Category Archives: music

Silent Night by Rowena Curtin | Advent 2018 Day 5

Once again, I’ve participated in Solveig Werner’s annual Advent Calendar where people from around the world share their different experiences of Christmas and their various traditions. As a proud Australian, I do my bit to share what it’s like to celebrate Christmas Down Under where it is Summer btw and not a snowflake in sight. Indeed, Santa attends our local Christmas festivities onboard a fire truck.
This year I wrote about Silent Night and my mother’s experiences growing up as an Australian within a migrant community where everyone sang Silent Night on Christmas Eve in their native tongue.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Solveig Werner

Silent Night

By Rowena Curtin

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Mother Teresa

Two hundred years ago, on a cold Christmas Eve in 1818,Silent Nightwas sung for the very first time at St. Nicholas Catholic Church inOberndorf, Austria. As the daughter of a church organist, I remember how hymn numbers used to arrive at the last minute and Mum would dash off to the piano to practice. However, it never crossed my mind thatSilent Night, one of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, was also thrown together at the last minute. Or, that the words and music were written…

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Weekend Coffee Share -2nd December, 2018.

Welcome Back to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

While some weeks you’re lucky to get a tea or coffee at Beyond the Flow let alone something to eat, this week you’re being spoiled. I can offer you a slice of virtual Hazelnut and Raspberry Gateau, which I made for the Church Christmas Party. These cake experiments of mine don’t always work out and can be rather catastrophic. So, when this cake looked like something straight out of a bakery, I was so chuffed. I even managed to position the raspberries neatly around the edge and created a hazelnut praline pyramid on top. That was actually quite simple and yet it looked very dramatic and so clever. It was more a situation of good luck, patience and a few trips back to the supermarket as the recipe evolved but that hasn’t stopped me for feeling particularly chuffed and excited that I could get something right.

I think I speak for many of us when I say that I’m often just trying to stay out of trouble most days. A few weeks ago, I had a really bad run with the car and really felt I should stop driving or at least cut back. I scraped the car badly in the supermarket car park and then drove into a concrete lane divider in the multi-storey car park at the local hospital when I was taking our son to Emergency. I cracked the radiator and goodness knows what else. I felt really bad about it for a few days. However, as I started speaking to various friends, it turned out that the turning circle was very tight and they’d struggled to get around and weren’t at all surprised. That was reassuring. Anyway, the insurance company ended up writing off the car and we’ve gone out and bought an older Subaru Forrester at auction to get by and will get another good car once the dust has settled. However, we like the Forester so we might get a more recent model. We’ll just see.

Last Friday, I went down to Sydney for a medical appointment and in typical fashion disappeared on one of my excursions afterwards. This time I headed over to Elizabeth Bay on Sydney Harbour, which was quite a way from the hospital and the opposite direction to home. The appointment was late in the day and with all the end of year stuff going on, I knew going there wasn’t the most sensible thing to do. That I should be conserving energy and being a good little Vegemite. However, sometimes I get sick of being good. Being that Mum person who is straight-laced and driving kids from A to B and is supposed to have everything sorted. Stick to the routine and all that. Sometimes I want to go back to being a backpacker and going off the grid exploring all sorts of nooks and crannies without having to rush home to pick anyone up. I just want to escape all those time pressures and having to be somewhere and just be nowhere for a bit. Get off the leash.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I found out that my grandparents used to have a flat at Caversham Court in Elizabeth Bay and I wanted to go and check it out. Walk the streets they’d walked. There’s something quite amazing about trying to squeeze into someone else’s shoes and try to see the world through their eyes. Walk along the very same streets they walked, and feel a sense of timeless magic which knows no bounds. Just around the corner from their flat, I came across a park on the waterfront with a few seats looking out across the harbour. I’m not sure bout whether you’re familiar with that concept of an empty chair representing an absent friend, but I photographed two of the empty park benches side-by-side and thought of them. Clearly, I didn’t know them as newlyweds. However, young love hasn’t changed and I could sense the love in the air. More than that. I could feel them sitting there in the park behind me enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine beside the harbour. How I wish it were true!

I shared more about walking around Elizabeth Bay Here.

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It was well and truly dark by the time I reached Central Station but not without it’s own photographic opportunities.

