Thursday, September 29, 2011

Caves and Winter Journeys

Last Saturday was Convent Market day so after a good shop there and at the mall, we had brunch at De Clieu in Gertrude Street. We weren't just being trendy, as I had a free coffee voucher to use, but the brunch was very good, justifying the popularity of the place. I had a very superior croque madame, dubbed a croque de clieu. Even though it was a little chill dining on the pavement in unrecognisable Gertrude Street, it was well worth it.

On Sunday, P. and I went to Werner Herzog's new film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Predictably, given the director, it was quite eccentric with albino crocodiles (what have they got to do with it) and somewhat ponderous commentary, but the experts paraded out were all good 'talent' and the account of ancient cave paintings was excellent. The countryside of the Ardeche also looked well worth a visit.

Last night, P., Frank and I went to the Recital Centre to hear baritone Matthias Goerne and Eric Schneider on piano perform Schubert's Winterreise. It was a moving performance, a technical tour-de-force and surely one of the concerts of the year. The evening was appropriate as there was a huge thunderstorm and our power went off for some time after what seemed to be a lightning strike. However, in spite of the damp, and huge queues afterwards for cloaked umbrellas, it was a wonderful evening.

I still haven't cracked the very large ms. (nearly 275 000 words) but I'm getting close. You can't rush these things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eighth Blackbird Sings

Last night, P. and I went to the South Melbourne Town Hall for a performance by Chicago-based combo Eighth Blackbird who played for three of the pieces with students from ANAM. The four pieces were very accessible contemporary works including two double sextets (the blackbirds plus six students). All four works were interesting and enjoyable including a world premiere of a work by composer-in-residence, James Ledger and a double sextet by U.S. composer Steve Reich. Sadly, my choice for the evening, Still Life With Avalanche by Missy Mazzoli was not on any of the band's CDs but the Reich is.

Afterwards, we had a quick meal at Wasabi in Clarendon Street, reliable as ever. Now back to the intractable manuscript, for which I haven't yet found a solution, and maybe will not.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cape Schank and Commoner

On Friday, P. and I headed off in Drew the Wagon down the Eastern Freeway to Frankston. We first went to the McLelland Gallery, which had a new series of exhibitions, plus some new sculptures in the park. It was a glorious sunny day and the experience was enhanced by finding a bee nest in one of the sculptures in the park. Nature meets art. Inside the gallery, there were a group of sculptures by Simon Gilby, a Western Australian, rather intimidating, lifesize human figures. More appealing were etchings by local artist John Farmer of mainly landscapes from the Mornington Peninsula. In the main gallery, an exhibition called Dreamweavers showcased a group of artists specialising in what might be called the surreal or at least the bizarre. It didn't make a lot of sense to me.

After a good lunch at the eatery at the gallery, we went off to Cape Schank to overnight in one of the lighthouse keeper's cottages. It was a rather quaint, but comfortable lodging with hamper for dinner and breakfast supplied. On the way, we had dropped into the Rosebud Plaza for additional supplies, just in case. The Rosebud Plaza makes our normal shopping mall look intimate. Horrible!

In the afternoon, we did a walk down the boardwalk which exhausted us (too much up and down) but were shamed by older men with surfboards bounding up the slope. Next morning, we dropped into the nearby RACV resort to buy a newspaper. Lethal golf buggies were zipping around. It looks like a place to avoid. We then headed to the Mornington Art Gallery for a travelling exhibition from the SA Gallery of Desert Art, a very comprehensive survey of everyone from the Papunya Tula artists, through Rover Thomas. There were some magnificent canvases. In the foyer was a small exhibition of Robin Boyd's peninsula houses.

Back home, in the evening, P., Frank and I went to the Catholic University's production of Into the Woods. It was a very creditable effort for a student production and was enjoyable in every way.

After all this activity, we had a lazy Sunday at home, but finished with The Commoner's Spring Festival special dinner with Lorraine and Frank. It was a six-course dinner with a spring broth, chicken roll, haddock rarebit, lamb and spring vegies, then a buttermilk and orange dessert, followed by cheese (cheddar and Gippsland blue). It was very good value and all delicious. More please!

Now back to work on a very thorny problem: how to organise a chaotic and anarchic manuscript?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Music old and new

On Saturday, after the shopping, Frank, P. and I were picked up by Dad and Helen and went to Huxtable in Smith Street for an excellent lunch. It was a kind of deferred father's day lunch, as Dad was busy last Sunday. I picked the venue as Helen is not a big eater and is defeated by fixed menus so the 'small plate' approach at Huxtable worked well. We worked our way through the menu. My favourite jalapeno balls figured, of course, and we tried some new things and old favourites like the excellent duck and the fish ceviche. New ones included some yummy pork spare ribs and the seafood salad. We rounded off with yummy desserts. I tried the ice cream sandwich but P. had the pick with rich dark chocolate.

In the evening, P. and I went to the MSO with an all-English program including a splendid Tippett Concerto for Double String Orchestra, followed by The Lark Ascending by Vaugan Williams with Wilma Smith as a sensitive soloist. After interval was Facade, narrated by Yvonne Kenny and conductor Andrew Davis, rather pompously. Edith Sitwell's verse was largely a waste of time, but the music from the small ensemble was excellent.

Continuing the musical feast was the Gloriana Chamber Choir concert on Sunday arvo. It was an all-Mary feast of treasures under the title Stabat Mater. Very interesting was a modern piece by Finnish composer Rautavaara, a Magnificat, plus a Maris Stella song by Edvard Grieg. The Scarlatti title piece had a very good accompaniment from harpsichord, theorbo and baroque cello and bass. It was a concert of the usual high standard. Unfortunately, Frank had a bad throat and couldn't sing, so joined us in the audience. Then it was home for P.'s delicious chicken curry with a sweet potato side curry.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Very modern music

Last night, P. and I went to the Malthouse for an evening of recent music called Tract presented by Paul Grabowsky, the Australian Art Orchestra and members of ANAM. There were pieces by Grabowsksky (2011, you can't get much more contemporary) which contained sections for improvisation by the musos, then a piece by John Rogers (2009). In between the pieces, there were improvisations: the best and most interesting was for percussion and bassoon, a rare combination indeed.

The concluding piece by Erkki Veltheim (2009) consisted of three performers from the Young Wagilak Group of Arnhem Land, voice, clapsticks and didgeridoo with an orchestra performing a related but contemporary score. It was a risky business, but in fact it worked for a very magical 20 minutes with the voices soaring above a not-too-inaccessible score for the other instruments. It was a very interesting evening of music.

We finished the evening with dinner at Petalang, a hawker-style cafe in Swanston Street. We ordered too much and couldn't finish it. It's good value though.