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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22. Day 53. Thank you for the music


Music dierector Alondra de la Parra
Until today I'd never actually heard of Maxim Vengerov but now I have the hugest girl crush. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra's artist in residence is an inspiration. The Siberian-born violinist picked up his first violin at 4 years and 8 months and was in his first concert at five. He could have played the oboe like his father but decided that if he was going to play an instrument he wanted to sit in the front of the orchestra. "No-one can see the woodwind section," he joked. Siberia, he told the audience at QSO's In Conversation, was known for its remoteness and for its exiles but that can be the basis of great music. "During those turbulent times, a lot of great music is created." Music, he said, helps escape the trauma of war and restore the harmony. His passion is undeniable. "Violin is the extension of the soul of the players". But that's not why I have a girl crush. That comes down to two other things he told the orchestra's new music director Alondra de la Parra.
Firstly he talked about taking three years out from playing the violin to study conducting. Alondra pointed out that he didn't need to do that. On reputation alone if he wanted to take up the baton just about any orchestra would have had him. But, he said, conducting was a skill in its own right and deserved to be treated with that respect. He wanted to master the craft. As someone who tires of seeing retired sports people think they can be sports journalists with no training at all, I applaud a man who recognises that just because you've been conducted doesn't mean you can conduct or in my field just because you've been interviewed doesn't mean you can interview. But that's not all. He also talks about how he was approached to work for UNICEF as an ambassador but refused to do so unless they let him visit the children. He took his violin to Uganda, Kosovo and Bosnia and found a universal music and a healing power in music.
"Without people there is no music."  Well Maxim, thank you for the music.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 21. Day 52. In a flap

It's Orientation Week. This seems to have an ability to sneak up on me every year. There seems like there is an almost infinite amount of time between the end of second semester and the arrival of the new batch of students. But time is relative. The weeks of semester drag weighed down by never ending piles of marking. The weeks between semester fly eating up the hours in forms and preparation. And then the new semester is there and the paperwork and forms are still there not quite complete. This year is the same but different. While I'm about to orientate students, my teen is about to be orientated. So life in our house is about to get really serious. The only thing to do in this situation when things are starting to hot up is to down tools and go for a walk. Off to the University of Queensland lakes with two very eager dogs. They are about to find a noticeable decline in the availability of humans around the house. Bring it on.

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20. Day 51. Bending over backwards

Drama Teen and I spend A LOT of time discussing the performing arts. Even though neither of us are big fans of Rodgers and Hammerstein (and that's an understatement) a quote from Richard Rodgers is often pulled out: "No-one leaves the theatre humming the scenery". Perhaps not, but a really dynamic set can and will make your heart sing. This is something I remind the teen of frequently. I love a good set. But the set is only the start of the non performance aspects of a production that make theatre what it is. The technical production - the lighting, the design, the sound, the costumes and that set really can lift a production - or indeed sink it. The good news is for those who create theatre in Brisbane is that those technical categories are now much better represented in the annual Matilda Awards with  best sound design/composition and best audio visual design being added to the award categories. The annual awards were presented at a sell out ceremony at the Powerhouse Theatre tonight. It was a fun-filled, loved filled evening with two Queensland Theatre productions each taking away a swag of awards. The Wider Earth, a piece of magic by Dead Puppet Society, was rewarded for its technical wizardry while the stunning performances in Switzerland saw it take out both the major acting categories and best mainstage production. As the mother about to send her "baby" to study Drama at Queensland University of Technology one name stood out. Emily Weir was still a QUT student when she auditioned for the role as the maid in Tartuffe. She was a stand out, a real show stealer and obviously the judges agreed. She won both the emerging talent award and the best female supporting actor award. You go girl.
Wins for independent theatre companies also reflected the strength of that sector.
And the notable omission? Not one single award for La Boite Theatre Company. It's not that I think any of last year's productions was hard done by. It's more that we all benefit when there are stand out performances across the board and across the city. Still I very much enjoyed Single Asian Female at La Boite last week so perhaps next year. We'll see.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19. Day 50. Things are hotting up

Almost unquestionably the biggest event in Brisbane in May is the annual Paniyri Festival.
For those counting down the days, you have 90 more sleeps until you can get your Greek on. But some things are worth waiting for and honey puffs, haloumi and calamari are among those things.
If the wait seems almost too much to bear, consider for a moment the Hellenic Dancers. This year's Paniyiri marks the 40th anniversary of the dance troop. At times in Musgrave Park this afternoon there must have been some dancers who wondered if this might be the last dance.
Those traditional costumes are really cool but really cool they are not.
If a day is a long time in our fast paced world, 90 days is an eternity especially in terms of the weather. February is probably the worst month in Brisbane's climate calendar. May is glorious. Let's be honest, you can eat haloumi in any weather but it's even better when not mixed with sweat.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18. Day 49. A head rest


A picture never lies. As such I knew that dragonflies would land on the head of turtles because my wonderful friend and Project365 buddy Donna Weeks snapped the photograph that proved it a couple of years back. I love that photo. I love the university lakes where it was taken. I spend quite a bit of time at the lakes watching the turtles and I've never seen a dragonfly anywhere near them. Indeed there was no sign of the dragonflies there today either when I walked my little buddy Molly around the lakes to check out the turtles. She was very excited by what she saw so as soon as we got back to her parents on the other side of the lake she insisted we return with her mum. This visit was no more than 10 minutes after the first only this time the dragonflies had flown in. Right in front of me one landed on a turtle's head. So now I have a turtle versus dragonfly photo too. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17. Day 48. Just add water

It's POETS day, so one is almost obliged to Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday. And so we did. The dogs and I headed Colmslie Recreation Reserve and the riverside dog park. It's an incredibly well equipped park with a load of agility equipment not often seen in other dog parks. All my dogs did on this equipment was pee. About a hundred metres further on there is a slither of sand along the foreshore. The second we arrived there their excitement levels hit fever pitch. There was sand. There was water. This was heaven. It wasn't much but it made all the difference. The water made the experience. The agility equipment just got in the way. I thought of that tonight at Act One Theatre's performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. The play is set in three locations: A London flat, in the garden of a country home and inside the country home. Each scene was created by an appropriate use of furnishings and props all of which created exactly the right feel. But then they'd added a projected image. It told me nothing not already conveyed through the traditional set. Seriously people. Theatre is not film. You don't need to use multimedia just because you can. Used well it can set mood, define place or add detail and context. But so often in community theatres it tells me nothing, or is distorted, not focused or just a distraction. Be ruthless. Ask yourself. Will this be like the river and it will make the audience's heart sing or will it be like the agility equipment that just sits there until some animal pees on it? Since man began to perform on stage, set designers have been able to create magic without a single projection. Don't let us lose that art.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16. Day 47. Social butterfly


I often say I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do when I grow up. Clearly I have a bit of work to do to get to that stage. Think about it. I still have afternoon naps. I frequently manage to put my clothes on inside out or back the front. I can't tell my left from my right. Trained slugs would have more developed balance and coordination. And I am completely capable of wearing as much food as I manage to shovel into my mouth. Tragic. But while I sometimes wish I could behave a little more like a functioning adult, I don't mind those occasions where I have retained my childlike wonder. As far as I know spending a large amount of time watching bugs and slugs is something "normal" people grow out of. Well good luck to them. I may no longer have a Bug Catcher or a jam jar with holes in the lid but my fascination with creepy crawlies remains. In the words of Monty Python: All things dull and ugly, all creatures short ad squat, Call things rude and nasty, The Lord God made the lot.