Category Archives: Violin

Leonardo Di Vinci

Last night, I wasn’t looking for personal inspiration. It was more a case of getting my son to do his history assignment on a medieval/Renaissance leader.If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, you’ll remember your own parents railroading you unless you were some kind of glowing Marcia Brady.

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know I’m crazy about history and won’t be surprised that I had more than a passing interest in my son’s assignment and might have some useful resources.

No doubt, that’s why he chose to research Kublai Khan. I had  fantastic, illustrated books on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. So, they were too easy. We’ve even been to a superlatively inspirational exhibition in Sydney where they’d built interactive models of Da Vinci’s inventions and you could operate them yourself. Yet, Da Vinci was off his radar and I couldn’t help feeling like he’d plucked Kublai Khan out of a hat!

So, I made a brief but futile attempt to change his mind and retrieved my beautifully illustrated and well-researched book on Leonardo down from the shelf…Ritchie Calder’s: Leonardo & The Age of the Eye. A book, which despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read!

Of course, I know I should’ve read it myself and that it’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years making me look smart without actually taking it in…pretty stupid. Yet, aren’t most bookshelves also packed with good intentions????

Anyway, in a serendipitous moment, I opened the book at this paragraph, which really resonated with me:

“Leonardo was the observer with the naked eye and the naked ear. He also had, and never lost, his childlike curiosity which, however much we may specialize in the more-and-more-about-less-and-less, is the essential nature of science. His was not the structured life of the child who having revealed an aptitude for what is scholastically called “science” at some immature age is told that he should be a physicist, chemist or a biologist, and from then on  is academically escorted through the science stream, the science faculty, and the post-graduate course into the learned societies. He learned where he went and where the interests took him.” (pg 261).

While I’m not going to re-write the entire book (especially when I haven’t read it!!), I found this a few paragraphs down, which gives an insight into the breadth of Da Vinci’s “education” and training:

“His science began as a painter. He was lucky to be apprenticed to Verrocchio at a time when perspective had become a preoccupation with artists…among the master’s cronies the subject of perspective was not just a matter of working practice; it was a matter of winebibbing  debate, as well as quasi-mystical dissertations on spatiality. In a way it was putting them, the artists, on speaking terms with the intellectuals around the Medici Garden…

Probably the most powerful, formative influence on Leonardo was Toscanelli, physician, astronomer and natural philosopher. The tracker of the comet, the cartographer and mentor of Columbus kept open house for the likes of Leonardo, whom he encouraged in the systematic study of mathematics, and introduced to astronomy.” pg 261.

Thus, Da Vinci was nurtured in a very rich, yet broad and multi-disciplinary environment, and not simply pushed down one path to become the “performing genius” if you get my drift. While the benefits of a broad educational base bare obvious to some, there’s so much pressure to become that expert. That person who knows that topic in painstakingly intimate detail, even if that means losing site of the bigger picture entirely. Even if it means being unable to tie up your own shoe laces or bake a cake. Indeed, too many experts have travelled so far down their own drainpipe without networking with even slightly-divergent colleagues, and there has to be a price for that. Few of us would even dream of having Da Vinci’s genius. Yet, it was built on curiosity and a broad brush stroke, NOT knowing everything within a very narrow sphere too well.

By diversifying ourselves, we too could reap the benefits…especially as creatives.

I practice what I preach. While writing, photography and research are my mainstays, I also learn the violin and have been doing contemporary/ballet classes for the last six months, which have really intensified my vision.

Not that I’ve become Da Vinci, but at least I’m working on it!

xx Rowena

 

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

The Poet Muse…a mostly magnetic poem.

Gorgeous Goddess

sleeping,

delirious in a chocolate forest.

Mother moon whispers

sweet symphonies.

 

Your hair is a rose garden

and I swim in your beauty.

Who are you?

What is your song?

 

I hear your music

Yet, can not dance.

Awestruck,

An inner silence

fills my heart.

 

Intoxicated,

I stare at you

as still as a pond,

though my heart beats

faster than time’s

tick-tock clock accelerating

fast beyond my dreams.

 

I feel such love.

Yet, have no words.

Only rusty strings,

an imperfect bow

and half-forgotten notes.

 

So, I’ll let you sleep,

and you’ll remain a dream.

Nothing compares with make believe.

Rowena Curtin  23rd November, 2016.

Silent Strings…Friday Fictioneers.

The ecstasy was intense. She knew exactly how to play his strings and  the notes wafted out their bedroom window, mingling with the moonlight. A fusion of souls, together they painted stars across the universe…pure magic.

But then his eyes opened.

She was gone but his arms were wrapped around her cello’s wooden curves…a grief on the brink of madness.

He shoved the imposter back in the corner… a ghostly statue he would no longer embrace, but couldn’t throw away.

