Category Archives: Out and About

Too Wicked?

Oh My Gosh..

Is it possible to get too much Wicked?

The entertaining musical Wicked is currently playing in Perth, after seasons in Melbourne and other Australian cities.  Our whole family just could not resist going.  After all, we were hooked after seeing it on Broadway and then later in Melbourne.  Unfortunately, we just missed out on seeing it in Japan which I’m sure would’ve been a blast!

Last Saturday, we made our way through an extremely happening and crowded Burswood to join the packed Burswood Theatre to watch Wicked again.

It’s such a well done, well produced show – I still am taken aback by how smoothly everything runs, how fantastic the set and costumes are, how memorable the songs are that take you on a rollercoaster ride, the clever story and how the story weaves around The Wizard of Oz.  It’s awesome. 

But for some reason, I was not blown away this time. 

Maybe the initial euphora of the first time viewing the show and ensuing excitement has dissipated. 

Or maybe I’ve listened to the Official Broadway Cast recording so many times that anything different makes me think it’s not right.

Or maybe the tempos were just a tad fast on Saturday night, giving the feeling that they were rushing through parts of the first act.

Or maybe it was me being annoyed that Bert Newton got more applause as the Wiz than the other musical theater performers.

Or maybe it was the guy sitting next to me who didn’t clap after any song until the very end of the show, obviously having being dragged there by his partner.

In any case, if you HAVEN’T seen Wicked before, definitely go – it’s worth seeing at least once!  And by going, you’re “voting” with your feet and money that productions like this should continue coming to Perth.

And if it’s too expensive, you might want to try the Wicked lottery tickets each day, or keep a lookout for some cheap last minute discounted tickets that are going around now.

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Only with the Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.8

Wow, what a few weeks it’s been.

I’ve sold my Nikon D80, crop mid range zoom and wide angle zoom to fund an upgrade to a D700.

I absolutely LOVE the low light performance and robustness of the new camera body.

BUT…

I’ve lost a lot lens and focal length range!

So, on a recent family getaway, all I had was my 50mm.  At first I thought it was going to be very restrictive and I would not be able to get the shots I wanted, but in the end I think it’s been a very liberating experience!

No more having to play with 2 variables of distance to subject as well as zoom for viewing angle.  No big heavy zoom to lug around.  And I found having no zoom has FORCED me to be more creative in my shooting and composition.  I was very happy with the results and don’t think I missed out on too many shots where I needed a different focal length.   It forced me to think more about the shot and pre-visualise it instead of just standing on the spot and twisting the zoom ring.   And now it’s really made me think twice about whether I should get the 24-70 f/2.8 at all.

The only complaint about the Nikon AF-D 50mm 1.8 is that the bokeh can sometimes produce circles with quite a hard circumference line in conditions with spots of light coming through (like light through the leaves of a tree).  Besides that, it’s extremely good value and every Nikon shooter should have a 50mm!

Here are a few of my favourites from our trip away…

Perth Lindy Exchange and the D700

Last weekend, the Perth Swing Dance Society held its annual Lindyhop Exchange – called Hullabaloo!  It’s a fantastic long weekend of swing dancing, classes and social get togethers.  People from all over Australia come to Perth to socialise and dance!

Unfortunately, wifey and I don’t do many of the events or classes anymore – in the last few years we’ve just turned up for one social dance night only.   I guess we’re getting “over” it a bit.  Plus it’s hard to find babysitting.  Yes – I thought it would get easier when the kids got older, but they just end up with more extra-curricular activities!

We did get out to the Saturday night dance – it was the Hullabaloo Hop in the wonderfully character North Perth Town Hall.   The Hullabaloo Hop is the traditional night when they hold the Jack and Jill competition – basically a social dancing fun competition where entrants get paired up with some other random entrant, and you are judged on how much fun and connection you have with each other.   Entrants wear a number on their back to identify them.   We also had an extra special treat – the local Oz Big Band swung the house with many Basie and other swinging charts!

I took the opportunity to take my new Nikon D700 out for a spin.  Armed with my 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, and looking forward to using 3200 to 6400 ISOs, I had a ball!  The D700 performed better than I expected – photos even at 6400 ISO were usable with not as much noise as an 1600 ISO image from my old D80.   And there’s something about the D700 sensor – the colours just seem so much nicer.

Here’s a selection of some of the photos from the night!

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

Tim Minchin vs WASO at Kings Park

Ahhh..  this is one of the great things about Perth life.

A beautiful Summer (no wait, warm Autumn) evening, picnic, great food and drink, great company (my Wifey!) and watching a concert in the outdoors!  

Last weekend, Perth people had the pick of either Michael Buble at the Sandalford or Tim Minchin with WASO in Kings Park.  We opted for the Tim Minchin and weren’t disappointed! 

The lyrics were sometimes bitter and offensive but overall great story telling and social commentary on what our lives and culture has become.  Some of his songs are really clever and combined with his piano playing remind me of Ben Folds (ahh..  someone else I need to see live).  As the sole main man on stage all night, Tim definitely held his own with a confident stage presence. 

And it was awesome to see Shaun Tan’s “The Lost Thing” being shown on the screen during interval.  At first I didn’t know why, but Wifey informs me it’s because Tim did the narration for it – unfortunately, something that couldn’t be heard at interval – will definitely have to seek this out later.

But the whole concert going experience just reminded me of what a nanny state WA, or Australia has become.

Check out this sign on the way in – warning you of foul language ahead!!!  I wonder if any of those older richer VIPs or people who were there as WASO only fans got offended at all 🙂  I didn’t see anyone walk out though, which is a good sign!

And this sign made me LOL – do we really need to be told how to arrange our picnic rug?


More here:  http://www.timminchin.com/

Bike Cat, Flaps and Ping Pong Bats with The List Operators

OMG!  Last night Wifey and I ducked into the Fringe World festival in Perth to catch a show.

The vibe in the Fringe World courtyard is so cool.   That area outside the Perth Art Gallery was so dead and unused, but the bar, food and chill out area with the loungy cushions and hanging lights has really created a real arty..  Melbournesque atmosphere.   I wish it was there permanently!

We grabbed tickets to see The List Operators, a Melbourne comedy duo.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect and although there were some slow moment, I was literally in tears with laughter many times during their show thanks to some some slapstick, audience interaction and rude sketches 🙂

The atmosphere inside the Spiegeltent was all that I expected and more.  I love the cozy booths that line the inside, and the wooden floor feels really nice to dance to!

When I got home last night, I was straight away back on the Fringe World website, thinking of what show we can see next.

More info:  http://www.fringeworld.com.au/