 

Thinking about other posts I’ve done this week, for Thursday Doors I wrote about Building 30, Royal North Shore Hospital. I came across Building 30 on the way to my medical appointment on Friday. It’s one of the older Federation-style buildings on the hospital grounds and it must be being renovated because it had these fabric sheets with fake Federation style windows printed on the sign which hid all the scaffolding and building site paraphernalia. I was quite intrigued by it all and could help wondering why and how much it cost, but took photos of it in the meantime. It was quite interesting and I did managed to find an old dilapidated door in there to keep our host happy.

This coming week is concert week at our place. My daughter’s dance concert is on Saturday. It’s a big deal. She’s in dance team and with something like eight costume changes, there’a a lot to organize and she could use her own Personal Assistant. They each have their own portable wardrobe, and look like the Queen of Sheba although with so many quick costume changes, they make good sense. She was talking to me tonight about all the steps she has to remember, and I was blown away. Unlike music, dance doesn’t seem to have a written score. The opening number is the highlight of the show and is every bit as challenging and dazzling as you’d expect. I saw a sneak preview at the recent nursing home concert, but can’t wait to see the final thing on stage and under lights… as well as her other dances. Indeed, I love watching the entire show. It’s brilliant and it’s amazing to see the students’ progression each year and how far they’ve come. Dance is much more complex and mentally challenging, than I’d ever realized  and then there’s also the physical side of things which completely blows me away, especially considering my own physical limitations.

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Violin Concert 2015.

However, my daughter isn’t the only concert performer this week. Next Sunday, yours truly will be taking to the stage and playing a duet of Danny Boy on my violin with my teacher at the end of year concert. These concerts are held outside on a pecan orchard, which makes for a very relaxing, lush green environment. I’ve ramped up my practice for the last month and it’s coming along well. So, fingers crossed it’s going to come off well on the day. That’s always a bit of an unknown. I bit like making a cake for a special occasion, you can put in all the same ingredients and one day it works out perfectly and another time disaster beckons at every turn. At least, the violin has a dubious reputation and is well known for squeaking and making horrible noises. So, if my violin suddenly emits an ear-piercing screech right in the middle of Danny Boy just when the emotions are rising and the tears are starting to swell, my audience will more than likely let me off. It was the violin’s fault, and well beyond my control.

Lastly, while I was catching multiple trains halfway across the universe on Friday, I was reading Kathy Lette’s The Boy Who Fell To Earth. This is about a Mum who gets arrested for trying to procure a prostitute for her son with Autism, so he can lose his virginity before his 21st birthday. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the book or Lette’s excessive use of similes and puns, but I’m still reading it. It also seems a bit far fetched, which you might say goes with a standup comedy approach to writing a novel . However, for me, it still needs to be credible and I’m not quite sure this is. That is despite Lette writing from personal experience. Her 26 year old son Julian  was diagnosed with Autism when he was three. You might like to read a bit more about it in this review by the Australian Women’s Weekly Here

Have you read any good books lately?

Anyway, the night is no longer young and indeed the clock has accelerated past midnight and taken me with it. Another week begins in just a few short hours, and like Cinderella I’ll be back to the real world and needing to look responsible.  I guess that’s what makeup and a good choice of lipstick are good for.

Well, on that note, I’m heading off. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 26th November, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, before I get much further, I should tell you it was much husband’s birthday earlier in the week and we had a wonderful lunch out together at a restaurant across from our local beach. The weather was stunning and we had such a relaxing time. Well, it would’ve been more relaxing if a group of young whippersnappers weren’t discussing their investment strategies and how much money you should leave in the pot. I was very tempted to ask them to ****up and tell them that some people actually like to enjoy life. Go out for lunch to get away from all of that. I can guarantee that when I was their age, I wasn’t discussing investment strategies. However, eventually the bright sun forced them inside and out of earshot.

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By the way, my apologies on the food and beverage front today. About all I can offer you is tea, coffee, water and some great music. I’m sitting out at my desk listening to Ian Cooper: Hard Axe to Follow featuring  violinist Ian Cooper, guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and Maestro Tommy Tycho. This where my story gets rather humbling, which is hardly surprising for someone who bills themselves as: “The Closet Violinist”. Even if you’re shy, if you have a modicum of talent, someone eventually drags you out of the closet into some kind of public arena. Wants to bless the world with your magic. Not so for a poor closet player. They either leave the door, shut or slam it in your face. People can be so insensitive!!

