Tag Archives: music

INXS Is “History”!

Today, while Miss 11 and I were out driving in the car, the great INXS classic: Devil Inside came on the radio and almost immediately my mood accelerated. It was 1988 all over again and I was basking in my first year of freedom at Sydney University. Yet, as much as I can be the penultimate in embarrassing mothers, I wasn’t singing, dancing or worst of all throwing my undies out the car window in honour of the late great Michael Hutchence. No. I had both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road and not a hair out of place to betray the devil inside me.

devon

Devon- a manufactured meat product sold in Australia and NZ.

That’s when my daughter started talking about how this song reminded her of a kid who was dead inside (I think this was her interpretation of being boring), and asked me to clarify the words of the song. Was it “dead inside” or “devon inside”? She also added that they could improve their diction. I had to chuckle at the thought of the late, great Michael Hutchence having devon inside. Although, in the land of young kids and school sangers, of course, devon inside makes perfect sense. Indeed, you might even have devon and a splash of tomato sauce inside two buttered slices of bread.

That’s when I asked Miss 11 if she’d heard of Michael Hutchence? Sadly, that just resulted in a blank stare and then she asked me if I’d heard of Josh Hutcherson who played the leading role of Peeta Mellark in  The Hunger GamesSadly, I had not. So, we were even. Nil all.

After that, my husband and I decided that the kids needed to get an education and we conjured “Devil Inside” up onto our TV, bringing 1988 back to life. While we were very excited and really looking forward to sharing something special to us with them, for the kids, it was a lesson in ancient history in the same way my own grandfather used to talk about his father and grandfather making wheels for carts in the old smithy. Moreover, while to us,  the music sounded contemporary enough, showing the kids the film clips put the nail in the coffin. Indeed, even I found them dated.

We love the Beatles.jpg

 

I guess I can take comfort in the knowledge that I am at least a step ahead of my parents. They each went to see The Beatles on their 1966 Australian tour. My mother also tells a story about how she had tickets to go and see Peter, Paul and Mary but her parents forced her to go on a family holiday to visit her Great Uncle out in Burke in far Western NSW. Mum, Dad and four “adult children” squeezed into the FJ Holden without air-conditioning or a radio. Mum played the piano in some kind of concert while she was out there. A promising pianist at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music visiting the outback was a big deal back then. Not the Queen perhaps, but perhaps an alternative to the pub.

When I was studying history back at school and university, we didn’t really look at the music people listened to as a way of interpreting the times. Of course, there were newspapers, novels and art. Yet, at least as far as I can recall, not much of an emphasis on music. Yet, for those of us who’ve lived through the times, music is such a part of it. It’s always there in the foreground, the background or stuck inside our heads even when we wish it would stop. Couples have their song and when an old song comes on, it’s like jumping straight into a time machine. I’m there.

In addition to sharing these songs with our kids as a part of us, I also want them to know their own culture, and their own cultural history. I want them to read some of our great books. Listen to our songs. Not only see a kookaburra sitting on a gum tree, but also know the song (even if it’s no longer cool to sing along now they’re teens).

Tuckerbox family cropped

The family standing in front of the Dog on the Tuckerbox (back right hand side), Gundagai, NSW, Australia.

Last January, when we were driving down to Melbourne to catch the ferry over to Tasmania, we drove through the famous country town of Gundagai. This town is not only famous for its statue: “The dog sits on the Tuckerbox”, but also the song: Along the Road to Gundagai, where the chorus goes:

There’s a track winding back to an o-old fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai
Where the blue gums are growin’ and the Murrumbidgee’s flowin’
Beneath the sunny sky
There my mother and daddy are waitin’ for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I shall see
Then no more will I roam when I’m headin’ straight for home
Along the road to Gundagai 

Well, the kids almost murdered me as I kept singing the song as we approached Gundagai. I just wanted them to know their own culture, but there was no respect. None whatsoever, just a combined cringe.

Crocodile_Dundee

Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee.

Sometimes, I feel that bringing my kids up with an Australian culture and influence, is like migrants trying to bring their kids up with a knowledge of the old country. That my own Australian culture feels just as foreign here due to the omnipresent American influence. Moreover, with the Internet now part of our homes, our kids are becoming Americanized in a much more intimate and personal way. One afternoon, I heard my son chatting over the Internet to a young kid from the American deep South. This was interesting and novel in a way and something I could never have done as a child. However, it wasn’t long and our son was speaking American around the house and I wanted it to stop. The same with our daughter. We have tomato sauce, not “ketchup”. We have cupboards/wardrobes not “closets”. We have biscuits, although we also have cookies but they’re an American style biscuit not your standard tea-dunking thing. We are our own people, our own place.

