Monday, 26 November 2012

'New Zealand's Got Talent' ~ who will win? And some of my favourites

This show has been great entertainment!  My two top favourites are Clara van Wel and Evan Sinton:

Here you can watch Clara's final performance of her own very beautifully written and movingly performed song "Where do you find love?":

I look forward to her commercial recording of this and other songs of her own writing so that I can buy them!

Here is Evan performing Sonny Bono's song, "Bang bang": 

As judge Jason Kerrison said "I reckon that if you were to release an album of classics it would become a classic album." and I agree: in addition to "Bang bang" Evan has delivered some hauntingly original interpretations, namely "Blackbird" by the Beatles, and "I put a spell on you" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins.  Yes, I'll buy that album too!  

Later note about Evan: I continue to be very impressed with his music.  For those of you who are interested in hearing more here is his YouTube page:

For those of you who enjoy 'classical' music of the symphonic sort here is the link to 
Jessie Hillel's heart-stopping performance:
I found all of these performances very moving.  What incredible talent!  The ages of these artists is staggeringly young: Clara is 15, Evan is 18, and Jessie is 11!  

At the other end of the age scale is Olivia Turner, who is 91.  She also gave a lot of pleasure to her audiences.  It's wonderful to see a woman of her age so beautiful and accomplished and communicating with her audience with such immediacy.  Of her renditions I enjoyed 'My way' the most.  

And Mihirangi FlemingI think she is in a class of her own.  Judge Ali Campbell of UB40 fame, has said more than once that he has been touring the world for 30 years and never seen anything like her performances; she is his favourite.  Her final performance linked to here didn't wash with me, but the judges and studio audience responded rapturously.  

It will be interesting to see how the voting public places these paragons!  I see each of them as winners in their own right.  

Later note: Clara won first place, Jessie second, and Evan third.  In the video below the three of them perform a charming rendition of Gotye's song "Somebody that I used to know":

The original clip of Gotye singing it with Kimbra, which is particularly remarkable for the video, can be seen in a separate article:

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Script ~ 'Hall of Fame' with Will.I.Am

I saw this video on tele the other night and enjoyed it.  I have been feeling a bit down lately due to difficulties with people who should know better: it is hard to keep on being tolerant and understanding of people who refuse to discuss issues and hold onto grudges.  I can let this upset me and control how I behave or I can give them a whole lot of space in which to feed their bad feelings in their own company and get on with my life.  But however hard I try to block it out I do find it upsetting, so when I hear a song like this and see these young people gritting their teeth in the face of adversity and continuing to strive towards their own goals I feel strengthened.  Good!  Stand up, be tall, be proud, be yourself!  I can too!

I am not familiar with The Script but have seen quite a bit of Will.I.Am on American Idol.  He is quite a character and often made me laugh, especially when he and Jimmy Iovine mentored the contestants together. 

Music can be a wonderful balm to ease difficulties, and the songs of these musicians speak for themselves...

Note: this track is reminiscent of 'Battle Scars' both in style and themes, which I've featured in an earlier article.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mihirangi Fleming ~ an unusual and fascinating performer on 'New Zealand's got talent'

There are many wonderful talents on this show, so I hope all NZ readers are watching it.  Mihirangi is a big favourite of mine.  She has to be seen - and heard - to be believed:

The clip shown here is of her first performance; I liked her second performance tonight even better!  
Here is her website: 
You can find the official New Zealand's got talent website here, with Mihirangi's second performance, and much more besides:
On that web page you can also find youngster Fletcher Oxford, who, at twelve years of age, is an exceptional singer, song writer and musician!

There are some amazing acts on this show!

Friday, 5 October 2012

'Battle scars' ~ Guy Sebastian video featuring Lupe Fiasco

This song has sensitive content despite the rugged appearance of the 'sets', and having seen it on television found my mind going back to it over the following few days before posting it here.

The track is the result of a collaboration between Guy Sebastian, the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003, and Lupe Fiasco, an American rapper.  I don't ordinarily take to rap, but styles of the two musicians combine well.

