Tag Archives: music

Byron Bay Markets…Sunday 8th January, 2019.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

JRR Tolkein.

Every time, I go to the markets around Byron Bay whether they are in Byron Bay  itself or perhaps over at Bangalow, I have this all consuming sense of coming home. That this is me.

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I doubt this would come as a surprise to anyone these days. However, I was a 25 year old marketing executive when I first came to Byron Bay 25 years ago and had somehow managed to allow my writer-poet self to become fully corporatized. I also have to confess that I was on an ardent quest to find Mr Right, who also seemed to be corporatized and didn’t exactly draw out my creative side either. So by the time a friend of mine suggested that she could see me being a market stall holder in Byron Bay, it was a revelation. Indeed, by this time, this part of my self was even estranged and lost from me… buried alive and mummified in many dead layers of detrititus. Clearly, this was a shame particularly when I rewind back to my university days where I was performing my poetry at events like the Newtown Street Festival. Indeed, I could’ve gone right down this creative path so easily, but it was one thing to dabble in this world as a student. It was quite another to stay there and that wasn’t going to happen. Even if you took away parental influences, I was still a product of the system and once you get used to living the high life, it can become an end in itself.

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Anyway, when I was 25, I visited Byron Bay for the first time. I was driving very slowly from Sydney to Queensland to visit my grandparents in Ipswich and drove as far North as Maroochydore visiting friends via the breathtaking Glasshouse Mountains. To anyone who knows me now, it would come as quite a surprise that I actually set off all by myself in my beloved first car… the Mitsubishi colt. I loved the freedom of being able to stop off WHEREVER and just being totally free and independent. I made a friend, Jody, at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and we drove up to Murwillumbah and stayed at the Youth Hostel there on the river and kept in touch for a bit. There was definitely a sense of being Easy Rider or Thelma & Louise on this trip and when I arrived back home, I experienced a seismic shift. Nothing felt familiar and it was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life and not my own. Yet, this was also the time that the neurological storm in my head was brewing and a year later, I would be diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and off to the brain surgeon..a rather radical approach for staying in tune with yourself but I’ve always trod my own path.

I don’t think the markets were around back then, although they could well have been. Byron Bay and that entire region of North-East NSW was at the tail end of its hippy heyday and the streets were still packed with hippies and ferals. Kombies with surfboards loaded up top were parked along the beach and not taking their last breaths either. I think it must’ve been a round 1995. Whenever it was, it was definitely long before marriage, mortgage, kids and 24/7 responsibilities (which the dog has reminded me includes her. She’s just deposited the components of her tennis ball on my laptop. If ever I’m in doubt about what I’m focusing on, I just need to see where she’s deposited her bits of stick or ball. She’s onto me.)

Oops! My apologies! I’ve clearly taken you on a massive detour along the long and winding road to Byron Bay Markets, and at this rate we’ll be lucky to get there before they shut shop.

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The Byron Bay Markets are held Butler Street Reserve, which is just over the disused railway line and a short walk from the main street. Just in case you’d like to know when the markets are on, here’s a link. Having been to the artisan markets the night before, the initial impact of arriving at the markets didn’t quite get my heart racing as much as usual. However, I did hear the most exquisite violin my music, and was all ears. Where was it coming from? I started scouring left and right and discovered the virtuoso was a moth-eaten Pirate Cat. Looks like he could use a bit of a makeover, but he could play the violin better than me thanks to a recording.

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Just goes to show that you don’t need the best instrument to make heavenly music. However, perhaps he could’ve polished his boots…

As much as I loved the markets, I soon realized that our demographic has changed significantly since I was here last and both the kids have outgrown all the handmade children’s clothes and toys which used to draw me in. After many years of op shop devotion, paying full price for clothes has lost its appeal these days and things don’t fit me easily and madam is fussy. So, I’d covered a good 50% of the market before I’d spotted anything to buy and I was starting to wonder if a miracle was at hand. Would this be the very first time Rowie went to Byron Bay Markets and came home empty handed? Surely not!! However, don’t fear. I haven’t lost my magic touch. It turned out even markets like suspense, and the best was yet to come.

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Artist Markus May.

Indeed, I spotted a chatty Willy Wonka type character in a purple top hat and loud shirt with his sketches. What initially caught my eye was a sketch of a tree over a sheet of music. It was beautiful. However, I’m constantly watching my pennies and you don’t know what’s around the corner. So, I went for a smaller sketch of a woman in a purple robe and a card with female nude sitting on a bed taken from behind and she’s looking across the room to a picture of a fairy on the wall. It’s like she’s found her wings. There is an answer, a way out, a way up. We were chatting and it came up that I play the violin and he soon returned with a tiny sketch of a woman with red hair holding her violin. Her eyes are closed and it’s like she can hear the music in her soul without needing to actually play. Naturally, I had to have that. I also bought a few cards. I felt rather fired up after stopping off there.

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Above: Artist Marcus May.

Then, I spotted a vintage stall and I should be ashamed to admit to buying more books, but I’m not. Rather, I’m cheering because I found a 1937 edition of the famed Yates Garden Guide and a Wolf Cub Scouting Book from the 60’s from the UK. If you’ve seen our garden, well you might wonder what I’d be doing with a gardening book. Indeed, you’d be thinking I’d be buying something out of Hogwarts for casting nasty spells on gardens, because I’m a serial plant killer. However, both my grandfathers were avid gardeners and this one dates back just a few years before they embarked on married life. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that it’s from my grandparents’ life time as it looks a lot older. Not quite ancient, but older than old. Well, Dad’s Dad would be turning 109 this year, which I guess was hardly yesterday. It just reaffirms how quickly time flies by.

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Sheltering from the sun any way you can!

By the way, I should’ve mentioned the heat and just how sunny it was at the markets. I’d forgotten my hat and sunscreen and was trying to stay in the shade just to survive. There are days when out hot Australian sun goes into griller mode, and this was one of those. Fortunately, there were some huge shady trees and the stalls themselves provided much needed shelter. Boy, I really needed it.

As it turned out, the heat was also to blame for a low turnout at the markets. Perhaps, people were at the beach or simply hibernating indoors. I’m not sure. However, you have to feel for the stallholders. For many, this is their livelihood. Bread and butter on the table kind of stuff.

Hey, before we leave the markets and head up to the beach, I wanted to share a few photos of a couple of double-decker buses I spotted across the road. You never quite know what you’re going to find around Byron Bay (other than the unexpected!)

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Before we head off to the beach, I thought I’d leave you with a parting shot of the Pirate Cat, who looks like he’s taken a Bex and is enjoying a good lie down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

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I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

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The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

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

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… 26th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you and how’s your weekend shaping up, if you still have any of it left? It’s now Sunday night here, and I’m opting to share the weekend that was meant to be instead of the weekend that was.

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A sign outside the Conservatorium advertising my grandmother’s upcoming concert . 

Yesterday, I was planning to attend Open Day at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music  where my grandmother taught and performed as a concert pianist and my mother attended as a pupil…her pupil. I wanted to try to find my grandmother’s old studio which I can really only remember as a young child being taken for a visit…stairs and long corridoors. Dad tells me her room overlooked the Botanic Gardens. That mystery will have to be unfold on another day.

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The Conservatorium of Music, Sydney.

When you look at this grandiose apparition, it’s hard to believe that the Conservatorium  was originally built as the government stables. They must’ve had special horses. Or, Governor Macquarie was trying to transform a rugged convict outpost into a cultivated society.  Nothing like a few grandiose buildings to give a place a bit of  a step up. The Conservatorium was designed by former convict architect, Frances Greenway, and constructed 1817-1820. It is the only example of a Gothic building designed by Greenway still standing. The cost and apparent extravagance was one of the reasons Macquarie was recalled to Britain. I wonder why.

That was yesterday’s plan.

Today, I’d planned to go to the annual Irish Famine Memorial Annual Gathering at the Hyde Park Barracks, which is coincidentally located just down the road from The Con and was also design by Frances Greenway. The gathering primarily commemorates over 2000 Irish Famine Orphan Girls who were sent to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. These orphans included my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan. I didn’t know anything about that growing up, and only found out about five years ago through a random Google search. I don’t know why this connection means so much to me, but she’s more than just a part of me. Bridget came from Midleton Workhouse, County Cork and I’ve also been researching the other girls she came out with. I was surprised to see they led quite disparate lives and seemingly didn’t huddle together. Getting to the gathering could well have advanced my research, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

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A Family Portrait.

Well, as much as this was the weekend that wasn’t, thank goodness we made it to my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary on Thursday night. I don’t know where the numbers finished up, but there were something like 80-100 guests. Rather than focusing on them, Dad wanted it to be more of an opportunity to catch up with family and friends who’ve both individually and collectively have meant the world to them. While I’d expected catching up with so many people all at once, was going to be like speed dating barely able to sustain a conversation, I actually managed to have quite a meaningful night and have rekindled a few connections and made some new ones as well. I had a fabulous time.

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Our puppy Zac was keen to join us for the party.

My apologies for going backwards through the week, but the build up to the big party was bigger than Ben Hur. While I had very little to do with the actual planning and I wasn’t even required to bake or make a speech, getting myself and the family ready for the big night was a job and a half. I had my hair cut for the first time in two years a few weeks ago. People kept asking me how I felt about getting it all lopped off as though it was a monumental decision, not neglect. I also ordered new contact lenses, not that you’d know that I wear glasses. They always come off for photos. It’s a family tradition. I was quite chuffed and amazed by the time we pulled up. Our son in a suit. The dry cleaner had resurrected my daughter’s dress and we’d paired it up with a white trench and even high heels. Her friend had braided her hair at school…one of the benefits of an education. After 17 years of marriage, my husband still fitted into his wedding suit and almost looked as dashing as ever. As for me, I barely knew myself. I seemed to “scrub up alright”.

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Government House, Parramatta.

Lastly, I participated in Thursday Doors for the second time this week. This blogshare is hosted by Norm 2.0 at Thursday Doors and I really recommend you check this out. There were doors featured from all over the world, and I loved revisiting my backpacking trip around Europe in many of the posts. I took it easy this week and posted a recent photo I’d taken at  Government House, Parramatta.

So, how has your week been? Hope you’ve had a good one.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop over and join us for a “cuppa”.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Little Dancer’s Triumph.

If I was someone else, I’d simply post a flashy photograph and tell you that our daughter placed at a local dance competition. Announce that she’s as happy as a lark, and we’re as proud as punch. However, to the best of my knowledge, dance isn’t an executive summary, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the full performance. I promise that we won’t quite be going back to when she entered into the world, but now that she’s about to get her first pointe shoes, she seems like such a baby when I bought her very first pair of ballet shoes.

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Such energy and emotion being expressed dancing at the beach.

Once upon a time, I took our three almost four year old daughter to a local ballet class. *-The door shut, and I wasn’t invited to follow her into this secret world of ballet business.Of course, I longed to peek through a metaphorical keyhole. However, we were the parents, not the teacher. It was our job to enjoy the performance, and not get tangled up in the technicalities. After all, no one one gets to join the caterpillar inside the chrysalis and Superman never invited anyone inside his phone booth.  Rather, we had the luxury of witnessing pure magic as our butterfly fluttered across stage, without any consideration of the caterpillar at all.

 

Fast-forward eight years, and all of these stepping stones culminated in two dazzling solos where our daughter commanded the stage of our local school hall for a dance competition. At least, as far as her proud Mum was concerned, she could’ve been dancing anywhere in the world.

Of course, entering in such competitions is stressful, and I’m not even referring to the performer. As Chauffeur in Chief of the Tutu Taxi, it’s my job to get her there early. More than that, I need all the skills of an accomplished event manager with none of the supportive infrastructure. Juggling hair, makeup and costumes dropping or forgetting something is almost inevitable and who wants to be the weakest link? Lists upon lists which never quite seem to get written down, circulate round and round inside my head, although I swear a page or two actually goes missing now and then.

Then, as the child takes to the stage, even if they’re absolutely incredible…perhaps it’s just me, but horrors of her falling off the edge of the stage haunt me like demons. I want to wrap her up in her blanket again, and keep her safe. After all, just how high can the butterfly soar before she crashes? As proud as we are of our dancers, I’m sure there’s not a parent in the room who isn’t perched on the edge of their chair longing for the music to stop, and the performance to end without catastrophe. We can enjoy it later when we rewind it in the safety of our dreams.

Well, to be honest, I might’ve catastrophized things just a little.

Or, a lot.

Amelia YIPA PhotoRather, I absolutely loved her performance. First, there was her ballet solo where she almost floated across the stage with the lightness of a cloud. I’ve seen this solo a few times now. So, while I still remember the stunned amazement and absolute pleasure the first time I saw it, I was really looking forward to seeing her contemporary solo for the first time.  This would be the grand unveiling. I had no idea what it was going to be like, and had only seen the costume. Suddenly, there she was up on stage and after a hiccup with the music, she was off. I’d never seen anything quite like it. This was her solo choreographed especially for her and her dance was something like a moving portrait which her teacher had uncovered an aspect of her inner self and set it to music. She danced like I’ve never seen her dance before. I was spellbound.

She placed second in her ballet solo and third in her contemporary, even though it actually received a higher mark. She also received a Highly Commended for her ballet improvization.

Of course, you can say prizes and awards don’t matter. That it’s the experience that counts. Yet, you try telling that to her ginormous beaming smile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look so happy. While I haven’t actually grilled her what winning those trophies meant to her, I didn’t have to. She absolutely loves dancing and is working really hard to improve, and is possibly even considering a career in dance. So, these placings acknowledge that. They make that world of dreams edge a little closer and become more concrete. They don’t say give up your day job, and throw out your school books. Yet, they’re a huge encouragement. Encouragement isn’t something to be sneered at either. It’s a life-changer.

Lastly, I’just like to emphasize that our experience of dancing so far has been nothing like the appalling behaviour you see on Dance Moms on so many, many levels. While I would’ve thought dance mums would be into all the glamour etc, my experience has been quite different. Indeed, speaking for myself, I’m usually so focused on getting my daughter sorted out, that I have no time or money left to get my own hair cut and the rest is a rush job as well. Our daughter also has a brother who is keenly pursuing sailing. So, there’s not much time or energy for fiddling with my fingernails. All the parents at our dance school support each other and the teachers and the students are an enormous encouragement for each other. We are very blessed. I know other dancers don’t have this experience.

Have you danced yourself? Or, perhaps you have a little dancer in your life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Legend in My Own Hair Follicles.

Before the magic of the Royal Wedding and seeing Harry and Meaghan tie the knot in spectacular fashion, I hung up my pink washing up gloves and metamorphosed into a star. I, the greatest unknown violinist, legend in her own hair follicles, performed Minuet by Beethoven with my violin teacher at Gig Night. That’s the modern equivalent of what was known as a “Soiree” back in the day. Indeed, it might have been more like my grandparents’ day, but there we were performing in the studio with real performance lights and sound equipment and our very own stage. It was personal, intimate and my husband and kids were all lined up in a row in the audience…my support crew.

Well, behind every star performer, there’s also their teacher. When it comes to my teacher, however, she had special duties. She was not only accompanying me in our duet in the kind of way that compensates for what I’ll call my “idiosyncrasies”, she had to help me on and off stage. Indeed, we made a decision that I would enter from backstage to prevent me from having a spectacular trip and fall getting up on the stage. I’m pretty good at reconnaissance these days, and I needed to hold onto the wall climbing up the step and was rather concerned that I could fall into the amp. The good thing is that the team at the music school is well versed in my idiosyncrasies and were only too willing to help. Moreover, I’m also one to speak up.

I should also point out that the staff at the music school have experienced these idiosyncracies before. A few years ago when we were performing at the school Christmas Carols, I stepped on the edge of the where the asphalt meets the grass and my ankle flipped over (not uncommon) and then I heard this crunch and fell. The pain was excruciating. Blood was dripping down my knee, but did I pike out? Does a violinist ever give up, even when the ship is sinking? Of course not. I played on and was helped on and off the stage that night too.

My performance tonight wasn’t perfect. I knew it wasn’t going to be. Yet, I was hopeful. Moreover, despite my nerves, I really love performing and being a part of a performance. I like getting out of my cramped quarters in our corridor of a dining room where I usually have to hold my breath as husband, kids, dogs, tennis balls squeeze or fly past and put my feet on that stage, dress up in my blacks and even put on come makeup and lipstick and be a violinist on the outside too. A musician. Knowing I belong here. That this stage is mine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I own this space (something I picked up from dancing btw).

It’s a space I usually have to grow into, because it’s all too easy to put my playing down. I’m not in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. So, how could I ever consider myself a violinist? I haven’t even tried to learn vibrato, because I really don’t believe in myself. Don’t believe it’s possible. Of course, as I said, I have a decent list of “idiosyncracies”, which let me off the hook. Moreover, be honest, it hasn’t felt that important. It’s been more important to simply be able to play without making mistakes. However, it’s something I come back to once in a while, and learning vibrato is a natural progression for a violinist. Just like my daughter will soon be getting her first pair of pointe shoes for ballet, I should be equally enthusiastic and bursting out of my skin to learn vibrato. Take the next step. I should be wanting to grow, even though it usually means a phase of going backwards as we tackle the new skill.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all of this is twofold.

Firstly, I wanted to share my violin world with you. I don’t write about it all that often, but I actually have a lesson each week. I am quite a fan of Suzuki method, although I use the music and don’t play by ear. For those who know Suzuki, I recently moved onto Book Three. I was so proud. It’s been a long journey. I have hydrocephalus and dermatomyositis.  So, I never thought I’d be able to play the violin at all and only took it up again when my daughter insisted on learning, and she needed some assistance. I sat in on her lessons and while she has a rather on and off again relationship with her violin, I’ve stuck with it. She’d probably get to my level after a few weeks’ steady practice, but I’d only be delighted to see her overtake me. Well, she already has. She performed at the Sydney Opera House with her school two years ago at the tender age of 10. Clearly, you’re much better off trying to play at the Opera House as a young beginner than a geriatric.

The other reason I wanted to share my violin journey with you, is to encourage you to consider taking up that instrument you’ve always wanted to play. To go back to the piano you played at a kid, which could well be used for displaying family photos and ornaments than it’s intended purpose. Have a go.

I never considered myself a real music lover or expert of any sort. However, I can sense this is changing. That something new is awakening within. Actually, it’s not something new. It’s like when you’re doing a big clean-up and you find something you haven’t seen for a good 10-20 years and you taken right back to that forgotten time and place and all the emotions come flooding back as there’s that sense of coming home. I have always loved to sing and was good enough, but my voice is rusty and my violin’s become my voice, and to turn to the words of Johnny Farnham’s The Voice I need to

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear

Do you have any musical dreams? If you could be any musician, who would you be? I’ll have to give it some thought.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Everybody Hurts…

Tonight, when we went round to my parents’ place for an early Mother’s Day dinner, Mum piped up and said she wanted us to listen to a priest singing on Britain’s Got Talent. 

Well, I must admit I was rather taken aback. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think about a singing priest, but I was thinking of something more along the line of Gregorian chants, than something I could relate to. So, while my mother was uncharacteristically excited and really wanted us to see it, I had no interest whatsoever and instinctively wanted to extricate myself and runaway. However, considering it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d better play the dutiful daughter, and avoid being a complete ratbag. Listening to a priest sing for a few minutes, wasn’t going to kill me. Moreover, I am a bit more mature these days.

Then, I see Father Ray Kelly on the stage, and there’s something immediately likeable about him. There’s a sort of brown shoe honesty about him and he is that simple, heart-felt man of God. The sort I’ve come across now and then, but is far from commonplace. He is one of those men of God who is of the people. A shepherd who knows his sheep and responds to their cries. Who knows there are 100 sheep in the flock, and not only knows when one is missing, but also by its name. This type of person is very hard to find.

When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes…

REM: Everybody Hurts

Well, of course, I don’t really know whether all of these impressions are true, but when he sings, I not only believe him, but I also know he’s singing to me. That he personally cares for each one of us and our hurts, and is a reflection of God’s unconditional, personal and intimate love for us. These aren’t phrases I throw around lightly. Father Ray was there in a simple grey suit, his collar and brown shoes and there were no props. No machinations. He simply was, and he was speaking for all those people out there who are desperately hurt, and he’s personally asking them to hold on. It was so clear he cared and was singing straight from the very depths of his heart…his soul. It was just so beautiful and I had to share it with you. Indeed, I hope it touches a chord for you.

What are your thoughts? How did it make you feel?

I could listen to it over and over and over again!

Best wishes,

Rowena

The featured image was drawn by my son.

PS Here’s the wedding song which launched him on You tube Father Ray Kelly singing Alleluia