It’s an amazing experience to be able to play a concerto with a full orchestra. Even more special is the chance to play it in a large concert hall. And even more daunting is tackling a large romantic concerto! The nerves, playing in front of a large audience, playing in front of your peers, wondering if you can execute those tricky passages that you only “get” one out of every two times at home.
Well, Anna Pokorny, winner of this year’s WA Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition did just that. She played the Elgar cello concerto on the weekend with the full WAYO orchestra in the Perth Concert Hall.
I tend to cringe when I hear about kids playing large concertos – I mean, it’s amazing that they have reached a stage that they can get their fingers around most of the notes. But they’re usually not quite there yet, both technically and emotionally. There are usually heaps of other concertos in the repertoire that could be done first.
However, I was pleasantly surprised when Anna started the Elgar. She seemed to play with much confidence. Yes, some of the runs did get her, but she soldiered on – overall it was an impressive effort. If our 9yo could play like that in 10 or so years time, I would be a very proud parent indeed 🙂
Unfortunately our 9yo wasn’t able to attend with us to get inspired. She had a sleepover party to attend – she was meant to be my date for the night. But when wifey dropped her off at the sleepover party, she asked her “Can you video it?”. Awwwww…. so cute…
Last night, we had a great evening listening to the singing of The Idea of North. This Australian quartet of extremely talented a cappella singers entertained a packed house at the Music Auditorium at Hale School. In fact, they must have got our kids thumbs up as they hardly fidgeted through the whole concert! This is the 7th year that we’ve seen them perform in Perth, and they just keep on getting better. Their matching tone colour, harmonies, musicality, professionalism and personalities all combine wonderfully – it’s no wonder that they are recognised on a global level as one of THE best a cappella quartets around.
As something different last night, they invited an audience member to go up and “conduct” them by removing parts or changing the tempo – their ability to hold their part even when they’re not singing, or members around them are not singing, is inspiring. I still miss Trish Delaney’s (the previous soprano) amazingly crystal clear pure voice, but it’s good to see Sally Cameron now fitting in more comfortably with the group. I love swing, and loved their vocal swing tunes – oh how I wish they sang even more…
If you are a fan of acappella, singing, swing, jazz or just amazing Australian musicians, you must go and see them. There’s only 2 more gigs left in Perth – tonight at the Fly by Night club, and on Friday night at the Subiaco Arts Centre.
If you did go last night, I looked up some of the things they mentioned between songs.
Through the Facebook network, I learnt about a concert on last week. Jazz in the Theatre – Soundtracks was a showcase put on by the WA Academy of Performing Arts last week. The poster says that various jazz and comtemporary ensembles would play a collection of hits of music from musicals.
I wanted to go, and the musicals angle interested my wifey. But what about the kids? Babysitting? It would be nice to go out to a concert, just us, no kids. But we thought it might a good concert to bring the kids to. Yes, adventurous, but it’s good to bring kids to sit down concerts to expand their horizons, learn about concert etiquette, listen to other types of music, and to experience sitting still for ~2 hours!!
Yes it can be a hard decision to bring kids to a concert. Will it be as enjoyable for the two of you?
So here’s a few ideas to help make it an enjoyable experience for the kids, and the parents too!
Ease the kids into jazz and classical concerts with more family friendly and oriented concerts. In Perth, the state symphony orchestra, WASO, and state youth music association, WAYMA, run concerts for kids. There are commentaries on what’s happening and the music chosen is more accessible and shorter and more noise/movement is tolerated by the audience. The WAYMA’s Baby Proms are a good introduction the orchestra and heaps of fun for kids – sort of like the Wiggles but for classical music!
Get the kids familiar with some of the pieces which will be performed at the concert. Maybe make a CD with some of the tunes that are on the program and play it in the car or at home. At the Jazz in the Theatre performance, many of the tunes were actually from movies, so watching those shows beforehand is good preparation.
Even better, if your child learns a musical instrument or singing, perhaps they can play easy versions of some of the concert pieces. For us, some of the songs was singing repetoire for our daughters, so this definitely kept her engaged for part of the concert.