Note: this track could be regarded as a companion to "Hall of Fame" by The Script and Will.I.Iam featured in a later article.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Karise Eden ~

Karise Eden, winner of the Australia show 'The Voice" has an extraordinary voice, and a style all her own.  She was 19 at the time, but sounds much older.  Overlook the aesthetic disaster of the stage set if you can and have a listen to something really special!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

'If I only had time' ~ the incomparable John Rowles

John Rowles has one of the most splendid voices ever to come out of New Zealand.  He is best known as a pop singer of the 1970s and 80s but those songs for which he is best known have effortlessly stood the test of time.  My favourite is "If I only had time".  Here it is:

Note that this track can be purchased from itunes via the link provided on YouTube site.  This can be found by clicking through on the title link of the video clip above.

There is another video clip of John performing this song but the sound is not all that good, hence my choice to feature the one above.  However, here is the video for those who are interested:
Note - 4th December 2012: 
Since this article was written a new 54 track collection of John Rowles recordings has been created.  It is called:
Links to other media coverage:
I agree with Michelle!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Fatboy Slim ~ 'Weapon of choice'

Often when I'm in public spaces I get aggravated by other people's choice of music, so I can identify with this man's initial response to the music issuing forth from the nearby radio.  But he does something with it - lots of fun here, both for those who merely think about breaking out from the straightness of everyday life, and for those who actually do so:


The dancer is none other than actor, director and script writer Christopher Walken.  He was in his late fifties when the video was made.  Wikipedia has this to say about his performance:
Walken had a notable music video performance in 2001 with Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice". Directed by Spike Jonze, it won six MTV awards in 2001 and—in a list of the top 100 videos of all time compiled from a survey of musicians, directors, and music industry figures conducted by UK music TV channel VH1—won Best Video of All Time in April 2002. In this video, Walken dances and flies around the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles
I hadn't come across Fatboy Slim, otherwise known as Norman Cook, at all until just now, when I was idly watching a few minutes of the C4 TV channel.  Thank you, C4, Christopher and Fatboy!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Kina Grannis ~ 'In your arms' ~ Jelly bean art reaches its zenith!

Who would ever think of creating an entire video backdrop of moving images made up of jelly beans?  And who would ever have the patience to make it happen in co-ordination with a singer performing their song?  Boggled?  So was I!  Here is such an artwork.  I found it fascinating and beautiful - and enjoyed the song!  Kina has a lovely voice. 

Few people watching the video would think of the time and effort that went into creating the video.  It took almost two years to make.  A lot of people helped.  One 'still' camera was used to take 2460 individual images which were shown in sequence to create the apparently moving imagery.  This technique is called Stop Motion animation.  288,000 jelly beans were used.  Amazing!  The whole thing seemed impossible to me so I was glad that Kina has also posted a video about how it was made!  Total hats off to director Greg Jardin, and huge congratulations him and Kina - this is impressive performance art!

If you want to read more about it you can click on the title bar of either of the videos to reach the host YouTube site.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Stan Walker ~ 'Stand Up' ~ and the Narnian connection

I'm a big fan of Stan Walker, the winner of Australian Idol in 2009.  He is a Maori man, a New Zealander, who has made his home in Australia.  In this song his very special voice can be heard at its best.  Some footage from "The Chronicles of Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is included as Stan recorded the song for the film's Australian release in 2010.

Stan's website is here:

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Katy Perry ~ 'Wide Awake'

I never thought I'd find myself sharing a Katy Perry video, but was surprised to find I liked this one - and the great little movie featuring her singing the song.  I encourage viewers not to be put off by the opening part in which she wears a pink wig and appears to be reclining in candy floss! 

The photography and sets are well worth looking at on the full screen, so it's worth selecting this option once the video has started playing.  To find this move your mouse pointer to just inside the lower right hand corner of the video clip.  The word 'full screen' then appear.  Click on it.  To reverse back out of it go to the lower right hand spot just inside the corner of your screen and click the same spot, or simply press the Escape button on your keyboard.

Marina and the Diamonds ~

During the last couple of weeks I've been greatly at a loss over what to watch on television, not that I watch it all that often, but there are times when it's nice to watch something vaguely entertaining.  Not being at all interested in sport or the Olympics I haven't found much else on, so I've turned to the New Zealand channel, C4.  This channel is available through Freeview.  Lots of music videos there and some lively chat from time to time, so it's a bit like a music station on tele.  It's been something of an eye-opener; some I've liked and other stuff I've found quite impossible but in amongst it all there have been some new discoveries: Marina and the Diamonds is one of them.  

