Music lessons in Camberwell.
Learn flute guitar saxophone bassoon clarinet recorder and voice.
Learn for fun, learn for life. Exam preparation is offered...it is both disciplined and enjoyable.
Excellent location close to Camberwell Station in a stylish old house.
Teachers are highly experienced.
Discussion welcome - start with an email enquiry
and arrange a free consultation.
TO COME THIS YEAR ...
SERENADIO, Paul, Brian, Dominic and Xiao Hu, are enjoying rehearsals for their next spectacular - watch this space!
Ah, it is to cry.
I have made numerous trips to the op shops with box after box of our books. Beautiful books, glossy books, coffee table books, books with the secrets of the Universe. All piffed. And more to come.
Adelaide watches over me, and rescues a dozen at a time. But as long as I live, and I suspect in the future of the Universe, these will never again be read.
I used to see "The Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot on my mother's bookshelf - all my life. One day I wondered, "Will I ever read that?"
A couple of years later, when I took up a Speech and Drama course, in my late 30s, I found that very book as a syllabus option.
"Wonderful," I thought. "It was meant to be."
Soon, at Mum's, I said, "Mother, do you have The Mill on the Floss? I can't see it here."
"Well," she said. "It's a funny thing," but I was looking at it the other day and I thought, "This has been here forever. It's a wonderful book, but no-one except me has ever read it, and I don't think anyone ever will. So I gave it to the OP Shop."
Ah, it is to cry.
Further to the previous ...
Dear friends, good friends, have suggested that "The Afterthoughts", whilst amusing, is rather negative and not quite good enough a name for the group.
I reflected that Brian and I are still in our prime, and thought that "Prime Mates" would be a good title, perhaps with the three wise monkeys as a logo, playing various instruments perhaps.
But even this did not satisfy my most respected advisor. She likes names - but that's bulky. Some elision seemed called for, and we came up with a version of the names plus my street name, giving
"Fitzmorgen Williams and Royal present..."
But further discussions with my daughter have steered me in the direction of "Serenadio".
Paul Coan Williams
Deborah Moogy Morgan
I think I like it.
"Getting the Band back together"... these are the fateful words uttered by Jake at the outset of "The Blues Brothers".
And so am I, in 2017 (it's a prime number), getting the band back together.
Incredible! I just mentioned the prime because I checked it after feeling that it probably was. And it is!
Maybe I am a savant (when did we drop the "idiot" from "idiot savant"?). My friends would have half agreed with me.
What is incredible though, is that I have started to look for a name for my trio (I had thought we would be The Afterthoughts, but have been talked out of it by a good friend).
I wanted to emphasise maturity, without compromise. But "prime" and "savant" have suddenly jostled their way to the forefront of my consciousness - we will let them wrestle there for a while.
Margaret asked me if I had thought about a replacement for her in the trio form. I said "Yes, Brian Fitzgerald."
"What a great idea," she replied.
Could her approval have something to do with the fact that Brian is male and does not play the violin, thus protecting her legacy? I should jolly well say so.
Margaret and I have played in trio form since 1980. We played as the Wedding Trio for some time with Annabelle Clucas (then known as Annabelle Williams, causing considerable confusion).
In 1989, this became Paul Williams and his Elastic Band, also with Annabelle. We played many hundreds of concerts and shows in schools, kindergartens, community groups, tours and more, with Adelaide joining us from 1991 as star singer and dancer.
In 1993, the group worked as Trio Grande, primarily to support Mary Kenneally's cabaret work at Mietta's in Alfred Place, but also as a formal chamber music group.
In the new century both groups continued, but Annabelle, having set up a wonderful repertoire, and being a vital part of so many projects, including the CD "Classic Elastic", left to further her own musical and other interests. We were fortunate to find Sue Goessling, who worked with both groups till 2007, when Adelaide departed our shores for France, where she danced in the the Moulin Rouge for three years.
With Sue we recorded the "Hush Collection" volume 1, which I am told grossed over $250,000 for the Children's Hospitals. Of course it was a modest effort, recorded over two evenings under horrendous conditions but selling prodigiously due to good marketing, healthy sentiment and excellent placement (post office counters etc.).
In more recent years, Margaret having re-connected with old university friend Kay Capewell, we have performed as The Excelsior Trio, largely at Our Lady of Victories Church in Camberwell.
So now, the tradition continues, as ---????
