Friday, December 25, 2009


Again, this lovely lullaby, mother to child, from Britten's Ceremony of Carols.

"O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit,
Prepare thy creddil in my spreit,
And I sall rock thee to my hert,
And never mair from thee depart.

But I sall praise thee evermoir
With sanges sweit unto thy gloir;
The knees of my heart sall I bow,
And sing that richt Balulalow"

(something's going on around 0.45)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


but more to the point....

"..and He shall speak peace..."

Monday, December 21, 2009


That line in the sand, or vortex, or whatever Christmas has become, is looming. There are a few things I need to make mention of before the veil descends and we slip through that ridiculous divide.

Chapter 1

On Friday the 11th, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra turned out a fine Haydn's Creation (1798), perhaps, in an antipode kind of way, to mark the 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, or maybe the 150 years since the publication of 'The Origin of the Species". The Parisians, in Parc de Bagatelle, managed a wonderful indoor-outdoor exhibition about the great man (Mr Darwin), his marriage (to the well-heeled Miss Wedgewood) and the famous voyage, marking the ship's progress across the globe with walk-through plantings of the regions, Australia included, of course.

Anyway, back to Creationism in the Concert Hall, with a hapsichord dressed with two Poinsettias in white pots. Martin Haselbock debuted and led a good, clean (horns excepted) and ultimately quite moving account of this fairly straightforward piece on a fairly straightforward subject, now that Darwin has muddied the waters, so to speak. 'Six days' was much more simple. The flowers were a nice touch, especially as the hall seems to have settled into funereal black acoustic drapes. Now I think about it, what happened to flowers? Soloists used to get flowers, huge awkward bunches of them, and is it that hard to pop a bunch of gladdies around the conductors dais? , or the odd pot of the deepest blue Hydrangeas you can find? Surely not too expensive? It's the little aesthetic that often counts most, and often overlooked. Except in Japan.

Cantillation were/was fantastic, again; after all, they are led by Michael Black, chorus master of Opera Australia, joyous, reverent, hushed, haunting. Maybe I was the only one hearing Steve Davislim's beautiful warm confident expressive and bountiful tenor for the first time. Lyndon Terracini have you heard Steve Davislim? Mozart. Britten. French (v.i.). Bring him back. Funnily enough, December's Gramophone has this review (Marc Rochester) of Melba's release of Chausson ~ Vierne, The Queensland Orchestra/Guillaume Tourniaire:

"These [Vierne] are four brilliantly crafted songs with almost Wagnerian orchestral accompaniments which are dazzlingly reflected in performances of breathtaking intensity".

"Certainly Australian tenor Steve Davislim is every bit as impressive here [Chausson] as in the Vierne - and this is highly distinguished singing by any reckoning - "

"On every count, this is a magnificent release. It is also a truly revelatory one, not least in highlighting the outstnding work being done by this distinguished Australian label"

There he was, with Sarah Macliver, at the little desk down the front after the show, smiling at the crowd, and signing anything that stayed still long enough. 'Rather nice, quite friendly really' I heard an Englishman murmur to his wife. Come back, come back Steve.

Chapter 2

Buoyed by all the oratorio, we then took ourselves off the the ACO end of year show with the god-he-looks-so-young Dejan Lazic on piano, MC'd by Barry Humhpries, with two guests, friends of Mr Humphries. It was very memorable.

After a high spirited The Marriage of Figaro overture, Mr Humphries took the floor, holding everyone captive with story-telling of a style all but lost, and introduced his first choice - Marcel Poot's Jazz Music. It was evocative, I suspect, almost to the year, 1929, of the world as it then was, increasingly uncertain. The grey-bearded man next to me, jeans and slip-on black shoes with a gold chain, hard to miss as they found comfort apparently only on the rail of the front row of the circle, reverted to using his i-phone thingy. Scrolling, lights flashing, sending, receiving, sending, scrolling.

"You must be very important" I suggested during the applause, of which he took no part. "Having to use that - during the performance - you must be important" I prompted.
"Well I didn't like it!" he spat out boldly, head cocked towards the concert platform.
"Do you like Ravel?" I asked and watched him hesitate a tellingly long time, perhaps scrolling through his cerebral thingy - sauce? pasta? watch brand? - before he declared confidently "Yes".
"Good, then we wont be having anymore of that distraction" I said, a bit too archly, nodding at the electronic devil still clutched in his hand.

Humphries sat grandly in the comfortable leather chair as Tognetti led us through more of Humphries early years, almost his birth music, the equally uncertain and darker Ravel Violin Sonata no.2. William Walton's Facade followed. My only memories of it were earlier Australian Ballet days, when alongside Pineapple Poll, the company could camp it up, outrageously and with considerable flair. Flair is what Barry Humphries has lots of. The Sitwell "abstract" poems
were barely intelligible, neither neceesary, nor desirable probably, incomprehensible as they are, as Humphries repeatedly reminded us. But the cadence was lovely, loosely matched with Tognetti and the team, and it felt like a look indeed behind a facade, into a time well past, and then the preserve of just a few. It was an exceptional and rare event.