Anyway, as I said, I’m listening to Ian Cooper Ian Cooper and this piece of music is vaguely familiar and moving out of the background, until I’m wracking my brain trying to work out what it is. Indeed, I’m even glaring at the back of the cover, and still not getting any wiser. Clearly, I should’ve finished my cup of tea before I began this simple, yet apparently ambitious task. The peanut butter sandwich clearly wasn’t enough either. As it turns out, much to my embarrassment, they were playing a reinvention of Dvořák’s Humoresque . I say much to my embarrassment, because I’ve been learning this piece for over the last three months. I guess it’s a bit like when you’re introduce two close friends, and have a temporary memory lapse and can’t remember their name.

Meanwhile, the Closet Violinist is hard at work. For those of you with even a toe in the performing arts, you’ll know that the end of the year is concert season. So, I’ll actually be coming out of the closet and will be playing a duet of Danny Boy with my teacher at the end of year concert. Last week, she gave me a big tick of approval and said she’d be stoked if I played like that at the concert. Yet, I’m still working on it.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that practicing more, produces more practice and consequent improvement. It’s so exciting to be polishing off a handful of pieces and I’ll soon be moving from the Suzuki Book 3 onto Book 4, where I start learning concertos. It struck me that even if I’m only learning concertos, that I can’t keep saying that I can’t play the violin anymore. We Aussies can be an understated bunch. So, I think I’d now describe my playing as “could be better, could be worse”. How’s that for confidence and self-esteem? To be honest, I’m just grateful when my violin doesn’t squeak or do its infamous cockatoo screech. While the violin can be such an incredibly beautiful songbird (even when I play it), it can also be so cantankerous. Yet, I must say I was encouraged recently when a newfound friend, who is an incredibly talented musician, said all musicians wrestle with their instruments. By the way, as you may be aware there are definite parallels between mastering an instrument and conducting a passionate love affair…the love, the intensity, arguments, silence and all too often a parting of ways possibly after a physical break of some description.

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Our Daughter performing her contemporary solo at a local nursing home. Photo: Dancin Mates.

This weekend, however, it wasn’t my turn to shine. My daughter performed with the Dancin Mates Dance Team at a local nursing home. They did the opening number from the upcoming annual concert and they each performed their solos. It’s been awhile since my grandparents were living in nursing homes now and this is the only time I visit one these days. I’m really pleased my daughter is involved with these performances, as it’s important to try and cheer up people who might be doing it tough and bring a ray of sunshine indoors to people who may not get out all that often. Even just being themselves and wearing their dazzling costumes would be enough to brighten someone’s day but then to see them dance, is utterly magical. Some of these young people are in the process of transitioning into the professional dance world and so they weren’t just seeing people with nowhere else to go. My parents also came up to watch which was very special for us.

There have also been some challenging times over the last few weeks. My health is doing well and my endoscopy and colonoscopy haven’t picked up anything too nasty. However, I have a friend battling advanced Motor Neurone Disease and things with her have been really difficult lately. There were a couple of days where I was so angry about it and ended up finding solace on my violin, which isn’t something I’ve consciously done before. After all, as a beginner, all that screeching is hardly relaxing. I have also been listening to some violin music and that’s been very cathartic as well. I think the tone of the violin, especially when it hits the high notes, really releases the anguished or troubled cry of the soul. Any thoughts?

I did a bit of baking through the week. It started out with attempting to make a birthday cake for my husband using GF flour. I don’t know what happened because what went into the cake doesn’t resemble the recipe and then the cake didn’t rise. While I was waiting to decide its fate, the dog decided to help herself and Geoff heard the tin crash on the floor and half the cake was gone by the time he got there. Golly. These dogs are quick. Fortunately, there had been two layers. By this stage, the logical thing was to throw it out. However, I must believe in raising the dead after all. I broke the cake up and decided to do a variation of a family dessert…Chocolate In-Betweens. In the original you have chocolate mouse in between sponge fingers which have been dashed with sherry. In this version, there was chocolate cake smothered in cream, splashed with Frangelico and then covered in the chocolate mouse filling from the original cake recipe. The patient was removed to the fridge to rest. Much to our surprise, the result was incredibly scrumptious and will be the beginning of a new thing.

