This latest recording (ABC CLASSIC 481 9887) from historically informed performance ensemble Ironwood is a significant addition to the canon of HIP performance research and performance in both this country and globally.
Above : Ironwood on ABC Classic (481 9887) 2020.
It’s excellent preparation and execution sets about exploding uninform stereotypes of how to perform music leaning towards Romanticism . Its portrait of a certain swoop of French chamber music in chronological order on this recording is a very special trajectory to follow. The nineteeth century piano quintet works here unfold with a calm elegance, a secure sense of drama and colourful, irresistible charm.
Although populated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for at least 50,000 years, post 1788 Australia is a nation of immigrants. My family is no exception. Knut Axel Eriksson, our Swedish grandfather, was a working-class merchant seaman from Stockholm. He stepped off a ship in Melbourne in the 1920s where he met and married my cockney English grandmother. He never went back to Sweden.
My grandmother was a milliner (hat maker) by trade, and an amateur pianist in her spare time. She loved Chopin, English music hall songs and much more! My grandfather played the harmonica, perhaps learned during the long weeks at sea. Music was in my blood.
In developing my career as a viola da gambist I had not thought much about my Swedish musical heritage until about 8-10 years ago. Swedish-Australian lutenist and guitarist, Tommie Andersson, has been a friend and a member of my early music ensemble, The Marais Project, since its inception in 2000. We talked for years about doing a concert of Swedish music until we finally got our act together. This led to a CD of Swedish baroque, folk and jazz music titled ‘Smörgåsbord.’ This off the beaten track recording was an unlikely hit, spending 3 months on the Australian Top 20 classical charts. It was even launched by the Swedish ambassador and featured on Swedish national radio.
Scandinavia and the electric viola da gamba
After Smörgåsbord I thought I had exhausted my Swedish musical roots, but it was not to be so. In 2015 I formed ‘Elysian Fields’, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble. Members included leading jazz musicians, classically trained musicians like me, and others with deep experience of world and folk music. We also span different generations. I have somehow ended up being the oldest, an achievement I do not particularly want to celebrate. Two of the founding members were in their 20s and another in their early 30s.
Soon I became aware that most of us had links to Sweden. Singer/violinist Susie Bishop’s partner is Swedish. She speaks Swedish and visits the country regularly. Our young bass player Siebe Pogson has Swedish heritage and saxophonist Matt Keegan spent a year studying in Sweden. As to the others, we have made them honorary Vikings!
Scandinavian music started creeping into our set list. In 2018 Elysian Fields launched a Scandinavian Project at Sydney’s Foundry616 jazz club. In January 2020 we hit the studio to record the most interesting and beautiful of the Swedish and Scandinavian music we had arranged and composed.
Iso hits hard
As we moved into post-production in February, the world was already under the grim shadow of Covid – including the shut down and isolation of whole sections of our society. Complete industries came to a halt. Our gigs started to get cancelled. The music industry joined tourism and hospitality in ‘falling off a cliff.’ Venues closed, tours were put off, cashflow dried up. I personally have had 60 performances cancelled or postponed. Our Producer/sax player Matt Keegan expected our CD project to be suspended or cancelled. Instead, I made decision to dig deep financially and finish the job. That is what artists do – we make art, even in a crisis. Even when money is tight and the future unknown.
Fika – more than a coffee break
The CD was always going to be titled Fika (pron. ‘fee-ka’). What, many will ask, is fika? Fika is a Swedish term that is often translated in English as a coffee break. In reality, it means more than that. Fika is about making time for friends and family, to share a cup of coffee or tea and a bite to eat. You cannot do fika alone although ironically, as I write this, many people remain isolated or separated from those they love. Melbourne has just closed down for a second time. Long before the current crisis Elysian Fields wanted to create a beautiful recording that would bring people together, as fika does. This is our offering to a world in turmoil.
Blurring the lines – is it classical, is it jazz or is it world music? (And who cares…)
Genres help us name things, to categorise what we see, hear, and do. Order is a good thing. It is also a bad thing. In art, being given a label, or not being easy to label, being allocated or not allocated to a genre, can accelerate, or slow down your career. If critics and audiences do not know how to categorise an artist, or struggle to describe what they are doing in conventional ways of thinking, they sometimes leave you alone. Worse still, they write you off by putting you in an awkward box.
As an ensemble we have never explicitly tried to be anything specific genre-wise, we have just written and arranged materials, played them, and worked to refine what we do. Although we fuse disparate musical elements together in new ways – including the sound of the rarely heard electric viola da gamba – we are not a ‘fusion’ band.
