Thursday, July 31, 2014

Photos from times past

Picnic in New Zealand, about 1940. My grandmother is bottom right and mother standing by the tree.
Late last year I took lots of photos of the photos in my late mother's old albums. My aim was to create some printed albums for family members. It is taking a lot of work and a long time as each photo needs work. I keep thinking I have finished, then I discover a photo I have overlooked and need to reorganise the album.

The photos show that people in the early to mid 20th century made their own fun. There are lots of photos of picnics and other gatherings. The photo above looks like a picnic, but where is the food?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Explaining the Tristan Chord

The Tristan Chord, the beginning of modernist atonal music. Here the wonderful Stefan Mickisch explains the Tristan Chord to Stephen Fry.

It is Bayreuth opera time again and if you are one of the fortunate ones going and Mickisch is presenting his 'play and tell' shows, be sure to go along. I have heard lots of people explaining Wagner, some with great musical abilities, but Mickisch outshines them all. He is competent, amusing and humble. A true musician. In 2006 I drew Mickisch as he talked - portrait below the video.

Stefan Mickisch plays and explains

Portrait of Stefan Mickisch In 2006 I attended a seminar given by Stefan Mickisch in Bayreuth. I drew several small portraits as he spoke and showed him afterwards. He asked me if he should sign one and, after a little hesitation (remembering the Helen Clark portrait) I said 'Well yes, why not'. I value this little picture, painted as Mickisch played. It reminds me what a nice (and very erudite) person I had the honour of listening to.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Otello in Sydney with Simon O'Neill

Simon O'Neill as Otello  with Lianna Haroutounian as Desdemona.
Photograph: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia
On Wednesday I saw Otello at the Sydney Opera house with Simon O'Neill in the title role, Lianna Haroutounian as his Desdemona and Claudio Sgura as the dreadful Iago.

The singers were all in fine voice - their singing was just glorious and you would never have guessed that Lianna Haroutounian was a last minute stand in.

I am too much of a softie to really enjoy Otello because I just hate watching Otello being so deviously deceived by Iago. I winced and squirmed in my seat, which is a credit to the singers as they performed so compellingly I had no escape!

Apart from the excruciating story, the set in this production also bothered me. The whole performance took place on a steep staircase. As they sang and argued, made love and killed each other I was willing them not to trip and tumble right to the bottom of the stairs. None of them did, although it looked as if O'Neill had done himself damage in his final dying lunge. However he stood up and took his bows with a smile.

Guardian Review review (have a listen to the great clips in this article .... they'll lead you on to an evening of watching more and more.)
Portrait of Simon as Siegmund

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Whales frolic nearby

Whale with baby (image from Wikipedia)
I have just seen a live whale. It is swimming with a mate off my local beach in NSW as I write. Word gets around quickly (my neighbour told me) and when I drove up the hill a lot of cars were stopping at good vantage points for a look. You could see the whales from the beach as well, but perhaps not as easily.

The enormous bodies looked more like floating sand bars than animals. Watching the slow rise and fall of an concessional tail or fin made me think how talented photographers are to get pictures of wales above the water.They must wait a long time for the right shot.

As I watched I remembered seeing a whale off Nambucca Heads about 30 years ago. Or perhaps I dreamed that. I do know that we stood on a lookout waiting for the whale to surface but I no longer remember if I saw it surface or if my memory has been mixed with photos I  have seen. Memory is like that, not always infallible.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ACO and Paavali Jumppanen

Last week I saw Piano Quintets performed by Paavali Jumppanen and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Here is a video to show you how good they are. They are performing around Australia through July - see them if you can!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maribor Music Festival in September

Maribor Festival website
Wooo hooo ... the Maribor Music Festival is on again in September and I am going.
I can't wait.  It is a festival you get hooked on  because not only are the concerts wonderful the town of Maribor in Slovenia (just south of Graz in Austria) is charming as well.This will be my fifth festival!

It is a rather sudden decision and I have been spending lots of time perusing relevant websites, mulling over possible side trips.
My favourite website of all time is which is the German Railways website (in German and English).At a click of a button you can find out where and when European trains/ buses leave, how long they take, how much trips cost (prices vary depending on the route and time of day) and all the special offers. You can also find out which hotels are near the station or the airport or the centre of town and book them, often without having to pay until you arrive. What's not to like?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thank you Miele

Old seal from the Miele oven
I had to replace a rubber seal on a Miele oven this week. I rang the company to order a new one but I didn't know the model. Miele had it on file though, knew exactly what and when (2003) it had been purchased.

I asked if the part was easy to replace and was told the seal had hooks and I should be able to do it myself and avoid the $150 call out fee. They were right. When I took the old seal out I realised how simple the design was - simple and effective. The little wire hooks slotted in and the new seal was installed in about 10 seconds flat.

That's why I like German designed products. They might cost a little more, but it is worth it in the end.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Extended stay in the music room

View from the bed
A one night stay in the music room was what I planned when I arrived in Sydney last Thursday, but I hadn't reckoned with the winter flu bug that is doing the rounds in Sydney. One night turned into five and I was sick enough not to get bored with my unvarying view.

Tonight Warwick Fyfe is singing Wagner songs in Sydney. Warwick stole the show at the Melbourne Ring Cycle last year when he .jumped in at almost the last minute and sang a very memorable Alberich. My reminder alarm just beeped for the show but unfortunately I wont be there. I am out of the music room, but not fit enough for trains and buses.