I want to do Sunday afternoons at home, with a paying audience of about 50, a program of about 90 minutes, with afternoon tea.
There are little gems I have always wanted to play, stories I want to tell, and a huge variety of music, old and new, novelties and classics of every genre, just an excuse to entertain and take people out of themselves for a lovely experience. I expect Adelaide may be one of our first guest artists.
Brian Fitzgerald and I have worked together before, so we know it works. It was over 50 years ago admittedly, and it was a summer residency at the hotel in Saint Leonard's. We haven't worked together since except at a Music for the People concert under Hector Crawford in the 70s, when Brian was a singing, dancing, flute-playing star act while I played bassoon in the orchestra.
After St. Leonards, I was in the Army in Sydney, and Brian was entertaining in Vietnam.
I went on to orchestras, and Brian went on to commercial music running the Brian Fitzgerald Show Band - this sets up an interesting dichotomy for our shows, but our rehearsals so far have been great fun, and I am arranging music throughout the holidays.
Brian loathes the yakety-yak of the talkative presenter, so there may be some interesting tension.
It was not until many years after Brian and I worked together that I realised that I knew him. When I was in the Boarding school at Bundoora, we were entertained by the Australian Boys Choir, and Brian was one of two soprano soloists. Brian charitably assumed that I could sing and arranged a couple of items accordingly.
He was shocked when I told him that dear Margaret had once said to me "Would you be offended if I asked you not to sing?"
The sad part is that I would love to sing, but...well, you know.
THE SYDNEY WEATHER THIS WEEK, AND THE FATE OF THE BONDI SWIMMER, REMINDED ME OF MY EXPERIENCE MANY YEARS AGO, RELATED IN MY BOOK "OUIJA NIGHTS". Used to swimming in the cold southern waters of Victoria, I was comfortable swimming through the Sydney Winter, sans wet-suit. I became a confident body surfer, always alert for the perfect wave and the next challenge. One week, it arrived. After fierce storms in the Pacific, a powerful surf tore into the eastern coast, stripping the sand from many beaches.
As I surveyed the huge breakers crashing into the beach, I planned my tactic. In previous large seas, I spent a good deal of time making my way under the breakers until I reached green water where I would ride the swells and catch my breath till I was ready to surf.
I plunged into an ebbing river of froth foam and sand and shot under the first incoming white wall. I worked hard, plunging deep under successive waves, to find myself quite quickly in clear water, riding high, then dropping like an elevator with each mighty swell.
I was shocked to realize that I was "out the back" so soon. I was even more shocked when I looked up and realized that I had passed beyond the headlands of the crescent-shaped bay. I was in open ocean!
My heart lurched, and my first instinct was to sprint for the shore, but I was aware that I would be swimming against the current which had brought me out so fast..
I had my fins on, and got them working in a long, sustained kick, aiming for mid-beach.
As I swam, I noticed a throng of people on the headland between Bondi Junction and Tamarama, the adjacent cove. Above them a helicopter swooped. Feeling grimmer by the minute, I stroked steadily shore-ward, anxiously assessing whether I was getting inside the headlands. Still the helicopter rose and fell, rose and fell.
The people were still there. Were some of them pointing at me?
Now I was inside the heads, but very tired. The swell lifted me up to roof-top height and passed on, leaving me aghast. Where was the glassy slope I would skim, dolphin-like, to the beach?
Nowhere! Only a mountain of water collapsing in a cataclysm of foam-my only route to the beach, and I would have to take it, for the light was just beginning to fade.
Before giving myself any more thinking time, I committed my life to the next wave. Up, up and up again I rose thrusting strongly with my fins. On top of the mountain, my world stood still. An unbelievable drop yawned beneath me. Great angry white ridges barred the ocean between me and the beach.
And I knew I shouldn't have been there.
Reality was upon me again- it was freefall followed by a raging express train of water driving me deep down, tumbling me like a rag in a washing machine. I didn't know which way was up, where my breath had gone or how long I could hold out. The storm subsided and I bobbed to the surface, had time to take two or three gasping breaths when another monster struck.
Deep as I dived, it picked me up like a matchstick. Again I surfaced, desperate for air. Wave number three was upon me, and conscious of diminishing strength I plunged for the bottom. The beast rolled me like a Catherine Wheel, and I came up utterly spent, conscious of an odd feeling on one foot, as my fin had been plucked from it, and was nowhere to be seen. I knew it was a non-floating fin and I could not expect to recover it.