Here is Marina singing Primadonna Girl.  It's worth enlarging the screen to full size to get a proper look at the action:

I've heard this song on the radio, but didn't know who sang it, so was interested to put a face to the song, so to speak, and enjoyed the video - very amusing actually, watching Marina acting out the moves of such a person, and sweet too.  

The next video is very different.  I found it had an oddly mesmerising quality, but maybe it's because like the song writer I have historic issues to do with Power and Control - yes, that's what it's called.  I thought too, that the man of the piece was a good foil for her performance.  Very nicely done, Marina! 


Marina's site is here:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The astonishing Amanda Palmer in Neil Gaiman's 'Statuesque' ~ and as herself

Amanda Palmer is such an individual that she stands out from any crowd and it must surely be impossible to confuse her with anybody else.

In my view art at its best shows us different ways of seeing the world and introduces us to ideas that wouldn't otherwise occur to us.  In this short movie our assumptions about an older man who sits and watches models is unlikely to be anything like what we see going on here - or is it?  And the people who somehow permeate our thoughts, what of them?  I'll let you enjoy the film for yourselves...

She's married to Neil Gaiman.

Amanda is a singer, songwriter and performing artist.  There is nothing tame about this unexpected woman, only an oddly endearing naturalness that has a certain naivety to it.  

You can explore her website here:
If you're comfortable with a certain amount of nudity you may find the "Want it back" video and song (uncensored version) pleasing.  I liked it.  Now that was unexpected!  She's not vamping the audience or making up to the camera-person - just using her body as an art canvas.   This aspect of it has something in common with Gotye and Kimbra's video of "Somebody that I used to know" although the artwork itself is very different! Let's bear in mind too, that the naked human body has been the subject and inspiration of great art since time immemorial.

Gotye and Kimbra ~ "Somebody that I used to know" ~

Gotye was born in Belgium but grew up in Australia; Kimbra is a New Zealander who now lives in Australia.  In this surprising video both musicians have their bodies used like a canvas for a piece of abstract art, imagery which is as memorable as the song is catchy!

In the audio clip below Kimbra is interviewed by Jim Mora of Radio New Zealand (30th July 2012).  Readers may be interested to hear what she says about the process of being painted for the video shoot.  Jim Mora remarked that it was the first time a guest of Radio New Zealand had fans come up with them in the lift!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

'...where trouble melts like lemon-drops...'

In this video Israel Kamakawiwo'oloe sings "Somewhere over the rainbow".  I was fortunate enough to catch this on television a while back, and each time I re-watch it I admire his very special voice - and feel soothed by it.

I'm pleased to see that the recording is available for purchase via the link provided by the uploading site.

I've added this portion of the Wikipedia article about him, as it provides insight into his character and music: this man is much more than the laid-back overweight man that he may appear to be:
Kamakawiwoʻole was known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence, both through his lyrics, which often stated the case for independence directly, and his life. His song Hawai'i '78 demonstrates the beliefs and hopes that he had for the people of Hawai’i: the life of this land is the life of the people, and that to care for the land (malama 'āina) is to care for the Hawaiian culture.[7] The state motto of Hawai'i is a recurring line in the song and encompasses the meaning of Iz's message: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono (proclaimed by King Kamehameha III when Hawai'i regained sovereignty in 1843. Roughly translated: The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness).
Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole suffered from severe obesity resulting from compulsive overeating, and at one point weighed 757 pounds (343 kg; 54.1 st) standing 6-foot-2-inch (1.88m) tall. He endured several hospitalizations because of health problems caused by his obesity. Beset with respiratory, heart and other medical problems, he died at the age of 38 in Queen's Medical Center at 12:18 a.m. on June 26, 1997. Kamakawiwoʻole is survived by his widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann "Wehi".

The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the state capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.

