Treasures of the High Baroque

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12 January 2017 at 7:30pm

Music of the High Baroque by German composers J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann

Performed by Genevieve Lacey, Jane Gower and Lars Ulrik Mortensen

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For the past two weeks, the Mornington Peninsula has been bustling with internationally-based musical masters performing concerts as part of the annual Peninsula Summer Music Festival. Among them, are Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Jane Gower, artistic director and bassoonist of Concerto Copenhagen respectively. Ulrik Mortensen and Gower have travelled all the way from Denmark to perform a concert with Australian recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey at the Morning Star Estate in Mount Eliza.

On arrival at Morning Star Estate, I was not quite sure what to expect. What is so ‘treasured’ about music of the High Baroque, and what does that term really mean? Is the concert going to be inside or outside in the gardens?

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Morning Star Estate – Vista of Port Phillip Bay

The concert was held in the Ballroom at the Estate, a large and pretty room, ideal for functions and entertaining, but somewhat dry acoustically, especially for a small group of Baroque style instruments. The harpsichord, Baroque bassoon and recorder are relatively quiet instruments that are inherently limited in how loudly they can project their sound. Thankfully, this was offset by the full experience of the broader venue and the skills of the musical performers.

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Morning Star Estate ballroom

The Estate’s breathtaking sea vistas and large sweeping gardens, which I enjoyed before and after the concert, allowed me to ‘breathe in’ the many joys of summer, creating a unique sensory experience to complement the concert. There was also historic buildings to admire and local wines to try.

This is part of the delight and intention of the Festival. That is, holding concerts at venues that have a broader artistic and sensual appeal than simply the music alone. Furthermore, it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages attending the concert, as we are very fortunate to have such musical masters brought to our doorstep each year, especially the aforementioned Baroque artists.

If you peruse the net, you will find that Baroque is an artistic culture and style that emerged in Europe from the 1600s to the mid 1700s. The Italian word barocco, meaning bizarre or exuberant, as well as the Portugese term barroco, meaning ‘misshapen pearl’, provide us with some understanding. In any case, the style is about opulence, decoration and adornment of highly organised and ordered patterns in music and art. There is an intention of sensual appeal, as opposed to intellectual, flourishing in the period known as ‘High Baroque’.

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Vierzehnheiligen Basilica – 18th Century German Baroque

During this period, it was common for musicians and composers to travel around Europe to hear ‘new’ styles and gather ideas from each other. Though our featured concert composers, J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann were all German, they too flitted about Europe to work amongst foreign musicians, like our modern performers.

The Baroque style crossed over from religious music to secular (non-religious) music, examples of which are performed in the Treasures of the High Baroque concert. It is thought that after the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church, the major patron of the arts, began favouring art that could be understood and felt by all people, regardless of their level of education. Embellished music and ornate imagery and architecture moved people emotionally, allowing them to further explore aspects of their spirituality and self. Embodying these ideals, performers Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen, showed a great deal of virtuosity and passion, but the gentle timbre (sound quality) of their instruments and the undulating continuity of the long, highly rhythmic phrases, gave the music a delightful hypnotic quality. Continual and unexpected key changes were effortlessly woven together by the composers in each piece. These changes, expertly and precisely executed by the musicians, who were clearly enjoying every nuance, made the music unendingly interesting and entertaining in subtle and gentle ways.

Delicate, short articulation was used to create exquisite lightness of individual notes, dissolving into long, transporting phrases. The precision with which the performers synchronised their musical parts exactly together was aided by expressive body language. The musicians were as beautiful to watch as they were to listen to.

Even if Baroque music is completely foreign to you, such musical masters as Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have devoted their entire lives to crafting their musical performance into beauty that moves people and communicates the unspeakable. These are the kinds of musicians that the Festival features annually in the first two weeks of January. Why not come and see for yourself? You might be surprised at how a master musician can inspire you. No doubt you will be delighted at how the broader experience of a Peninsula concert venue, with a beautiful garden, panorama or historic building, will enable you to soak up the feeling of summer and wonder about music and life in new, deeper and more joyful ways.

