Glorious!

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Thursday 5 April 7:30pm at Frankston Arts Centre – 110 minutes, including interval

Directed by Denny Lawrence, HIT Production’s Glorious! is set in 1944 New York and focusses on the relationship between Florence Foster Jenkins and her piano accompanist Cosme McMoon.

McMoon, played by highly versatile and engaging actor Joshua Sanders, begins and ends the play with thought-provoking soliloquy, showing the audience just how much his experiences with Jenkins changes him. McMoon starts out as a polite but cynical musician, desperate for Jenkins’ job opportunity in order to keep food on the table. By the end of the show, McMoon has changed to a sincere, loyal friend and colleague who comes to understand and appreciate Jenkins for the qualities that her fans love: her overwhelming generosity, her dear love of music, her flamboyant personality, and her tenacity for performing despite her lack of singing talent.

Diana McLean effortlessly conveys these before-mentioned qualities in her role as Florence Foster Jenkins. McLean cleverly combines slightly off key, pseudo-operatic singing and funny antics with innocent behaviour to give the impression that Jenkins thinks she sounds brilliant. Backed by Sanders’ accomplished singing, piano-playing and hilarious facial contortions and Kaarin Fairfax’s very funny performances of cantankerous housemaid, Maria, and Mrs Verrinder-Gedge, Glorious! had the audience in stitches from start to finish.

When Mrs Verrinder-Gedge cracks the façade created by Jenkins supporters and turns up to the Society Ball to tell Jenkins how bad she really sounds, the generosity and tenacious spirit of Jenkins is validated. Despite the awful things that Mrs Verrinder-Gedge says, Jenkins looks past her mean-spiritedness and gifts her with a bottle of sherry because every Society Ball attendee gets one. The audience gets a glimpse into the complex character of Jenkins, who may indeed know that she isn’t a great singer but is not going to let that stop her from being who she is and doing what she loves. ‘People may say that I can’t sing, but no-one can ever say that I didn’t sing’, says Jenkins, and along the way we see that her indomitable spirit and the loving way she treats others is what matters the most.

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Play written by Peter Quilter

Diana McLean – Florence Foster Jenkins

Joshua Sanders – Cosme McMoon

Kaarin Fairfax – Dorothy/Maria/Mrs Verrinder-Gedge

Christine Harris – Producer

Denny Lawrence – Director

Jacob Battista – Set, costume and lighting designer

Sophie Woodward – Set, costume and lighting designer

 

Matthias Schlubeck’s Magic Pan Flute

Sunday 12 November at 2pm

Matthias Schlubeck – pan flute

Joachim Neugart – piano and organ

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There is no better way to spend a sunny Spring afternoon than soaking up the glorious music of pan flute and pipe organ within the historic surrounds of St John’s Anglican Church in Flinders.

St John’s Flinders is a well-known venue hosting the annual Peninsula Summer Music Festival in January and attracts world-class musicians throughout the rest of the year. The most recent concert at St John’s brought musicians Matthias Schlubeck and Joachim Neugart all the way from Germany for a five-concert tour throughout Australia. Neugart is currently the choirmaster at the Basilica of St Quirinus in Neuss. Schlubeck is one of the world’s leading pan flutists, having graduated with distinction from the highest degree in music at the Music College in Wuppertal, launching his career as a world-renowned soloist and recording artist.

phoca_thumb_l_schlubeck13-03-lSchlubeck delighted and amazed Flinders audiences with baroque and classical repertoire beautifully adapted and played on pan flute, accompanied by Neugart on the Bechstein grand piano and William Anderson 1874 pipe organ. Many of the works were originally written for oboe (Albinoni’s Concerto Op. 9 No. 2), flute (Mozart’s Andante from Concerto in D and Rutter’s Suite Antique) and choir (Rheinberger’s Abendlied), and yet Schlubeck was able to play each and every note of these complex and demanding works with great virtuosity, artistry and finesse.