Again my mind took a snapshot.
The headland was crowded with people and the helicopter simply hovered. A dog barked on the beach and I could hear the hum of the evening traffic. Sea birds flew over me on their way back to their cliff wall nests. Everyone seemed to know their place but me. They would go to their loved ones, their dinner and their cozy beds while I, who had underestimated the power of the elements, would be flushed away like any piece of flotsam, by the unknowing, uncaring sea.
I cried bitterly, but briefly, as my strength was returning with each breath I took.
I had been swept down to the Southern end of the beach and was lined up with the Mothers' Rock Pool where the waves were pounding. Above this stood the whitewashed swimming pool with the link chain border, normally high above water level, but now being pounded from above, sluicing torrents back into the sea.
If I could be thrown into that pool I reasoned, I would have to be prepared for a couple of broken ribs, and probably limbs as well. A small price to pay for life! I would do it!
Lining up for the swimming pool, I caught the next beach express. I had miscalculated, and my watery chariot veered right, propelling me headlong towards the rocks. Expecting to have my brains dashed out on the rocks, I was shot through a gap between boulders in a giant jet of water. Into the sanctuary of the Mothers' Pool where I floated round and round in swift shallow water till I grounded. I rolled over, and removed my surviving fin.
Then I stood up, and fell over. So I stood up again, but I fell over again. After a couple of minutes I propped to a standing position. I became aware that two boys were watching me, with very large eyes.
"Was that you out there mister?"
"Ah, yes, I suppose so", trying to sound casual.
"Are you alright mister?"
I ached from head to toe and had survived an ordeal, but didn't think that it should show.
"Yes, of course," trying to sound casual.
I didn't realize that only a waist string and a scrap of the front of my swimming costume remained; nor that I was covered all over in a criss-cross pattern of cuts and abrasions relieved here and there by stripes various, and that most of these injuries were bleeding gently. As I made my way back to my car, I found my other fin, high on the beach.
I did no practice that evening, so heard the news for once. A helicopter had tried to rescue a surfboard rider at Tamarama, but had been unsuccessful.
The surfer was never seen again.
Moving from my home of 33 years, there was bound to be a few things I would miss. This thought was not in the forefront of my mind as I sipped an evening coffee recently. I gradually became aware that I was not alone, and sure enough, there in the nearby tree, was my old friend, the tawny frogmouth. Why his presence should be comforting I don't know, but it is. We have shared many a silent conversation over recent years. I never see him arrive and never hear him depart...he's an easy guest. I certainly feel all the better for knowing he is here, our native sentinel. I have seen him since, perched on a bough or fence, patiently waiting and observing, and a perfect listener. Like the owl to whom he is not related, he appears wise. Maybe I should try keeping my trap shut too (except to catch insects of course).
And here is the address I gave to the Joseph Crabtree Society at the Savage Club in 2015 - if you think it's an academic leg-pull, you're right.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Elders and fellow Scholars....
my predecessor, Elder Claibourne, entertained and educated us with his
researches into the Battle of New Orleans last year. I have forgotten much of
that hard-won detail, but have unfortunately retained an absinthe habit. I am not
myself a man of war, having defended Australia during the Vietnam Years with
my clarinet, from the Paddington Barracks.
Yes, my field of expertise lies in the Arts, and to be more specific, in the
Art of Music. Ha, already your ears prick up, your functioning memory cells
ignite and you seem to recall Crabtree research in that area – flawed research I
regret to say. Far be it from me to impugn the reputation of my esteemed
The facts however, speak for themselves, the facts being those which I
have uncovered during the last 12 months and which have been previously
inaccessible for reasons which will become clear, but which include global
warming and genome mapping.
My predecessors in this field have spoken about Crabtree's association
with the violin and the clarinet - vulgar modern instruments given over to
technical virtuosity and bombastic display – something of which I have never
been accused. And here is the nub of my contention, and the fruit of my
researches – the instrument closest to Crabtree's heart, and the one which
voiced his real soul, is none other than – THE BASSOON.
Need I enlighten you? I think perhaps I'd better. This is a bassoon.
There are 2 varieties – German and French. The same applies to clarinets.
