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.