Schlubeck’s self-composed work Deep Colours, written specifically for pan flute, explored special sounds and colours not overtly shown in the classical pieces, including flutter tonguing (rolling the tongue whilst blowing to create a unique vibration through the tone of a note) and resonant tonal ‘pops’ made with the open mouth cavity to create a kind of pizzicato (the sound that stringed instruments make when they pluck a string).

Accompanying Schlubeck on the grand piano with seemingly effortless musical flair, Joachim Neugart also brought the church pipe organ to life with two virtuosic solos, Louis Vierne Carillon de Longpont and Johann Sebastian Bach Toccata in D Minor.

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Together Schlubeck and Neugart made a vibrant team that was a pleasure to witness. Apart from the magical virtuosity and skill of these two musicians together, what truly captured the audience’s heart was Schlubeck’s personable nature, sense of humour and passion for the pan flute. These qualities enabled him to further engage with the audience through the music itself and also by explaining some of the principles of pan flute playing, saying a few words about the history of the instrument and making people laugh with the occasional musical joke.

After the concert, Schlubeck was genuinely pleased to discuss his artform with those  lingering in the church. Schlubeck shared the story of how and why he began playing the pan flute. He spoke of how, at the age of 5, when the other school children were learning the recorder, his primary school teacher found a pan flute and began learning how to play it so that he could teach Schlubeck. Because Schlubeck was born without hands and forearms, it was an instrument that he could play. It is remarkable to think that if Schlubeck had been born with arms like most others, he may never have had the opportunity and impetus to pursue playing the pan flute, developing into the musical wonder he is today. It is a blessing to have met him and experienced the magic of his fine music. Matthias Schlubeck is truly an inspiration.

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Peninsula SMF2018

Visit these websites for more information:

Matthias Schlubeck – schlubeck.com

Peninsula Summer Music Festival – peninsulafestival.com.au

 

Thank you to Bendigo Bank who kindly supported this event

National Reconciliation Week – Story, song and Jessie Lloyd

Monday 29 May 2017 at 11am, Wallaroo Community House, 6 Wallaroo Place Hastings West

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As part of 2017 National Reconciliation Week, Indigenous musician Jessie Lloyd gathered with local people from the Mornington Peninsula area to share true-to-life stories and heartfelt songs. These stories and songs are from her Mission Songs Project. The Project has taken Jessie to different parts of Australia to meet Indigenous Australians who were affected by Christian missions, state-run camps and relocation. As part of the Project, Jessie collects songs that Indigenous Australians have written and sung depicting their mission experiences. Through sharing songs from the Mission Songs Project and encouraging others to do the same, Jessie aims to preserve and pass on this precious cultural practise and in doing so, shed light on the history of Indigenous families, elders and communities.

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Jessie’s warmth of spirit and openness with which she shared the knowledge and stories of her family delighted each of the 40-odd people who attended this unique and inspiring event. Jessie’s impact was immediate, as many people went away humming a tune before enjoying the delicious lunch provided. Adding to the atmosphere of warmth and sharing was the enthusiastic address and attendance by the Good Shepherd staff who organised the event, and the friendliness and hospitality of the volunteers at Wallaroo Community House who hosted the event.

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Jessie Lloyd’s visit was inspiring for our local community, bringing people together in the spirit of reconciliation. What is more, recognising the historical experiences of Indigenous people through music fosters the healing that will unite the people of Australia towards a better, fairer future.

For more information on 2017 National Reconciliation Week and events near you visit reconciliation.org.au/nrw

Visit the Balnarring Hall on Friday 2 June at 7:30pm for a free film event hosted by Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association. Prison Songs, a groundbreaking documentary that gives voice to Indigenous Australians behind bars – through song.