In terms of blogging, I’ve been a bit quiet this week and only participated in Friday Fictioneers with: The Secret

Well, on that note, I’m heading off. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share…November 4, 2018

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, I make no apologies for stealing your sunlight. However, if you’re joining me you’d better have your beverage “iced”. Although we haven’t reached a scorcher yet, the sun has had some very intense moments where we’ve definitely been back under the griller again.

How’s your week been? I hope it went well.

Gerard Willems

Concert Pianist Gerard Willems

We’ve already hit the silly season here. On Wednesday night, I headed into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to attend concert pianist Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital. This was an intensely special and personal experience on so many levels, but in the end what truly made it special was Gerard himself whose heart and beautiful spirit was interwoven with the most incredible music. As you may recall, I play the violin and on many occasions, I’ve lamented my difficulties. Indeed, as I’ve struggled through a piece, I’d almost do a deal with the devil asking for just one perfect note. However, Gerard’s playing took that perfection to another level entirely. As I heard him play a series of single notes, each one was almost divinely perfect and I could almost see it wiggling it’s tail as it soared upwards to the stars. I understood then, for the very first time, that even achieving that one perfect note is beyond my human understanding. You can read mre about it Here

 

I arrived in the city a few hours early and went on a “Doorcursion” down to The Rocks, which is one of the first areas of English settlement in the country. In case you’re not too sure what madness a doorscursion entails, that’s lingo I picked up from Thursday Doors where us tribespeople go off in search of weird, wonderful and historic doors to show off to each other in the way that more regular people might show tatoos. This is only my second doorscursion. However, both times I’ve found that simply photographing doors makes me much more observant of an area. For example, I didn’t realize quite how many pubs are down in The Rocks and quite a few of my door photos ha d “Bar” or “Saloon” etched into the glass. However, as it turned out, my favourite door belonged to the Ladies’ toilet:

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After indulging in a sumptuous French dessert and cappuccino, I headed up to the Conservatorium via Bridge Street. This is a route my mother used to take everyday as a student at the Con. It was funny because I noticed a big sandstone clock tower on one of the buildings and I could well imagine my mother’s horror at the time…”she was late. Late for a very important date”.  Eventually I spotted the Con up the top looking like an alien spaceship. I’m sure it’s always looked odd but what with not getting into the city very often, I now find these more English-looking buildings out of place. We’re Australian.

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The Department of Lands Building, Bridge Street, Sydney. Constructed 1876-1892.

“It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes.”
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

My apologies for writing about my trip into Sydney in reverse. I also wanted to share that I read Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the train to and from. I’d seen it in the bookshop ages ago bought it on account of the movie, which from memory seems quite different from the book. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am. I’d like to read study the book in more detail, but I did like this passage about belonging…or not:

“She was still hugging the cat. “Poor slob,” she said, tickling his head, “poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.” She smiled, and let the cat drop to the floor. “It’s like Tiffany’s,” she said.

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Wednesday night, I stayed at my parents’ place and staggered home late Thursday afternoon. Friday…slept. The trip to Sydney took a lot out of me.

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Saturday, I found myself at the Sailing Club. Although I actually love sailing, I usually rate as ballast. However, now I’m needing to be the parent contact as my husband is doing a sailing course and isn’t available. This weekend was just a reconnaissance. Next weekend, Geoff’s working. I was just starting to write that I need to ensure the Flying 11 gets rigged correctly. However, there’s fat chance of that. I’m flat out just doing up my own shoelaces. He also ripped a sail last weekend and so I’m meeting up with Mr Sail Magic whose been doing a bit of sewing during the week. However, I was pleased to run into some friends who are doing the course with Geoff and it was pretty social afterwards. You can read more about it Here

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My son and crew out on his boat.

This week coming up is very stressful. While Tuesday might be the Melbourne Cup for the rest of Australia, I’m off to the Rheumatologist for a routine appointment. No dramas there except getting to and from. However, on Thursday I’m booked in for an endoscopy and colonoscopy which are not just routine but no indications of anything too dire either. I get dreadful heartburn and GIRD but was a bit anemic so they want to be careful.