The funeral and the scattering of Kamakawiwoʻole's ashes were featured in the official music video of "Over the Rainbow" released posthumously by Mountain Apple Company; as of October 2012, the video as featured on YouTube has garnered over 75.4 million views.
Note: click through to the Wikipedia article itself for a more complete list of the article's references

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Harry Potter, Wizard ~

The Harry Potter films must be among the most popular in existence right now, but I have only watched them recently.  For the benefit of others like myself who have avoided them this long I offer this brief overview:

When we are first introduced to young Harry in the first movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", he is a young boy living in dire circumstances: his parents died when he was a baby and he lives with relatives who barely tolerate him, and indeed take every opportunity to persecute him.  He is a pleasantly ordinary looking boy, but unexpected and sometimes alarming things happen around him, so some of their annoyance is understandable!  It is impossible to be surprised when he learns he has magical powers.  Just how magical his powers are, or what his peril is, for that matter, unfolds throughout the movies.  He gets 'rescued' from his awful relations and carried off to Hogwarts, a school for young wizards and witches set in remote and stunningly beautiful countryside.  

There he makes friends with classmates who are just as unlikely as he is: red-haired Ron Weasley, who takes fright so easily and tends to trail behind, and fair haired Hermione Granger, who is extremely bright and seems to know most things - out of books anyway, and has a knack for logic.  She often manages to gets them out of trouble.  They make a good foil for each other, sharing good times and bad, arguing and experimenting as children do, and we follow their progress through their years at the school, one movie at a time.  And of course they actually do grow up during the sequence of the films.  The first movie has a good deal of quirky humour in it, rather in the nature of all the best pantomimes.  Content becomes more sombre as the children get older. 

Throughout the movies the danger to Harry increases, forcing the trio into a series of adventures in which they have to solve riddles and overcome human as well as magical obstacles which seem likely to overpower them at any moment.  Fortunately they have powerful allies, but even with these things are often not what they seem.  The story-lines are complex and the action fast-paced.  There is a lot more to these movies than wizards, wands, and troublesome children! 

I came to watch these movies reluctantly: quite against my natural inclination I was persuaded to watch the beginning of the first movie before going off to do something else which was important at the time.  Then, some weeks later, having wondered whatever did happen next, I made the effort to sit down and watch the whole thing.  It was a short step from there to watching the next one and the next one, until I had watched all eight! 

On the whole I strongly resist anything that is wildly popular, being suspicious of what might be merely a fad.  Well, I have to set that aside for this lot and say I agree with the masses: this is thoroughly entertaining stuff!  

It is violent though, and becomes more so as the series progresses.  For this reason I would not recommend it for children even though they are the intended audience - unless I was sure that the children in question were capable of managing that sort of content.  If I'd seen them when I was a child I would have been scared rigid and subject to nightmares for long afterwards.  

Now that I'm middle aged I'm rather less easily bowled over but still found them very full-on, compelling though - very, and with thought-provoking content.  Author J. K. Rowling is a clever thinker and writer!  

The three young people who play the main characters, Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Ron Weasley, by Rupert Grint, and Hermione Granger, by Emma Watson, all give wholehearted performances which add a lively chemistry to the trio.  The other youthful characters, such as Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy and Luna Lovegood also contribute memorably.  

Of the adults Professors McGonagall and Snape, wonderfully played by Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman were favourites; along with quirky characters such as Mrs Weasley, Ron's mother, played by Julie Walters; Hagrid, played by Robbie Coltraine; and Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody, played by Brendon Gleeson, to name a few.  And one must give an honourable mention of grandfatherly arch-wizard, Professor Dumbledore, played by Michael Gambon!

Admirable as all these are, I award the bouquet for the most compelling and memorable character portrayal to Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape.  For me his was the most interesting character of the whole series.  He immediately took my attention when he first came into the story and held it throughout the series, so that I was not surprised at the strange part he played in the final unfolding of the drama at the end of the last movie.  I didn't guess what that was however.  One senses in Snape loneliness, deep suffering, and many secrets, all firmly held in with an outer severity in which he suffers neither fools nor disobedience - impressive! 

With less opportunity for character development is the alarming portrayal of the ferocious and deathly Lord Voldemort, by Ralph Fiennes.  This characterisation makes it hard to remember him as the softly spoken and quietly glamorous young senator in a favourite movie, "Maid in Manhattan" in which he played opposite Jennifer Lopez

Curiously, the last movie, which is the darkest and most violent of the lot, is the one that I found the most satisfying.  I thought it had the most integrity as a story, and represents a very skilful drawing together of a lot of different threads.

