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Tuesday, December 28, 2004
General Huntington stuff

On such an occasion as Huntington, one carries away many strong memories and it’s rather unfair to single out highlights. In my highly subjective list I’d mention Teddy Tahu Rhodes’s unbelievably lovely grace notes, Jack Thompson’s readings (especially of the Roald Dahl Revolting Rhymes), William Barton’s didge playing that had me converted, Karin Schaupp’s faultless guitar playing and the splendid rendering of Schubert’s Fantasy in F minor, D 940 by Clemens Leske and Benjamin Martin. And then there’s James Tawadros: a young Egyptian boy (15) who played the riqq (Egyptian tambourine). He certainly would have been able to teach Linda McCartney a thing or two… Or James's brother Joseph on the oud (looks like a large mandolin, sounds like a guitar) who'd knock spots off name deleted.

Reviewing is an art and I have managed to take issue with the other (paid) reviewers for works unjustifiably unmentioned, for seemingly unfair/inaccurate assessments and for failing to draw the right pictures of the occasion. They should have made more of the orchestra’s work rate: rehearsals and concerts intermingled. Where do they get the energy? Occasionally one catches smiles from among the players, by contrast to their intense looks of concentration. These people enjoy their music-making, even though the smaller instruments are played standing up.

It’s therefore trivial and rather naughty of Roger Covell to imply that the last work (Bach’s Cantata BWV82 ‘Ich habe Genug’ – I have enough) expressed his sentiments. I went away satisfied but this didn’t mean that I couldn’t have stood any more: the feeling of the occasion, the musicianship of the various artists, and the amazing energy of the Australian Chamber Orchestra were all things to treasure, not to (begin to) resent. For once, Canning gets my vote with the following
I can't say I had anywhere near enough of Huntington…
I wonder if that means that Canning got a peep at Colville’s piece, published a day later, or do Murdoch journalists really have some mystical ability?

I remarked after Glyndebourne one year that the pink pound seems to be more in evidence every year. I had hoped to be able to report that the ‘dinky dollar’ was a feature of Huntington. No such alliterative luck; the ‘crumbly cent’ is the best I could do: most of the audience was nearly as old as I am. They were all extremely outgoing and friendly. Further, they constituted the most musically aware and knowledgeable group I have ever encountered. While I’m not looking for explanations, the lack of sponsorship obviously keeps ignorant status-seekers away. I have already drawn attention to the informality of the occasion: ‘Wine host, bow ties not required’, as Canning puts it in the headline to his piece. Well, before we take that too literally, I have to report that, while I saw no dinner jackets, I saw at least two bow ties on the Saturday night. One was sported by Richard Tognnetti’s Father: Keith. I suppose we can forgive that; how else was he to draw attention to himself as the sire of such a musical prodigy?

And then there were Ty (awful mike technique) and Katie (amazing vocal leaps that tire the listener rather quickly) Noonan not to mention Katie’s new husband Isaac Hurren (sax.): not given enough to do, alas. Wouldn’t the full George have been more enjoyable? Still, this may be unfair carping, but some subsequent listening to George's second album - the name escapes me - makes me certain that I'd rather listen to that.

One wonders what had so displeased god (or one of them) that a swarm of Australian plague locusts descended on Mudgee, while we were there. They infested the road ’twixt Huntington and the town, squashing themselves into unnameable parts of the cars. Worse, they formed a greasy carpet likely to send vehicles off the road. Fortunately, there was no such accident. And if there was an elegant sufficiency of excellent Huntington wine consumed, there were no regrettable events of which I was aware (although I did hear tell of some suspicious breathalyser readings from among the audience at the preview concert weekend).

The sixty-four-page programme, full of interesting stuff about the artists and pieces (essential for the lazy reviewer), makes a tangible souvenir of the occasion. It was great to have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the artists as well as the other, 449 interesting people there.

The final ‘question’ is to ponder if there was a theme to the programme. One person suggested an American tone, another that it was a ragbag. To much hilarity from on stage, there were suggestions of an overabundance of drones. What on Earth can this mean?

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