Category Archives: Music

ANCA WA Choral Festival Concert Photos

ANCA is the Australian National Choral Association – an organisation which aims to encourage and promote choral music and choirs in Australia.   The WA chapter has just been reformed and they had Choral Festival Day to mark this occasion.

No, this was not a “concert” – it was a festival where for a few hours, everyone first did a warm-up, then different choirs sang for each other and it all finished with a big “sing” – where everyone learnt a song together.

It was a fantastic session – the age range of participants ranged from Primary School to people in their 70’s-80’s!  So many choirs and people were interested attending that there weren’t enough seats in the venue!

I was there to take some snaps to document the day.  The hardest part was choosing the right time to click the shutter button as many of the items were quiet – so I had to time my shots with louder parts of songs, or right at the end just before or with the applause.  Maybe I need to investigate a mirror less camera body one day or some noise dampening for the Nikon D700 🙂

Here are some shots from the day!

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Pekka in Perth

This one slipped under the radar.

Back in 2009, I blogged about an ACO concert I saw in Perth featuring the talented and fine violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

This year, I noticed that he’s back in Australia!  But I was disappointed that he seemed to performing only in Sydney for the Musica Viva Festival 2011 (http://www.musicaviva.com.au/whatson/musica-viva-festival).

But I did this – if you want to see Pekka play in Perth, then you can catch him playing jazz violin at the Perth Jazz Society on 2 May.   It should be a great gig!  More details here:  http://www.perthjazzsociety.com/programme/#1892  

If you’re in Albany, it looks like he’s playing there too.  Tickets available here:  http://www.bocsticketing.com.au/whats-on/414/pekka-kuusisto-and-iiro-rantala/

Henning plays the Sibelius with WASO

Wow!  My favourite violin concerto.  Henning, a young and talented violinist that I had the pleasure of seeing a masterclass of last week.  Good combination 🙂

Henning played it through effortlessly – letting his violin sing the passion that’s in the Sibelius, as well as hitting the technical work. 

I loved the attention he gave to the conductor and orchestra during the performance (and joining the string pizzicatos in the 3rd movement).  I was amazed at the way he hit the jumps to the high notes and fingered octaves in the first movement and arpeggios in the last movement with no problems.  But I was most surprised by the volume of sound Henning is able to produce from his violin.  I don’t think WASO played with a smaller orchestra for the concerto – it was the full thing.  But I heard Henning with no problems.  

How?  I’m guessing great bowing arm and wrist, full bow hair on the string, and playing next to the bridge but without scratchiness.  The only fault I can give was I wished there was a bit more space in between some of the phrases in the first movement – they nearly rushed into each other.  But the second movement was so soulful and well played it’s inspired me to get the notes back out and learn it.

The Perth audience applause was great, and Henning treated us to not one, but TWO encores!  The first encore was played by Henning leading the string section.  I believe this was “La Melancolie”, composed by Norwegian violinist Ole Bull (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ole_Bull), when Ole’s wife passed away.   Great to hear something not so passionate, and more subdued.   The second encore?  I don’t know – let me know if you know what it was – it was nearly sounding improvised at some bits.   I would have loved to have hear him play the Ysaye Ballade (like Vengerov and Vadim) but it was not to be.
Violin/piano score to La Melancolie here – https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemId=4056&versionNumber=1

Henning Kraggerud Masterclass

Our state orchestra, WASO, started an excellent program last year where they get visiting soloists to give a masterclass to local musicians.  

Last night, I quickly rushed from work, dropped Little Miss 10 home, then made my way to Hale School to see Henning Kraggerud give a violin masterclass.  He’s in town this weekend to play my favourite violin concerto, the Sibelius.

It seems that WASO, together with partners UWA, WAAPA and AUSTA, rounded up 4 lucky local violinists to play.

And what a great night it was!

We heard movements from the Prokofiev and Korngold violin concertos, a showy Smetena tune, and Ysaye’s extremely difficult Ballade.

And like Renaud Capucon’s masterclass, much of what Henning was trying to draw out from the players was moving from beyond notes to making music and story telling.   Is that the key ingredient that sets these elite apart from the rest?   There definitely was some “magic” that Henning was able to make when he made his violin sing.

It’s not just story telling and musical interpretation but amazing technical prowess too.  I was extremely excited when it was introduced that Shaun Lee-Chen was playing the Ysaye (and jealous! I wish I had the time and ability to learn and play this!)  Shaun played it really well – his technique is definitely very solid and intonation was really good.   I thought, what could he say to Shaun?

A lot apparently!  Henning knew the Ballade back to front, playing it with even more ease – unbelievable.  The interaction between them and going into details and “tricks” of the Ballade was purely brilliant, insightful and entertaining.  Reading his bio, no wonder he knows it so well – he has recorded all the Ysaye unaccompanied Violin Sonatas! 

And the volume and depth of sound that came from Henning and his violin – amazing.  I wonder if he really was playing on his Guarneri del Gesu last night.

WASO and sponsors (Apache Energy) – thanks for putting this on.  It definitely is a win-win – raising the profile and respect for WASO’s soloists as we get to see them work behind the scenes, but also improving and inspiring the music community in WA.

More info

WASO’s Masterclass program – http://www.waso.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=292

Henning’s Biography – http://www.imgartists.com/?page=artist&id=207

WASO concert this weekend – http://www.waso.com.au/EventDetail.aspx?ProductID=2485

Wondering if I should enter the Freo Eisteddfod

Well, it’s come to that time of the year again – I’ve looked up the Fremantle Eisteddfod website and they have the 2011 schedule online!   The closing date is 18th March and the Eisteddfod will be held between the May 12-21.

For the past 2 years, I’ve dusted off my violin, and used the Freo Eisteddfod as a goal to work towards – to learn one of the great violin concertos.

In 2008 I learnt the Wieniawski 2nd, but didn’t compete.   In 2009 it was Sibelius.  In 2010 it was Tchaikovsky.  

Both experiences created MUCH stress in my life.  But it actually helped me keep up my violin.   You see, after the month of May in the past 2 years, I really haven’t picked up my violin at all (except for the YouTube Symphony thing).

So I’m wondering if I should do this again in 2011?   Learn another movement from a great concerto in 3 months? 

I really have left it quite late this time around.   I was hoping I could do the Brahms, Barber or Beethoven, but there’s really not enough time.   I guess I could learn the 3rd movement from the Sibelius or Tchaikovsky?    Or tackle something different like the Carmen Fantasy?    Or maybe play something with less notes to learn like a Mozart concerto.

Or shall I just leave my violin in its case this year…

Arranging Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are for Violin and Cello

An old friend of ours is getting married this week and asked if we could provide music.   She specifically requested for a few modern pop tunes.

I’m always a bit apprehensive about playing pop repertoire with classical instruments.  Is it going to sound really corny and crap?  Will it still convey the same emotion without singing or lyrics?

A bit of Googling and I found U2’s Beautiful Day [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5ZkVYXguhQ] as well as Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpqJjasrD7I] arranged and recorded by the Vitamin String Quartet.  Seems like this US based quartet has done a heap of pop and rock covers, and they don’t sound too bad either!

Unfortunately, our instrumentation for the wedding is going to be keyboard/piano, violin and cello.   Still, I used a combination of the  recording by the original artists together with listening to the Vitamin String Quartet arrangement to come up with my own arrangement – for piano trio!

I hope it will be OK for the wedding!

But the whole exercise on this Sunday morning has made me appreciate how much effort goes into arranging music.  Just these 2 pieces took nearly 4 hours – and that’s just for a pretty rough draft version.   I’d estimate I’d need another 4 hours to polish it up.   And then do an actual run through to see whether it sounds OK and is playable!

Not in the YouTube Symphony

Oh well…

I’m not a “winner” of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.   Wifey keeps on telling me to get over it.

But I’ve watched my video a few more times, and those of the “winners”.   And I’ve come to the conclusion – I’m just a boring player to watch.

And I need to change this.

I’m sure there are a multitude of opinions, but music is primarily a form of communication – a performing art.   Playing the notes, articulation, phrasing..  that’s all one side of the coin.  But on the other side, is the visual aspect.

On an audio CD, you don’t get this – and so I know I’ve been sometimes surprised to go and watch an artist in person and be disappointed.  Or sometimes the reverse – sometimes seeing the performance, the emotion and movement in an artist, leaves such an impression that just listening to their audio recording afterwards is quite a different experience.

I think I need to work on the visual, performing aspect of my playing.   So it “looks” like I’m playing what I’m feeling.  For an audience member, this will then reinforce their aural sense with the visual sense – therefore heightening their overall musical experience.  Surely?

Any thoughts?