How could she be gone, now when he needed her most?

Yet, there was no reply.

Only silence.

………………………………………………………..

This has been part of Friday Fictioneers

xx Rowena

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg

Paralympics Weekend Coffee Share.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee  Share!

This weekend, I won’t be asking you to join me on the couch watching the Paralympics because I have a nasty cough and my son and I are staging our very own coughfest. Indeed, last night my cough suddenly deteriorated and I was relieved to have antibiotics on hand to fight it off immediately. I’m not back on deck yet but have perked up.

 

Being a person living with chronic health and disability issues, the Paralympics have a personal resonance for me. It’s encouraging to see other disabled people overcome their own hurdles to become athletes. I have experienced this myself in my own small way when I’ve taken on skiing, playing the violin and more recently ballet and have been amazed at how much I could do. Sure, I’m not flash but I’m getting out there and having a go. Moreover, I’ve achieved so much more than I ever thought possible. This is no doubt because I sell myself short and think I can’t do something. Moreover, I need to keep an open mind, remembering that just because I can’t do one thing, it doesn’t mean I can’t do something else or I could possibly be able to do something a different way. You could say that this involves applying my creativity and that creativity can also be about problem solving.

My big news this week, is that Beyond the Flow finally reached 50,000 views. I’ve absolutely stoked and have posted a photographic retrospective here.

Meanwhile, we went on a history cruise along the Hawkesbury River to celebrate Father’s Day last weekend. If you’d like to experience a taste of touring along this soothing river, you can click here 

The cruise took us under the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and we heard about the demise of the original bridge, which only lasted 60 years. All that remains of this original bridge is a row of stately sandstone pylons…a testimony to engineering error.

After the cruise, we headed up to my parents’ place for afternoon tea and dinner.

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Wednesday night, we attended my daughter’s school musical and absolutely loved it. While she loves the performing arts and has had a few performances this year, the school school was part of this and every class put on their own act. I really like this kind of inclusive performance and strongly believe that singing, dancing and any form of musical of expressive dance, are for everyone. My daughter’s class represented the 80’s dancing to Footloose.

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Make-up is now becoming an essential part of these performance for our daughter. Mum barely wears lipstick and yet she had very tastefully brushed on eye  shadow in rainbow colours and it looks like the soft feathers of a bird. She did a great job and helped the other girls with their makeup. This seems to be quite important to her and a means of self-expression and being creative. One of the young assistants at our local pharmacy was very helpful, which I greatly appreciated. She is learning to apply it tastefully without looking like a clown, which has to be a bonus!

In addition to watching the Paralympics today, we also watched Ghostbusters I & II. That was such a trip down memory lane remembering video nights back in the day and running around your friends asking: “Who you going to call? Ghostbusters!” (with an Australian accent, of course!)

On that note, I’m heading back to bed. I’m napping a fair bit at the moment and it’s now very late.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the Linkup Linky.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 27th August, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share, brought to you this week from the Sydney Opera House, where our daughter played her violin this week. 10 year old Miss, performed at the  Festival of Instrumental Music with her school. This is such a great opportunity opening up this world-class architectural and performance icon to kids..a experience they’ll never forget.

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Sydney Opera House

Take it from me, it’s a lot harder to perform there as an adult. No one’s been banging on my door, offering performance opportunities. Of course, I have to be an absolute maestro to perform at the Opera House. That said, I did consider trying to sneak in with my daughter. The only trouble is that I’m so tall, I’d immediately be evicted and sent to violinists’ prison.

What goes without saying with all these performances and kids’ activities in general is that Mum or Dad are automatic taxi drivers. As much as we might rate a “thanks very much to Mum’s and Dad’s at the end, the kids themselves usually don’t seem to appreciate our “supreme sacrifice”. You can read here  about how we got to the Sydney Opera House.

However, I was very touched by an interview with one of the performers at the concert.  When a pint-sized student from Currabubula Public School near Tamworth, was asked how he got to the Opera House, he simply replied: “by my Mum.” While the interviewer was angling to find out more about his mode of transport and create a bit of a story of the country kid travelling to the big smoke, for this young man there was only one way to get to Sydney…his Mum and the car was incidental. His Mum drove him five hours, so he could play his recorder at the Sydney Opera House. No doubt, they talked and chatted along the way and there could well have been “electronic relief”. Yet, they made that journey to the Sydney Opera House together…a trip they’d never forget.

I could’ve hugged this young man. While he wasn’t acknowledging me personally, I felt he acknowledged every parent in the room.

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By the way, I should also mention that I had a novel experience getting to the Opera House myself. I usually request an accessible seat, especially in a large overwhelming venue and the Sydney Opera House is as famous for its stairs as the white sails. So, when the only accessible seat was a wheelchair seat and the Opera House could lend me a chair, I gave it a go. It was the first time that I’ve gone out to a public venue in a chair. It totally exceeded my expectations and the staff were incredibly courteous and helpful. I received five star VIP treatment and you can read about it here.