Enter Sir Les. The vulgarities were much as expected, filthy, funny, and yet even more as he zeroed in on the weak, the different, the unable to respond. And stayed well past his welcome, as important as every other reminder of the worst in us.

After a jazzy, exhilarating Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Dejan Lasic flying high, on came Edna. She was fabulous, and very very funny, and very like old times, that lingering at the door, I expected a hissed " 'scuse I" any moment. I thought the guy behind me would die. And all the while accompanied on the keyboard by the beaming Croatian, who was still beaming, but now with lipstick lips on each cheek, as he waited afterwards at the desk out front to give autographs. 'Which will I buy?'. 'The Rachmaninoff' he said, pointing. Its the Rach 2, live with the LSO, but I especially like the gentler Moments Musicaux, and particularly the warm embracing comfort of the no. 5, Adagio sostenuto

Saturday, December 19, 2009


When this business of blogging started, my blogging that is, it was an impulsive thing which caught even me by surprise. Without much forethought or long sighted purpose, but more with the intent of seeing how it all worked and then letting evolution have its way, it just happened one day. I certainly saw it as some form of record keeping and in the absence of a clear vision, thought anonymity gave a liberty which lack of self confidence and uncertainty of future content otherwise denied me. So with equal unexpectedness and in no longer than it took to ask myself the question, the answer came that I would launch myself into the ether as 'wanderer', without a capital. I thought the latter affectation important.

My little pseudonym just about covered it - a fair enough expression of the average human condition: probably male in my case, from a previous better place and time, surrounded by increasing decay, and blocked from reversing the ever apparent entropy by a false sense of self importance and specialness. None of that is up for debate. And yes, restricted vision, one-eyed, metaphorically speaking of course. If the reader didn't make the connection it was of little consequence. Well, no consequence actually. Nothing is.

Lately, over several weeks, and more likely months, there has been a slow deterioration in how well I can see with my right eye. Oh, nothing sudden and nothing as dramatic as flashing lights, folds of blackness or signals of major concern, but just the incipient awareness that things aren't as good as they used to be (is anything?), followed by the incredulous thought that vertical and horizontal lines were being deformed by some dark matter of considerable density, and finally the realisation that there was a smeared blurry spot virtually at the centre of my visual field in that eye. This alarming revelation came reading the surtitles in the recent L'Ormindo.

So after a series of consultations with experts in the field, to whom I am blessed to have good access, I am now undergoing treatment for something still incompletely diagnosed. It may be the late onset of a benign reversible and unilateral condition usually seen in younger men than I, or the early onset of a possibly more progressive and potentially bilateral process of the older age group. Prognostication is vague but reassuring. Either way, wanderer has been doing some thinking.

Years of reading, thinking, workshops, discussions, meetings and practice sessions have left a willingness, if not eagerness, to meditate regularly and live in the now. And I try. But what has been exposed is that I am quite good at leaving the 'past', appreciating that there is only the 'present', but have made little progress in dealing with my attachment to the 'future', something I assumed would always fall into place when the need arose. Fear was the engine of all wanderings, and I was ready for it. Well, I'm not.

I went to work yesterday. I had thought about skipping out, getting someone to cover me, taking my self-absorption and the dogs down to the forest mountain house to retreat and lick some wounds. K and I talked about it. There was something, I said, which strangely makes me feel compelled to go to work. The order of the day had been rearranged and while I brought some pressure to bear to change the schedule to better suit my interests (an early finish) there remained an unusual addition to be done. This I knew I should and would do.

He turned out to be a young man with cerebral palsy. His disability from this was moderate involving mostly some deformity of the feet. I had a cousin with severe cerebral palsy with extreme choreoathetoid movements, unable to mouth anything but grunts mostly of giving thanks, a life trapped in talking with a toe pointing to an alphabet on the floor and a paint brush strapped to his head. He is dead now and I am much older, if little more advanced. This man had none of these restrictions, except that he was born blind. Totally. He had no eyes.

He was scheduled to have injections into nerves and tendons located with a nerve stimulator with the aim of reducing the spasms and foot deformity in a procedure usually done under mild sedation so as to facilitate finding the correct locus of injection without the blunting of general anaesthesia. We talked, son, father and mother. He didn't miss what he didn't know, said father. He had no craving to see a Picasso or the sparkle of sunlight on water. The only thing to worry him was not knowing who was in a room with him.

He was gentle and said nothing without his mouth widening into a smile. The procedure was going well in a fluctuating reverie of intravenous drugs of sedation and narcosis. "Are you OK"? "Yes", he smiled softly as they probed his legs. "OK"? "Yes". The last nerve to be found was deeper with less defined external landmarks and the efforts to elicit the defining response were more invasive. His face lost its smoothness. "Are you OK"? "Yes" , he smiled. "Sure"? "Yes", he said slowly. I wasn't so certain. I lent down close to his face, mouth to his right ear, and now we were the only two in the room.

"Is it hurting?" I whispered. "Yeesss" he whispered back. "Do you want to go right off to sleep?" "Yeesss" he said softly. And he did.