The German Bassoon now dominates the Classical world as does the French
clarinet. But it was not always so clear-cut. The word “bassoon” is not known in
Germany. There, the instrument has always been known as “Das Fagott” It has
a rounded tone, descending to a low Bb. (DEMONSTRATES)
The French bassoon looks quite similar, but is known as “Le Basson” and has a
feathery, hollow tone, at once bucolic and oblique. As Sachaverell Sitwell said
“With the bassoon, it is as the sound of a sea god speaking.” It descended only
to a low C. Perhaps a “deep, blue C” according to Mr.
It is strange, is it not, that while the German instrument, the Fagott, now
dominates the world, that we call it by its French name, bassoon? How
perverse. Yet, so similar to the eighth letter of the alphabet.
Time's up – it's “h”.
What about it? You know very well. It's a contentious letter, a social marker. Of
course, you and I say “h”, at least I do. But consider this. The French call this
letter “aiche” and do not aspirate when they use it – very logical. The Germans
cal this letter “ha” and do aspirate when they use it. Very logical. The educated
Anglos call this letter “aitch” yet do aspirate – illogical.
My Irish friends, when asked about it, think for a while and admit “Yes, I do
say “Haitch” and if you spoke Gaelic, you wouldn't dream of sayin it any other
I have to admit, when they say it, they sound quite charming. And that's because
the diphthong is so pleasant “Haitch” rather than “Haytch”.
I once asked my Irish friend “Michael, do you believe in the Little Folk?” and
he said “No, but I've seen 'em.”
It is difficult today to appreciate the heat of the dispute between the two musical
factions... that it was a matter of public and artistic concern may be gleaned
from the writing of two of the leading poets of the day, and I quote
Coleridge - from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
The Wedding-guest here beat his breast
For he heard the loud bassoon'
Wordsworth - from "The Female Vagrant"
The lanes I sought, and as the sun retired,
Came, where beneath the trees a faggot blazed,
The Travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
And gave me food, - and rest, more welcomed, more desired
In 1798 Wordsworth (fagott) and Coleridge (bassoon) journeyed to the
Continent with the subject of the fagott/bassoon divide foremost in their
consciousness. It is well known that they parted company. What is less wellknown
is what Coleridge got up to. I can now tell you. Coleridge was a fairminded
chap, and having lost a fagott friend, replaced him with another –
They met at Schwarzee in Switzerland, a little town at the foot of a glacier, and
at the confluence of the world of the French-speaking bassoons and the World
of the German-speaking fagotts.
And what took them there in particular? A meeting of the IDRS The
International Double Reed Society. Oboes, Cors Anglais, Shawms,Curtals
Dulcians Bassoons and Fagotts. A month-long orgy of Chamber music
composition master-classes and the like...all poisoned by the relationship
between the fagottists and bassoonists. Every contest was soured by this
adversarial relationship, and it seemed the matter needed to be cleared up, and
for one faction to represent, for once and for all, the face, or voice, of this bass
And in the midst of this artistic mayhem – 2 Englishmen, set apart from the
crowd by their dispassionate nature, their aristocratic bearing (much avoided by
the French of late years) and their English sense of humour. It seemed only
natural to appoint these eminent English milords as judges and arbiters of taste.
This task they undertook with grace and diligence, grading performers and
handing out prizes, which were mostly in the form of a private audience with
It should be noted that Crabtree appears at this stage as a man in advance of his
time, striking a blow for feminism, as most of the prize winners were women.
Nor did he discriminate in favour of experience, as some of these women, in
fact most of them, were quite young. The losers, unfortunately, did not bear
their fate with dignity, and it has to be said, these Continental cads reacted in a
most un-British way, hissing, booing and slow-clapping in a most sarcastic
manner. Their manner became progressively more threatening, till, in a move a
great statesmanship, Crabtree announced that he would make a definitive
judgement on the status of the bassoon versus fagott.
This galvanised the assembly, who watched the pair take off up into the
mountain glacier wilderness for a month of meditation and contemplation. Their
Alpine life resumed its usual tenor while they waited anxiously for their return.
Days passed, and then From far up on the mountain slopes, somewhere behind
the glacial ice, they heard music. Sometimes it was soulful (plays Mozart
Bassoon concerto Andante) Other times, the mood was quite jolly (3rd mvt) and
again rather grand (1st mvt) Those were excerpts from the Bassoon Concerto
generally attributed to Mozart. For a very good reason. He wrote it.
