Saturday, November 6, 2010


(Albert Namatjira Simpson's Gap - country of Lizard Man - source)

Perhaps it was because of a sense of gaining control over my life again, although the purists would say one has complete control. But you know what I mean. When that deep ugly visceral pain hits, beyond the nociceptive and autonomic responses, there lies a deep sense of unease - what is this that is happening to me. A benign diagnosis is almost as narcotic as narcotics. With life back in balance, I had quite the best week, and interestingly, two (even more than usual) moving nights - one theatre, one orchestral.

On Wednesday we sat down the front for Namatjira. Trevor Jamieson was already sitting just there, the sitter for a portraitist, John Hannaford. (Namatjira's portrait was the 1952 Archibald winning portrait by William Dargie, and now hangs in the Queensland Art Gallery.) For the ten or so minutes it took the theatre to fill, he, Trevor Jamieson, Albert Namatjira, sat there absolutely motionless, his large chocolate eyes brown fixed on infinity. Shirtless, he looked leaner than any photograph I can find of him, or the subject of Dargie's portrait, a perfect dancer's body half naked on the sitter's stool, head slightly forward, shining brown skin curled with greying black hairs, nothing whiter than the whites of his big round eyes.

Scott Rankin, with Big hART, has scripted the most wonderful story telling, a story for anyone interested in country, anyone not (aware they are) interested in country, anyone into laughter, anyone into crying, anyone into song, anyone into mime, anyone who has still to learn what beautiful people were here before 1788, anyone whose first memory, like mine, of something hanging on a wall was a Namatjira between two windows of my first school, with a Guardian Angel of oversized wings folding around a boy peering over a cliff on the wall opposite.

Namatjira is sold out. But my neighbour rang, after we spoke the next morning, and managed a single ticket row B last Friday.

I thought I'd been a bit emotional, and now I'd be right, balanced, hardened up again after two weeks of introspection and illness. Well, not so. On notice to not miss the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Arabian Nights programme, we were lucky to get seats close to the piano and just under Jean-Yves Thibaudet's hands. I didn't know the Saint-Saëns (wracked with pains) 5th Piano Concerto, at all. The orchestra was playing it for the first time, so I didn't feel too bad. Click Click Click - the Thibaudet/Dutoit was playing now. Ah, the wonders. I listened to it for three days, and gave thanks there are people in your life to give directions.

Not Mr Dutoit (he is in Melbourne where he will conduct Thibaudet, in the Saint-Saëns 5th - does that seem a little strange?) but for us Mr Lazarev, the showman, all good fun and lively, but thankfully invisible behind the piano for the Concerto. I was fine till that fabulous nights-in-the-garden-of-Spain Adante opening of the second movement. Tears flowed. Thibaudet was dancing, the orchestra was dancing with him, gorgeous evocative yearnings with promises of satisfaction, mysteries about to be revealed, such well being now and forever. Even the capital O oriental chopsticks we-are-Chianese-if-you-please interlude didn't seem so cut and pasted.

And they played a fantastic Scheherazade, Lazarev now well in his element. We were a bit close, organically close, but not too close. Not for the Concerto, oh no, not for Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I had to say a quick hello and a thank you at Interval, at the signing table, no one there as I walked past. Your Ravel Preludes were played at my mother's funeral I embarrassingly found myself saying. They are so very beautiful, he smiled back. So was she I heard myself reply. What they have to put up with, or up with what they have to put, or God bless these people they bring us so much.

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