Tag Archives: music

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Watching Crowded House.

Last Saturday night, Crowded House performed live on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Unfortunately, we missed it, but the concert was televised ABC TV on Sunday night and we were all parked in front of the TV reminiscing with Neil Finn and the band. Indeed, they were playing in our very own lounge room. Weren’t we lucky!!

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Neil Finn

In case you haven’t heard of Crowded House, it’s an Australian rock band. It was formed in 1985 by  New Zealander Neil Finn and Australians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. They were later joined by Neil’s older brother, Tim Finn. Both Neil and Tim Finn hailed from Split Enz.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a band person and there have never been any bands I’ve hero worshipped, longing for their next album. However, there were favourite songs, which I’ll never forget, but you probably need to be 40 something or over to know any of these.That said, I can mention Electric Blue by Icehouse without embarrassing myself.

Anyway, getting back to Crowded House…

I got quite a rush hearing many of the old Crowded House songs again. Not that I could’ve picked them as Crowded House. Yet, the songs were very familiar like running into an old friend. Crowded House was always there.

Actually, I’m quite grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to reconnect with Crowded House now and intend to buy their CD. Well, at least a CD. No doubt, they’ve put out more than one. It will be joining me in the car. I do a lot of driving!

So, having confessed that I’m anything but a Crowded House expert, I’m obviously breaking the most fundamental rule of writing… writing about something I know very little about. While I understand that this could be my undoing given there are  obsessive fans who know each and every hair on their heads.

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Tim & Neil Finn

However, there can also be a different kind of story. More of a getting to know you, dipping my little toe into the waters and sharing the journey kind of story. Moreover, while many people would be interested in pulling their music apart , I found myself watching and absorbing the band as people.There was something intangible about each of them which really touched me.  They all came across as really interesting, warm and genuine people with a very strong sense of something like a cross between empathy and compassion. I’d really like to sit on a beach watching the moon rise listening to these guys talk. Not about the band, being in a band or being a star but to hear their philosophical observations of life. I could sense wisdom, which isn’t a trait I usually attribute to band members but it was there. I know it was there.

So I wasn’t really surprised when I came across these quotes from Neil Finn:

“I try to put myself into unusual and difficult situations as often as I can in order to capture the element of struggle in the music.”

-Neil Finn

“So I think rather than being attracted so much now to working with my heroes, I’m sort of more attracted to working with completely unlikely strangers because it’s more exciting really.”

-Neil Finn

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Tim Finn…you could really tell he was having a blast!

There were also some poignant quotes from his older brother, Tim Finn:

“True contentment comes with empathy.”

Tim Finn

“Weave me a rope that will pull me through these impossible times.”

Tim Finn

“I’m a live performer and I love playing live.”

Tim Finn

Anyway, on that note I’ll leave you with a few songs:

 

Enjoy!

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over.

Do you have a favourite Crowded House song? What is it?
I find it hard to pick out of these three.
xx Rowena
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The End.

Sense-sational Schools Spectacular 2016.

If you are one of those people who experiences creative overdrive when all your senses get stimulated at the very same time, then perhaps you’d better stay away from Schools Spectacular. It’s the largest variety show in the world and included 5,710 performers, which also gives the show its other name: “Schools Specktacular” as most parents require the Hubble telescope or a telescope to spot their kid. You’ve just got to hope you can find them at the end.

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Our daughter heading in to perform.

Anyway as you’re well aware, I see through the lens of my SLR camera. It gives me much better vision than my glasses and not only that. It saves that vision for later and I can watch it again and again and again.

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Photo: Rowena Curtin

However, those “Spectacular Powers That Be” banned so-called “professional” cameras. So, for the first time EVER, my extra long lens worked against me. My poor camera was banished to the boot.

Down but not out, I took over Geoff’s “camera phone”. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I was back to being a mere mortal again. It felt like the photographic equivalent of riding a bicycle in a Formula One race. Although the phone might be good at taking selfies, that’s not what I was there for.

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The Dancers…Rowena Curtin.

However, all wasn’t lost. It turns out Geoff’s camera phone has a curiously abstract perspective, capturing some interesting effects.Well, it wasn’t just his camera phone because there was still a photographer’s eye hard at work. I thought I’d get some interesting effects with the dancing sea of arms and legs. I  just didn’t know  how they’d turn out.

I would also like to recommend reading my previous post about some of the disability access struggles I had at the venue… Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney’s Olympic Park. I didn’t write this for my own benefit. These issues need to be raised for the greater good. Here’s Accessing Schools Spectacular.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share November 27, 2016

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Not quite sure what type of beverage to offer you today. Being Summer over here, a glass of water might hit the spot and you might want to save your hot drinks for cooler climes.