The great thing about the group is that as musical equals we each bring who we are to the table and don’t apologise for what we are not. This enables wonderful things to happen. For example, I am a viola da gambist specialising in French baroque music. I am most at home in the music of the Court of the French king, Louis XIV. I am not a jazz musician, but I am playing with some of the best jazz musicians in the country. This could and should be incredibly intimidating. I just don’t have ‘the chops’ that they do. I cannot improvise like they can. But rather than focussing on what I cannot do, I contribute classical music’s discipline, attention to detail, phrasing, and clarity of texture.
Matt Keegan, Matt McMahon and Siebe Pogson bring to the band what to me are exotic jazz harmonies, an amazing sense of rhythm and adventure, along with a freedom to adapt and respond in the moment. They also have a great capacity for nuance and subtlety in chord voicings and melodic line.
Drummer Dave Goodman – ‘Dr Dave’ (he holds a PhD in drumming) – is as much a musical colourist as a keeper of the beat. His subtle washes of sound define the mood of many of our songs.
Susie Bishop, a classically trained singer and violinist, has a Masters degree in opera, but is equally well-known on the national folk and world music scenes from bands such as the Aria-nominated ‘Chaika’. She is an electrifying performer who can literally bring a room to a standstill by the sheer beauty of her voice. When Susie sings a folk ballad, my heart stops. When she does so in Swedish – and you can hear her on Fika – I’m in tears.
We all contribute music for the ensemble, that is one of our strengths. Fika features several stunning arrangements of Swedish folk songs by Susie Bishop and Matt McMahon, original works inspired by Scandinavia composed by Matt Keegan and Siebe Pogson, and arrangements of music by Norwegian jazz composer and pianist, Jan Gunnar Hoff, and Swedish jazz greats, e.s.t., that I have completed.
I see Fika as one of the most important musical milestones in my life. It represents both a journey and a destination. We have created a kind of virtual pathway between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We have also done this through art. The CD booklet features paintings by my friend Nils Gunnar Zander, a Swedish artist who for 25 years has moved between Sweden and Australia while painting the Australian outback. Of collaborating on the CD project Nils Gunnar Zander wrote the following:
‘Five years ago, an Australian musician with a Swedish background searching for Swedish music in Stockholm met a Swedish artist who had spent twenty-five years living in Australia searching for Australian landscapes to paint in an abstract way. Now we meet at FIKA! In Swedish culture, this means we have a coffee break together. Our music and our art have also come together which makes me so happy!’ (Nils Gunnar Zander)
I hope this recording project brings people together and acts to lift listeners’ spirits. That is what fika does, and not just for Vikings.
Founder, Elysian Fields; July 2020
Fika is released on the MOVE Records label. It is available from MOVE Records, Buywell Music and Bandcamp. Stream or download on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, or Apple Music. High Resolution download via High Res Audio.
According to a recent QI programme, Stephen Fry (that oracle of knowledge and wisdom on television) confirmed this quote I’ve extracted from Google (another oracle of knowledge):
“Before the late 15th century, Europeans simply referred to orange as yellow-red until they were introduced to orange trees, when the pigment was finally awarded its true name. During the 16th and 17th centuries, orange became a symbol of Protestantism and an important political colour in Britain and Europe under William III’s reign.”jContinue reading THE COLOUR ORANGE→
This CD was first conceived in Berlin in the spring of 2017 when the friendship between leading violinist Lisa Stewart and the founder of the Christine Raphael Foundation, Frederik Pachla decided that some form of recognition to the music of Günter Raphael was necessary. The first concerts of his works were played in Sydney to a very appreciative audience and after further concerts in Berlin the present CD was recorded with three of Raphael’s string quartets – two early works, #1 Op 5 in E minor, #2 Op 9 in C major (1924 and 1925 respectively) and the last quartet he composed in 1946, #6 op 54 in F major.Continue reading THE ACACIA QUARTET AND GUNTER RAPHAEL→
Have you heard of Jack Carty? If you’re a Country and Western fan, then perhaps you have. I haven’t but I wish I had. He’s an Aussie who has recently come back from 2 years spent living, recording, writing and performing in the UK and Europe. One of the reasons he’s returned to his homeland (he’s a Bellingen NSW boy) is because his wife is expecting their first child.