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Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have produced a recording of Telemann Sonatas, Sonatinas and Fantasias on the ABC Classics label in 2016

 

Click here to buy

 
Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

White mural delights Hastings residents

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In the Mornington Peninsula seaside town of Hastings, artist Simon White has charmed community residents with his beautiful new mural depicting scenes from the town’s history. The mural is the latest in a series of public art pieces created in this location since April 2014 as part of the ‘Adopt-A-Hotspot’ project, aiming to “prevent and reduce the incidents of graffiti and property damage in the Hastings community”.

This ‘Hotspot’, turned public art space, is a walkway between the Woolworths carpark and Main Street, beautifying the external wall of Terry White Chemist.

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The mural is made up of seven maritime scenes, separated by angular lines. Each one focuses on people, places, animals and boats that are key icons of Hastings’ heritage.

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These include the Mirabella family who arrived in Hastings in 1880; the Lothian family from c. 1890; Hastings Fish Shed built in 1866 and restored by John Wooley in 1988, accompanied by resident pelicans; a family in a fishing boat with dolphins swimming beneath the water; Jack Sheehan and his fishing boats; young people in swimming attire at Hastings foreshore c. 1907; and a scene of a fishing family building a wooden boat with one man proudly holding up the catch of the day.

This wonderful project was initiated by Councillor David Garnock in 2014 and continues to be supported by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC), Westernport Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Headspeath, Brett Cardwell and Hastings Police.

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This project not only prevents property damage but enriches the cultural landscape of the area, contributes to wellbeing and gives all members of the community free access to the joy of art. As I was taking photos of the mural, several residents stopped to tell me how much pleasure the mural gives them as they walk through their town. Supporting the ‘Hotspot’ project indefinitely, as part of the Shire’s Cultural Strategy, will not only delight the community, but build a legacy of public art and historical acknowledgement in Hastings both present and future.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

Howlin’ Wind blows through St Pauls Cathedral

arts-review-by-jade-logo-black-background_001Lunchtime concert from 1 – 1:45pm at St Pauls Cathedral, Melbourne

When I discovered that a flute concert was coming up at my favourite cathedral, I was excited to find out more. Perhaps I had been hiding under a rock during my career as a flutist, but I had never heard of flutist Howlin’ Wind (Andy Richardson).

Howlin’ Wind. Photo by Bruce Thomas

Seeking more information from the web, I was impressed to see 50 recordings to his name, spanning a 40 year period, with 48 of those recordings containing original compositions. I was even more delighted by online sound clips and discovering that Howlin’s music is very easy to enjoy. It is filled with atmosphere and is highly creative and highly original.

Though short, Howlin’s concert was uplifting and brought a smile to many faces. He brought along his friends Peter Daffy (acoustic guitar) and Bob Sedergreen (keyboard) and together they played a mix of tunes from Howlin’s ‘Great Ocean Road’ albums as well as some beautiful renditions of Christmas carols to suit the season. St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, was the perfect venue for the lofty melodies that sang and floated from Howlin’s flute, woven with keyboard and acoustic guitar.

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Howlin’ Wind at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne

Using ‘simple’ melodies, Howlin’ uses his fine artistry to resonate the sounds of his flute and creates melodic lines that lilt and soar into the heavens. He colours these melodies with dramatic changes to very soft, sweet dynamics and uses ornaments and improvisation with various flutters, flourishes and trills to create very interesting music that is at once breathtaking, relaxing and beautiful. He even treated the audience to a complete change of woodwind sound, playing the pan-pipes at the beginning of one of his pieces.