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Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

 

The art of nature

The Autumn trees are turning beautiful shades of gold and red and the air is beginning to get cold and crisp. The end of daylight saving means that the long, warm evenings of Summer are over. It gets dark at 6pm now, and earlier each night until solstice. As the quality of the light becomes softer, the last of the clear sunny days of Autumn become precious and treasured with the approaching darkness and cold of Winter. Easter has just passed, giving a reminder that death and rebirth is a theme that must be confronted in human lives. These feelings draw the mind inward and the senses outward. The only thing to do, it seems, is to seek quiet joy  in the final days of sunshine by being out in the garden or walking outside. These pursuits allow the mind to rest, take stock and be inspired by God’s creations through slowing down and noticing the details of the garden. Birth, death and rebirth can be seen all around – it seems that nature can help the mind process the dramatic themes of Easter as well.

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Nature is as intrinsic to art as it is for humans to breathe air. Even a contemporary sculpture may give the impression of a crystalline form, water, a seed or a living thing, or be crafted from the earth’s wood, rock or metal. Infinite numbers of artworks have taken their forms, sounds, colours and rhythms from nature. Famous examples include French painter, Claude Monet (1883 – 1926), and composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 – 1827).

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Monet’s garden at Giverny

Monet’s garden in Giverny provided peace, inspiration and immersion amongst natural colour and light that made his impressionist paintings such masterpieces. Beethoven is reputed to have spent a great deal of time walking in the country areas outside of Vienna. The first movement of his Pastorale Symphony, which premiered in 1808, is notated with text that translates as ‘awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside’, which gives an indication of his love for nature. Closer to home, William Ricketts’ (1898 – 1993) appreciation of the Australian bush and the connection that Aboriginal people have with the land, inspired the creation of a large number of ceramic sculptures depicting Australian aboriginal people, animals and plants. Many of his sculptures are now in a bushland setting in Mt Dandenong, called William Rickett’s Sanctuary, which is open to the public.

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Sculpture of the artist at William Ricketts Sanctuary

In more recent times, Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Radio National began the Trees I’ve loved project in 2013, inviting audiences to contribute their stories about their relationships with trees. The ABC received hundreds of heartfelt responses. Forty are available online to enjoy. These stories were edited by Gretchen Miller and compiled into a book entitled In their branches.In their branches CD.jpg

Following that, ABC Classics
label released a delightful CD in 2015 with the same title, featuring 18 pieces about trees. Among the Australian-composed pieces are Jane Rutter’s Kodama tree spirit, Percy Grainger’s My robin is to the greenwood gone, David Jones’ Forest walk, Richard Mills’ The nocturnal power of trees and Peter Sculthorpe’s The rain-forest.

 

This example from only a few years ago shows how the human experiences of nature are still forming a strong basis for the art of story, literature and music. What about contemporary sculpture and visual art?

McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is a feast for the artistic senses. The bushland setting of the many large and unexpected sculptures, draws the visitor into un-earthly realms that stir the imagination. The indoor café and gallery provide an intriguing nook for exciting Australian visual art. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was a significant contributor to the establishment since its beginning in 1971. Dame Elisabeth understood that there is a link between gardens and art, and that people need these two things to nourish their souls.

McClelland Website

Dame Elisabeth was also the founder of the Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens as well as creating her own garden at Cruden Farm in Langwarrin. A variety of rose has even been cultivated with her name and is widely available at rose nurseries. Additionally, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute commissions an Australian artist each year to create floral images for gift cards to promote the Elisabeth Murdoch Mother’s Day Appeal.

Dame Elisabeth spent her life patronising establishments to make art and beautiful gardens accessible to all. At McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, anyone can enjoy world-class art in a natural Australian garden.

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Dame Elisabeth Murdoch holding a bloom of her own rose cultivar

As Autumn and Winter take hold in the coming months, future articles will be posted here on the art that can be enjoyed at McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens. Visiting gardens in the cooler seasons, rugged up with woollies, releases the confines of the indoors and flushes away the Winter blues with fresh air, visual delights and artistic inspiration.

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Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens

Copyright © 2017 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