Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Unique chord, or uniqueish?

I've played a lot of chords over the past 50 years, but there's one I only recall playing in one particular song.

I'd love to be told it is also found in other songs, but I don't remember it occurring, so far.

Thirteenths are among my most favourite chords, but while they are not ubiquitous, you do encounter them with some degree of regularity.

But where else does the great chord at the beginning of the second bar of The Sound of Music also occur?
[clears throat] The hills are alive with the sound of
mu -sic.

That chord on the mu is one weird chord. You play an E major first inversion chord with your right hand, and a low F with your left. It sounds amazing.

Any takers?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Century

The 6 CD soundtrack to the Australian TV Nine Network's Our Century series has some great treasures, including the voice of Nellie Melba, cricket legend Don Bradman tickling the ivories, the original Aeroplane Jelly song, and the novelty song Is E an Aussie Lizzie, is E.

It also includes the Louie "D" Fly and Brylcream ads, Frank Ifield singing I Remember You, The Atlantics playing Bombora, and Lucky Starr singing I've Been Everywhere.

I also enjoyed Billy Thorpe's version of Poison Ivy. I'm a sucker for silly lyrics and what could be sillier than the lines
Measles make you bumpy
And mumps'll make you lumpy
And chicken pox'll make you jump and twitch
A common cold'll fool ya
And whooping cough can cool ya
But poison ivy, Lord'll make you itch!!

You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion
You'll be scratchin' like a hound
The minute you start to mess around.

Ray Brown's 20 Miles reminds me of a night at a noisy roller skating rink. In my mind it was at Swansea, Lake Macquarie, but I think my memory is wrong, because I've never heard of a Swansea skating rink.

I was interested to see that the Decimal Currency Jingle that we all remember, those of us who were around to welcome in
The fourteenth of February, 1966
was not recorded in Australia. Tsk, tsk.

There are some other great tracks from the Sixties and Seventies, including The Easybeats' Friday On My Mind, Eric Jupp's Skippy, Flying Circus' Hayride, Yesterday's Hero, sung by John Paul Young, Sherbet's Howzat, Glenn Shorrock's terrific versino of Bobby Darin's Dream Lover,Joe Dolce's Shaddup You Face, and Split Enz's interesting I Got You.

I lvoe the liner notes for Up There Cazaly, which tell us it was
dedicated to maybe the most famous of all cricket players to grace the immoral [sic] Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Unfortunately the set does not seem to be currently available, but would be worth a hunt in a second-hand store.

Song To Raymonda

You can't beat Youtube!
I haven't heard this one in at least 30 years. It was on the radio in the year I left school. [No peeking now!]

What a great old song! Not an Aussie comp, but an Aussie band, at least.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eres Tu [Touch the Wind]

I had a Narromine flashback today. The song Eres Tu [Touch the Wind] came into my mind and I enjoyed playing it on the piano, while waiting for a student.

It's a great song, I think.

Still singing it Judith?

Cantatas for the season

I'm attempting to learn more about Bach's cantatas through listening to the ones for the relevant part of the church year. At the moment I am listening to Advent and Christmas cantatas and am thoroughly enjoying John Eliot Gardiner's Pilgrimage CD no 15, which contains cantatas which were performed in New York in 2000.

The texts are wonderful and the music has great variety and is performed superbly, as always.

Graham Abbott's Keys to Music program on Bach's cantatas which was broadcast last Saturday is also beautiful and enlightening.

If you are quick, you may be able to listen to it at Keys to Music

Friday, December 11, 2009

Attempting to acquaint myself with Bach's cantatas

I love Bach's cantatas, though I can only recognise a small number by name. In 2001, I bought a copy of the Teldec Bach 2000 set, and, like many, found that the cantatas were less than satisfactory. The worst bit is the number of times the boy sopranos are out of tune. About 6 of the 60 CDs are actually painful, and it was good to be able to listen to all of Bach's works.

The booklets are very helpful, and it is interesting to be able to listen to all of Bach's extant works. My set cost me $1500 for 153, which sounds cheap at $10 per CD, but now there is a Dutch set of Bach's compositions that costs about $300. It does not include any printed information, but you can get this from a CD-ROM or online, I think.

But I am collecting Eliot Gardiner's wonderful Bach Pilgrimage set which is greatly superior to the Harnoncourt Teldec set.

I've discovered the excellent Bach cantatas website, linked to above, has enough information to answer almost any question I could ask about the sacred cantatas.

And Christoph Wolff's book gives you details of the three year cycle that Bach composed, most of which is extant. So you can go through the church year, listening to the relevant cantatas for each day or week or part of the Christian calendar.

I listened to BWV 61 today, as the first step on my journey.

You know what they say: the greatest journey begins with ...
a trip to the bathroom.

Been there, done that, got the Leipzig t shirt

I'm listening to BWV 61 Nunn komm der Heiden Heiland [Come now, Saviour of the Gentiles] and reading about Bach's cantatas in Christoph Wolf's Johann Sebastian Bach: the learned musician, which I bought to use in preparing for appearing on ABC TV's Einstein Factor in 2007, and am chuckling over this, which sounds like it was written last week, as least in some places:

The Leipzig city council sent a memorandum in 1730 which said:
"In the churches of this town ... new hymns hitherto not customary, shall not be used in public divine services."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Free Christmas present

Jingle bells! Jingle Bells!
The National Library of Australia has generously provided New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians online for all subscribers to use free of charge. It costs about $400 per year to subscribe to this standard music dictionary, though some are able to use it through their universities.

There are plenty of great music resources you can use instantly at
National Library of Australia
but if you want to use Grove [which would cost you $7000 to buy in hard copy] you need to apply at the site for a library card. I've already applied for mine! [Although a friend generously gave me the 29 volume set, you can't beat electronic access.]

David McKay


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Favourite Aussie composition

I'm running a U3A Music Appreciation course, which I do for the first six weeks of Term 4 each year.This year we are investigating Australian Music.

It is disappointing to me that one of the very best Australian compositions is not available any more.

Malcolm Williamson's The Musicians of Bremen was written for The King's Singers to perform in Australia, which they did in 1972 and later recorded on their LP Contemporary Collection. But now the LP is no longer available and it never made it to CD.


