Friday, April 20, 2018

Nicole Car and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Nicole Car: songs of suffering

If you sing songs of desperation and despair, and so many opera arias are, you look like this even when, like Nicole Car, you have a winning smile and graceful deportment.

Today Nicole sang songs of Mozart, von Bingen and Beethoven in a very cleverly curated Australian Chamber Orchestra program that included not only the three composers mentioned but Handel, Puccini and Verdi. It was a real treat.

Nicole  got a very enthusiastic reception as did Satu Vänskä who played a short solo on her new violin which has the most remarkable clear sound. I am sure you have to be a virtuoso to elicit this sound from a violin but I was captivated and astonished by this instrument in her hands.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ayse and friends at the Sydney Opera House

'I learned on my trip to Turkey last year the ability of the Turks to create joy through the appreciation of simple things, even in the midst of  life's difficulties.'

The speaker is soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal who together with three fellow musicians (kemane player Ali Yıldız, bağlama player Deniz Şimşek and pianist Ashley Hribar) gave a wonderful and wonderfully heartfelt concert 'Anatolia', at Sydney Opera House Utzon Room on Sunday. They were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of a migration agreement between Australia and Turkey with a concert of Turkish folk songs.
From left: Ali, Ashley, Ayse aand Deniz
Personally I had a multicultural experience that evening such that few cities can offer. I was there to hear a group of gifted first and second generation Turkish Australians play Turkish music, but before the concert I stumbled on the 'Lighting of the Sails', an Aboriginal inspired light show with projected images on the smaller opera house sail. It lasted 5 minutes from 6pm. I was joined by lots of Asian tourists who all recorded it on their phones, so it is probably a much uploaded travelogue entry.
Lighting of the Sails

Then I met a Chinese tourist who was also attending the concert I was seeing. On discovering I paint, she showed me (on her phone) her personal collection of art works. They included some astonishing needle-worked art that she said were very expensive (artist unknown). This was her third visit to Sydney but her first to the opera house.

My other neighbour at the concert was a Turkish woman who was an avid opera fan and who spoke excitedly of the many operas she had seen at the opera house or on the harbour.

The day had been much hotter than usual in April and I had almost left my woollen shawl at home. However, I was very glad the hot weather had not diverted me as the venue was cold then even colder. As the concert progressed my shawl crept over the knees of we three women and my two neighbours were as grateful as I was for the warmth. Being linked with these women in such a way made me think of  Ayse's words about deriving joy from small things. 

If you use Facebook, the concert (part 1) can be viewed here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hamilton Gardens in 2018

The Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, NZ, are remarkable. I visited for the first time in 2014, but they have expanded in the four years since then and the new gardens are just as innovative. There is a Tudor-inspired garden, Alice in Wonderland make an appearance and several new additions are based on directions in modern art.

In the Concept Garden: a nod to conceptual art
Pan plays his flute

Mad Haters tea party: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
Answer: "There is no answer."
Tudor garden - keeping the hedge clippers busy
An explanation of the mounds in the Maori garden tells us that Kumera (New Zealand sweet potato)  rot when too wet so they are planted in mounds and then stored in a dry place such as this food storage building.
Food storage house
Fence and Kumera garden

Wednesday, April 04, 2018


Yesterday I visited Hobbiton near Matamata, a pretty town in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Hobbiton probably needs no introduction because, as I discovered, it is still wildly  popular. Tours were setting off every 10 minutes the day we were there and some of the more popular tours with food included  were booked out months in advance.

My travel buddy got the last two tickets to a lunch-included tour a month ago because the tour which included an evening ''banquet' was book out. (Yes, she is doing nothing by halves and I am swept along for the ride, which I confess to finding very interesting, if just to experience the enthusiasm of the fans. ) I was rather afraid the food might be substandard bain-marie fare, but it was very tasty.

A friend who majored in sculpture at art school spent time in Matamata last year painting the hobbit house doors and props and I must say she's done a fine job. They look just as they did in the Hobbit movie.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Huka Falls, NZ

The most tranquil of water will turn into a torrent if you force it through a narrow enough channel and so it is with placid Lake Taupo which turns into a heaving tumult as it passed between the narrow gap in the rocks at Huka to flow on as the Waikato River, feeding power stations on its way to the sea.

 The force of the water at Hula Falls has to be seen to be believed.
Lake Taupo at Hatepe

Huka Falls

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Trees in New Zealand

Trees in Taihape
There are some magnificent native trees in the North Island of New Zealand, those that survive. Most were cut down last century, leaving scared hills that tend to slip and slide. Coming generations will, I hope, take to replanting native bush .... once the colonial mentality finally fades.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hobbits and more

Dwarf from Lord of the Rings
I am travelling with a hobbit obsessed travel partner so we are going from one hobbity thing to another.

The WETA workshop has tours every half hour and they are very well attended. The level of interest in the art of film making seems to be high for every generation. The tour we joined was mainly over-60 year olds from Australia.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Retro comfort

The Cambridge Hotel is an upmarket backpackers/hotel in Wellington with a nice vibe, lots of wood and a lift like those you see in 1930s films, with an manually closing cage and outer door.
There are delicious aromas wafting out of the one man kitchen. Might eat in tomorrow.

Sign: enter at your own risk ...just possibly.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My little garden friend

It is autumn and the spiders are building huge webs to try to catch their local human. They are succeeding.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Plum cake

It is the time of plums, those little freestone sugar-plums, with their purple, white sheened skin and yellow flesh. They are perfect for plum cake (the German Pflaumenkuchen) and this year I made the recipe with cake mixture base instead of the yeast base. It rose and rose ... next time I try it I will half the recipe for the same amount of fruit.

The secret is to put as many plums on as you can.

Plfaumenkuchen (cooked).
A couple of years ago I painted the plums, but this year I couldn't wait to eat the cake.
Sugar plums and flowers

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bibeau and his Bass

Maxime Bibeau's bass was built in 1581 and glows from the stage
Yesterday bassist Maxime Bibeau celebrated 20 Years with the Australian Chamber Orchestra by playing the most wonderful commissioned work by Missy Mazzoli called Dark with Excessive Bright. The bass is seldom seen at the front of the stage, but that may change as this Mazzoli piece is such a pleasure to listen to and may well become an orchestral favorite.

Another future favorite might be Tognetti's arrangement of the Brahm's Sextet #2 in G Major for 30 instruments. Students from the Australian National Academy of Music joined the ACO to play this arrangement and it was inspiring to hear them galloping along with the ACO.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Sydney Opera House in colour

Sydney Opera House in colour(s)
Before the advent of the Vivid Festival in Sydney it was unusual to see the Sydney opera house clothed in colour, but once you see the festival's startlingly vivid colours on the opera house sails, they are not easily forgotten.

I have been manipulating some opera house etchings made in Dunedin and the photo app on my phone has kindly made a collage of them for me (above). They are not as vivid (some would say garish) as the festival lights but there is something nice about a coloured etching.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

New studio space

This blog has been neglected of late for several reasons.

In early January I slipped (in Sydney) on an outdoor mat and fell heavily onto a brick pathway, fortunately not knocking my head or breaking any bones, but pulling some groin muscles (excruciating) and bruising some bones. I couldn't sit down for most of January and hobbled on a stick. I watched others walking, wondering at the ease with which they stepped over obstacles.  I also noticed how many people have limps. While incapacitated I read lots of books and overdosed on social media. I was extraordinarily fortunate in that my son had just arrived in Sydney on his way to my place for six weeks. I asked myself how others in similar situations manage at home.

While he was here my son put in a new back fence and converted my garage into a studio/guest room. It will be lovely space once finished, probably more livable than the house as it is so well insulated. The price of new windows ($500-1500) drove us to search local recycling yards and we found a window, bigger than those we priced, for $150.  There were a few delivery dramas but it did eventually arrive on the day my son was leaving, so he just had time to install it. Yay for that.

High ceiling

Another reason for my blogging negligence has been a manuscript I have been working on for ages and with increasing perseverance over the past six months. I finally submitted it to a publisher today and I feel as if I have been let out of school. Suddenly I can blog again and take up those many art or craft projects that have been waiting for action. By the time I hear back from the publisher (they estimate 3 months) I will probably have forgotten all about the manuscript.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


#redeyeman: Texter, ink and watercolour pencils

 A collaborative effort by my eight year old granddaughter and I.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lights, carols and then peace to all

Sunset with clouds
Season's Greetings dear blog-readers and I wish you a pleasant passage into 2018.

I will certainly have one as 31st is the last day of the American Carols that have been echoing from the much-decorated house across the street since the 1st of December, attracting hordes of kids to party until late in the night. Only eight more nights to go!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Buebeard's Castle in Sydney

SSO harpists
Bluebeard's Castle is a one act opera by Béla Bartók and this Sydney Symphony production was the first time I had heard it. I was taken by surprise at how very moving it is. Bartók manages to convey  how scary intimate relationships can be and the singers, particularly soprano Michelle DeYoung, added a human dimension that underscored the music.  

If you are reading this and have the opportunity to see this production it is well worth the effort.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thoughts on #metoo

In 2005 I attended a life drawing course in northern NSW.  'Life drawing', for those not familiar with art lingo, is the practice of drawing the naked human figure.  Drawing nudes helps you draw clothed figures with more certainty and art students spend a lot of time in life drawing classes.

This particular 4-day course had two models as subjects, and they modeled together. It is the only time I have had this luxury. They were a couple and stood, sat or lay in loving and gentle poses.  I have seldom seen models with such an admirable ability to be still without apparent stress for long periods. They said they did a lot of yoga to prepare for the course.

The class was for more advanced students and they arrived at the teaching room each day much earlier than the 9am advertised starting time. The teacher of this committed class of about 30 mainly female students was an older English artist who introduced the day by reading us snatches of poetry. We all worked like demons until about 4:30 in the afternoon when everyone was completely exhausted, then we did a show and tell about our work before heading to the local pub. It was a wonderful, creative and inspiring course.

My room was in a local hotel, one of those old style buildings with surrounding veranda. My room opened out onto this veranda and early each morning I went out to the veranda to read relax before the start of class. Our tutor's room lead out onto this veranda as well and he too was an early riser. We would share bits of poetry or discuss politics on the veranda before it was time to leave for class.

One day he asked me it I had noticed anything in particular about the work the class was producing. No, I said, not really. I was probably too involved with my own work. Well look about you, he said, and you will find that only you and one other student are producing work in which the couple looks loving. I did look about me that day and realised that what he said was true. One student was drawing lots of kicking legs, another was painting doll like figures with big eyes. Many were drawing or painting thrashing figures. One woman had announced to the class in general that her figures always looked as if they were in a rape scene. Before the tutor's quiet comment I had not taken much notice but now I realised she was not alone.

The couple hang on my wall. This painting
was produced on the last day of class
in a state of exhaustion. 
56 x 76 cm

Here is one of the many stories appearing that help explain.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Alexander Gavrylyuk in Sydney

Alexander Gavrylyuk plays
The Ukrainian born Australian virtuoso pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk played in Sydney last night. The audience held their breaths as he wrung emotion from Bach, Haydn, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and wildly applauded whenever there was an opportunity. As the man in front of me nodded in time to Rachmaninoff's Preludes I wondered when he had last heard them played so convincingly. 

The little sketch above was made early in the evening and captured Gavrylyuk in one of his seldom upright moments. He danced with, pounded and caressed the piano, often bent so low that he looked as if he might hit his head on the music stand. Whatever his posture, his playing was extraordinary.