It’s not always easy to know what it means to be Australian. We are a multi-cultural society and any discussion of being Australian also includes Aboriginal Australia. For me, at least, it’s not just about white Australia or male/female Australia but a diverse mix which, despite all it’s diversity, is still it’s own nation with it’s own culture. Moreover, while our population is small, we don’t need to stop being who we are and become someone else to survive or make a go of it. We are beautiful just the way we are. I might not know what that it is, but I sure know what it isn’t!

Perhaps, I need to go and think of a way of rewriting Waltzing Matilda for the modern day and I’d better not ask INXS to perform it.

How are you conquering the cultural divide with your kids? Do you think its important for countries to maintain their own cultures? Or, should be all just merge into a global monoculture? As individuals, do we have a say? 

xx Rowena

The Prodigal Violinist.

Last Sunday, I performed Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring at “MY violin concert”.

Before you start asking me for the details of my national tour, or how to order copies of Ms+e shar them in the comments. CD, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should confess that it wasn’t actually MY violin concert after all. Rather, I was performing at: “Music in the Orchard”, put on my the music school where I learn the violin. I know that’s just a minor distinction. A question of being in the fine print, instead of having my name up in lights, but a point needing clarification.

Anyway, as it turned out. I deserved to have my name my name up in lights,and that’s just for turning up. Ironically, playing my violin turned out to be the easy part.

You see, our household has a thieving poltergeist, and last Sunday morning it gave its best performance yet.

The nightmare started when my glasses went missing. Indeed, it hid my glasses  so well, that it took three people to find them. Every night, I put my glasses on top of the pile of books beside my bed. However, it’s not uncommon for me to send them flying during the night, but they usually land in the same old, predictable places i.e. down beside the bed or under the side table. However, this time they travelled further afield and had actually dived into my shoes. In an embarrassing moment of capitulation, I had to call my husband home from Church to find them.

The poltergeists next target was my daughter’s tap shoes. As no day is sacred in our end of year schedule and we’re double and triple booking and splitting the kids and ourselves up between us, my daughter had dance photos on the same day as my violin concert. While I’d really been looking forward to her hearing me play and being a part of my special day, I dropped her off at the dance studio as I headed up the hill. By this stage I was running late for my concert, but I figured that I wouldn’t be the opening act and would be well down the pecking order towards the end.

No such luck!

No sooner had I got there, and I was tuning up and praying to whoever it is who takes pity on mothers trying to pull off a performance while supporting their children and is lucky to be dressed at all, let alone made up. And, as for getting those fingers, strings and bow to cooperate, it was, going to take desperate prayer and serious pity. A case of the prodigal violinist… “I know you haven’t practiced enough, but I’ll help you play those strings and together we will make sweet music.”

As it turned out, I did have a guardian angel and that was my teacher, who was not just playing a duet alongside me. She was my accompaniest and a good accompaniest enhances the performer and compensates for their mistakes to make them look better. I knw she had my back, which gave me the confidence to get up on stage at all when I was only just adequately prepared.

So, let’s fast forward to my actual performance. I was playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It is a fairly difficult piece, but it starts out relatively easy and gets more difficult as you go along. I usually managed it through the first page alright but struggle with the rest. Indeed, we had been looking at cutting out the middle section, but I really liked it and found it very dramatic so I bumped up the practice and went into prove it mode.

However, after all the stress of actually just getting to the venue and trying to find my bearings, I started stumling right from the start and my fingers weren’t getting into gear. There was part of me which was starting to feel my performance was doomed. That if I couldn’t even get the start right, I was really going to botch up the other bits. It was that same kind of dread which overtakes your stomach when you’re on a rollercoaster  and your peering straight down over the edge of the very earth. You are going to die! Yet, at the same time, there was also that awareness that the show had to go on. That I couldn’t give up. I just had to make it to the end.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

After stumbling at the start, I actually nailed the rest of the piece and it really did sound sensational as a duet.

I have a very patient and encourging teacher! A veritable angel!

Do you have any performance stories you’d like to share? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Ed Sheeran & the Jackpot.

Despite my meek and mild exterior, you would’ve been mighty suspicious if you’d followed my car last Thursday. Indeed, even you, would’ve called the Police, the Terrorism Hotline, or just the usual number for “Suspicious Weirdos Hanging Out in Carparks”. In scenes reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, surely Mummy couldn’t be a spy?