Gradually the music diminished. Days and weeks passed . Binoculars and
telescopes were trained on the glacier until – there it was.
First one noticed, then another. More and more frequent it came, yes, it was to
be sure, a puff. A puff of smoke. A puff of white smoke. The Catholics were
encouraged. Not so the Protestants. Now the 2 schools were further divided,
and not only did the bells of the bassoons menace the funnels of the fagotts, but
partisans within each side turned on their own.
The tumult was interrupted by the appearance of a man. A man more like a
nature god – long hair streaming and his eyes filled with the knowledge of the
Universe. All eyes were upon him as he lifted, like Moses and his staff, a
magnificent, European curly maple instrument. Every eye was glued to its
shape and construction. This was it! The definitive opinion. There was no doubt
about it. It was – THE FAGOTT!
It was clear Crabtree had undergone a profound experience and was no longer
mere mortal man. He appeared about to speak, opened his lips once or twice,
with no sound, but on the third occasion, lifted his index and middle fingers in
frontal “V” shape, and those nearby later attested that the words which issued
forth were “Peace Man”.
The decision was made, and the rest of the story is known to us all – the
German instrument, Das Fagott, reigns supreme except in Paris and certain
French speaking enclaves.
But what transpired in that mountain fastness to so influence Crabtree?
It was in the European Summer that I got a call from Professor Giuseppe
Cavalieri Sforzando – apparently Global Warming had melted the Glacier above
Schwarzee to reveal a cave. A shepherd boy throwing rocks into it heard a
chink, as of something hitting pottery. A deputation from the town was gathered
to enter the cave, and the mayor's little daughter, running in first with a torch,
exclaimed “"Mira papá! Fagotti pintados!" (Look Papa! Painted fagotts) If you
are wondering why she spoke Spanish, the mayor by this stage was Spanish –
after two world wars the French and Germans agreed on a third party.
And there it was, or rather, there they were. An image, or should I say, a
likeness, of a man, on the walls of the cave, cleverly drawn using the natural
contours of the cave walls. Large and small, they were all the same – a profile
of a man of Western European appearance, even British. And from his lower
frontal portion arose an appendage of great length at an angle of nearly 45
degrees. Yes, you've guessed it – may I demonstrate (demonstration of man
with bassoon in profile).
The cave appeared to be last occupied some 200 years ago. A strange feature of
the likeness was that above the bell of the bassoon appeared a small cloud-like
circle. It was agreed that this represented a kind of spiritualistic speech-bubble
signifying the spiritual element of the music expressed by the player. However,
analysis of elements found in the cave floor appeared to have the same
consistency as the traces in these bubbles – it was only when these substances
were shown to be powerful hullucinogens did the researchers realised that
Crabtree was not blowing, but inhaling. And his preference for the Fagott, the
German bassoon, was based on the fact that, extending to low Bb, it was larger,
and contained more of the truth-inducing drug than the French model.
This cave now officially known as the Cave of the Fagotts, is irreverently
known by some researchers as “The hits of 1798”.
A foot-note, or hand-note, really, to this story, is one peculiar image. It shows a
truly ancient hand image, the type from the Late Palaeolithic done probably by
spitting vegetable dye through a straw to create a daguerrotype of a hand. It just
so happened that this hand was juxtaposed to the bell of the bassoon. It looked
as though the hand was emerging from the bassoon. I myself have no doubt of
its provenance. It was just Crabtree saying goodbye in his own inimitable way,
just as I must. (PLAYS GOODBYE WITH GLOVE EMERGING TO WAVE
GOODBYE AT END)
...and my book grows ever closer (although under the nom-de-plume Coan Williams). Here is a message from the author.
And on January 16/17 I enjoyed rehearsing and performing Opera in the Alps in the pretty town of Beechworth.
Just a good-natured clip.
Jan 3 - oh Yes!!!! One of my books has launched - "My Immortal Soul" by Coan Williams (me) is now available on Kindle (Amazon) and is awaiting your appraisal. Kimberley (my publisher) and I would be grateful for your review, remembering, "If you can't say anything nice..." You know what I mean.
2016 - a catchup.
A new year, and I have been too busy to make any resolutions.