I love this work and hope it may be rereleased. If this cannot be, I would at least hope that another Australian choral group, such as The Song Company would record it so that 21st century folk can enjoy it, too.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Yarts

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.
SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Early account of Aboriginal Music

I am enjoying reading Jack Egan's Buried Alive, in which he has given us extracts of accounts of 1788-92, the first years of colonisation of Australia by Europeans.

I enjoyed reading Captain John Hunter's February 1791 letter about witnessing Aboriginal singing and dancing. Hunter was a trained musician, as this extract shows:
Their dance was truly wild and savage, yet in many parts there appeared order and regularity; one man would frequently single himself out from the dance and running around the whole of the performers, sing out in a loud voice, using some expressions in one particular tone of voice which we could not understand; he would then join the dance, in which it was observed that certain parties alternatively led forward to the front, and there exhibited with the utmost skill and agility all the various motions which, with them, seemed to constitute the principal beauties of dancing…
Their music consisted of two sticks of very hard wood, one of which the musicians held upon his breast in the manner of a violin and struck it with the other in good and regular time; the performer, who was a stout strong-voiced man, sung the whole time and frequently applied those graces in music, the piano and the forte; he was assisted by several young boys and girls who sat at his feet, and by their manner of crossing the thighs, made a hollow between them and their belly, upon which they beat time with the flat of their hand, so as to make a kind of sound which will be better understood from the manner of its being produced than from any verbal description.
These children also sung with their chief musical performer, who stood up the whole time, and seemed to me to have the most laborious part of the performance.
They very frequently, at the conclusion of the dance, would apply to us for our opinions, or rather for our marks of approbation of their performance, which we never failed to give by often repeating the word boojery, which signifies good, or boojery caribberie, a good dance. These signs of pleasure in us seemed to give them great satisfaction and generally produced more than ordinary exertions from the whole company of performers in the next dance.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Some favourite quotes about Music

Music is enough for a lifetime
But a lifetime is not enough for Music.
- Serge Rachmaninov

Musica laetitiae comes medicina dolorum.
Music is the companion of joy and the medicine of sorrow.
- Anon

Song title:
You don’t have to join the Ku Klux Klan to be a wizard under the sheets!

Album Title:
Songs I Learnt At My Mother's Knee (and some other low joints)

which can be made anywhere,
Is invisible and does not smell
- W H Auden

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
- Berthold Auerbach

You just have to press the right keys and the right pedals at the right time and the music plays itself.
- J S Bach

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.
- J S Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) [on the Well-Tempered Clavier]
This is not a brook [Bach means "brook" in German], it’s an ocean.

We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.
from Leonard Bernstein's Tribute to John F. Kennedy Speech made at United Jewish Appeal benefit Madison Square Garden, New York - 25 November 1963

The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And "Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be 'No.'
- Aaron Copland

My biggest kick in music – playing or writing- is when I have a problem. Without a problem to solve, how much interest do you take in anything?
- Duke Ellington

Objectivity in music is rubbish ... Have you ever had an objective love affair? And what is music but love?
- Lili Kraus

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
- Martin Luther

It’s kind of like a funky sort of Afro-Cuban swinging jazz-rock sort of Classical punk waltz reggae calypso sort of Scottish feel.
- James Morrison, on his song "Ease on in"
James and his family lived, for a time, across the road from my Uncle Dave and Aunty Win. Aunty Win says they were very nice but very quiet, and only occasionally would you hear music coming from the house

Without music, life would be a mistake.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

There is nothing more difficult than talking about music.
- Camille Saint-Saëns

The study of the history of music and the hearing of masterworks of different epochs will quickly cure you of vanity and self-adoration.
- Robert Schumann

I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I've felt it.
- Igor Stravinsky

You just pick a chord, go twang, and you've got music!
- Sid Vicious

and I love these three Frank Zappa quotes:
Some people crave baseball -- I find this unfathomable --
but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing a bassoon.

I write the music I like. If other people like it, fine, they can go buy the albums. And if they don't like it, there's always Michael Jackson for them to listen to.

It has never mattered to me that thirty million people might think I'm wrong. The number of people who thought Hitler was right did not make him right... Why do you necessarily have to be wrong just because a few million people think you are?

Rock journalism is
people who can’t write
interviewing people who can’t talk
for people who can’t read.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Keating's eulogy for Geoffrey Tozer

Whew! Is Mr Keating ever passionate about Geoffrey Tozer!

I didn't even know The National Times still existed!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fifty years

Today is the 50th anniversary of my first piano lesson.

I was very excited to learn piano and am still enthralled by this amazing instrument. And I'm still learning.

I love the sound of many instruments, but I do think the piano wins on versatility.

And it is a wonderful instructor because it is a great visual aid to learning about how music works. You can see musical intervals and chords on a piano in a way that you can't on a flute or even a harp or guitar.

When I was growing up, it was fun to listen to songs on the radio and then try to play them on the piano. I remember attempting The Beatles' Penny Lane and being frustrated by the chord that comes at the capitalised word in the first line of the chorus:
Penny Lane is in my EARS

I could not find a suitable chord and bought the sheet music for 35 cents and discovered that the chord is the tonic chord, the same as the preceding one, but is in first inversion [the bass note is the original middle note of the chord]. THAT was a revelation to me, much the same as the odd bass notes in The Beach Boys' God Only Knows were to Paul McCartney.

I think Rachmaninov was onto something when he said
Music is enough for a lifetime
But a lifetime is not enough for Music

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to be able to quit crowd control [which some people call high school music teaching] and get a job teaching piano at the Mitchell Conservatorium in Bathurst and Kinross-Wolaroi School in Orange.

There's so many things I am useless at, and I know I am only a very average piano player and teacher, but I'm an average one who enjoys plugging along with what God has given me. I pray that I may be able to praise him by using what I have and maybe even by improving a bit, even after 50 years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ross Hamilton's music analyses

I find Ross Hamilton's analyses of pieces very useful. He has analysed about 1000 pieces from the standard repertoire. The pieces all come from Australian music exam syllabuses, but the vast majority of these would be in British exam systems as well.

I have used his analyses of Musicianship set works and have found them very helpful, though he has provided much more information than I have needed.

The only caveat is that they are not cheap, though he does provide some affordable specials.

See for more information.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I have been subscribed to Praise! which is a British hymnbook that has an online website, which gives you the words and sometimes the music of about 900 hymns, as well as interesting stories about the hymn-writers and adapters.

My hard copy of the book arrived today. The web is great, but there is something about having the book. I was prompted to order a copy at last because the Aussie dollar is about 50 p at the moment, whereas it is often about 30 p or so.

Subscribing costs 25 pounds per year, which sounds expensive, but you do get access to 3 books and updates for this price. And a CCLI licence also gives you permission to use the hymns in your church, provided that you follow the correct procedure for doing so.

I notice that the hymn book also has a notice that gives permission for a one time use of any hymn in the book, provided that you give proper acknowledgement to the source of the hymn you are using.

I hope to post interesting hymns I've found in the book from time to time. The hymn for today is a setting of Psalm 125 by Christopher Idle. The words are terrific and sound great when sung to the old hymn Sanctissimus, which is the one we always used for singing Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:
Those who rely on the LORD are unshakeable,
firm as Mount Zion, supremely assured;
just as the mountains encircle Jerusalem,
round us forever is standing the LORD.

Evil shall not always trample on righteousness:
God's time will come when oppression shall cease.
LORD, bless the righteous, restrain the impenitent;
grant to your people the gift of your peace.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Geoffrey Tozer obit

Child prodigy hit the highest notes Sydney Morning Herald, August 27, 2009
Geoffrey Tozer, 1954-2009

GEOFFREY TOZER was 13 years old when the legendary headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, James Darling, advised him: ''You're wasting your time at school''.

Although Tozer was not a Grammarian, the sage had taken the boy under his wing after hearing him play in concert. He told him: ''What you really need to do is read, play the piano and meet famous people. Get out of Australia as fast as you can. Go and grow.''

Tozer, a child prodigy who would become one of Australia's most internationally acclaimed and recorded concert pianists, had made his professional debut at the age of eight, dressed in velvet shorts, playing Bach's Concerto in F Minor with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

A year after Darling offered the advice, Tozer became the youngest recipient of a Churchill Fellowship, which took him to London. The next year he was a semi-finalist in an international piano competition in Leeds. At 15, he made his international debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London, performing Mozart's Concerto No 15 with Colin Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Tozer, who has died, aged 54, of liver failure at his Melbourne home, went on to extensively tour Europe, the US, Asia and Australia. In 2004 he marked his 40th anniversary in the business with 40 concerts. His recordings covered composers from Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, to Stravinsky, Ireland, Brahms, Bach, Schumann, Haydn, Beethoven, Liszt and Mozart. And he reintroduced international audiences to the works of the Russian Nikoli Medtner.

Geoffrey Peter Bede Hawkshaw Tozer was born in Mussoorie, a hill station in northern India, to Veronica Tozer and Geoffrey Conan-Davies, an Anglican minister. His mother had separated from her husband, an army colonel, by the time she arrived in Melbourne in 1958 with Geoffrey and his older brother, Peter.

He is thought to have showed an interest in music while still in his pram, aged six months, when his mother played Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony on the family's wind-up gramophone. He was soon taking records such as Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia, rather than teddy bears, to bed. If one broke, he would cry like the baby he was and put all the pieces under his pillow.

At five years he astounded an audience at St Kilda Town Hall with flawless playing of Bach and Bartok. Besides, he was reciting passages from Oscar Wilde's fairy stories at three years, reading Homer at seven and, by 10, Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.

Tozer auditioned successfully at the ABC at eight years, after which mother and son walked the six kilometres home. By the age of 12 he had played five Beethoven piano concerts with the MSO.

His early education was at a convent school and then with the Christian Brothers. His mother switched him to De La Salle College when canings began bruising his hands, affecting his violin and piano lessons. He gave up the violin after five years to concentrate on piano. His piano lessons came from his mother, a music teacher, and private teachers such as Eileen Ralf in Hobart, Maria Curcio and Theodore Tettvi.

Tozer pigeonholed his concert career to graduate from the London Opera Centre (1979-80) and work as a repetiteur at the centre and at Glyndebourne. He then taught at the University of Michigan in 1981-82 before returning to Australia.

His many triumphs included a bravura performance of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas in 16 hours, spread across seven concerts over 11 nights in 1994 in Melbourne. He played with the Berlin and Moscow symphony orchestras, but his biggest audience was in May 2001, when an estimated 80 million Chinese watched him live on television playing the Yellow River Concerto. He made several tours of China.

Geoffrey Tozer's illustrious career was not without controversy. He became a favourite of Paul Keating, the former prime minister, who, as treasurer in 1989, introduced creative fellowships after meeting Tozer, then the music teacher at the Canberra school where Keating's son, Patrick, was a student.

Keating, who believes that Tozer was Australia's greatest pianist, said he felt ''ashamed'' that a pianist of his talents was earning only $9000 a year. He introduced what became known as the Keatings and the first five-year award in 1989 ($329,000) went to Tozer.

When the pianist was awarded a second fellowship in 1994 ($219,098), there was an outcry led by the Opposition protesting that, with so many worthy figures in the arts community, it was outrageous that Keating's close friend was selected a second time. Tozer's supporters say there is nothing unusual in dual fellowships. Tozer himself had followed up his first Churchill fellowship at the age of 14 with a second at 17. He was also twice awarded Israel's Rubenstein Medal, in 1977 and 1980.

Keating had already paved the way for a Canberra enterprise to make Tozer's first Australian recordings, and he promoted the pianist's talents to London-based classical music giant Chandos. He was vindicated when the Chandos recordings won rapturous reviews in Europe, with further success in the US.

He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 for his recording of the three Medtner piano concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording won a Diapason d'Or prize that year.

Tozer later attracted local criticism when he said he would have to pursue his career in London because Melbourne was a ''remote, provincial city'' and Australia had an indifference to the arts generally. He later said he had been caught in a moment of exasperation on a 40 degree day and that there was no question that Melbourne was ''home''.

His other awards included Hungary's Liszt Centenary Medallion, Belgium's Prix Alex De Varies and Britain's Royal Overseas League Medallion. He was never so honoured at home.

Geoffrey Tozer enjoyed the ballet and photography and liked to relax by going for long walks. He is survived by four of his five siblings - Peter, Tim, Meredith and Bliss.

Gerry Carman

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Caveat Wiktor

I enjoy using Wikipedia and am grateful to all those folk who voluntarily keep it up-to-date and, as far as I've discovered, usually accurate.

But, you do have to be wary. I was reading an article about Wieniawski's lovely Legende today, which is in ternary form, with the outer sections in G minor and the middle part in the parallel major. But not according to the article I found. The writer had been confused by the occasional G major chords in the first section, I think.
People will tell you that Wiki is no more inaccurate than Encyclopedia Britannica, but I can't believe that any professional musician would have made the error I found in the Wieniawski article today.

Caveat Wiktor!

Joe Green, continued

We were delighted to discover that our old friend, Bernard Hull, was performing the role of Radames when we attended AIDA. The man playing the lead role was ill, and it was so good to see Bernard doing the part and doing it superbly. It must be tough being an understudy and knowing the part perfectly, but not often getting the chance to perform, yet always having to be ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Joe Green's Egyptian thingy

My wife's mother has kindly given us two tickets to see the Australian Opera perform Aida at the Sydney Opera House.

We owned a CD of highlights, but I've never really engaged with it. It's Claudia Abbado, Placido Domingo and some other geezers, but it doesn't even include the triumphal march. How can you have a highlights CD without the triumphal march?

Today we've been listening to Herbert von Karajan, Carlo Bergonzi and the mob. It is magnificent. Several reviewers say it is still the best ever recording. We haven't heard many others [the odd triumphal march, of course, when people don't leave it out!], but it is everything that has been claimed for it.

And there are so many great moments left off the highlights CD. Verdi good, as Basil would say!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Q and A

The Finale Music Notation Software users group has always helped me with my queries about using the program, but also with general music queries.

Here is an example, which I'm posting here so that I can perhaps find it again when I've forgotten the answer.
I notice in looking at Haydn and Scarlatti sonatas that sometimes the key signature is written differently from the way we write them now. In both instances there was a flat left off, so it can't have been copied by Lefty Sharpoff, I suppose...

The current example is Scarlatti Sonata in F minor, which has a key signature of 3, not 4 flats. [Was he only evicted from 2 flats while writing?] I notice that there are a lot of D naturals in the melody and wonder if this is the reason, but it is clearly in F minor. [K 466, L118, if you are interested.]

I'm interested to know why it was left off, and also when we began writing them as we do, if anyone knows, please.

Very soon after posting my question, I received this informative reply:
It wasn't exactly "left off." In fact it was a carryover from 16th century theory into baroque theory. In renaissance theory a flat in the key signature was an indication that the mode of the piece was transposed up a 4th. (And these were still the medieval church modes, which were still taught by theorists even though composers were gradually working their way toward major/minor tonality.)

Thus the Dorian mode, with its final on D, was a minor mode (using a minor third above the final), that had no key signature. One flat indicated Dorian once-transposed, with its final on G. Two flats indicated Dorian twice-transposed, with its final on C.

Thus G minor in the 17th and early 18th centuries was still indicated by one flat, with accidentals used in the body of the piece for Eb, and the same for C minor, in 2 flats, with accidentals used for Ab. (And of course not all the Ebs or Abs were, in fact, lowered, since the melodic minor scale used a raised 6th and 7th degree in rising passages.)

So it was a simple carryover from earlier practice which, obviously, still made sense to people. As to when the modern convention was adopted (which of course still requires accidentals for the raised 6th and 7th degrees), I don't really know, but I'd bet someone who has studied a lot of late 18th and early 19th century music will have an idea.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Golliwog's Cakewalk

This is a helpful analysis of Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk:
Golliwog's Cakewalk (Children's Corner, 1909)

From Roberts, page 214-217: A Golliwog is "the name of a black doll in the books of the illustrator Flora Upton" (titles include The Golliwog's Circus and The Golliwog's Auto-Go-Cart), and was a great success in Europe as a toy. A Cakewalk is a dance form that originated in America, and was played in Europe by John Phillip Souza among others. The Cakewalk has its roots in black American music and is closely related to ragtime. Debussy saw Souza play cakewalks, and wrote that perhaps cakewalks are the one advantage American music had over "other kinds of music" (from a review by Debussy in Gil Blas).

Emotional Content: This piece is clearly humorous and even includes a satirical takeoff on Wagner's Tristan and Isolde beginning at measure 61. As in most early ragtime the tempo is moderate (allegro guisto = not too fast).

Shape and Flow: The piece is in a simple ABA form, with A being a very ragtime-like syncopated dance tune. The dynamics range from pp to sff, sometimes very suddenly, sometimes with a more conventional shape. The B section is very interesting, being an almost flirtatious, lilting section. The theme that appears at measure 61 is lifted from the prelude to Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and is marked "with intense feeling". It is accompanied by light grace note chords and syncopated scmlaltzy harmonies. The overall effect is one of a somewhat silly singer taking over the dance floor to romance his love, with twittering laughter in the background.

Like ragtime's successor jazz, it is hard to play the Golliwog's Cakewalk wrong ("there are no mistakes in jazz") so long as you hit the notes. This is perhaps why Schmitz comments that "...this is one of Debussy's least misinterpreted pieces". It is a very forgiving piece, which works in a variety of tempos and dynamics so long as you're obviously having fun when you play it.

Having said that, I've become partial to a strict reading of this piece, reinforcing my opinion that Debussy has much better musical taste than I do. I play the work with an absolute minimum of pedal, and aim for a choppy, syncopated and transparent sound. Most notable are the dynamics, which I take as gospel even though they are sometimes counter-intuitive. These dynamics are part of the humor of the piece.

Section A:

The opening bars clearly announce that we are in for some fun, and should be played that way: loud from the start and louder for that final chord in measure 4. But immediately get quiet in measure 6.

Watch and play with the dynamics contrasts in measures 6-9, with a real trail-off in measure 9 leading to the main theme in measure 10.

Measure 10 is the only one in section A marked mf: the rest of the section is a alternation of extremes for humorous effect.

Note the interplay of p and f in measures 14-26. The first time we start at p and get softer with a sudden crash at measure 16 and a "molto" crescendo in measure 17. The second time, at measure 22 we start p and build in a more conventional crescendo to the ff in measures 24-25.

I take the articulation marks very seriously, alternating legato and staccato as marked throughout section A. The very first time I touch the sustain pedal is the first chord in measure 25, releasing it immediately on the next staccato B-flat octaves.

Measures 26-32 are quiet and without pedal in spite of temptation otherwise. I again use the pedal for second beat of measure 33, for just that eighth note.

I use the sustain pedal more heavily in measure 38, changing pedal on the quarter beats and releasing on the second beat of measure 39, holding the underlying chords all the while.

Section B:

I play this section very strictly, respecting the articulation, dynamics and rest marks throughout. I play the grace notes almost as a chirp on the chords.

Measure 61 starts the Wagner satire. This melody is messed with through measure 81, mixing it with the cakewalk theme. Once it's understood as a parody of a very serious romantic melody the effect is hilarious.

The grace note chords first appearing in measure 63 and occurring through the rest of section B present a technical problem (one of the few in the piece): how to hold the underlying sustained chords without losing transparency. Elder (p. 264) quotes Walter Gieseking as saying "The answering effect is like a mocking tap dance and shouldn't be played too fast. In bar 63 hold the pedal until the second beat. Don't pedal bar 64." I find that this works quite well.

Richard Prokop writes: "The section at m.61 or there abouts is interesting. I envision a drunk grandiosely stumbling through a room in those two measures (p avec une grande emotion) only to sober up long enough to click his heals comically in the following two measures with grace notes. Also of interest is the crescendo to p just before the grace noted chords. I try to make m.61-62 stagger rhythmically (as if I'm drunk)--so, I do a little accelerando to the F in the melody and then broaden the tempo with a little hesitation before the Db7 chord."

I find the only interpretational challenge in measures 71-72 and 81-82. I take these measures to be the overly-romantic singer running out of breath or energy while the crowd heckles. Of course the figure in these measures is rather orchestral and again pokes fun at Wagner. I play in strict time, sort of fading out at the end of each two-measure section.

Measures 85-86 and 88-89 pose the other technical challenge: the soft high notes at the end of each section should clearly be staccato, but the underlying chords must be maintained as marked. Elder (p. 276) quotes Walter Gieseking as saying (in reference to measure 88-89) "Take the F with the left hand so that the complete half-note chord can be held without pedal, for the right-hand staccati should be short." Elder then says "For pianists who could not stretch the tenth, he suggested catching the pedal after the bass D-flat and holding it." My stretch is pretty good, but I cannot make the stretch described here. It works well for me to simply catch the chords with the sostenuto (middle) pedal at the beginning of measure 85 and the second eighth-note (low D-flat) of measure 88. If you don't have a sostenuto pedal, as apparently Gieseking did not, use the sustain pedal technique described above even though that muddies up the texture a bit.

Section A reprise:

This is pretty much identical to the first section A.

I use a small amount of sustain pedal for the very last flourish, depressing it for the last two notes of measure 126 and releasing it on the next staccato octaves. This gives a nice feeling of a final roar.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My first piano

Today is my Nanna's birthday. She was born on 21st June, 1885 and died on 3rd November, 1962

In September, 1959 she helped my mother and father to buy my first piano, which was an 85 note iron frame black upright which had been made late in the 1890s, I think.

The piano cost 99 guineas. Nanna said she would pay the 99 pounds if Mum and Dad paid the 99 shillings.

Mum and Dad bought the piano in a private sale from someone who lived in Marks Point, Lake Macquarie. The piano removalists couldn't get the piano down the stairs, so they had to lower it on ropes from the balcony. Mum was worried it would drop and be destroyed in the attempt!

But it arrived at Lot 33, York Crescent, Belmont North safely and soon after, on 29th September, 1959 I had my first piano lesson from Mrs Joy Walton at Melody Lodge in Albert St, Belmont.

I was a very nervous child and Mrs Walton was just right for me. She was kind and easy-going and I enjoyed every lesson from my Florence Wickins piano tutor.

I thought playing the piano was the greatest thing and never had to be told to practise. So it is not easy for me to relate to students who don't automatically want to practise, but I do try to understand.

I'm very grateful to my Nanna for her part in setting me on the road of discovering Music. Rachmaninov was surely right when he said
Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for Music.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Concert rumination

On Tuesday we attended a superb concert. Our local Anglican cathedral was packed. Over 200 people came to hear Jane Rutter play. She is a great musician and terrific entertainer, too.

I'm sure those who came had a great night. But it was mostly oldies there. A few young people, but only a few. Very few of our music students came along. One of us oldies [sorry, Bronwyn] commented that every HSC Music student should have been there, because they would have seen what it takes to be a performer.

We especially enjoyed hearing her play pieces we ourselves have played: Mouquet's Five Brief Pieces, Debussy's Syrinx and Bolling's Irlandaise. I joke that she played them every bit as well as we do, but you know it is a joke! Her playing was thrilling.

Waddya have to do to get the youngsters along? I wish I knew.

Oh yeah. Accompanist David Mibus is terrific. He is also a very competent musician and well worth hearing.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Name that tune

This is the complete music for a well-known 70s British comedy. Recognise it?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Bach Flute Sonatas

I'm playing Bach Sonata for Flute in B Minor [BWV 1030] with Philip Braithwaite in a lunchtime concert at All Saints Cathedral, Bathurst on Wednesday, 1st July, at 12.30 PM. This and the B Minor Orchestral Suite are said to be Bach's most substantial works for the flute.

But I can't find a recording of the work which features piano accompaniment. I already own the Teldec Bach 2000 set, which features Franz Bruggen playing the flute, accompanied by Herbert Tachezi on harpsichord. But every recording I can locate also features harpsichord. This may be the correct instrument to use, but give us pianists a break, please!

Is this a project for Angela Hewitt?

Bruggen and Tachezi play the first movement in a bit over 7 minutes. So far it takes me almost 9. I wonder how fast Phil wants to play it? Should I tell him he's dreamin'?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bach Pilgrimage

This afternoon I downloaded from the International Music Score Library Project the scores for the three cantatas in the concert on the wonderful Bach Pilgrimage DVD and have just listened to the first two cantatas. The first one on the dvd is
BWV 179 Siehu zu, daß deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei
See to it that thy fear of God be not hypocrisy
which is based on the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke chapter 18. When the self-righteous Pharisee prays he brags about what a great person he is and is really praying to himself. But the tax collector humbly asks God to be merciful to him, because he knows he is a sinner.
The anonymous librettist created a wonderful interpretation of Jesus' parable, aiming to remind us, in the words of Ecclesiasticus 1:28
Do not serve God with a double heart
which is the basis of the sensational opening fugue.

The tenor then sings a recitative and aria which tells us that
Today's Christianity is, alas, in a sorry state. Most Christians are puffed up Pharisees.
The following bass recitative tells us that a true Christian is someone who
is inwardly and outwardly the same.
Magdalena Kozena sings the next aria
BWV 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut
My heart is bathed in blood.
She is a superb dramatic performer and conveys the varied emotions of the text marvellously, from the deeply sorrowful opening recitative and aria to the joyful concluding recitative and aria
How joyful is my heart for God is reconciled with me
I'm looking forward to listening to the last cantata, after this short blogging break. Bach's music depicts the sense of the text superbly. I highly recommend this dvd, even if you do not yet know much about Bach. The rest of the recording tells the story of this pilgrimage around Germany, other parts of Europe and Britain, and finishing in New York. John Eliot Gardiner and his orchestra, chorus and guest soloists spent 2000 visiting places where Bach had first performed his music [which is only Germany], but also performing the cantatas on the day of the church calendar on which they were originally heard. [Occasionally this wasn't possible, due to the movable nature of the church calendar, which you will notice with the variety of tiems when Easter is celebrated, for example.]

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Different Voices

Have you come across Debbie Wiseman's Different Voices? Promoted as a new Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, it has much more in common with Peter and the Wolf. It is performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer and narrated by Stephen Fry and features Hayley Westenra singing the theme song throughout the work. I haven't tried it out on any children yet, but we adults like it. It is about 50 minutes long, so it is quite a bit longer than Peter and the Wolf.

It is a worthy member of the Music Introducing Children to Classical Music Club. The CD number is NAXOS 8.572022

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bach lives

Today is the 324th anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach, surely the most remarkable musician the world has known. Two years ago today I won an episode of The Einstein Factor, with this great man as my special subject.

This morning I listened to part of one of his many church cantatas, Cantata BWV 181 Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister, whose opening words in English have been translated as
Frivolous flibbertigibbets
deprive themselves of the Word's strength.
Belial with his brood
also seeks to prevent it
from being of service.

I was interested to read some comments by Andras Schiff in The World of Pianos: fascination with an instrument, published by Bechstein.
I cannot love Wagner, because he disgusts me. He was certainly a great composer, but I hear his human character and his egotism in each measure of his music. Self-centredness in art disturbs me a great deal ...

For me Bach is the greatest composer because he was so unconcerned with himself and deeply religious. It is like the men who built the great cathedrals during the Renaissance. Today we do not know who these people were. They worked to achieve a higher goal and not to immortalise themselves. That conforms to my ideal of art.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fading away

About eight years ago, I participated in a research project investigating people with perfect pitch. [This is the ability to hear a sound and to know the pitch of it.]

I was told that Australian research suggests that babies are born with this facility, and recognise their mother's voice not just by timbre, but pitch as well. In time, this fades as this method of recognition is no longer necessary.

However some people who begin music lessons at an early age retain the ability to hear a sound and to know its pitch.

But I was also told that as people get older, this ability is not as acute. I have noticed this to be true and have sometimes heard a recording and been thinking in, say A flat major, when the piece of music is being transmitted in A major.

When I was younger this didn't happen and when I was played a gramophone recording for an aural test, if the record was playing too fast, and I was told to write my answer in E major, but it came across as F major, I would find this disturbing and would have to write it out in F and then transpose.

I was playing in India in 1973 on a piano that had been tuned a semitone sharp and I found this most distressing and had a hard time keeping on keeping on [as my father used to say, quoting the Berger Paint advertisement].

But yesterday at James and Therese's wedding, the string players and trumpeter all noticed that the pipe organ I was playing was very sharp when they tuned their instruments. I was blissfully unaware of this until it was obvious by listening to the violinist tuning.

But it has advantages, because I can now play a flat or sharp instrument without having to do mental gymnastics to match what I hear with what I play.

All you need is ears

... and a friendly bank manager, or maybe a very rich uncle.

On the back page of last week's Sydney Morning Herald TV guide there is a Len Wallis Audio advertisement. I've been reading these ads for years. The shop sells high-end audio and I always wonder how many units they sell, as the stuff sounds like it should be terrific, but pricey.

But last week's ad takes the cake. It is promoting Grande Utopia III speakers. They are so good, the ad says, that everything else you've heard so far is a murmur. The speakers are 2 metres tall and weigh 260 kg each. They cost $269,000 a pair and are worth every cent!

I'm wondering what your total outlay for your hifi system would be, if the speakers alone cost more than any house I've ever bought!

I'm guessing they sound pretty amazing, but I'm wondering if I could tell the difference from say a $4,000 pair.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mozart? Schmozart!

People rabbit on about Mozart as a child prodigy, and it's true. He was. But check out the earliest compositions of Chopin, born on St David's Day, 1st March, 1810. He wrote amazingly technical piano works [which was all he did write] at the age of 7. Much more demanding than Wolfie's first efforts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

For next week.

I understand that some students are eagerly awaiting the Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz, so I am providing an advance copy here. You can also download this composition from this site.

Please pay particular attention when you get to bar 3.

Notice to students

It has come to my attention that some of you are slackening off in your practice, although it is only early in the term.

Because of this, I am assigning you a daily warm up exercise, in preparation for the wonderful Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz which we shall tackle later in the term.

You may download a larger copy of the daily warm up, if necessary from this site.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Radiohead - Just

I love this clip. Very creative. I don't know much about Radiohead, so don't take me as a mad Radiohead fan. Just mad.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Somebody likes Emanuel Bach, I trow, judging by the number of pieces in the new AMEB Piano Series 16. I'm looking forward to getting to know his music better, and enjoy these quotes from the Series 16 Fifth Grade Handbook:
A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. He has to feel in himself all the feelings he hopes to arouse in his hearers, for it is the showing of his own emotion which calls up a similar emotion in the listener. [from Bach's own Essay on The True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments]

Was he a good example of this, you ask? Dr Charles Burney, music historian, described his playing at a party one night, like this:
He played till near eleven o'clock at night. During this time he grew so animated and possessed that he not only played, but looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his underlip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.

Mozart said this about C P E Bach:
He is the parent, and we the children. Without him nothing would have been possible.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Finding Paul Kinny

The reason I found out about Paul Kinny, my classmate from the 70s making these interesting guitars is that my colleague at Mitchell Conservatorium, Rob Shannon, told me that Paul taught him at Grenfell High School, and that he had found him to be very inspiring and encouraging.

I have happy memories of Grenfell, where I was twice involved in HSC Practical Music examining. The school has had a long proud history of great music teaching, and I was pleased to find that Paul had been there, paving the way before I got there in the 90s to see others continuing the work.

Grenfell is a very small town and the high school only has about 300 students. But a high proportion of the students have chosen to study elective Music, despite all the other choices available today. I think this points to a sensible attitude to music in the town and to quality teaching in the school.

I later learnt that one of the examiners for my own son's HSC at the Conservatorium High school in Sydney was one of those Grenfell teachers. I wonder what he made of Justin's piano pieces, which included opening up the piano and playing the strings as well as the keys?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Paul's stereo guitar

If you are quick, you can see my former classmate [we're talking early 70s here, REAL early 70s] demonstrating his stereo guitar on the ABC TV program, The New Inventors. Paul Kinny is a pretty clever cookie, as you will read.

I'd love to be able to hear it live! Wonder if I'll ever get the chance?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Aural and Sight Reading

If you need help in teaching students how to use their ears and eyes when they play or sing, you will find Samantha Coates new books How to Blitz Aural and How to Blitz Sight-reading may be just what you are looking for.

The Aural book even has a couple of my suggestions in it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

It is interesting how some are going back to the old hymns. In a church that has mainly young folk in Sydney, the person in charge of music told me that they only sing Amazing Grace and And Can It Be. No other old hymn is worth singing, he said.

But he admitted that the young people sang those hymns more lustily than all the modern ones.

A couple of years later, he is now enthusiastically using some of the old warhorses and the people are loving it.

I have lots of old hymnbooks, but I am shy about using some of the hymns I love, because I think people might think them too old-fashioned, too sentimental or too hard to understand.

We did not sing God Moves in a Mysterious Way when I was young, though I was aware of it.

But I got hooked on it listening to John Piper preach on it in his sermons on Ruth. One Sunday morning I used it, with a nice new tune from Sovereign Grace Music and got roundly criticised, because it was too hard to understand. But I think it has magnificent truths in it.

I sometimes think that instead of setting old hymns to new music, we should write new hymns expressing those grand truths in 21st century language.

David McKay

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Moron clapping: whoops! More on clapping.

Sydney Morning Herald Letters to the Editor Thursday, 22nd January, 2009
Mind the claptrap

Manny Ax and Sam Allis are on the money ("Concert pianist with an ax to grind", January 21). Of course we should clap after a stirring moment in a piece of classical music, just as we do after a great sax solo in a jazz concert. Who cares if it is not the official end of the piece?

David McKay Bathurst

I was taught that the pauses between movements were to give the audience an opportunity to applaud, despite what all the rich snobs thought.

David Murphy Campbelltown

Sydney Morning Herald Letters to the Editor Friday, 23rd January, 2009
Sit on your hands, you goose

Shut up and wait until the piece is over (Letters, January 22). Enough is ruined already by fools who just want to clap. The finale of the Trout Quintet is regularly interrupted because there is a bar-and-a-half of silence after a loud passage, and some goose decides to applaud. The despairing opening to the finale of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony is amplified immeasurably by the raucous conclusion of the scherzo preceding it - at least it is when the audience refrains from inserting a two-minute clapping cadenza between the movements. What next? How about that big gap in the middle of Barber's Adagio For Strings - there's plenty of time for an ovation there.

Perhaps applause freaks such as Manny Ax should put themselves at the service of the music instead of wanting things the other way around. Just because no one is playing, doesn't mean there is no music.

Graeme Gee Telopea

David McKay (Letters, January 22), if you feel like clapping after a stirring moment in a piece of classical music, buy the CD or download it and don't attend the live concert. Then you can clap with impunity without disturbing other members of the audience, most of whom prefer to listen without your ad lib percussion solo.

Jeremy Lysaght Drummoyne

Those who are adamant about applauding between movements are more than welcome to do so, at the Andre Rieu concert of their choice.

Marcus Coleman Kingston (ACT)

Saturday, 24th January, 2009
The clap never bothered Mozart

The stuffy and arcane attitude of some writers towards clapping after movements is out of tune with the expectations of composers (Letters, January 23). Beethoven expected that after a stirring movement the audience would rise to its feet and applaud, and they frequently did. Mozart wrote to his father: "Right in the middle of the first allegro came a passage I knew would please, and the entire audience was sent into raptures - there was a big applauding moment . . . I was so delighted . . ."

It was only in the 20th century that this spontaneity was discouraged. These snobby attitudes and the labelling of perpetrators as fools discourage casual and youthful concert goers. Most musicians and conductors welcome this display of appreciation.

How can we expect children to embrace classical music when this analytical and detached attitude puts the structure of the music above the spontaneity and harmony between the orchestra and audience? Bring on the clapping.

Elizabeth Maher Bangor

It took a day or two for the aficionados to wake up to what was going on, but there they were in all their thundering majesty yesterday, tongue-lashing the impudent premature applauder with words such as "fool" and "goose", and suggesting these people remain in their living rooms. I was so impressed that I started to clap before I read the final letter.

Geoff Baldwin Drummoyne

I applaud people applauding inopportunely at concerts. I take fiendish delight in waiting for applause at the pause in the William Tell Overture, so I can turn to the audience and say "Fooled ya!", before continuing. Let's applaud the fact that people want to show their appreciation - a bit like laughing at a good joke before the punchline because the joke was being told so well.

Greg Ellsmore conductor, Coffs Harbour City Orchestra, Sandy Beach

First the critics find Christopher Wheeldon's ballet for dummies condescending; now the music police tell the great unwashed when not to applaud. Sorry for coming.

Ken Cullen Bathurst

Graeme Gee (Letters January 23), obviously those refraining from applause at times when no one is playing music are the philosophers, attuned to the sound of falling trees in distant forests.

Megan Brock Summer Hill

Thursday, January 22, 2009

However ...

We attended Angela Hewitt's wonderful performances of J S Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, in which she played Book 1 [24 preludes and fugues] completely from memory on Thursday evening, and then Book 2 on Saturday arvo, with the book open, but never once referred to, she divided them up into groups of four, with an interval after the first twelve.

When she took her glass of water after each group of four, and collected her thoughts, we certainly did not clap. We only clapped after all twelve. But, did we ever clap!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I love these wise words from Emanuel Ax about applauding.

I hate the way some people use strict rules about clapping in a snobby way.

I also liked Sam Allis' piece Concert Pianist with an axe to grind in the Sydney Morning Herald on the topic today.

MY Piano Teachers

I first learnt from the sweet and soft Joy Walton at Melody Lodge, Belmont, then from the very strict Eileen Keeley, and finally from the wonderful Neta Maughan.

Mrs Walton taught me the basics and taught a nervous little boy that music, and especially piano playing, is fun.

Miss Keeley taught me that it is important to be accurate and that the fingering is there for a reason!

Miss Maughan, my wife's piano teacher, was my teacher for my last years of piano lessons. She, along with my wife, taught me to play musically and not just accurately.

All *four* teachers were very important for my musical development.


Do you use Grove? I'm jealous of those who can access it electronically without having to pay $US295 or 200 pounds per year, as we have to in Australia. But I should count my blessings, because a friend who used to work for MacMillans provided us with a copy of the 10 volume 5th paperback edition at half price post free in the 70s, then gave us an imperfect but perfectly serviceable copy of the 20 volume New Grove [1980 edition] in the 90s, and last week gave us a brand new copy of the 29 volume second edition of New Grove. We would never have been able to afford the $AUS 2000 the first edition was priced at here, and certainly not the $AUS 7000 for the second. As I hold a volume in my hands, I reflect on the fact that each of the 29 volumes is worth over $200!

Although hypertext linking has greatly enhanced using multivolume works electronically, there is still something about a book, I think.

It has been interesting to wade through the prefaces and introductory material and see how complicated making a work like this must be. There were thousands of contributors and over 100 editors, consultants, proof readers and admin staff. It has 21 million words and 29,000 articles.

This is a far cry from the 4 volume work published by Sir George Grove in 1879. In those days his dictionary only began with the Renaissance in 1450 and he deliberately excluded all investigations into the music of barbarous nations!

The New Grove, in contrast, even includes us barbarous Aussies! I'm hoping to use it as a resource this year when I take my U3A Music Appreciation class through some of our own music.

I love this new second edition, but will miss some of the great articles in the first edition: I notice that the article on St Augustine, for example, is quite different. We don't have the room for 49 volumes, and so I must part with the 1980 edition. I will certainly miss Volume two of the first edition, because I loved its title Back to Bolivia! Who would have thought there was a composer called Back?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bravery and persistence award

I have always been annoyed by Region Coding of dvds. Although I understand the theory that a company doesn't want people in say, Australia to be able to buy a dvd of a film that has not yet been released here by purchasing it over the internet, it seems to me that so many people have access to pirated copies that this plan is not successful. Also, so many people seem to either have multiregion dvd players or to know how to dezone them ... except this little black duck.

We've had a dvd player for about 7 years, but have not been able to play the odd dvd that is Region 2 [basically UK] or Region 1 [USA]. And if we had bought a dvd over the net from overseas, we couldn't be sure it would play on our Region 4 [Australia] player.

Until today, that is. I have had instructions on how to dezone my player but have never been successful in doing it. I've tried and given up several times. Today, I read and re-read the instructions and persisted.

Each time I tested it, I got the message Check Region Code, but I kept at it. And eventually, we have a dezoned player [at least I hope I haven't set it so that I can now only watch two dvds!]

In November, a friend loaned me a copy of Christopher Hogwood's book on Handel and his dvd of Messiah, with Emma Kirkby, Simon Preston and the Academy of Ancient Music. But when we tried to play it, we got the dreaded Check Region Code.

It is wonderful to be able to watch it at last. The performances are excellent, though the sound quality does not seem to be quite as good as in the Australian version of Messiah with Anthony Walker, Cantillation and the Orchestra of the Antipodes, which was recorded over twenty years later.

This region coding is somewhat akin to websites which advertise free magazines or recordings, and get you all excited and then have a disclaimer at the bottom:
Only for USA residents.

Cleo and Jimmy

Sometimes When We Touch is one of our favourite recordings, which we used to have on a gramophone record and today received on a CD. People often say LPs sounded better than CDs, but this CD makes the music sound much clearer and without the pops and crackles.

We bought it after our daughter Cathy taught her 3 year old son Jerome to sing Skylark, which is one of the beautiful tracks on this CD. It is one of Hoagy Carmichael's very best songs and Sir John Dankworth's arrangement for his wife Cleo Laine and flutist James Galway is superb.

We love every track and have just finished listening to it for the third time today.

I note that the CD [and I think the LP] have Henry Bishop's Lo, here the gentle lark misspelled as HEAR the gentle lark, but this is not correct if you read the original by Shakespeare:
Lo, here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
The sun ariseth in his majesty;
Who doth the world so gloriously behold
That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold.

Venus salutes him with this fair good-morrow:
'O thou clear god, and patron of all light,
From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow
The beauteous influence that makes him bright,
There lives a son that suck'd an earthly mother,
May lend thee light, as thou dost lend to other.'

However, Cleo sings the first line several times at the end, and I think it is meant to be
Lo, hear the gentle lark
Now, was this a mistake of hers or her husband's, or was it deliberate?

The White Horse Inn

Sometimes it is hard to find things by Googling, though you often eventually get there. When I was in 4th class primary school, 1962 to be precise, we had a great teacher called Mr Warburton. He played the piano after a fashion, and taught us some great songs, including Lazybones, I am the very model of a modern major general and Goodbye from The White Horse Inn.

It took a bit of doing to find the lyrics, because I thought the song was called The White Horse Inn, but I also got distracted with restaurants, hotels and also Michael Horton and Kim Reddlebarger's excellent website.

I eventually found the lyrics linked with Andre Rieu ... but guess I'm of the same vintage.

I see that this is one of those songs you aren't supposed to like. [You're not sposed to like Mr Rieu, either, are you!] But I love it. It is a great stirring song. Don't mind a bit of corn, now and again.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Being for the benefit of ...

... Ian Anderson?

Benefit has to be my favourite Jethro Tull album, probably because it is the only one I've ever owned! I think my brother and I bought Benefit together. I know I have not had a copy for at least the past 30 years.

My son went through a Tull phase, and I did get to hear Aqualung and several other albums, but Benefit is the one I played over and over.

The remastered supercheap CD sounds great! Don't remember the LP sounding this good, but don't tell anybody, because us oldies are all suppsoed to say the records sounded better. Rubbish!

It is a great boon to have the lyrics accessible on the internet. I could never make them all out. [So that's what he sings in Son!]
Cup of Wonder has the lyrics and interesting annotations thereon.

Other great albums from that era include Elton John's eponymous album and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Deja Vu.