Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MARTIN PLACE



                                                            I'LL RIDE WITH YOU




You could say Martin Place is the heart of the city, anchored by The Cenotaph, the empty tomb, sitting outside the once General Post Office with its one hundred metres of golden sandstone colonnade where all the mail, when all there was was mail, came and went - city, suburbs, county, interstate and overseas. It was under these arches we as young medical students chose to do our silly Commemoration Day stunt to maximise our exposure.

The empty tomb is where the city grieves for its war dead on the one and only day of the year which has garnered significance: Anzac Day.

Rising slowly up to the east, Martin Place is now a pedestrian plaza flanked by the grand buildings of the old banks and insurance companies and at its crest meets the city's only boulevarde with the country's oldest hospital, Sydney Hospital, looking across and back down the slope.

We were in town today for a lunch, and encouraged by others, went to see. I'm glad we did. I was struck by bonds of it-could-have-been-anyone-of-us, and that they were one of us, and the importance of public grieving.

There was a steady stream, and endless stream, of people quietly and slowly arriving with flowers. Most were on their own and most were young. There was a calm. There was respect.





A unobtrusive man with a vest marked CHAPLIN mingled. There was time: time stilled, time taken and time lost. A group of religious clerics of all faiths stood in silent prayer before some lowered a flower into the sea.


Above, the Sydney sky was its usual brilliant blue, a flag at half mast.


The Lindt cafe beyond with its shattered glass secrets was secured by a black shroud.


Later that evening in the hazy light of the day's end, we watched a cruise ship sail away, another one about to arrive.





Monday, November 24, 2014

A CANCER CALLED RUPERT



I don't really want to get into politics too much. There's enough already. But in scrolling around looking for stuff on the Williamson play 'Rupert' which is about to open in Sydney, I found this interview with the brilliant Dennis Potter made in his last months.

20 years ago.




         "..... the very antithesis of discovering something you didn't know....."


It's not too hard to hypothesise that the defunding of the ABC on top of the closure of the Australia Asia Network smacks not only of payback for daring to be anything but a conservative cheer squad but of rewarding the man who relentlessly and ruthlessly destroyed the previous government and installed the stifling idiocy now in charge.

Not to mention that he, who canvassed sanctity in the river Jordan was probably the only person with the power to stop the lunacy of the US led invasion of Iraq instead using it to vigorously prosecute it

Quentin Dempster didn't hold back either.





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

RED HEADS



These tiny grass finches (Emblema temporalis) are some of the smallest birds around here. Not much bigger than a gum leaf! 

They like country with grassy areas surrounded by shrubs and trees (yes, that's us) and feed in small groups. They are tame enough to risk the open grasses close to the house, but alert enough that even the slightest movement inside a window sends them scattering. They have strong partner bonds, and it's wonderful to see pairs together in the larger flock.

It's taken ages to get these photos. They arrive in late spring / early summer when the grass is seeding (their preferred food, along with small insect and berries) and so it was a matter on lying on the bed (not too difficult) with the camera waiting in the late afternoon.

I'm wondering if one keeps lookout. 





The photos haven't been adjusted other than being cropped zoom shots which exaggerate the impact of the brilliant red markings. In the field, they are so small that the red isn't that obvious and the overall colours of grey-olive make a perfect disguise against predators.



PERCUSSION WEEK



Coming soon to a Sydney Opera House near you:  Colin Currie percussion soloist in the Australian premier of 'Sieidi' - Percussion Concerto which was written for him by Kalevi Aho. Osmo Vänskä conducts.

Sieidi means ancient cult place, and the work has shamanistic 'tendencies'. Sounds good to me.

Details.






Monday, November 10, 2014

PEACE OF MIND





Most people I meet at work are apprehensive and anxious. Not everyone, but most. They are after all at best committing their welfare to another or at worst, flirting with death. Toward the end of the pre-anaesthetic consultation I routinely ask the question: Are there any special worries or fears we haven't talked about?

Or something like that, depending on how it is going.

On Friday, I got an answer that was a first, delivered with considerable assurance.

"No. I have a peaceful mind."

"Meditation?"

"Not exactly. Years ago I decided to write down at the end of each day everything good or beautiful that happened during the day."

"Like an act of kindness, or lovely rose?"

"Yes, or a successful business outcome. The more I did this, the longer the list became till I had to stop* "

As things evolved, I was left with little doubt this was a mind at peace with itself and its situation and not some lolly-gobble-bliss-bomb state of denial.


*writing them down, not being aware


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

VALE GOUGH





Sydney University reflects on its famous alumnus, fare-welled today in an emotional State Memorial Service at the Town Hall.



He was undoubtedly the great Australian of my time. Within days of election he stopped conscription and ended our involvement in the Vietnam War. A war this conscript vehemently and uncomfortably opposed. But much much more was to come.

I choked hearing Noel Pearson, with belief in the continuity of spirit, call him still 'the old man' and refer to 'when he breathed' in his eulogy of heart wrenching sincerity and insights, and pointed indictment of today's regressive regimes.






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NOTT PUTTING UP WITH IT





On his second visit (I must have missed the first, surely not forgotten it), Jonathon Nott conducted a very fine concert of the, at first glance, unusual pairing of Poulenc's Organ Concerto and Mahler's 7th.

I've been mad about the Poulenc since this early 60's release which I bought for the fabulous Gloria with the fabulous Rosanna Carteri. The Organ Concerto is for organ, strings and tympani and there's only one winner here, and it's not the strings. It's very French, and very organ-y and the rarely heard Opera House organ was at full throttle, as already noted.


The Mahler 7 needs, like most things Mahler, to be nudging excellence to work; nearly just doesn't cut it and risks Mahler Soup. It is long and demands attention and audience commitment till it finally plows to a halt in a cow paddock. They played brilliantly and all credit to the elegant Mr Nott whose attention to detail, while never at the expense of the big picture, was exemplary.

Now, only for the story telling, it happened that just as silence fell over the hall as the baton was raised at the start of the Poulenc, a muffled something, like a child talking (which I think was the case), came from the circle. TURN THAT PHONE OFF came a call in an English accent I thought and then I thought: oh, that was Mr Nott. Although K assures me he thought it was some other patron also in the circle. Whatever happened thereafter, the organ took care of.

A second reminder to turn of phones came after interval. I don't think I've ever heard a mobile go off during a SSO concert. It is generally a good audience. That said, it is a tourist venue, and there are considerable attendees who are there for the building as much as the music, especially in summer.

Anyway, all was quiet, not a sound in the house, not even a mouse, till the end of the first movement. Thankfully no clapping (which Mr Robertson seems to encourage) but there was the sound of hurried footsteps as (and I turned to have a sticky) someone literally ran to the door. Bravo them for holding on, thought I. There was a sense of tension in the house. But still still as a mouse, till the end of the third, whence came the unbelievable clatter of high heels, a phalanx by the sound, echoing through the stillness. I turned to see two young women making their way down from rear circle to better seats in one of the side boxes, at the same time as Mr Nott turned and if looks could kill, then these girls were toast.

It must be hard, and stressful on the performers, although I reiterate, this (Friday) audience was immaculately behaved during performance, and if people have needs, and wait till breaks, then who's to criticise.

Lately, the rear seats / choir stalls have been completely empty, presumably either unsold or reallocated. Some conductors find patrons there can be distracting, without or with coughing.

Anyway, all that nonsense aside, now that Mr Nott is music director of Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Tokyo really isn't that far away, and -2 time zone, might we be so lucky.