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Geoff and Miss at Starbucks, Circular Quay, near Sydney Opera House.

What with all the excitement of the performance, I almost forgot to share that I went to Starbucks for the first time. Our daughter adores Starbucks, which totally baffles me because I much prefer local cafes and there were some truly amazing dessert sensations at cafes all around Circular Quay and the standard is incredibly high. To me, the cakes at Starbucks were more like milk bar fare and our carrot cake was stale. We sent it back and changed it for a caramel swirl cheesecake which was marginally better than average and we stopped off at the Guylian Chocolate cafe and bought something special to take home. I’ve warned my daughter we will NOT be returning to Starbucks!

By the way, Starbucks hasn’t done well in Australia. You might like to read this article written in 2008 about it’s demise.

After the excitement of the Sydney Opera House, I spent much of the week resting and reading. I’ve started reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This is the first book in her autobiographical series and it’s a real eye-opener for me as a white Australian. Of course, I know racism exists but it’s quite another thing to read about how it acts out in such personal details and what the KKK lynchings meant to these families. Of course, I knew these things happened from a historical perspective but it’s quite another thing to be drawn into that world and know what it meant. That these were husbands, fathers, sons and like the road toll which loses much of it’s true impact, each person who’s life was stolen away was a travesty. I am grateful that Maya Angelou has taken me into this world and expanded my understanding without being bitter or turning to inverse racism. She is not well known in Australia and we’ve really been missing out.

Ballet Get-Your-Leg-Extension-Intro

Thursday night, I had my adult ballet class. This was week 3 and just like a Lego bricks, the steps are building up. Not quite as up in the air as in the picture, but give it time. I still haven’t pulled off a pirouette but I’m getting closer. A swag of new French terms is also slowly infiltrating my consciousness. Even though I studied French at school, many of these terms fly over my head like birds and disappear out the window. Thanks to Google, I’ve been trawling through a ballet dictionary to help them sink in and have also been interrogating my daughter, who holds our family pirouette record of 4 pirouettes in stockings on a vinyl floor.

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Main Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House.

Before I head off for another week, I want to congratulate our son for enjoying his sister’s violin concert at the Sydney Opera House. He often ends up being audience at her various performances and attends without complaint, falling asleep and I feel it’s important to acknowledge the importance of audience, without which we wouldn’t be needing performers. He’s also been home sick a few days this week but seems to be on the mend.

How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

Sorry, I almost forgot to let you know about Poets for Peace which is calling for contributions. Deadline is August 31st, 2016 and I encourage you to take part. Here’s a brief blurb:

“In response to the recent unceasing, and, in fact escalating global violence, we have seen and felt a corresponding surge in poetry about it.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your thoughts and feelings, a piece of yourself, to add to other Poets from around the world. We are hopeful that the combined weight of our collective spirit and wisdom will be felt worldwide as well.

The only restriction is that absolutely no hate is expressed other than the hate of violence. Any and all words will be appended to the running poem. This is not about ego, so you retain the rights to your creation, we are only interested in doing what we can to stop the violence.

Please share your poetry and your platform to spread the word for Poets everywhere to unite in this effort we are calling, “Poets for Peace.”Hashtag #PoetsForPeace

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the Linky   to read the other posts.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wheely Good Night at the Sydney Opera House.

On Monday night, I not only watched our daughter perform at the Sydney Opera House, it was the first time I’ve gone out as a disabled person in a wheelchair and I can’t tell you how encouraged I feel by the experience. It truly opened doors for me, making it so much easier to relax, have a great night out and do what I was there for. That is, to hear my daughter play her violin without any unexpected medical nightmares… even if I couldn’t see her!

As a person with limited mobility, if all goes well, I can get around okay and usually use a walking stick in unfamiliar and crowded environments. I have what’s known as “an invisibility”, meaning that most of the time, you can’t see anything’s going on. However, these symptoms fluctuate dramatically so it can be hard to predict how I’ll be at a given point in time. Indeed, I was simply walking on grass when I broke my foot. Knowing that “being the hero” can have serious consequences, I’m understandably cautious about participating in seemingly everyday activities…such as getting to the Sydney Opera House. As such, I often end up staying home.

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However, there was no way I was going to miss our daughter playing her violin at the Sydney Opera House. No way on this earth!

However, if you have ever marvelled at the Sydney Opera House, you’ll note those stunning white sails are perched on top of a huge mountain of stairs. Of course, architecturally speaking, the effect is very dramatic.They’re also a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen intense portraits of lone performers sitting on those stairs with that same sense of abandonment you’d recall from Princess Diana’s portrait taken at the Taj Mahal.

