Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sol Gabetta - Basel Chamber Orchestra - Sydney Opera House

Sol Gabetto - once you see her you wont forget her. She is not only a startlingly good cellist, but she has a wonderful stage presence. Today she payed in the Sydney Opera House with the Basel Chamber Orchestra, whisking onto the stage in a stunning red dress then wowing us all with her playing.

Taking a bow
The orchestra obviously enjoys playing with her and when she turned to thank them at the end of her first piece we saw that her dress was backless and had a wonderful sparkly waistband. It also had a wide billowy skirt, perfect for playing the cello. Clothes for stage performances must be something of a nightmare for musicians I would think, but the designer and wearer both did themselves proud on this occasion.

Gabetta played Bartok today but also Peteris Vasks' Cello Concerto Nr 2 'Presence' which was the concert standout for me. It is an extraordinary piece, modern yet lyrical and Sol Gabetta's playing of it got a standing ovation.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Voting on a new NZ Flag

Today I got to vote on the new New Zealand flag. I love the fact that my birth country includes me in these decisions even though I don't live there.  I do visit regularly though and that counts. 

My favourite flags of this lot are the Koru design in the middle and the triangles flag which was included only after the public had complained about the selection made by the committee. All the others look like marketing icons to me.

Addendum on 11/12/15: the first results are out and the first flag on the left got the most votes. The Koru got the least but I still like it best. I am glad the flag far right didn't get the Guernsey as I like it the least. The next vote is in March 2016 and we will choose between the preferred flag of this lot and the current NZ flag which is very similar to it but has a union jack instead of fern leaf.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Adele Horin

There are not many journalists who blog from their hospital bed after a major brain operation but Adele Horin was one of them. She blogged about how wonderful the staff were in public hospitals and how we must make sure they get the support they deserve.
Adele Horin (Sydney Morning Herald photo)

I had been captured by Adele when she was a staff writer for the Sydney morning Herald in the eighties and had always looked forward to her articles as they were compassionate, full of good sense and they 'spoke truth to power'. Such a combination is hard to find.

Adele continued writing after she left her newspaper job, but this time as a blog. After that post from the hospital room we readers held our breaths for her and hoped that the lengthy silence that followed was not an auger of worsening health.

Then came another post about a week ago and it was true Adele. She wrote that she was loosing the battle but then she listed all the ways she felt she had been lucky in life. What a woman. A few days later we heard of her untimely death. She was sixty four years old.

I only knew Adele Horin through her writing but she enriched my life and I will miss her. I am one of many many thousands who are mourning her passing. Vale Adele Horin.

(You can find her blog post on my blog list below.)
(Adele - an obit)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kayaking with paintings


Patonga Inlet
A bloke from Patonga rang me recently to tell me he had seen a painting of mine in a local cafe and had decided to buy it but it had "disappeared" before he had had the chance. We arranged to meet on Sunday and I took over three paintings as I wasn't sure which one he had liked.

My prospective buyer turned up in a wet suit, dripping water across the pavement.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised as some houses in Patonga are across a creek and only accessible by boat but when I saw the size of his craft I was surprised. It was tiny. He had paddled his one man kayak down the creek and along the waterfront to the shop and proposed to take his painting back the same way.

The kayaker decided to buy two paintings instead of one. He  put them in a plastic garbage bag together with his thick weekend newspaper and set off on his wobbly way. He balanced his paintings on a two-liter bottle of milk he'd bought at the cafe but still they made it difficult to paddle.

As I left I crossed my fingers that his paintings (watercolour and ink) would arrive dry at their destination.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Richard Gill, music educator

"It's a paradox. Music has this incredible power to evoke, but we don't know what it evokes. You can't talk about it as being 'very emotional' or 'very passionate' because that's bullshit.  So I only ever talk about it in its own terms - technical aspects of the music and the way the orchestra works and the way the keys work." 
Richard Gill (photo Limelight magazine)

That is typical Richard Gill, in an excerpt from the Discovery Series program.

Gill is a passionate and internationally acclaimed educator who has captured the hearts of the many Australians who have either been given a chance as young musicians or educated into classical music through his efforts. 

I attended the last of his concerts yesterday and his audience gave him such a wild clapping and stamping ovation as I have ever heard in the Angel Place concert hall, all the more remarkable because most of  the audience at this 6:30 performance were well over retirement age, not usually a foot stamping age.

Yesterday was the last of the Discovery Series concerts and also the very last concert by the Sinfonia, which is the SSO mentoring orchestra established by Gill in 1996.  Gill expressed some surprise that both are finishing. Let's hope they are replaced by equally vibrant alternatives.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sol3Mio in Sydney: a lesson in opera promotion

"I didn't think I liked opera!" said the young man from Colorado. 
I was sitting next to his wife and she told me they had bought tickets to the concert because her parents were visiting Sydney from the States and they wanted to go to a concert while they were here.
Sol3Mio (their Facebook photo)
"I thought these guys looked good," she said "but I had no idea we would be getting two for one, voices and comedy!" 

Sol3Mio are brothers Pene Pati and Amitai Pati and their cousin Moses Mackay, three New Zealanders of Samoan descent. They are classically trained musicians but they love just about anything that can be sung and on Saturday night they sang everything from their trademark Yellow Bird to a piece by Coldplay and Puccini's Nessun Dorma. 
Sydney audience dancing in the aisles with
Sol3Mio (photo from their facebook page)
The audience loved them.  Not only are they handsome fellows with lovely voices, they are funny. Very funny!  There is a strong Kiwi flavour to Sol3Mio's humour but that didn't stop the Americans enjoying it. In fact it would be hard for anyone not to enjoy the three members of Sol3Mio, they are just such genuine and unassuming people as well as having wonderful voices.

They all love opera and are wonderful opera ambassadors. 

Pene Patti has just won second place in the Neue Stimen (new voices) competition in Germany which is a major accomplishment (see him sing here) and Amitai Pati has just won the New Zealand Aria competition. These are only the latest of the many awards this group have garnered.

You don't realise they are so tall until you have
your photo taken with them (and I'm not short!)
My name was one of three drawn out of a hat for a chance to meet them before the concert and I can report that they are as delightful in the flesh as they appear to be in all their youtube videos.

I hope they scale operatic heights and I am sure that on their way there they will create many new opera fans. 
Go Sol3Mio!