Talk about the various instruments that will be played with your kids. Ask them to pick out which ones they like best, to describe the sounds each make during the concert, etc. At the interval, we asked the kids which person they’d like to be if they were in the concert itself.
Make it a special night out for the family! We talked about it during the week leading up to the night. On the night itself, we got the kids dressed up and said it was going to be a treat because we were letting them stay up late on a school night. We kept it positive about staying up late that one night but knew that they would probably get tired during the concert, but didn’t make a fuss about it. It was hard for them to wake up the next morning, but we accepted this.
Try more informal jazz concerts or university/college classical concerts first. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of any type of ensemble, but the more prestigious classical ensembles may attract more formal audiences who are less tolerant of fidgety kids. Plus, those type of concerts may feature longer, more difficult listening music that would be hard to entertain kids. Jazz performances are inherently more informal, which may be easier to bring kids to.
Check out the type of venue. Outdoor concerts may be easier to bring kids to than concert halls as they may allow more movement and noise.
Have backup! Bring along some quiet writing/reading activity just in case their attention really starts to wander. But only as backup! They could draw pictuers of the instruments, or a picture of what the music sounds like.
So what was it like for us? The kids were great overall, but our 9yo did get tired in the second half. They loved the Aristocats arrangement the best (actually so did I!).
I was fortunate to accompany my wife to the annual jazz concert at her school last week. This annual concert showcased their many jazz ensembles in a more casual and classy atmosphere. I must say that I was impressed by the standard of these young boys – some who have only “learnt” jazz for a year or so. Hopefully having people who danced to their playing (even though they’re mostly their parents!!!) and playing with pros like Adrian Kelly helps to inspire them more.
With a dance floor provided, we were able to do some lindyhop to swing charts that they played. We’ve been so busy this year with work, moving house, holidays and extra curricular activities that we haven’t been able to dance much at all, so it was great to be able to dance together again at last.
I couldn’t resist taking some photos of the event as the stage, lighting and the bands provided wonderful subject matter. Here are some shots from the night:
Due to some great friends and some luck, we were able to secure two great seats to the ACOVivacious concert last night. I was really looking forward to this concert as I hadn’t heard the ACO for a while, there seems to be great reviews for the guest musical director and I was keen to compare the Four Seasons to a recent concert of it I heard in Venice itself.
Alina Ibragimova was the guest director and lead violinist for this concert season, and as soon as she walked on, I’m sure she already caught the attention of every (unfortunately probably 40+ year old) male in the Perth Concert Hall. I was wondering how someone with her petite stature, cute face, funky hair and tender age of 23 (10 years younger than me!) could command a group like the ACO. But she immediately impressed me from the first movement of Bach’s The Art of Fugue. ACO was amazing yet again – the first movement was played without vibrato, but the intonation was perfect and the tone and interpretation extremely delicate, too delicate.
I was wondering how ACO would fare alternating movement’s of the Bach with Signs, Games and Messages by Gyorgy Kurtag. I imagine it would be hard to context switch between the different styles, but I think it was an interesting experiment in the end – it even made some of the Bach sound foreign at times. There were some great thoughtful and well executed solos and chamber playing from ACO. The last piece of the first half was what I’d term “difficult listening”. I could sense unease in some of the audience around me, and I was wondering what they must be thinking about of the three pieces from the Lyric Suite by Alban Berg. Luckily, the amazing execution by ACO kept me engaged throughout. Not being familiar with the piece at all, I’m not sure if it worked out well – especially the third (?) movement which was extremely complicated and all over the place. I was laughing on the inside because they could have all been out of time with each other or lost, but I don’t think anyone would know, because they all ended together – just like true professionals. Judging from the expressions of some of the players as they walked off the stage after that piece, I’m sure some things didn’t go quite to plan. (Note to all performers – even though you may have finished “playing” the piece, you’re still “performing” until you’re out of sight of the audience!!!)