So, after much fear, in trepidation and utter dread, I went into the chemist today to buy this stuff called “Moviprep”. You essentially take this stuff to clean out your bowels beforehand. This stuff is so volatile, that it’s split into two separate sachets, which you have to mix together yourself. This is all feeling very much like sticking Draino down my gob and if I wasn’t made of tougher stuff, I would’ve done the Australian thing, ignored my bowel health and run for the hills. Just to humour me a bit, when I get to the chemist, they offer me a choice of plain or orange. At this point, I thought there probably should be some kind of taste test or online review to advise us poor sods which way to go. So I asked my ever obliging Pharmacist who has seen me through many of my medical ordeals, which one he recommends. He tells me there’s the choice of revolting or really revolting and I take the lesser of two assaults on the palate…the orange. Clearly, there are no chef’s hats for this terrible stuff.

After dealing with all of that and finding out what truly awaits me late in the week, I headed into the supermarket deciding to make Mars Bar Slice and also finding out that Toblerone and Nutella are on sale. This is what I call a “preventative treatment”. Perhaps, if I eat enough chocolate beforehand, a few lingering flavours might overcome the culinary assault.

That’s a terrible place to finish up and I really should stick in some kind of good news story or a photo of a cute baby animal to sign off on an upbeat. However, Mars Bar Slice doesn’t make itself.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Back to “The Con”…the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I went back to Sydney University for the first time in decades. Well, last Wednesday night, I  found myself back at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music doing the time warp again. This time, I was attending concert pianist, Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital, which marked his retirement from full-time teaching at the Con.

While it only seems like yesterday, I haven’t been back to the Con since my grandmother’s Twilight Recital around 30 years ago. At the time, I was in the throws of leaving school, but now I’m married with two kids and our eldest isn’t terribly far off leaving school himself. So, clearly a lot of water’s flowed under the bridge, and even much of the landscape has been swept away by the tide. Yet, I still felt remarkably at home.

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Gerard Willems and his former teacher, Nada Brissenden.

By the way, I wasn’t just attending this concert out of interest. Gerard is almost an extended member of the family via one of my mother’s “secret societies”. Mum and Gerard both attended Wollongong Selective High School and learned the piano from  Nada Brissenden who, along with her husband Harold, introduced Suzuki Music to Australia. Mum was a year ahead of Gerard, and their paths have crossed over the years, which included studying piano at the Con. There was also a rather significant-to-me soiree which my grandmother Eunice Gardiner put on to give Gerard further performance experience. Not that Gerard was one of her pupils. Rather, he was studying under Gordon Watson. This soiree was also interesting because Australian authors Ruth Park and her husband D’Arcy Niland were there. Knowing Mum knew Gerard and possibly also because she had some single sons, my grandmother also invited my mother to the soiree. So, it was actually Gerard who first introduced my parents at Lindfield Station for the very first time on Sunday 26th March, 1967. That’s a connection you never forget and was brought up again recently at my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  There’s still is a group of Mrs Brissenden’s former students who get together, forming an extended musical family of sorts. After all, you have your genetic family but as a musician you also have your musical family.

However, I also had an ulterior motive for going back to the Con. I wanted to revisit my grandmother’s old studio. See if I could find my way through the old rabbit warren and back to her door. I remember going in there as a young child after visiting my grandfather who had a dental practice in nearby Macquarie Street. The Con itself was stark white back then and I remember some weird story about how they cleaned it using Coca Cola. I remember going up some stairs and along a longish corridoor and there was a grand piano in the room. Dad told me that it overlooked the Botanical Gardens. So, that narrowed things down quite a lot. So, I planned to arrive quite early for the concert to ensure no regrets.

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A Sign Promoting one of my grandmother’s concerts at the Con around 1960.

By the way, the Conservatorium building is famous in its own right. In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned ex-convict Francis Greenway to design the government stables. Macquarie had a grand architectural vision for the fledgling colony and what emerged was more of a “Palace for Horses”  in the Old Colonial Gothick style. Indeed, it reminds me of  Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria’s architectural extravagance. The cost and apparent extravagance was one of the reasons Governor Macquarie was recalled to England. In 1916, the building was extensively renovated and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was established under directorship of Belgian conductor and violinist, Henri Verbrugghen, with the aim of ‘providing tuition of a standard at least equal to that of the leading European Conservatoriums’.

As I said, it’s been 30 years since I was last at the Con. For better or worse, a massive extension has been built and the original building has had an extensive facelift. Of course, it’s been tastefully done and if I didn’t have an intense personal attachment to the original, I’d only be impressed.

However, as much as I know we couldn’t let the old girl fall apart and that the building itself is representing Australian classical music on the world stage, a facelift is still a facelift. I miss the white paint. The cracks, wrinkles and crooked appearance. Indeed, I’d love to wipe all the beige away and bring her back out of her glamorous shell…even if only long enough to take a photo and then send her back to sleep.

The ticket office is in the new part of the Con and I noticed a sign saying “No Public Admittance” where I’m needing to access my grandmother’s studio. However, as soon as I explained the situation, I was granted access and off I hopped with my camera. I was so excited, even though I was warned that it had changed and the “rabbit’s warren was gone”. Dad had also told me that her studio looked out onto the Botanic Gardens, which narrowed things down quite a lot. I climbed up the stairs and slowly walked along the corridoor. I could hear piano music on my right and saw a grand piano through the window. Her room was further along from memory but very soon I was distracted by the sound of a violin tuning up downstairs. I found it rather strange than when I, the closet violinist come back retracing my grandmother’s footsteps, a violinist was playing. (As it turned out this was  Evgeny Sorkin who played Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in D Major Op. 12 No. 1. with Gerard during the concert.

Yet, the main reason I was at the Con was to attend this concert. So, we’d better head upstairs into the gallery where I had an absolutely fabulous seat with a bird’s eye view. Verbruggen Hall seats around 550 people and as far as I could tell, everyone there loved Gerard, not just as a pianist but as a person. He exudes such warmth and embraces the audience. Gerard introduced each piece himself, usually with an extensive preamble and I was hanging onto each and every word. Indeed, I was voraciously taking notes up in my seat. Among so many other things, Gerard is a teacher and I felt like this concert was also his last hurrah in that department as well trying to share as much of his knowledge and somehow try to encourage the spirit of music which lives in each of us to soar.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, here are a few snapshots.

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Gerard Willems.

Firstly, I was struck by how Gerard would play that solitary, perfect note in a way that transcended our earthly realm and entered the heavens. Indeed, I was reminded of when you look up into the night sky and see the planet Venus twinkling almost like a star yet in its solitude. One of my great frustrations as a beginner violinist, was the difficulty of even being able to play one perfect note. I kept practicing and practicing and I’d play two strings instead of one. My bow would glide diagonally across the strings and screech like a flock of cockatoos. It was so incredibly frustrating and yet I was determined to succeed. Gerard made me appreciate the enormity of playing that one perfect note. That it’s nowhere near as easy as you think.

Secondly, I was completely blown away by his unbelievable physicality playing Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B minor Op. 20. Remember the man is retiring and this piece of music, is very physically demanding. Incredible.

However, while the other pieces were far more complex, I couldn’t go past Moonlight Sonata, which was followed by the Brahm’s Lullaby. He played these because these are the pieces he played for his baby daughter, Clara, and grandchildren. Indeed, as he played the Brahms, his wife appeared on stage hold Clara’s hands and helping her to walk across the stage to her Dad. She is only one year old and beyond cute. I noticed when I later looked at the photos that she was wearing a black jacket which looked a bit like a conductor’s jacket. As I said, she was extraordinarily cute and it was so touching to see how much Gerard loves his wife and baby girl. That was another time when you could feel all the stars twinkling in the sky and a sense of magic.

After the concert, I stayed the night at my parents’ place and had been so overstimulated by the concert, that I couldn’t sleep for hours. All my matches had been lit at once and I was firing on too many cylinders I suspect.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Conservatorium_of_Music

 

 

 

 

The Rocks, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, you’d better back a hat, water bottle and a decent pair of walking shoes because we’re on a doorcursion  to Sydney’s Historic Rocks area, where European settlement began shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.AS you can see from the photograph, The Rocks has some stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and fronts onto Sydney Harbour.

The route we’re taking starts out at Wynyard Station and we’re turning left into George Street. This is quite a chaotic construction zone at the moment. However, I managed to battle my way through to The Rocks, which clearly has to be a fertile breeding ground for photogenic doors.

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Map Showing the location of The Rocks, Sydney.

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This mural pretty much marked where I pulled out my camera and marks the start of The Rocks. While no doors are features, I felt it helped set the scene taking you back in time when the residents of The Rocks were living on struggle street.

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Next we come across Sydney’s oldest pub, the Fortune Of War, which was established in 1828 and has come to include a couple of pubs under one roof.

 

Russell Hotel Anime

The Russell Hotel (Previously known as The Orient) was built in 1887 in the Queen-Anne Style and in recent times appeared in the Japanese anime show: Free! Eternal Sunshine.

 

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Inside the Fortune O War Pub.

By the way, I should warn you as we continue our tour, that we’ll be dropping in on quite a few pubs. While The Rocks is a popular spot for a pub crawl, I hope you’re not in desperate need for a beer because we’re not stopping. We’re only checking out the doors and moving onto the next one.

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You’ll notice a Halloween joke out the front today.

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This front door belongs to the Julian Ashton Art School, which continues to train and encourage upcoming Australian artists.

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The Observer Hotel

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A bit more of a Halloween theme at this cafe.

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The Mercantile Hotel, The Rocks.

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I’m a big concerned about this door in the footpath. Could swear I could hear intermittent banging sounds.

After visiting all these drinking holes, it was inevitable that our doorcursion was going to end up here:

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I wonder if the riff-raff are also forced to use the Gents? This sign clearly pre-dates uni-sex toilets.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our doorscursion to The Rocks. I had a wonderful time. By the way, my walk through The Rocks was a detour on my way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music last night. I was off to attend Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital. Gerard is not only a brilliantly talented International concert pianist, he is such a warm and loving person and such a character. He was a year behind Mum at school and they both learned from another generous and encouraging soul, Nada Brissenden before studying at the Con. Mum studied piano there under my Dad’s mother, Eunice Gardiner while Gerard was under Gordon Watson. One night, my grandmother held a soiree at her Lindfield home for Gerard to get more performance practice and invited mum along. My Dad picked Gerard and Mum up from the station and that was the beginning of a whole new book, a whole lot more than just a chapter.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 15th October, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Crooked House

This week, I’m very thrilled to be greeting you from dry land. Indeed, the sun’s even stuck her head out, bathing the backyard in golden rays as we speak. Even though I know it’s only temporary, this break in the weather is a relief. We’ve had two weeks of very heavy rain and our house was beginning to feel like proverbial Noah’s Ark. That’s not so crazy as it sounds because my desk is parked out the back of the house in one of those indoor-outdoor rooms. So, being surrounded by glass, it’s easy to feel that I’m on a boat and the house is about to leave it’s moorings and drift out to sea. That’s not so crazy either. The beach is only at the end of the street. So, not a lot of imagination is required to transport it there. Humph. I appears that I’ve taken Margaret Wild’s children’s book: The Little Crooked House too much to heart. I used to read it over and over again to my kids, and in this story the crooked house keeps relocating itself. So, you see, I’m not the only one who thinks about crooked houses like ours going walkabout, or even sailing.

While I haven’t been on any great physical adventures during the last week, I have covered considerable ground inside my head. A few weeks ago, I picked up: Companion to Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories for a $1.00 at the garage sale at Pearl Beach I’ve previously told you about. Well, as luck or extreme book hoarding would have it, it turned out that I already had the companion book: Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories on the shelf at home. Not bad considering it was published in 1959. Anyway, I decided to really study these books both to further enrich my appreciation of our culture, but also to learn more about the art of writing the short story.

What’s actually happened is that I’ve become consumed by Henry Lawson’s own life story, and also how it reflects back on the experiences of my own family going back. It actually turned out that Henry Lawson grew up near Mudgee not far from where my Irish Famine orphan, Bridget Donovan lived with her husband George Merritt. They owned a store in nearby Avisford and were contemporaries of Henry Lawson’s parents and grandparents, who also provided some of the material and inspiration for his stories. So, knowing this connection has given me both a deeper appreciation of Henry Lawson’s stories, and has also added to Bridget’s backstory.