Actually this EP album, comprising 5 songs written and recorded by Carty, is more Country than Western. Perhaps that is the reason I have taken a liking to it. Which reminds me of the joke in the hilarious movie The Blues Brothers when the saloon owner is asked whether they did Country and Western and he replies “We do both Country AND Western!” Continue reading JACK CARTY : THE WORLD, WHEN IT’S SLEEPING→
The most recent CD from Australian Haydn Ensemble is an exciting release. Australian Haydn Ensemble : Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 & 3 – Chamber Versions appears after a cycle of all Beethoven concertos was presented during live concerts in chamber music format by AHE. It also marks the second CD release in as many years from AHE, following on from a successful recording debut in 2016 with The Haydn Album on the ABC Classics label. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE : BEETHOVEN PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 3→
Above: Paul Cutlan, composer of the recording’s title track, Spinning Forth. Featured image : Jenny Eriksson, viola da gambist and founder of The Marais Project
‘Spinning Forth’ (Move Records, MCD564) is the latest recording from The Marais Project. Founder of this project, Jenny Eriksson, has once again guaranteed that as well as providing a beautiful listening experience this is a CD which is rich in contrast.
It contains successful and striking juxtapositions of style, mood,
instrumentation, and blends different compositional homelands or time periods. From the project that is working its way through the oeuvre of gambist Marin Marais, we are here treated to new Australian music, able to access Swedish music and hear the viola da gamba explore music from colonial Australia in arrangement for early music instruments.
The work by Marais featured on this CD is a stunningly solemn arrangement for the penultimate track. Jennifer Eriksson’s nicely balanced arrangement for two viols da gamba and theorbo of the Tombeau pour Marais le Cadet (from Pièces de violes, Book V, 1725). In the renamed Tombeau for John Dowland, first performed at a concert in 2013 for the 450th anniversary of Dowlands birth, Eriksson is ably joined by Catherine Upex on the second viola da gamba and Tommie Andersson on theorbo. The arrangement gives a full and even sound, celebrating the expressive skills of both Marais and the group of Sydney-based early musicians. Continue reading CD REVIEW : THE MARAIS PROJECT – ‘SPINNING FORTH’→
Above: CD cover : Celebrae (Klavier Music Productons K 11215) Featured Image : SCM Wind Symphony
The title of this CD, Celebrare (Klavier K11215) is borrowed from Carl Vine’sorchestral work of 1993, Celebrare Celeberrime : a celebration for orchestra which begins the recording in its fine wind band arrangement form.
This title’s reference to celebration is a perfect theme for this CD. The CD was produced following the centenary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and live performances by SCM Wind Symphony at the institution’s Centenary Festival in 2015.
The recording, dated 2016, has been mastered with a pleasing bright clarity by Bruce Leek. This celebrates the sound of the school’s quality symphonic wind ensemble. The emergence of this CD also recognises the Sydney Conservatorium’s recent centenary as well as this music school’s efforts towards being at the international forefront of wind band interpretation. Two works on the recording were commissioned by the SCM Wind Symphony and appear as first recordings on this disc. Continue reading CD: ‘CELEBRARE’ – SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC WIND SYMPHONY→
One of my first memories is sitting on my dad’s knee in a tiny booth at 2AY, as it was then , learning to ‘score’ a record. Running the groove of the black shellac disc under the needle at exactly the right spot for the content to start immediately. What a joy and delight then to see THE REAL THING recording on all this new fangled equipment. Cables everywhere , mics, iPads, phones, music FX machine etc. And 3 wonderful stories, music and some admittedly dodgy Magic. My idea of a good time.Continue reading THE REAL THING LIVE @ 107 PROJECTS→
RHFM: FEEL THE MUSIC is an online radio station featuring contemporary hits, styles like dance, house, chill out music, pop, hip-hop, cross-over (Radio Mix) and Latin Pop. The station transmits in both Spanish and English.
The radio station can be accessed through your computer and via your mobile phone.
Anyone can find RHFM through TuneIn Radio which can be downloaded for free through ITunes and Google Play.
This online station is the initiative of Raul Hernandez. I met up with Raul recently and he had quite a story to tell.
Raul is an actor, producer, director and broadcaster, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, who has worked for many years in radio, theatre and television. As an actor he has represented several works by renowned Ecuadorian playwright Jose Martinez Queirolo, working for his theatre troupe “Doscaratulas Theatre” for 14 years. Raul also worked as as a broadcaster for Radio Onda Cero for six years, including being their correspondent at the MTV Latin Awards in 2008. Continue reading RHFM : NEW ONLINE RADIO STATION REALLY FEELS THE MUSIC→
For the past fifteen years the Marais Project has augmented their continuing exploration of the 600 works composed by Marin Marais with concerts and recordings of considerable diversity and innovation.
The Project’s fifth CD, SMÖRGÅSBORD! is no exception. Recently released on the Move Records label, it shares aspects of the Swedish musical tradition from pastoral hymn tune through folksong and Baroque instrumental music to 21st century composition.