The Four Seasons was what featured in the second half and I think this was the reason why the Perth Concert Hall was sold out, up to its upper gallery, and why many proud parents had brought their musical genius wannabe kids. Again, Alina’s and ACO’s execution was extremely delicate and precise. Was it fresh? Yes – it definitely was not the boring/usual interpretation and my wifey commented later how liberating it must be to be able to get to a stage of your playing and career where you CAN experiment like this. At which I replied, there’s nothing stopping amateurs doing that anyway! Was it authentic? I don’t know – but does it matter anymore? However, I am not totally convinced of the ACO performance – some of it was TOO liberally interpreted in my opinion, especially in Autumn. I wonder if people go out of their way to pull the music in different directions, just to be different, just because they can. I guess ACO didn’t claim to deliver an authentic performance, but a fresh one, so they achieved what they wanted and I wasn’t bored but wondering how they were going to play the next bit.
At times, I felt Alina’s playing was a little too introverted and chamber like (sometimes playing into her stand instead of to the audience), which would be OK in a smaller room, but at times in the Perth Concert Hall, she was slightly drowned out by the other ACO players. But I loved the use and non-use of vibrato for effect, the variation in bow speed in long notes, the use of dynamics in ways I hadn’t heard before for the Four Seasons. The sul ponticello in Winter seems to be the “fashion” lately as Interpreti Venezia did exactly the same when we saw them in Venice. Alina’s execution of the fast runs were energetic, but didn’t some fast passages didn’t seem as clear as Carmignola’s playing (but that is a studio recording).
So, in the end, a satisfying and inspirational night out, confirming that Australia really has one of the top ensembles in the world in the ACO. ACO seem too perfect at times, so it was refreshing to see Alina walk into the wrong door when exiting the stage after the first half, and (distracting and unfortunate!) to see her have problems with her music page turn over (due to Perth Concert Hall’s airconditioning breeze I think?) – yes they are human! Actually, I found that the time when her music did turn over and she had to play from memory was the time when her playing and performance was liberated the most. Oh how I wish I could be good enough to play with them one day.
As for Perth audiences – I know it’s winter season, and many people do try to hold their coughs until between movements, but even that because annoying or disrupting – when the performers (ACO) have to wait before starting the next movement because people are still coughing = BAD. Why don’t the venues offer free cough lollies (without crinkly wrapping)? Wouldn’t this help? And please, please, don’t unwrap crinkly cough lollies in the slowest quietest movements. The quieter you try to unwrap it, the longer it takes, the more agonizing it is for those around you!
Funnily, I decided to wear jeans and a shirt to the concert thinking ACO is meant to be fresh, vibrant, youthful… but I felt quite underdressed with most of the patrons being older and in suits/jackets. Even with snazzier photographs/posters/brochures and better online presence (see ACO’s blog here), I wonder if classical music will ever be more accessible to the younger generations. And why do Perth audiences feel the need to rush out as soon as a concert is over? The last ACO member hadn’t even left the stage yet and people were up on their feet trying to get to their car to beat the Perth “traffic”.
One thing I loved about our time in Venice was the classical music!
In St Mark’s square, there were little classical ensembles (typically 1-2 violins, clarinet, piano, bass) churning out one classical hit after another.
But one thing not to miss is to attend a Vivaldi concert. Vivaldi lived and worked in Venice for a while, so it seems that a Vivaldi concert is a not to miss event.
The problem was that there were so many Vivaldi concerts to choose from!! There was literally at least one EVERY night! It seemed that the main ensembles there rotated between a Four Seasons program and an Operatic program. Being a violinist, I had to see the Four Seasons.
We ended up choosing to see Interpreti Venezia because they seemed to be the most “musical” on paper – having toured a few countries and recording quite a few CDs. We watched them play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the San Vidal church and we were entertained. Their interpretation was fresh and their players talented. There was a sizeable audience, but mostly (probably all!) tourists. The most memorable thing about the concert was the cellist! He was extremely flamboyant which put me off at first, but after his Paganini cello encore at the end, he did show he had talent to back himself up.
It wouldn’t be bad being a classical muso in Venice – but to play the same program day after day would take its toll I’m sure.