Reading Henry Lawon’s bio, I also found out that The Bulletin sent him out to Bourke in 1893 to collect stories and send them back. Here was another interesting coincidence.  You see, I’ve grown up with my mother telling me this story of how she had tickets to see Peter, Paul & Mary but was forced to go out to Bourke with her parents instead to see her Great Uncle Herb Bruhn who was a watchmaker out there and also had something to do with musical productions. I don’t know if the whole family went out there but I’ve heard stories of all four kids squashed into the back of the FJ Holden and this is what you would call legitimate suffering…especially in the Australian heat. Mum was studying music and piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and she performed while she was in Bourke at a fundraiser for the Miss Australia Quest. There’s so much to that trip that there has to be a couple of stories in it.

Anyway, I ended up looking Uncle Herb in the old newspapers online, and struck absolute gold. Turns out that Uncle Herb was anything but idle while out in Bourke. Indeed, he was involved with establishing the Bourke Music and Dramatic Society and they put on Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carmen  and Cleopatra. It seems that while Uncle Herb might’ve been living in a small town, that he was a man with grand visions. These old newspapers have yielded multiple poems he’s written, columns of advice about how to sing and improve your voice. He wasn’t from Bourke, and yet he became so passionate about the place. I found one article where he was talking about the risk of distant Dubbo bleeding Burke dry and needing to fight to preserve the town. I see so much of myself in him, and only wish I’d known all of this when I was younger. Perhaps, my life might’ve taken a different course. Or, do I still have time? Almost 50, is it too late to return to the stage? There wasn’t much to come back to, although I’ve done numerous poetry readings.

Gidgee Guest House Bourke

For Sale. This is what $480.00 buys you in Bourke. This is my dream home. 13 bedrooms. OMG. No more decluttering required.

By the way, Geoff did a Google search to check out real estate prices in Bourke and we’ve found our ideal home. It’s just such a pity it’s so far away and I can’t help wishing to transport it here brick rick. It used to be the Commonwealth Bank in Bourke and even has a safe but what I love about it is having 13 bedrooms and all that space. Golly. I could actually practice my violin without my bow banging into something.

On the home front, on Saturday our daughter performed in the Dance Team production with her dance school. The production started out with Flick a 45 minute drama written by Daniel Russell. The plot revolved around the teenager losing her 7 year old little sister while her parents are at work. Instead of ringing her parents or the Police, she (gulp) contacts her friends. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my seat thinking the sister’s been abducted and they have 48 hours to find her. You need to hurry up and press the panic button. So, the play gains much of it’s terror and suspense through what doesn’t happen and how that grates against the audience’s knowledge of what should be happening. Little sister eventually turns up and she’s been sitting on the roof of the house watching the moon as though it’s the most natural thing to do and isn’t dangerous. I found this drama more terrifying and scary than a Stephen King horror film. The drama was followed by two choreographed dances choreographed and directed by Karina Russell. I’m new to this contemporary dance business, but to my musical mind, it was like an orchestral piece where the dancers were moving like an integral whole with some spotlights flashed here and there but they truly were team performances. I would really like to see the whole concert again so I could enjoy each performance as a whole instead of focusing so much on trying to find my daughter and watch her dance. I always watch anything she’s in with my eyes zoomed in on her and I know other parents are the same and we tend to miss the big picture. Tribe, which was choreographed and Directed by Karina Russell, was set in Ireland around 9 AD during the Viking era. Tribe “sees the repercussions of a group of young Celt women left to fend for themselves and their land while the men of their tribe are at sea.” Meanwhile Red Thread was inspired by the Ancient Chinese Proverb: “an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.” These were incredible performances which I would like to see again and again to really appreciate the very depths of what was being expressed. It was very moving and clever and the sort of choreography you’d expect to see at the Sydney Dance Company. Well, it seemed that way to me.

In terms of blogging this week, my research into Henry Lawson inspired this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Not the Boss’s Wife.  Then, we visited Stanley, Tasmania – Thursday Doors.

By the way, since I missed last weekend’s Coffee Share, I thought I’d also let you know that our daughter has just got her very first pair of pointe shoes. It was so exciting, as it’s one of those right of passage experiences and time to crack the metaphorical champagne. You can read more about it or just check out the photos: HERE

So, what have you been up to? I should’ve asked you that at the start and offered you a cuppa and a cupcake, but as I’ve said before, I’m a lousy host.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena