Tag Archives: music

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

Reflections- Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge 2018.

Welcome Back to Letters to Dead Artists, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge.

For the entire month of April, and a few weeks leading up to the big launch, I have been traveling the world with my ball of red string  and exchanging letters with 26 Dead Artists, bringing together quite a divergent group of artists to forge something new both in terms of art, but also in terms of connecting up my own dots with that very same red string and becoming more connected within myself.

Map Final

26 Artists across the world all joined by a single, red string.

Perhaps, I should’ve thought twice before setting out on an epic adventure, albeit of the literary bent, on April Fool’s Day. Maybe, that’s why I set my sights so high that I was looking somewhere over the mountain and up towards the summit of Everest, when I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and write 26 letters to dead artists in 30 days without much preparation. Indeed, I wasn’t that unlike Bilbo Baggins who just walked out of his home in The Shire and set off without any preparation at all.

Then, like a crazed maniac, I researched, introspected and wrote well after midnight every night, in addition to the realities of being wife, mother, chief cook and taxi driver and managed to put together 55 088 words. I’m immensely proud of myself, and while this achievement goes well and truly beyond the scope of the challenge and readers like yourselves, I’m now well on the way towards a manuscript. That is my true goal, and I also hope that these writings are helping other people who are also stuck between a rock and a hard place. Writing and getting my book published will help raise me up, and I hope reading it will give others encouragement and hope…a reason to persevere.

While this series has the quirky title: Letters to Dead Artists, it could also be called: My journey with 26 Artists and Getting to Know Myself Better, which is nowhere near as catchy.

I am still learning so much about these artists and am yet to read through the series from start to finish. So, it is still too soon for me to really reach any conclusions and my observations would be very incomplete.

However, I have noticed that many of these artists lived with chronic medical conditions and/or disabilities and many of them experienced significant grief. Whether this intense suffering made the artist or not, I’m not sure. As I said, I still have a long way to go.

As for myself, working through this series has uncovered my own stifling perfectionism and an intense desire to avoid making mistakes, which has been paralyzing me on many fronts, and is clearly holding me back. In the past, I’ve always thought a perfectionist was that person who is meticulously precise and always gets it right. However, there’s a flip side to that…the person who desires perfection, yet feels so dreadfully inadequate, that they never get started. Ironically, other people could even perceive this person has great talent and might even have the external accolades to prove it. Yet, the perfectionist themselves can’t see it and is their own harshest critic. Indeed, this intense drive towards perfection can even claim its host. Of course, we’ve all known creatives who’ve seemingly burned up in their own flame.

The need to balance light and dark, relaxation and intensity is another life skill I uncovered during the series. I found that most of the artists I’ve related to in that really intense, soul mate  “Nano Nano” kind of way,  were expressionists and most of them had the intensity of a nuclear bomb, especially Munch’s The Scream. My connection to many of these paintings harks back to my youth. I found revisiting them now, especially all at once, too much and I found myself needing to detour to Monet’s Garden. All that angsty steam had to escape. It couldn’t keep building up and building up without an outlet. I also had a day off where I had lunch in the city with my mother and daughter at a swanky Japanese restaurant on Sydney Harbour and finished up at the Art Gallery of NSW approaching art in a much more relaxing way. Enjoying the colours, and catching up with “old friends” I hadn’t seen for awhile, which is also something I need to do in the real world. Work towards a better balance between the solitary writer’s life which is enhanced by my health and disability issues, and my extroverted, socially-driven self. These two seeming opposites need to be managed better to reach more of balance, happiness and all-round sense of well being. While “I write, therefore I am” might be a catchy motto, writers still need to look after our spiritual, physical, social, what ever other selves might be hidden under the hood. That’s where as much as I detest time management and putting limits on my writing time, it has its place…especially for an obsessive like me.

Are you like that? Could you write underwater?

Envelope to Georgia O'Keeffe

It’s a massive undertaking to read all of these letters, but perhaps you can pick and choose. That said, I encourage you to read some of the letters to artists you may not know, so you can also expand your horizons.

Since the challenge ended, I’ve also added a piece of music to each artist/painting to give the series that added boost. It is a truly sensory experience. These are all listed below.

It the list below, you’ll find the name of the artist and if you click on that, it will take you through to the full post. Next to that, you’ll find a link through to the music which I’ve linked up to each artist and then there’a photo of one work per artist. So, if you’re in the mood to spread your wings, I encourage you to take up. I have learned so much through writing this series and who knows when you might need to know some of this seeming trivia.

 

I hope you enjoy the series…

A –Z Letters to Dead Artists

Introduction

A- Alexandros of Antioch – Elvis Costello performing: “She”.

Venus de Milo


Alexandros of Antioch Venus de Milo, The Louvre

B- Sandro BotticelliO Fortuna – Carmina Burana

400px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery.

C- Grace Cossington Smith – Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree

 

The-Bridge-In-Curve-quot--Grace-Cossington-Smith

Grace Cossington Smith, Bridge in Curve, Art Gallery of NSW

D Edgar Degas – Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Little Swans.

edgar-degas-Little-dancer

Edgar Degas, The Little Dancer, Musee d’Orsay

 E- Eileen Agar– Sia’s Chandelier

 

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

F- Frederick McCubbin – Slim Dusty singing Waltzing Matilda

 

Fred-McCubbin-On-The-Wallaby-Track Stamp

G- Vincent Van Gogh – Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night

 

Starry Night MOMA

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

H- Hans Heysen – Dame Nellie Melba singing Voi che sapete (1910)

Heysen 1912

Hans Heysen, “The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Hahndorf.” (1912)

 I- Isabel BishopDolly Parton’s 9 to 5

 

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Isabel Bishop, “Young Woman”, 1937. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

J           Jackson Pollock– Elvis’s version of: I Did It My Way

blue-poles

Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles, Australian National Gallery.

K- Wassily Kandinsky –  Arnold Schoenberg’s  Transfigured Night for String Quartet

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Composition_7

Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

L: Norman Lindsay Galapagos Duck performing I Feel Good at the Norman Lindsay Gallery.

The_Magic_Pudding

M- Edvard Munch – Lindsay Stirling’s thrilling violin rendition of The Phantom of the Opera. 

 

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Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895 © The Munch Museum/The Munch Ellingsen Group

N –  Sidney Nolan – Peter Allen singing: I Still Call Australia Home

Kelly with clouds

Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly, National Gallery of Australia

O  Georgia O’Keeffe Frank Sinatra’s New York. New York

_Georgia_O'Keeffe_-_New_York_Street_with_Moon__1925

Georgia O’Keeffe, New York Sky With Moon 1925, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

P Pablo Picasso – John Lennon’s Imagine

Picasso Peace Dove

 Q Queenie McKenzieYothu Yindi – Timeless Land

 

God sending the Holy Spirit Queenie McKenzie

  R Auguste Rodin – John Farnham’s The Voice

Rodin_TheThinker_Rodin Museum Paris

Rodin, The Thinker

 S Salvadore DaliGhostbusters (If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood…)

Persistence of Memory 1931

Salvador Dalí The Persistence of Memory 1931, MOMA.

 T Albert Tucker – INXS – The Devil Inside

 

The City 1946

Albert Tucker, Images of Modern Evil…City, National Gallery of Victoria

Detour Sign

The Great Detour to Monet’s Garden

Accompanied by Franz Liszt – Liebestraum (Love Dream)

Why We Need Monet’s Garden.

Monet’s Greatest Work

The Pondering Photographer in “Monet’s” Pond

                                                  ………

 U Paolo Uccello – Two Cellos playing  Game of Thrones

Paolo_Uccello The Crucifixion The Met

V – Leonardo Da Vinci–David Bowie Heroes to reflect his relationship with the Mona Lisa (I will be King, and you, you will be Queen).  I’ve chosen Star Man,  to reflect the man of science and the great inventor.

Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, The Louvre.

W Andrew Newell WyethCeltic Woman singing You Raise Me Up

Walking Through Christina’s World

 

Christinasworld
Andrew Newell Wyeth, Christina’s World, MOMA.

_______________________________________________________________

stamp news flash in red

*NEWSFLASH – DEAD ARTISTS HIJACK TRAIN*

____________________________________________________________________________________

X -Gao Xi – Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King

 

guo-xi_snow-mountains-664x1024-500x900

Guo Xi, Snow Mountains.

Y – Jack Butler Yeats – The Dubliners: The Town I Loved So Well and Leonard Cohen, Alleluia

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

Jack Butler Yeats, Man in a Train Thinking, 1927

Z – Shibata Zeshin – Enya’s Echoes in Rain.

Shibata Zeshin- On Being An Artist

 

grasshopper-and-sunflower-1877

Shibata Zeshin, The Grasshopper & the Sunflower

Z+     My Favourite Dead Artist

Choir drawing 1975

……………………………………….

 

Did you have any favourites among these artists? Which one really spoke to you?

Also, did you take part in the A-Z Challenge either as a participant or a reader? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you and will be catching on more of the reading side of things now the writing has settled down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Unbelievable Lightness of Being.

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Today, our daughter performed a ballet solo for the very first time on stage.

DSC_8506

 

As a self-confessed thundering elephant, it is hard to believe that any child of mine could possibly move with grace, poise and become a ballerina, even if she is still just a Ballerina-in-Progress and she’s dancing with L plates. That said, when our Miss dances, she’s as light as a feather, almost lighter than air.

“I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living…. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.”
― Martha Graham

It’s funny thinking of that because our home life is anything but “light” and she carries a huge emotional burden thanks to a devil of an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, which was triggered by her birth. So, all her life, I haven’t been well, although that said, we’ve re-calibrated “well” and have our own definition.

It is incredible to think of all that humans have achieved despite, or perhaps even because of, the great burden they carry. You hear endless stories of rugged survival, and yet too often we focus on the negative. That said, I don’t know how you go through a trauma and come out with post-traumatic growth, NOT post-traumatic stress. That intrigues me.

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ”
― Martha Graham

Anyway, I find watching dance very cathartic, especially contemporary dance. In many ways, this isn’t surprising because the choreography is based on the contractions of childbirth…contract and release and this provides a great vehicle for dealing with any negative emotion as well. You scrunch it up tight like a ball of paper, and then you throw it across the room. Well, I couldn’t be entirely sure that’s exactly what choreographer, Martha Graham, had in mind but it seems cathartic to me.

When I was younger, I self-published an anthology of poetry called: Locked Inside An Inner Labyrinth. Fortunately, I haven’t been locked in there for the last thirty years, and escaped some time ago. Yet, watching dance also provides an outlet. Moreover, whenever I am lucky enough to dip my big toe into dancing at the adult classes, I also get to extend that further. Given my limited mobility and health issues, I appreciate the ability to move unimpeded so much more. My limbs don’t go into flights of fancy unless I’ve tripped over a crack in the footpath and crash landed.

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Getting back to my daughter’s performance today, it’s quite strange when you know this beautiful, elegant dancer off-stage and she’s just a kid. At least, she was just a kid. As I looked through the lens today, it was hard to see my girl through the tutu, the makeup, the hair and it was like she’d slipped inside a second skin and was playing dress ups. Well, that’s sort of true because I also know that the ballerina, is now a part of her and has somehow melted in.

Yet, as much as her performance exuded poise and elegance, there’s always behind the scenes. We couldn’t find her music CD and tore her room apart multiple times trying to find it and we didn’t. Teachers are a wonderful thing!

Another funny moment, was when she sat beside me in the theatre. I don’t know if you’ve ever sat next to someone wearing a tutu? They might look pretty, poised and elegant, but they also take up three seats and heaven help you if you sit on the tutu! Then, you could well meet Grumpy Ballerina.

I don’t know where any of this is heading and I try not to think too far ahead. The plan at the moment is to get some audition practice, which will stand her in good stead for whatever she ends up doing. These build up both your skills and resilience and also help get your mother (or whatever taxi you depend on) organized.

Do you enjoying dancing yourself? Or, are you more part of the audience? Or, perhaps dance feels rather foreign and is not your thing. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The featured image comes from the YIPA Facebook page.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th March, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, so what’s been going on in your neck of the woods this week? I had a virtual visit to London catching up with  Geoff Le Pard and Dog who ventured out for a walk in the snow where Dog was a bit sensitive about show getting in between his paws. Next, I scooted off to Birmingham with  Suzie81 Speaks and froze through  Snowmageddon. Meanwhile, it’s been hot and sunny here in Sydney, but not as scorchingly hot as it has been.

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but I am still fighting off Fergus the phlemmy cough and sinus infection. Consequently, I’ve been sleeping a lot and trying to stay home as much as possible to fight it off. It has been making me a bit grumpy, but it’s given me the chance to read.

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Atticus (played by Gregory Peck) and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Read…That’s right I am re-reading Harper Lee’s: To Kill A Mockingbird. Have you re-read it since you studied it at school? Or, perhaps you haven’t read the book at all. I’d been meaning to re-read it for a few years, as one of my favourite all-time quotes comes from the book:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

However, it’s simply been phenomenal to re-read the book and read the action around the quotes and truly understand what they were fully intended to mean within context. That’s so much richer, yet perhaps more limited, than when the quote appears all by itself drifting through space without a base.

Another quote also really resonated with me:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.- Atticus Finch”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

This quote appeared in reference to Mrs Dubois who’d become addicted to morphine and was went through the horrors of withdrawal not because it would save her life, but because she wanted die free of the drug. After Atticus explained what she did, Jem and Scout came to respect her courage and understand somewhat why was she so cantankerous and difficult.

I also relate to this quote myself in terms of my health. I keep on fighting and keep staying a few steps ahead. This doesn’t feel like bravery or courage, but those qualities aren’t born out of hardship and mess and not a bed of roses.

This week has also had a few triumphs for the kids. Our daughter has an audition coming up which requires playing a musical instrument. However, she hasn’t touched her violin for over a year, but fortunately she has another week up her sleeve and much to my pride and irritation, she’s already playing Fur Elise better than me…the good old reliable tortoise. Meanwhile, at sailing our son was helping another young man who’d just got his Flying Eleven and it was his first time out. I was really stoked that the club thought Mr was good enough to go out with him. That was a really positive sign of confidence and respect. Better than winning a race…Well, almost!

DSC_8282

Mr at the Sailing Club.

In terms of my writing this week,  I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week I based my flash on the story of Australian boxer, Les Darcy who tragically died young at the age of 21 in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve added some bio details as well as a link to an excellent piece of writing by Australian author, Ruth Park who wrote his biography.

DSC_8386

Oops. I almost forgot to mention that we had had a bit of local excitement this week. A small sailing boat was beached during some heavy rain and with it came all the questions of how did it happen? Who owned the boat? And, perhaps the ultimate question…could she be saved? I know how much our boats have meant to us and this boat was vintage with timber trim and had character. Since there are no secrets around here, it didn’t take me long to find out who owned the boat and how it came to rest. Beached Yacht, Ettalong, Australia.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena

 

 

Bless Our Little Violinist!

Today, I received an urgent SOS. No! NOT an SMS, but a real SOS. It read: “Mummy, I have a week to learn Fur Elise (her choice) on her violin for an audition. Please book me in for as many lessons as you can!!!!!”

If there is one thing I have learned from my kids, it’s to expect the unexpected. That as much as I try to be the conductor and orchestrate the piece, the players are busy composing their own thing and improvising instead. Obviously, there are no guarantees that it’s going to be a harmonious mix when it all comes together either. Much more likely, that the sounds will be wondering randomly all over the place like lost sheep. However, all is not lost. With three sheep dogs under one roof, hopefully they can retrieve the notes and bring it all back together. By now, I guess you’ve realized that we’re not traveling systematically in a straight line. Rather, our paths are more like a spider’s web AND for better or worse, I think that makes me the fly.

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The spark for my latest philosophical rant, was my daughter. An audition has cropped up, and this musical calls for a singer and musician. That is, someone who can play an instrument. For my daughter, this posed no problem because she plays the violin. The only trouble is, that she hasn’t touched her violin in just over 12 months. Indeed, she hung up her bow after performing at the Sydney Opera House with her school. In case you haven’t had a love affair with the violin, it doesn’t appreciate neglect and has been known to screech and complain in very unpleasant, ear-piercing tones when it’s player returns.  At least, that’s how it’s been for me!

The road to this audition hasn’t been easy. Miss was away at a school camp this week where, by the way, she lost her voice. Moreover, she had no time to learn her lines, resurrect her violin or prepare herself and then, we received a note from the dance school saying we were recording her audition this morning. Naturally, she wanted to pull out, but she’d made a commitment and getting audition practice is the name of the game at the moment. So, off she went… the violin case still covered in dust. It hasn’t been unopened in over twelve months!

I still remember what it was like be a kid and leap before you look, not really knowing what you ought to know before you dive in. Back when I was eleven, I filled out a form for a pen pal and ticked that I could speak German. After all, I could count to ten and also knew “Ja” and “Nein”. Of course, I was rather surprised when I received letters in German from three German pen pals. Then, there was the time I auditioned for the Bennelong Programme at the Sydney Opera House. I remember my friends and I filling out the forms and I ticked that I could play the flute, even though I hadn’t touched it in at least 4 years. I got into the programme but was ultimately so intimidated by the level of talent, that I left. I am clearly much better at creative writing.

Anyway, my daughter’s been given another week’s grace before she needs to do her recording. So, the voice has been ordered to rest, and the violin has been ordered to play. I must admit that I’m quite excited about this and I have loved playing with Miss in the past. Yet, at the same time, I know we have a mountain to climb. She not only needs to sound like a decent violinist, she has to look like one and that is almost as difficult. She has chosen to play Fur Elise, which you don’t usually hear on violin, but I’d chased down the music with my teacher. My mum has taught Miss to play it on the piano and Mum tells me that my grandfather used to whistle the opening bars. I can also play it on the piano myself…right through. It’s a sentimental fave.

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Just as well I’m not a ruthless organizer. It wasn’t that long ago, that I had a good look at my daughter’s violin and wondered whether it was time to go. With a cupboard full of violins and three hungry dogs, I’m planning to sell the smaller violins and was wondering whether to add her ¾ violin to the pile. After all, how long do you wait to find out whether a dream’s merely asleep or if it’s dead? Even if it’s simply taken a different path and been reborn as something else, the violin was surplus to requirements. However, I couldn’t be sure and wasn’t ready to put that final nail in the coffin.

You see, I still remember once upon a time…

Back then, Miss was six going on seven with  bobbed, dark hair, a fringe. She was my little sparrow. She’d fallen in love with the violin and despite my efforts to steer her into learning the piano, she insisted. At first, she played and played and played, but after the holidays, the stupid thing started screeching and it was all too much. She stopped playing, but I kept going. Despite all her protests, I knew there was a magic there. That the violin had touched her somewhere deep inside her soul and lit a spark. The sort of spark, which never goes out. Even if you can’t see a glimmer of light from the surface, the spark is still there just waiting to be rekindled.

While her love affair with the violin has been  dare I say “fickle”, I have been steadfast. A week after her very first lesson, I picked up my bow again and I haven’t put it down since. Indeed, through pneumonia, chemotherapy and the demands of parenting with a chronic illness, I have played on. Just like the violinists immortalized on the Titanic, I’m no quitter.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

 

Yet, learning an instrument as a mature aged student isn’t easy. It’s actually a very physical thing and I’m not physical. I’ve had to work hard, persevere and accept the plod while those around me soar and a little upstart picks up Fur Elise after not touching her violin for more than a year, and plays it. Not perfect, but after 30 minutes, she plays it better than me.

As much as I’m delighted and relieved she can pick it up again like that, I’d have to be honest, and say there’s a fair degree of schadenfreude in there. It’s not easy when you’ve put in the hours and someone else clicks their fingers, and gets there at the speed of light. You want to complain to management. Register you’re angst with the man upstairs. After all, isn’t it meant to be the tortoise who wins the race…

Do you have any tales of going for auditions or preparing for concerts etc? I’d love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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