringing back her show ‘Blue ; The Songs Of Joni Mitchell’ for one night only at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. She had a brief chat with me.

Queenie spoke about how the upcoming show would be one of the first times that she has been on stage since Covid hit and blacked out theatres for almost a year. Covid hit her particularly badly. She had toured her show around Australia, both city and regional areas. Queenie was on the verge of taking her Joni show over to America for a fully booked three week tour when Covid hit and the tour was abruptly cancelled.

Now her show is back on the road, fingers crossed, as we seem to have presently tamed the horrid Covid 19 virus.

I saw Queenie’s show when it last played Sydney back in August 2017 at the intimate inner city venue, the Hayes Theatre. Queenie advises that her show is unchanged.

This is a show that doesn’t over-reach itself. Joni’s active career spanned a half a century and covers so many different periods, like  the work of any great artist does. How could any one show possibly be a definitive Joni Mitchell show?!

Queenie’s concert runs for not much over an hour. It is well contained, focusing on early Joni Mitchell when some of her most popular songs were born. 

Four of the songs performed – ‘All I Want’, ‘My Old Man’, ‘River’ and ‘A Case Of You’- come from Joni’s 1971 album ‘Blue’, the third album she recorded. In a 2020 edition of Rolling Stone magazine this album was cited as the third greatest album ever recorded in the history of popular music. 

It was like the wild Irishman Van Morrison’s first solo album ‘Astral Weeks’. Both albums, forgive the pun, seemed to come from out of the blue. No-one had heard anything remotely like them. And yet they touched one’s innermost self.

You are in for a treat if you go over to the Riverside and see Queenie’s show on Saturday night 20th February when it plays the intimate Lennox Theatre.

Queenie delivers Joni’s songs with warmth and sensitivity. The setting is very Joni. The stage is lit with candles. There’s an easel with a portrait of Joni, similar to the self portraits Joni painted and put on some of her album covers. Painting is a constant reference point in her work- ‘I am a lonely painter/I live in a box of paints/I’m frightened by the devil/but drawn to those who ain’t afraid’ (‘A Case Of You’).

Queenie is joined by a pianist, a double bass player and a guitarist. The show has a lot of warmth to it. And yes, in her song list, Queenie performs a real good version of ‘Real Good For Free’.

In 2015 Joni had a major stroke. Her friend and fellow musician David Crosby reported that it took Joni a long time just to learn to walk again.

There isn’t ever going to be a new Joni Mitchell album. Never again that curiosity as to what new direction she will take.  

Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night follows the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Above all, Joni has been a creative artist who remained ever true to herself.

https://jonimitchell.com/

https://riversideparramatta.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MCA LATE : EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT DURING SUMMER

Start your weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) with the Museum’s extended hours MCA Late every Friday night during summer.

Curate your own evening after hours at the MCA, see performances by musicians, artists, poets hidden in the galleries, immerse yourself in a range of exhibitions or enjoy a drink with friends on the MCA’s rooftop terrace.

On Friday January 29, performance artist Shahmen Suku also known as Radha, will lead a roaming trivia game throughout the MCA galleries. Visitors will be invited to answer questions themed around cultural identity and living between two worlds. Join a special reading of contemporary poetry from the masterminds behind Western Sydney’s Sweatshop. Listen to writers from Indigenous, migrant and refugee backgrounds read excerpts from their award-winning anthology, Sweatshop Women: Volume Two. Continue reading MCA LATE : EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT DURING SUMMER

SYDNEY FESTIVAL: THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS : STU HUNTER CASTS A MESMERISING SPELL

Far from the masked crowd Stu Hunter created some very beautiful things at the piano for us during this event. This was a strong and welcome return to SydFest after his last appearance in 2016.

The structure was a series of keyboard moments which grew from a contrasted selection of clear themes which yielded much in the ensuing entertaining minutes.

This event’s cast was a substantially unassuming one at the piano. Hunter was swathed in subtle then progressively dazzling lighting effects and positions of the overhead chameleon bulbs.  Continue reading SYDNEY FESTIVAL: THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS : STU HUNTER CASTS A MESMERISING SPELL

GREAT OPERA HITS @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

The world’s most famous arias are ringing out from the Joan Sutherland Theatre again as Opera Australia’s enormously popular Great Opera Hits concert series returns to Australia’s true home of opera.

Described as the ‘best of opera without the boring bits’, this 90 minute show is jam-packed with tunes that most people will be familiar with and not realise they are masterpieces that are famous around the world, not just the soundtrack from a commercial.

OA has assembled an all-Australian cast to perform tunes that the audience will no doubt recognise from car and pasta adverts, along with films such as ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Star Trek’. Continue reading GREAT OPERA HITS @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

SYDNEY FESTIVAL : AFTERNOON TEA AT SIX @ THE SEYMOUR CENTRE

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Photo by Alex Apt

I had the privilege of visiting Iran in 1978, five months before the Shah fell. Because of the fraught times there was a nighttime curfew. The exception was intercity buses and as a result I hardly slept in a bed in Iran. A further consequence was that I could not go out in the evening to see an Iranian concert, although during the day I was enchanted by the exotic mosques and ruins that I saw as well as mixing with the delightful Iranian people. 

In a way this concert was a type of catch up. ‘Afternoon Tea at 6’ is I believe a time when food and families get together and drink a cup of Iranian black tea. In order to get into the mood the Eisthan Ensemble, together with guest vocalist Sonya Holowell, gathered before every rehearsal and drank a cup of the strong Persian tea.

What made this an even more intriguing concert was the fact that traditional Persian classical music would be blended with western jazz. The Ensemble’s leader and composer Hamed Sadeghi stated that he tried to narrate the musical pieces with different textures. Continue reading SYDNEY FESTIVAL : AFTERNOON TEA AT SIX @ THE SEYMOUR CENTRE