In recovery, with complete amnesia for what had happened, he asked how things had gone. Very well I reassured him, they are pleased. So everything will be fixed, he smiled.

He had shone a light. I have abundance but none that matters. He had acceptance and was my teacher.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Today is December 7, and it is 34 degrees in the (verandah) shade at 1o o'clock, and today those of you who read The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age should have, and would have, been reading the same editorial as in 56 other newspapers worldwide, in 45 countries. But you aren't. You may read an article about the story, at least The Australian manages that, without any mention that neither it nor any other newspaper in Australia or New Zealand see fit to join in.

Why? or rather why not? - because the leader of the opposition in this country changed from Malcolm Turnbull to Tony Abbott. The lunatic fringe have grabbed the microphone. As the Guardian notes:"Two Australian papers, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, pulled out at a late stage after the election of climate change sceptic Tony Abbott as leader of the opposition Liberal party recast the country's debate on green issues."

We should have been the first. So, here's the editorial the appointment of a climate change crapper to the leader of an opposition party (nothing else has changed, god knows the CO2 levels haven't) meant would no longer be fit for editorial status in our major tabloids. Courtesy of the The Hindu: Copenhagen: seize the chance.

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency. Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting, and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time, and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone. The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the President cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so. But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels. Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere — three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce its emissions within a decade to very substantially less than its 1990 level. Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe,” must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing. Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat, and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it. But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognised that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs, and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels. Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over shortsightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too. The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Pinchgut's 2009 show, Cavalli's L'Ormindo (1644), opened on Wednesday night and as much fun as it is, it is a lot more. It is a delightful look into the past with little shreds of us exposed on the layers as they are peeled back, or appliqued on, if you look at that in reverse, with the resultant spectrum of broad action and variable nuanced detail ending up an eclectic mix of styles from high Capriccios camp, through music hall romp of the phallic pillow variety, to a more studied stand and deliver. That things are quite so mixed could at first glance be a point of criticism, possibly explained by the last minute changes in direction, and directors, together with stage performers of quite mixed solo experience, but nonetheless, it ends up a comedy not taking itself too seriously, except of course for its musical and vocal values, and all's well that laughs well.

More to the point, Alex Ross suggests in a piece in the New Yorker earlier this year, that this (mid-17thC) was a "time of dissolution and self-reinvention", when "melodrama, bawdy humor, and disorienting collisions of high and low permeated the form" or as Erin Helyard (Musical Director) points out in the programme notes, it was the time when "opera went public" and the "formality of private courts" moved to "raucous [public] theatres." L'Ormindo, as such, is a perfect template for what was going on, and for us a rare peep back. It is just a peep; there will be no record of this performance, although Wednesday's opening night will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM this Sunday night.

Francesco Cavalli was really Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni (1602-1676), born in Crema (Lombardy) but took the name of his Venetian patron. A bit like Tony Abbott becoming Tony Pell. He wrote 33 operas, was hugely popular, as one filling music halls always is, and is believed to have written or edited "a good portion of Monteverdi’s last two great stage works – Return of Ulysses and Coronation of Poppea". He was, as Mr Ross points out, the one who "perfected the transition from recitative to aria - the thrilling transformation of musicalized speech into song." That's some mark in the history of song.

We sat again on the third tier, able to look down on the Orchestra of the Antipodes in full flight, with Erin Helyard a fantastic creature of all limbs, no body and wonderfully rounded shining bald head, emerging up from his hapsichord seat like a giant spider, working his players and the singers with much care and attention. The sound up there is interesting, and I should try somewhere else I suppose, but it is like being in a bell (ok, I've never been in a bell), in that at some dynamic point, or resonant point, the sound, and especailly the voice, blooms out into a fullness quite uplifting. I found I was waiting for it, and wasn't disappointed.

I liked the set a lot, and the lighting was simple and effective. I'm not going to do a voice by voice thing, others will do it I'm sure, but I especially liked David Walker's beautiful, just beautiful, sound (the first time I've heard him), Fiona Campbell's strongly etched Erisbe (typo in the programme notes there folks), the basses of Richard Anderson, Ariadeno, and Andrei Laptev, Osmano (he's very good), but most of all Taryn Fribig's Sicle. And the applause-o-meter agreed I think. I'm getting a thing for her. I found in the Peter Grimes I was increasingly watching her. I keep thinking back to Marilyn Richardson (perhaps it is the eyes), vocally as well as stage presence, and wonder what is front of her. She sounded glorious on Wednesday.

Special thanks to Pinchgut for a particularly good programme, not riddled with gaudy advertising, with good explanatory notes, and a full libretto!

Go and make a night of it. Relax, enjoy the city, get into the time machine. You only have a few more chances.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Butterfly! ......... Butterfly! .......... Butterfly!

We don't see many down here - too many birds I expect. There was a point of closeness which I breached, and he took off onto the pebbles, wings tucked up, so from above all you could see was a think black line. But it meant, as I lay on the ground, I did get to see the under surface of those wings, like looking at the back of a tapestry