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Bob Sedergreen, Howlin’ Wind and Peter Daffy

Howlin filled St Paul’s Cathedral with expansive, warm flute music that seemed to sparkle with the magnificent gold-illuminated image of Jesus’ crucifixion at the rear wall of the cathedral sanctuary. The most wonderful part of the performance, in addition to the creative and pleasing music, was the expression of pure joy that Howlin’ exuded during his performance. There is much serious music in the world, but it is truly inspiring to witness a performance that, while highly-skilled and beautiful, is played for the sheer joy of it. This is an essential part of the message that Christ brings to the world on Christmas Day – a life set towards giving love and joy can bring peace to the world. Thanks Howlin’, your music is a Christmas gift of peace and joy to the world.

More information on Howlin’ Wind can be found at http://howlinwind.com/, including his latest recording, ‘The Transcendental Flute Vol. 1’

Copyright © 2016 Jade Barker

Circus Oz – Intrigue, amazement, live music and laughs for all

Sunday 9 October 2016 at 1:30pm, in Frankston Arts Centre’s main theatre

Glittering in a silver A-line dress, a large spiky, silver fascinator on her head and sporting a baritone saxophone, musical director Ania Reynolds stood in front of the red velvet curtains. The show began with a few deliberate, wild honks of her instrument. The curtain was raised to reveal other musicians playing unusual-looking instruments. A musical game ensued, setting the theatrical tone for the show.

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The drum kit player and keyboard player were positioned at the rear and centre of the stage and anchored the musical narrative throughout. At some point during the show, nearly all of the performers played various instruments. This not only added to the richness of the soundscapes, but demonstrated that the performers are capable of an impressive diversity of skills in addition to a great variety of circus acts. For example, I observed performer Matt Wilson, at various points throughout the show, play the guitar, juggle silver batons amongst a group, play percussion, balance on one leg atop chairs stacked seven-high, and perform tricks on vertical poles.

Of course, the show was not about what one person can do in isolation. Circus Oz created magic and intrigue by seamlessly bringing together performing artists and art forms to complement each other. For each circus act, a unique atmospheric mood was cleverly created with live music. I was impressed and delighted by the wide range of musical genres and atmospheres married with each act. Fun Latin rhythms met dancing and tumble turns through hoops stacked three-high; funk grooves set the tone for a clever display of baton juggling amongst a group of seven people; a hard rock beat backed a ‘fire fighter’ climbing a ‘hose’ rope suspended from the ceiling, performing death-defying tumbles and falls; sparse jazz, eerie toy piano or slow ethereal keyboard effects were used for more still acts such as slow acrobatics focussing on strength and grace.

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In true Circus Oz fashion, the performance content was subtly interwoven with themes relevant to Australian culture now. Hosting the show was a character wearing a jacket sequined with colours forming an Indigenous flag. References to gay culture, transgender and the ‘new age’ spiritual movement were dropped here and there. A character by the name of ‘Infinity Love Beads’, whose narrative throughout the show was to perform a convincing ‘levitation’, used clever plays on words for tongue-in-cheek digs at the ‘new age’ movement and the current generation. Mixing up words such as ‘terrorist’ with ‘tarot-ist’ and ‘entitlement’ with ‘enlightenment’ provided some laughs for the adults in the theatre. There were many opportunities for all-ages comedy too, with the use of good-old slapstick humour.

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Having only seen Circus Oz perform under the big top prior to this show, I was interested to see how they adapted their performance for a much smaller theatre space. A large four-pronged, reinforced frame was arced high over the stage and this was used to suspend ropes, cables and trapeze. Though not immediately obvious to the audience, there was a strong person climbing up and down the structure like a concealed Spiderman, responsible for changing the various apparatus needed for each act, and using his body-weight to adjust the length of the cable suspended from the frame.

Though the show was packed full of quirk, amazement, live music and humour for all, I must admit that my favourite part of the show was more subdued, atmospheric and dance-like. After the interval, an intriguing percussion contraption was left in front of the curtain. On it, hung two drums, various bells, triangles, woodblocks and gongs. This contraption was played by three people to produce an eerie, ambient aura with string sounds, scrapes, ‘tocks’, gentle bells and cymbals. The sounds were used to respond sensitively to the graceful movements of a young man who was slowly twisting, turning, arcing and flexing his body on the floor to roll and cradle juggling balls around his body with ultimate control. It was a mesmerising display of sophisticated ensemble and movement, demonstrating the breadth of skill and artistic mastery that Circus Oz is capable of. For those seeking laughs and awe-inspiring spectacle, to those who enjoy fine artistry, Circus Oz 2016 is truly a show for everyone.

Copyright © 2016 Jade Barker

See Jett Effect play at Realm

If you visit Realm ArtSpace this coming Sunday 9 October from 1pm, you will be treated to the feelgood music of local duo Jett Effect. Feel the sun shine from your heart as you listen to uplifting originals and tunes you will know, sung sweetly by Jett Robertson with folk guitar played by her husband Mitchell. And it’s free!

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If you have lived in the City of Maroondah for a few years, you will have seen how Ringwood Square has been transformed into a beautiful, modern community space. This area has been renamed ‘Realm’, encompassing the local library, Council Service Centre, BizHub, ArtSpace and cafe. Opposite the Ringwood Train Station on Maroondah Highway, Realm is easily identified by the unique white walls that form large diamond-shaped crosshatches over a dark background.

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Walk in on the ground floor of this building and you will find the ArtSpace and cafe. There are free exhibitions of work by local artists, and musicians perform here regularly on a Sunday afternoon to an appreciative audience relaxing over a weekend coffee or having lunch with friends.  Children and adults alike can gather around to enjoy the free live music.

Dance your way into the Spring vibe with Jett Effect at Realm on Sunday 9 October at 1pm!

Check them out on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/thejetteffect

Copyright © 2016 Jade Barker

‘Inspired’ by Gary Lang NT Dance Company

Saturday 3 September 7:30pm at Cube 37, Frankston Arts Centre – 50 min. duration.

Gary Lang NT Dance Company, with dancers Catherine Young, Michele Dott, Bryn Wackett, Kara Handsberg and Darren Edwards, delighted a ‘family’ audience with two contemporary dance pieces. The first was an airy flirtation with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and the second, an earthy Indigenous exploration of the spirit realm.

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The synthesised music recording of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with overlaid NT bird sounds in the first dance piece induced a wide, open-sky atmosphere reminiscent of the outback Australian landscape. The performers used classical dance influences with synchronised movements and black lace and tulle costumes to accentuate delicate swan-like gestures.

The second piece immediately exuded a transformation into a ghostly realm with the use of vivid lighting and dark shadows, gaunt expressions and the use of white, liquid body-clay. The wet clay was ‘dipped into’ throughout the piece to increasingly cover each other until the dancers and the stage were practically white. Entitled Journey of the Soul from a larger work, Mokuy, the piece expressed the post-death journey of the human spirit, drawing upon Gary Lang’s experiences with youth suicide in his community.

Digeridoo-like drones articulated with haunting Australian bird calls drew the audience into the earthy, sensuous dance movements. I was particularly stirred by the male-female duets in which each female dancer took turns intertwining with the male ‘spirit’ dancer.

The performance was followed by a Q&A session in which Gary, who identifies as a Larrakia man, explained that several of the movements used in Journey of the Soul are borrowed from traditional Indigenous dances that he has seen performed by his family. As these ‘borrowed’ movements are intensely meaningful to Indigenous people, Gary takes great care to ask the permission of his family as to how and when particular gestures can be used. Gary’s conversation with the audience, in which he declared that all people he meets are welcomed into his life as ‘family’, encouraged a feeling of connectedness to the Dance Company, our country and our communities. Gary Lang NT Dance Company’s performance of Inspired is a fine example of art that is not only uplifting, beautiful and expressive but encourages social unity by fostering warmth and openness between different cultures.

Copyright © 2016 Jade Barker