Since last I wrote - let's see. There was a choral concert with the choir Cloud9, run by my old colleague, Gloria Gamboz and accompanied by pianist Annabelle Clucas, two very talented women. Annabelle and I turned back the clock, combining in a presentation of a clarinet novelty, Immer Kleiner, and a little recorder piece, Tambourin - both wonderfully well received. The choir was splendid.
The pre-Christmas period was a great time to catch up with various friends, while Christmas Day was devoted to a big evening gathering of family hosted by my sister and her husband - the star guest as usual was my 93 year-old mother.
The lead-in to New Year was occupied with playing for the excellent Australian Philharmonic's N Y eve shows at the Melbourne Concert Hall...always fun. We partied on in a cosy space between the Spire and the Gallery with a privileged view of the fireworks, and the best company.,,see picture gallery above.
Then I woke up and wrote this blog.
So long since I wrote - I must have been busy. And of course, much has happened, much of it very pleasant.
Playing for Strathcona's Presentation night, one is always concerned to make sure the girls are on stage in time. Therefore it was a little embarrassing to enter the stage as my name was specially paged. Yes, the girls were seated nicely, ready to play, as I entered the stage to amused applause from the audience. One has to "own" moments like these, so I gave them my bestand most courteous bow - and all was forgiven.
The girls played splendidly.
Margaret and I have spent several days in Geelong and Bendigo as I was doing country examining. The highlight was examining at Duneira, a very old historic house atop Mt. Macedon - I had stayed there in 75/76 and there is a constant bushfire awareness. The days there were idyllic though we stayed overnight at the Shamrock in Bendigo...a nineteenth century building also.
And on Saturday December 5th, I had the pleasure of playing as guest artist with the Cloud9 choir at a Church in North Balwyn - an excellent choir of course. How could it be otherwise when it is run by Gloria Gamboz and accompanied by pianist Annabelle Clucas, both colleagues of the highest calibre.
Annabelle and I played "Immer Kleiner" by Adolf Schreiner, a clarinet novelty in which the clarinet is gradually dismantled while purporting to be a real concertino. It was played by Herr Doktor Professor Wilhelm Kuhn (note the similarity to Coan Williams, author) who appeared no more stable than his clarinet.
Fortunately this was followed by Tambourin, on the tiny sopranino recorder and piano, both items being generously received and providing a nice contrast in a beautiful choral program.
...and, as I promised, here is the link to the little film I told you about. I hope you like it.
It's called "The Bassoonist".
Goodbye old friend - my state-of-the-art 1970s strobotuner is now landfill (or has been recycled in an electronics shop, if you believe in fairies).Hideously expensive at the time, it has been long consigned to the dustbin of musical history. It needed power and a microphone, then a careful scanning of the dial to see that the strobe patterns had stabilised. Modern phone apps are sensational!
Some new photos have arrived - from the aforementioned filming. Oh dear, not so good. No, I think I'll pass on these. Hang on, this composition looks good, even if you can't see my face. Hmm - and I thought I was the subject.
Eternal vigilance, it seems, is the price an author must pay for modern technology. As the last drafts and corrections of my manuscript for "My Immortal Soul", my sci-fi novel, flit in ghostly fashion across the ether, I am making some alarming finds.
The last few awkward expressions and typos had been hunted down and destroyed, but I thought I'd better go over the whole story.
At a delicate juncture in the action, the main protagonist makes an unusual and surprising decision. However, he does this without any explanatory scene or preamble. Two whole pages had gone missing.
Could authors of the past imagine their entire opus being copied at the press of a button? Probably not. But with swatches of text being dragged and dropped, it is all too easy to lose track of the big picture.
Don't worry - all is well.
And I was further flattered to receive a request for interview/questionnaire from the sister of a young lady from Indonesia. It seems it was considered that I might be an interesting subject for this particular person's folio or project.
Well, certainly, that's what I would always have considered. It's just that it hasn't really happened very much in all my xx years. So yes, again I was indeed flattered.
I mentioned it to my daughter, Adelaide who replied, "Oh yes, she asked me too. I get them all the time."
And no sooner had I arrived home I discovered an email link my dear wife had sent me...about the demise of the bassoon.
Certainly it has been some time since "the wedding guest here beat his breast for he heard the loud bassoon", but I felt that rumours of its demise were probably premature.
You may read it for yourself here. ENDANGERED SPECIES BASSOON
Do I think it rings true? Thanks for asking, and the answer is "yes". You will have noticed that it is not just the bassoon, but the other specifically orchestral instruments - very "classical". The well-heeled primary school in my leafy suburb of Camberwell suddenly seems to have no band and no music program, after years of dedicated service from a hard-working music teacher who kept recorder groups, choirs and band going.
Oddly, I now have some private recorder students as they are unaware of any "school-recorder" stigma.
Star mentality, desire for immediate success, disinclination to practice and computer distraction are all powerful factors.
Of course, we still have dedicated students from families which yearn for an artistic experience above the here and now of our consumerist society.
We have a lot of fun.
THE LITTLE FILM SESSION...
turned out to be quite a pleasant experience. At the Grant St. Film and Television School I was ensconced in a well-equipped studio with a crew of professional and trainee film-makers, as well as my very young colleague, Nicholas, setting out on the path of bassoonerie.
Unaccustomed though I am, I set to in order to demonstrate that wonderful instrument, the bassoon in a couple of short clips, demos and responses.
All seemed well pleased with the results, but the proof will be in the pudding. I will inform you when it does, and even post it here, should it be sufficiently flattering.
A LITTLE FILM SESSION
I have been fortunate, over the years, to gain a certain amount of recognition. I find it hard to pose for photos, unlike the younger generation who seem so comfortable in front of the lens. I have recorded some of my experiences, of photos and TV appearances and radio interviews, in some of these pages. Many of my appearances I have not even bothered to keep - I mean copies of prominent newspaper pictures and the like. It is not false modesty either.
Just when I thought it was safe to venture out again, I got a strange request - to take part in a 2 and a half minute film featuring the bassoon.
My colleague is a beginner bassoonist aged 10. He will be interviewed, followed by the contrasting end of the spectrum, me!
I will be interviewed, then change for a spot of real, live bassoon playing. "The Old man and the low C" perhaps?
And that, I hope, will be another nice little souvenir of my performing career. Excuse me while I go and prepare a reed.
See you at the cinema.
Feb 3...and now, I have played Opera in the Alps, 2015. The ground was so wet from he previous week's rain that they had to move it to a golf coure just near by. It was idyllic.
I said jokingly to my colleague, "Maybe I'll get my photo taken again. Ha ha."
"Maybe" she said, doubtfully.
I wandered into the crowd before the event, only to be accosted by a tall man in an Akubra hat - the former politician Tim Fischer. He hailed me like a long-lost friend, and we chatted briefly.
"I believe you know my sister-in-law Anna Sturgess."
"Oh yes. Great lady, great lady. Had dinner at her place in Tuscany, with that artist chap who died."
I presumed he meant before he died.
"Yes that's the one."
I knew he had been Ambassador to the Holy See some years ago, and met Anna at the many official functions.
By now we had been joined by a friendly young man- the photographer. Good heavens. Sure enough, snap, snap went the camera as we gestured and smiled theatrically.
I looked at the papers website and it had 24 photos, but none of Tim and me. The old previous photo, titled "The old and the new" was deemed worthy of publication, but apparently "The old and the old" didn't have the same appeal.
OPERA IN THE ALPS by Paul Coan Williams
It's an annual event I love playing at.
As the sun sets over the northern Victorian town of Beechworth, memories of the gold and the bushrangers are subsumed by the timeless sounds of orchestral tuning, the piping and warbling of both singers and magpies and the picnic clinking of fine Victorian wines.
My own modest preparations were interrupted by two representatives of the Border Mail, the Albury newspaper – “We'd like your photo,” they said, to my surprise.
“Oh, no you don't. Surely you'd like one of the younger members.”
“No, we want you.”Well, I considered I hadn't reached the status yet of “interesting old character” but that's all a matter of perspective.
“What about my colleague, Claire? She's be a good subject.”
They looked dubious.
“And she has relatives in Rutherglen.”
That did it. Local content! We lined up for the shot you see now.
My own relatives posted it to me, and I was not displeased. Even the blurb I had artfully imparted to the journos as idle chat had been faithfuly reproduced. Then I received another copy from a friend, and it looked just the same.
Months passed, and Claire and I worked together again.
“Would you like me to bring in a copy of the photo?” she asked.
“That would be wonderful” I gallantly replied.
When it arrived, I saw immediately that something was different. My copies had no headline, but hers did. My friends and relatives had folded it over to conceal it.
“What did it say?” I hear you ask.
“THE OLD AND THE NEW.”