How was your week?

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Miss outside Qudos Bank Arena. “Dream Big”…the theme for School Spec this year.

After celebrating my husband’s 50th Birthday last Sunday, the big event this week has been attending NSW School Spectacular held last night at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena. Our daughter was singing with her school in a huge mass choir with 3,500 students all dressed in matching white skivvies. It’s been a full on week. She had two full days of rehearsals midweek followed by two performances on both Friday and Saturday. So as much as being a part of School Spec is fun, it also takes commitment, hard work and a lot of organisation behind the scenes. Unfortunately, as we forgot to plant a locating beacon  or  take the Hubble telescope, we didn’t actually see our daughter perform but were with her in spirit.  Meanwhile the featured acts were very impressive including Fletcher Pillon, who won Australian X-Factor this year with a heartbreaking song about his little brother Benji who was tragically killed when he was run over riding his skateboard. I must also mention that I took much more notice of the dancing this year and even recognised many of the steps from my lyrical dance class. Not that I’d pulled them off with such agility, grace and finesse. However, I wasn’t watching myself dance in my lessons. Both eyes were focused on my teacher and naturally, I absorbed her moves as my own.

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The Finale.

Quite aside from School Spectacular, I’ve had a  creatively productive week.

Firstly,  Merril Smith put me onto an online  magnetic poetry site. They provide you with a selection of words to a theme and you try to build a poem out of it. You can get words relating to various themes such as nature. I’ve written a few magnetic poems this week and found the exercise extremely encouraging. The words gave my poetry rich symbolism and stretched my thinking. I was thrilled with the results and recommend you have a go. Please pop back and share your efforts. I’d love to read them. You can also read my efforts: The Path and The Poet Muse.

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In addition to the magnetic poetry this week, I’ve also started reading an absolutely incredibly amazing book: Messy: How to Be Messy in a Tidy-Minded World.  I recommend you all rush out and buy it. I promise it will significantly expand how you experience creative inspiration through opening your mind to messy and chaotic approaches, which often yield surprisingly impressive results.

One of the things I have found most interesting is the idea of jolting yourself out of a creative block. I was so intrigued by a set of random cards created by Brian Eno called Oblique Strategies, that I wrote a post about them and intend to try them out. After reading about choreographer Twyla Tharp, I read elsewhere that she advises dancers to “jump” when they experience a creative block.

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© CEayr.

I also participated in  Friday Fictioneers. This week’s prompt was a locked, chained door set into a sandstone structure. It looked quite intriguing and reminded me of a door I’d seen attached to a sandstone cave on the waterfront at Palm Beach. Naturally, this door has always intrigued me and I thought it would make a perfect pirate’s lair and pictured mermaids swimming through the sea around their ship. However, instead my flash was called: “Never too old for Divorce”. It’s the story of a retired gent whose wife is a monomaniacal cleaner and he’s withdrawn to his cave to have some breathing space. Unfortunately, I had to cut a lot out to meet the 100 word limit. In the original version, his cave was decked out with a flat screen  TV, microwave, boxes of Chardonnay and he’d also salvaged his trophies from the roof. Of course, she’d banished them up into the roof calling them dust traps although her precious collection of tea cups was okay. Indeed, the tea cups had moved into his trophy cabinet. It was hard to leave all of that out so I’m working on an extended 1500 word version.

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Our son seems to enjoy sailing in a bathtub AKA the Optimus.

Yesterday morning, I also had some photography fun. While I usually do the dance run and my husband drives our son to sailing, we switched roles yesterday and Geoff took Miss to School Spectacular and I found myself at the Sailing Club with menacing storm clouds on the horizon. Yummy! Well, perhaps Yummy is not the right word but I LOVE photographing clouds and the darker the better. While these clouds weren’t quite up to the hail clouds two years ago, I’d rather watch those clouds on TV these days. Getting caught in that storm was pure terror.

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By the way, in case you’re wondering what Mister was sailing, he had a go in the Optimus better recognised as “the bathtub” and then moved onto a Feva (I thought it was a “Fever” but what would I know.)  As much as I love sailing, I’m pure ballast and just strive to keep my head away from the boom.

Now, we’re switching gears as Christmas parties and the end of year dance concert approaches. Unfortunately, yours truly won’t be performing. The adults have respectfully been shown to our seats.  I’ve also bailed out on my violin concert. With so much going on, I decided not to do ensemble this year and decided to perform early in the new year at a soiree in the studio. As much as I love performing, with so much on, it’s been a relief.

What have you been up to? How’s your week been?

I hope things are going well.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Deborah over at  Part-Time Monster  and click here for the linky http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=680139

xx Rowena