Of course not! As usual, reality doesn’t live up to the hype. That’s probably a good thing, even if it doesn’t make for a great story.

That said, I was a woman on two missions.

As for Mission 2, I’ve already explained that I was picking up puppies. Yes, that strange plastic contraption you thought was an alien spaceship, was a pet carrier.

As for Mission One, that was purely about “the cash”.

For the last eternity, our local radio station has been holding a $20,000 Ed Sheeran Cash Giveaway. You just had to work out what Ed Sheeran would make for breakfast, AND get through to the station. With Google to the rescue, the first part seemed easy. However, getting through was the hard part. Of course, every listener, along with their dog and cat, was feverishly trying, and the radio station was only taking two calls a day. Fueling the frustration, there were many repeated guesses and wasted opportunities…Drats!

A bystander on my daily Mum Runs, the competition had been going on around me. Then, I started to wonder why it hadn’t gone off. Ed Sheeran might be a rock star, but surely no breakfast is too much for Google?

I picked myself up and got to work. I could do this. I had just as much chance as anyone else, and plenty of motivation… a $20,000 pot of gold parked at the end of the rainbow. That was definitely worth waking up for!

So, I took a deep breath. Tried to think like Ed Sheerin, and consulted Google.

Humph! I read all about Ed Sheerin pairing up with Jamie Oliver and promoting healthy eating. I found a lot of annoying references to his music. Geez. Who cares about all of that? I just wanted to know what he makes for breakfast.

Meanwhile, the radio station posted a list of past guesses.

By this stage, I was hooked, but Google wasn’t cooperating. Nothing was coming up.

So, I entered a more direct question: “What does Ed Sheerin make for breakfast?”

Finally, Google delivered. In fact, the answer was so glaringly obvious, I wondered why it hadn’t been guessed before.

Ed Sheerin eats Sheerios. His face was even on the box. Indeed, even his fans are called “Sheerios”.

This had to be it. That $20,000 was mine.

Now, I just had to get through. Time it exactly right and be THE CALLER!!

Not so easy. Of course, the segment came up somewhere in the middle of the busy after school run, and I couldn’t just sit by the radio and wait. Rather, I had to pick my daughter up from the station. She always needs something. Is hungry. Needs eyeliner, foundation or lipstick. More clothes. Going straight home, is never an option…even when SHE needs to be somewhere. I also had to fill a script. A script I couldn’t do without. Ouch. the pressure was killing me. I was so wound up. Why couldn’t life wait? Go away? Didn’t it know, I could be $20,000 richer and fly to paradise?

Phew! We made it back to the car in time and I drove home as fast as I could, while getting caught up in the usual traffic. I had to win. I was running backwards and forwards in my head, struggling to remember quite when the segment went off. Was it before or after the news? Should I ring towards the end of this song? Or the next? The timing was critical. I thought if I could just channel my thoughts hard enough, that we’d get through. I even prayed.

Of course, all missions of any worth, are besieged by obstacles and challenges. In this case, we don’t have a radio in the house. So, once we were home, my daughter was out in the car listening, while I was inside… both on continuous redial. Much to our surprise, the phone actually rang twice, then rang out. Hopes up, hopes down. Engaged signals persisting.

Through all this madness, I remembered calling up the radio station “back in the day”, with the home phone at full extension in my bedroom. Back then, the phone was primitive with a rotary dial, no redial and your fingers really got a workout. However, my wins included Sting’s Island of the Blue Turtles. For awhile there, it was like I had a direct line. I always got through.

No such luck with Ed Sheerin.

That’s what Calvin Coolidge forgot to say. That in many situations, you’re not the only one with persistence, and the battle’s intense. Indeed, in this instance, I’m surprised the switchboard didn’t blow up.

phone rotary dial

Actually, I’m getting pretty suss about that switchboard. Indeed, I don’t think they have a switchboard at all. Rather, they must have an old-fasioned, beige rotary dial sitting there like the bat phone? Something so low-tech, it’s underwhelming. Otherwise, why are they always engaged? Moreover, why don’t they put us on hold, listening to the radio?!!

Obviously, I’ve done a lot of plotting and planning trying to win this thing, but unfortunately, it all came to nothing. Someone else got through with another incorrect guess…”Welsh Rarebit”.

Ooh! The frustration! By now, even the radio station was getting desperate. There were promises of another clue in the morning. Promises that it’s going to go off. However, it was all too hard. I hung up my hat and poured myself a bowl of Sheerios.

Later that day, I heard they’d had a winner. A winner who’d got it wrong.

How could Ed Sheerin sell out on all his loyal Sheerios, and make Cumberland Sausages for breakfast?!!

I don’t know, but trust me! I’ll be having words with Ed Sheeran!

I might even write him a song.

By the way, in case you haven’t seen it before, here’s a clip of when the radio station came to my house:

Rabbit & Julie visit Rowena & Family

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

 

I Never Liked WHAM! but…

Rewinding back to 1984, I was 14 going on 15 in Year 9 at school. I never liked WHAM! and definitely NEVER bought an album or single and especially NEVER wore a WHAM! T-Shirt. Indeed, it never crossed my mind. How embarrassing!

Yet, although I was anything but a George Michael’s fan, I still felt a deep shock when I heard the news…even sadness.

Why was it so? Why did I even care? I didn’t know the man. Wasn’t a fan.

Do I have some weird fatal attraction towards dead celebs?

I don’t think so. Indeed, I don’t even watch the news much anymore.

However, what with the Christmas break and Sydney experiencing heat wave conditions, I’ve been hibernating in front of the TV a bit while writing. I also call this recuperating from the stress of Christmas past and a busy year.

This naturally meant that I not only heard that George Michael had passed away, but much of the media follow-up and it drew me into its orbit.

Well, I was genuinely sorry to hear that the man had died at 53. Not because he was George Michael, but because he was human. Had hopes and dreams and they were cut short. Moreover, when you’re talking about someone with such immense musical talent and influence, even I think about what might have been. After all, we’ve all moved forward since WHAM! and 1984.

Or, have we?

Although my memories are rather hazy, George Michael’s death took me straight back to 1984. It was like I’d just boarded a time machine and was back in my old school uniform, wearing my old (or should I say young) skin. We were all writing notes in class and I’m not talking about class notes. There were much more important things to discuss. I clearly remember two of my fans were crazed, obsessive WHAM! fans. One adored George and the other one was equally “in love” with Andy. These friends were joined at the hip just like Kath & Kim. They were so into WHAM! that it was almost fused into their DNA.  They had WHAM! on everything. I love WHAM! scrawled all over their pencil cases, folders and their cassettes playing in their Walkmen. You get the drift. WHAM! had become a disease…not terminal but still a disease.

Yet, over the years, somehow WHAM! songs have crept into my psyche  and I’ve even found myself singing along to the car radio. Shock horror! I even knew all the words. Not that I’ve ever been a fan, but WHAM! was like that. It somehow became a part of me without my knowledge, awareness or consent.

How do these things happen?

Then, George Michael died this week. I didn’t even know the man. Yet, there’s media coverage everywhere and you don’t even need to go looking for grief, fuel for grief and stories to change your impressions of the man. They’re knocking on every door you’ve got. Indeed, I found out about his incredible anonymous acts of generosity and how he didn’t come out for some time, because he didn’t want his mum to worry about the horrors of AIDS. Sure, there were less noble moments, but I began to feel humbled, apologetic and even a tad ashamed. We judge celebrities on the scantiest of information, if you could even call it that, and are so damn sure of our opinions. I didn’t think twice.

Indeed, it reminds me of an Elton song: Candle in the Wind.

Yes, we didn’t know George Michael either.

So, George I’m sorry.

Meanwhile, I’m firing my time machine back up again. This time, we’re off to 1977 when my uncle took my brother and I to see Star Wars. Star Wars at the movies. That was when we first met R2D2, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Not that I went crazy over it, but I still remember going to that movie and that my uncle took me. I was 8 years old. That was so many lifetimes and goodness knows how many versions ago and I’m now taking my kids to see it.

However, that wasn’t why I was sad when Carrie Fisher passed away.

Again, it was because she was human and no mother should ever have to bury their own child and tragically, Debbie Reynolds didn’t. She had a stroke planning her daughter’s funeral, overwhelmed by grief. They might have know fame and been Hollywood royalty but they were mother and daughter first…family.

Playing the Bagpipe Flamingo.

While a lovely group of local bagpipers used to visit my late Mother-in-Law every Christmas Eve, my husband took up playing the flamingo last night.

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An unconventional playing position???

Turns out that my parents didn’t have a pump to inflate my Christmas pool toy…this stunning, inimitable pink flamingo.

So, we passed the flamingo round the family, taking turns.

Yet, my husband truly played the flamingo like a professional!

Shame he couldn’t get a note…I think!

Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

school-spec-amelia

Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

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I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena