Tag Archives: concert

Antal Szalai

Want to have a memorable night out?  I haven’t seen them, but Antal Szalai and his Hungarian Gypsy Band is sure bet.

One of my fondest memories of our trip to Florence, Italy, was standing in one of the piazzas watching a Gypsy band busking.  The gypsy music was so contagious and vibrant, the violinist was going off, the cimbalom guy was crazy.   I think we were there for a couple of hours before our stomachs said it was time to eat.

I’m hoping that Antal and his band can kick up the same atmosphere and excitement.  It seems that Antal Szalai has quite a few dates lined up around Australia, many in smaller venues.

More information here:  http://www.lionelmidfordpublicity.com/profile_gypsy.html

By the way, it seems that he is NOT the same person as Antal Szalai, the classical violinist – http://www.antalszalai.net/


Photos at The Ellington

Jamie Oehlers

Jamie Oehlers

Victoria Newton

Victoria Newton

Victoria Newton 

 A few months ago, we went to see Victoria Newton at The Ellington, Perth’s new Jazz club.   It was yet another great night there! 

I decided to bring along my camera as I love taking concert photography, even though it means having withdrawing myself from just relaxing and enjoying the music for a while.

I snapped a few shots with my D80 and 17-55 f2.8, but boy was it dark in there.  Darker than I expected!  I had to bump ISO up to 1600 and beyond, which unfortunately is really grainy on the D80.  I managed to use ISO 1600 and take some usable shots during “still” moments, but I wish I had brought my 50 f1.8 or could afford a D700 with much better low light performance.

These photos have been sitting around on my hard drive for a while, so I took some spare, but frustrating, hours last night to do them up.  Frustrating, because my only computer at home to do photo editing is an old Dell laptop with a Pentium M 1.7GHz CPU and only 1GB RAM!   Photoshop was swapping to disk like anything!  Need to upgrade my computer.

I also realised last night that I really need to make up a signature brush that I can use on my photos.  Should I just go with scanning in my signature?

Beethoven Violin Concerto with Kyoko Takezawa

When I was young (and still living at home obviously!), my Dad used to take me to violin concerts.  I think I didn’t know any better at the time, but we did see some great concerts.  I do remember actually sitting on the Perth Concert Hall stage watching Yehudi Menuhin play!

Last night, I had another date with my Dad.  We went to see WASO, primarily to see, really listen, to the Beethoven Violin Concerto.  The soloist last night was Kyoko Takezawa.  I must admit, I hadn’t heard of her before, but her resume is quite impressive.

And so she came on stage, quite small, but polite and smiley.  WASO started with a reduced orchestra, maybe too reduced as I was missing that really warm string section sound.  When Kyoko started playing, you could see the emotion she was drilling into her violin.  From where we were sitting, very crystal clear playing and spot on intonation, and even though she played really well, it wasn’t doing anything for me yet.

And then the cadenza for for the First Movement came.  And suddenly there was magic.  I was totally captivated, hanging off every note.  And I think the whole of the packed Perth Concert Hall was too.  It was like we were all hypnotised, mesmorised by her solo violin, singing out the multiple rising voice lines.   The end of the cadenza was most beautiful, and I think she must have inspired or lifted wASO up a notch because they came to the party too.

The audience applauded after the First Movement, but she deserved it.  Magic.

That’s one of the reasons why I love classical music.  When the feelings and emotions are poured out by the soloist, and connected directly with audience.  It’s more than just “listening” to music, or your eardrums picking up vibrating air particles.  Sometimes a connection is made, dare I say, at the soul level that can move you to tears.

It’s put me in a quandry now – she’s inspired me.  Should I return to the Beethoven Violin Concerto?  It’s one I started learning towards the “last” years of my violin days in my youth, but never finished.  But I know from when I tackled it, it “seems” easy to play – mostly scales and arpeggios (except the candenza!).  But it’s SO very hard to play it beautifully and maturely, to sing the legato lines.

The rest of the program featured the full, really full WA Symphony Orchestra.  There’s something wonderful about getting that many good musicians together and really playing it out – the SOUND of a full symphony orchestra is uplifting!

If you can’t make it to the Perth Concert Hall tonight, iiNet will be streaming the WASO concert live here – http://media.iinet.net.au/index.cgi?id=waso, at 7.30PM Perth Time (GMT+8).

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Well, it’s nearly time for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra concert! 

I’ve noticed a bit of news coverage over the last day or two about it in Australia.   Like this one on the Sydney Morning Hearld website – http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/web/video-in-symphony/2009/04/14/1239474911896.html.

I did have to re-upload my final Tan Dun video a month or two ago to be potentially used in the video mashup.  I hope my video makes the cut!   That will mean that the video of myself playing the Tan Dun symphony may appear for a split second at Carnegie Hall! 

But.. oh.. I wish I had maybe chosen a different audition piece, like the Brahms Symphony.   It might have increased my chances of getting through (looking at the proportion of finalists who played that as their audition piece).    My lesson learnt – don’t choose the audition piece until you’ve heard and had a play through each one!   Oh well, maybe there’ll be a next time…


You want to see what ensemble is?    See and listen to the ACO. 

Pekka Kuusisto is the guest director for the current ACO season.  Young and friendly, he unfortunately spent a lot of time with his back to the audience.  But I assume this was because he was looking, engaging, and communicating with all the players in the ACO.  From what I saw, he is an amazing ensemble player and leader, and he should be proud of his results because the ACO were so together last night.  Especially during the “long” Sibelius “Voces Intimae”.  

The bow lengths, the speed of bowing, the phrasing…  all together like one.   I’m sure that this high standard of ensemble is the result of spending a lot of time rehearsing + having great players + listening and communicating at performance time.   Unfortunately the Sibelius was a bit too long and non-descript for me – I can’t even remember a melody from it now!

I think it was this emphasis on chamber and ensemble that resulted in Pekka not playing as soloistically or loud enough when it was time for him to be the soloist.   I would have loved him to actually BE the soloist in the E major, and I’m sure he could have showed off even more in the 2 encore Finnish folk tune pieces they played.

His relaxed yet dynamic playing style contrasted against ACO’s more precision oriented playing.   So much so that I thought I heard a few missed notes and one or two questionable passages – almost like he was too casual.    But his informal and friendly addresses the audience at the start of the night and before the encores helped us as the audience connect with him even more.   Even though the Finnish folk tune encores were crowd pleasers, I’m not sure whether they fit into ACO’s overall music vision and direction.   At least it wasn’t like the Kremerata’s encore at their recent Perth concert.  Or am I getting too high brow..  hmmm….

Overall, it was a packed house at the PCH and having a youthful and innocent director like Pekka can only help ACO and classical music in general.  And boy would I love to be good enough to play in an ensemble like ACO.

Personal opinions – I didn’t buy the fast tempo of the 2nd movement of the Bach E Major, and would have loved to have even more dynamics in both Bach’s.  At first I thought it was due to where I was sitting, but the ACO had incredible dynamics during the Sibelius.   Maybe it was the drone of the harmonium?

Preparing for the kids’ dancing concert

This week is the time when my photography hobby aligns with the kids’ activities of dancing!  Each year their dance school has an end of year concert – and we’re quite lucky to be able to photograph and video the dress rehearsal. 

But the preparation starts before all of this for each family.  

We’ve had to paint dancing shoes.

Wifey has done the final sewing on all the costumes.  Here’s a sneak peek – 3 costumes each for T and S (acro, jazz and tap).  Luckily no tutu as our kids didn’t do ballet this year.

As for photography – last night, I’ve double checked everything:
* Charged battery and spare
* Cleaned out memory card (4GB) and spare (2GB)
* Checked there’s enough space on the video camera

And this is what I’m packing:
* 70-200mm 2.8 lens for close ups
* 17-55mm 2.8 lens for whole group shots
* Extra DSLR body just in case
* Tripod

I’ve looked through previous year’s photos to double check the settings I used.  It looks like over the years, I got the best results from these settings:
* Shutter Priority – since dancers are moving, I don’t want blurry shots
* 1/125 or 1/160s – at 200mm, I don’t want to go any slower, plus I want to stop their movement
* ISO 1600 – with the lighting on stage, this resulted in apertures between 2.8 and 4.0 to make closeups pop

I think I’ve tried going manual before, but sometimes the lighting can change quite quickly and I don’t have time during a dance to play around with this.  Also, I’ve also tried locking the white balance in before, but since I won’t be matching colours across sets and the coloured lights are changing all the time, I don’t think it matters that much.

I usually give a bunch of photos free to the dance school which gets made into a poster in the foyer.   But I’m beginning to wonder if start selling them to other parents?  Hmmmm…

In terms of seating, I’ve always sat diagonally to the stage so that I can get some nice angles and lines, but I’m wondering if I should change spots this year.  I was thinking of sitting bang in the middle, which might be good for end poses, but could be quite uninteresting otherwise and blocks faces of dancers behind the front ones (as many of the formations are in lines).   And looking at last year’s photos, I think I’ll sit a bit lower/closer to the front as there seemed to be too much vertical angle in the shots for my liking.

But the most important thing is of course the kids!  They’re definitely looking forward to tonight’s dress rehearsal.  At the dinner table last night, our 7yo said that she was a little nervous!  We told her that a few nerves is a good thing 😉   And this morning, I had to field constant questions like “What time do we have to get there?”, “When will we do our hair?”, “When do we have to leave?”, “Will be people be watching us tonight?”.    I think it’s good to work towards something big and special – with dancing, this is either exams or a concert – not as often as a sporting hobby where there would be a weekly game to put the pressure on!

Here are some photos from last year’s concert.

Stevie Wonder in Perth!

And so we joined the thousands streaming into the Burswood Dome for what should be another great concert – Stevie Wonder in concert!  The Motown dude with a zillion hits.  The crowd was quite mixed – I’m not sure if there is any stereotypical Stevie Wonder fan, but we definitely had lots of music friends going.

Inside the Dome, the crowd was buzzing, not sure whether because of the excitement of the show, or the anticipation of getting your money’s worth after having paid multiple hundreds of dollars to see the man.  Finally the band came on, and impressive it was – a full 10 piece band (not including Stevie) plus 4 backing singers.  This was serious, and they all proved their great musicality throughout the night.

Stevie Wonder has an immense song library to choose from, and for the first half of the program, there were many new songs (or songs that I wasn’t that familiar with).  They grooved as all his music does, but some were more experimental, especially the vocoder one that seemed to go on a bit too long.  But he threw in his hits, especially near the end of the show when he did a medley of 5+ hits one after another that reminded everyone of what a great songwriter he is and what great songs he has in his repertoire.  And shock horror – his popular groovy hits got Perth people on their feet!!  In the middle of a show with seats!!  🙂  I’m glad security didn’t get everyone to sit down like at the Michael Jackson concert many years ago..  how could you not move your body to his music!!

There was no interval, but the show must have gone for between 2 and 2 and a half hours, finishing just before 10.30pm.  A pretty long set, interspersed with some preaching, Barack Obama campaigning and what I like to call melodic dictation (audience participation singing!  A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…   I think Stevie must realise by now that Perth crowds are very conservative!).  In the end, we left very satisfied, except for the sound.  Perth needs a better large live music venue where the sound is not woofy and muddled, especially in the bass end.  I would’ve so loved to have heard his full band in a venue with amazing sound clarity where each part is crystal clear and the bass is tight.  Maybe only on DVD or Bluray…