A stellar cast of a male vocalist and period instrumentalists bring to life a work from Marin Marais’ oeuvre as well as the variety of Swedish music. Fine arrangements by Tommie Andersson in the Baroque guise make up an impressive thirteen of the twenty-four tracks. Continue reading The Marais Project CD -Smörgåsbord!→
Bob Dylan turns 73 next Saturday May 24th. Bruce Williams, Bill Kitson and the ‘superhuman crew’ have been taking over the 2SER FM studios once a year to celebrate Bob’s birthday. This year is the 30th show and most of the team were at the very first one in 1985.
Between 8pm and 2am, you can phone in for requests and win CDs if you’re fast enough on the quiz questions. There is an eclectic mix of original songs, bootlegs, interviews with relevant people (last year there was a great interview with Patti Smith talking about Bob) and up-to-date information about his latest movies, songs, albums and tours.
Vibrant venue, Giant Dwarf, in Redfern is the new home of alternative comedy in Sydney. Previously known as The Performance Space, the theatre produced cutting edge and experimental shows from 1983 to 2007.
A RATIONAL FEAR, described as “60 minutes of evidence-based shit stirring, fast, funny and topical, like Q&A on crack!”, has taken up residence at Giant Dwarf once a month and broadcasts live to air on FBi Radio. Initiated by comedian and broadcaster, Dan Ilic, it started at FBi Social, moved to Laugh Garage and had one off shows at the Opera House and The Factory. This latest show is their 17th.
Ten months ago, Giant Dwarf was a derelict, drab and echoey building. Dan Ilic and manager Nikita Agzarian, along with the Chaser team, committed to taking on the space and restoring it to its original state. The large red velvet curtain and retro lounges suggest appropriate decadence and the entrance courtyard is very homely with its bar and burgers. The Chaser team use it as their production house (aptly using their nickname for Andrew Denton, Giant Dwarf), and a whole heap of regular events happen there on a similar rotation to A RATIONAL FEAR.
Last Monday, Ilic and his panel produced a fabulous line-up for A RATIONAL FEAR. With DJ Dylabolical on hand, Alice R Fraser warmed up the audience with her wonderfully inappropriate and risqué jokes. Lewis Hobba, Greg Fleet, James Colley and Hannah May Reilly joined Ilic. What followed was a deliciously irreverent combination of sketch, stand-up, video and – the icing on the cake – an interview with Bob Carr, former Premier of NSW and former Labor foreign minister.
Reilly and Colley (both from FBi radio) and Hobba (from Triple J radio) all performed controversial and clever monologues. Experienced comedian, Greg Fleet, prefers to improvise so he was thrown random topics, which he quickly turned around with his absurdist humour.
Bob Carr was invited onstage and his ‘throne’ was unveiled in the form of a double set of Qantas retro airline chairs, first class of course. Accompanied by his latest autobiography, Carr felt quite at home and rebuffed the panel’s cheeky questions with great ease.
A waiter arrived onstage with refreshments for him – a bottle of Penfolds Grange, which he gracefully refused.
The audience – a full house – were on top of the comedy and never stopped laughing. Carr’s parting gift from the panel in a spirit of irony, was a 4L goon cask, to which he responded afterwards: “Is this considered a lower class of alcohol?”
A RATIONAL FEAR should not be missed. Their next show will be on Tuesday 3rd June, 2014 at the Giant Dwarf, 199 Cleveland Street, Redfern and will run from 8pm to 11pm.
For more information, visit their official website:
Tune into 2SER FM radio 107.3 next Saturday for our annual 29th Bob Dylan birthday bash. Starting at 8pm and finishing at 2am.
“From Blowin‘ in the Wind to Tempest”
In 1963 Columbia Records released Bob Dylan’s second album Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Loaded with gems like A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, Girl From The North Country, Masters Of War and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right the album launched a legend. Fifty years later the feisty Elder Statesman of Rock maintains his never-ending tour belting out extraordinary songs from the acclaimed 2012 album Tempest. He was also recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the first rock musician so honoured.
We will be throwing the spotlight on the two albums of folk, blues and traditional music he released twenty years ago: Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong, which launched the amazingly productive second phase of his career. Bob’s mauling at the hands of the Australian press in 1966 will be documented and Sean Wilentz will speak about Bob’s mystical tribute to John Lennon, Roll On John. The recently released alternative take of Meet Me In The Morning will get a spin as will his cover of Gene Vincent’s Important Words. We have some golden moments from Bob’s own radio show the ‘Theme Time Radio Hour‘, along with other rare and wonderful pieces of Dylanalia. Of course we shall have the Dylan Quiz, and the Dylan News – and – all the Bobsongs that fit! So for 6 hours and 5 decades of Bobcat Heaven tune into 2SER and throw a party to celebrate the 72nd birthday of His Bobness
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