As striking as these stairs might be, for anyone with mobility, health issues, or even a lack of fitness, those stairs are insurmountable. Although I can walk, I’d need an oxygen tank, not to mention a Sherpa, to help me get to the top. Even if I did miraculously make it to the summit, I’d be off in an ambulance and straight to the ER.

Opera House Steps

The Stairs…the dark side of getting to the Sydney opera House. A selfie on a good day.

Yet, while I’m prone to catastrophising, I knew I didn’t have to get up those stairs. That’s because public venues must have disabled access…even if it can be difficult to locate. When I attended School Spectacular at the Sydney Entertainment Centre last year, I was told to take the stairs, even though I was standing there with my walking stick. This particular person seemingly thought I could sprout a pair of wings and magically fly to my seat. Naturally, this meant that instead of having a good experience, I found myself defending accessibility rights when I wasn’t there as an activist. I was there to watch my daughter perform. Thankfully, someone else was more helpful.

After that, it’s hardly surprising that I want to sing my praises of Sydney Opera House staff right across the rooftops when everything went so well. We had VIP treatment all the way, and even the road lit up to greet us. What more could I ask?

I didn’t think about all of this when I booked myself in for a wheelchair seat. I always need an aisle seat and easy access in and out but get by with my walking stick and an accessible seat. However, these had sold out. The box office suggested this wheelchair spot, saying the Opera House could provide a wheelchair. I wasn’t entirely comfortable that I warranted a wheelchair. While I know people who use wheelchairs and can walk and how it enables them to do more, I’d never tried it out before. If I wasn’t doing well, I stayed home.

So, our trip to the Opera House, would also give us the opportunity to test out how a wheelchair went in public situations without having to BYO.

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Driving in to park at the Sydney Opera House

Our experience began with booking an accessible parking spot at the Opera House. It wasn’t free but it meant we could park right out the front with very little walking required. What it also meant was that we received the VIP treatment. We drove along Macquarie Street to the security gate, where the road was blocked off by a row of very sturdy metal bollards. As you could imagine, security is very tight. No more of this “G’day mate, it’s Fred” business. We had to show my disabled parking permit and my receipt to get through the gate. Then, like magic, the bollards electronically sunk into the ground and a row of recessed lights turned on. This was our road to the Opera House. By now, I was in my virtual limo pulling out the royal wave. It’s about time somebody treated mobility challenged people as VIPs, instead of outcasts!

After detouring for dinner, we returned to pick up the wheelchair and begin the journey to find our seats. The performance was in the Main Concert Hall and side-wheeling a gazillion stairs, we were personally escorted by staff along corridors, though multiple lifts via the bathroom. Once we’d finally reached our seats, we were greeted by a staff member asking: “You’re Rowena?”

Every single member of staff was courteous, friendly and respectful. I can’t tell you how that made me feel. It’s warmed my heart right to the core…a night we will never forget. Not just because our daughter was playing her violin at the Sydney Opera House, but because we were given the touch of human kindness, acceptance and understanding without it being a chore, something noble or even being “special”.

It just was.

Just like it ought to be!

What more could I ask for?!!

Concert Hall

Well, there was the small matter of needing someone to push my wheelchair. I don’t have the muscle strength to push my own chair. Not unsurprisingly, my husband was the wind beneath my wheels. Geoff’s Mum was in a wheelchair, so he has had experience. This is a good thing because wheelchairs can be notoriously difficult to operate, not unlike recalcitrant shopping trolleys with minds and travel destinations all of their own. Indeed, turning back the clock, Geoff’s mother fell out of the wheelchair when they went round a corner at Brisbane’s Expo88. I think he lost his licence after that and was put on a good behaviour bond!

Anyway, he got his licence back again last night…especially working with a difficult passenger who kept putting her foot on the wheels…not to mention bathroom stops up and down the lifts.

There was just one bit of explaining. We’d met a few other performing families during the day when I was walking round seemingly okay with the stick. Now, I was suddenly in a wheelchair. One lot had only seen us 5 minutes beforehand and thought I’d had an accident. They were all very understanding and had no dramas that I could walk and use a wheelchair all in one day.

Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world could be so understanding? Yet, you could say it was a Eureka Moment finally reaching that understanding myself after living with dermatomyositis for the last 10 years and struggling with the whole concept of using equipment!

I don’t know if there’s some quote about it being easy to change the whole world but more difficult to change yourself. If there isn’t, there should be and that’s where real change begins!

So perhaps you’ll be seeing more of me in wheels. Not because I’m getting worse but because I’m getting better.

Have you ever ventured out in a wheelchair or similar and how did it go? What sort of accessibility problems have you had or moments like mine where it all went well? Please share.

xx Rowena