Even if you're not that excited by the notion of watching films featuring children wrestling with magic, the series is worth watching for the spectacular locations, astonishing sets, and skilful costume design and make-up artistry.  The special effects are something else again.  In one of the less spectacular but nonetheless seamless pieces of photographic magic I'm still puzzling as to how the giant Hagrid, could have been played by an actor who is six foot and one inch tall. (He adds "... in all directions, unfortunately!")  He says only that he had to be shot from below.  Well, I don't think it can have been quite as simple as all that, because...

Hmm, lots to see in all that.  I will be watching them again and I'm sure I'll pick up lots more detail next time around!

Reviews, story lines and more trailers can be found via the links below.

The series, with links to the IMDb site, is:

American Idol finale disappoints ~

Over the last couple of years I've written quite a few posts about American Idol, which have reflected my enjoyment of the show.  Usually it has been very enjoyable, so in the light of fair comment I must say that although I was delighted that Phillip Phillips won the contest, I was disappointed in the finale as a whole.  In other years these have been variable, some more enjoyable than others, but this is the first one that I have simply sat through in order to see the outcome.  In fact I got a headache - and Rewi went to sleep!  On the whole it seemed raucous, and somehow rather dark.

As I have a policy of keeping a fairly positive tone I will keep my critique brief: the young singers who have come up through the competition are so talented and fresh and many of their performances have been uplifting; in the finale most of the performances given by guests simply didn't match that standard.  With some exceptions, much of the music and costumes seemed clichéd and not at all what I wanted to watch.  Further to that, most women simply shouldn't perform in body suits and high heels - they just don't look good.  The only two women I've seen who can carry off these sorts of outfits are Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, and they're exceptional anyway!  And ah, black leather bikinis look simply terrible on anyone!  

One performance I was glad to see was of the top ten contestants 'singing the phone book'.  This was a tribute to Randy Jackson, one of the judges: after an especially good performance he often declares that the contestant "could sing the phone book".  The song was clever and a lot of fun with each of the contestants adding their own signature vocals!

From the look of what's on YouTube these days, Fox appears to be clamping down on the sharing of Am Idol content.  This is disappointing as it's not always available on their own site, and you'd think it would be first class free publicity for them.  After all it's the enthusiasm of fans that keeps these shows in business year after year. 

So, what to do now that this year's contest is over?  Await Phillip's forthcoming album, that's what!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Phillip Phillips wins American Idol ~

When I heard Phillip sing "Home" in the final round of the contest I knew he had won.  Outstanding!  The video of his winning performance is no longer available, but here is his later recording of it.  Personally I found the shifting imagery distracting, but there it is - the life of a travelling musician:

Rolling Stone magazine interviewed Phillip soon after his win:
For those interested in how Phil is doing I've included this clip from 'Fuse News':

Friday, 18 May 2012

Donna Summer ~ Hot Stuff to the end!

I was saddened to hear of Donna Summer's death today.  She died of cancer, aged 63.  I saw her perform on American Idol a few years back and was totally impressed by her enduring charisma and vocal power.  That show hosts quite a number of what might be termed 'voices of the past' and whereas some of them are still good, most of them I don't much care for any more.  But Donna Summer, like Stevie Wonder, was clearly still a powerhouse of music.  I wish I had that one on tape.  She looked like the older woman she had become and looked great with it, all the more remarkable as she had very recently been hospitalised for some serious disorder, I forget what.  Inspiring!

I hunted through the YouTube archives for some recent footage that came close to doing her justice, and found this one of her performing at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway:

Rest in peace, Donna, we remember the happiness of your music!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

You got it bad! - Phil sings it good!

As the show progresses contestants continue to develop and shine.  Phil Phillip's performance is a hot favourite of mine.  I have it on the video recorder and have watched it many times already - a truly haunting delivery from a star on the rise.  That recording has been withdrawn from public view but this one of the studio recording is still there:

This man will certainly be one to watch in years to come.  Already I'm a big fan!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

'Primeval New Zealand' ~ a fascinating award-winning documentary

This is a Must See for anyone at all interested in the history of New Zealand's land mass, birds and the other creatures that live here.  Produced by the NHNZ (Natural History New Zealand) unit and presented by Peter Elliott, this documentary kept me riveted to the television for the hour of its duration. 

This is the first documentary I'm aware of that gives a broad overview of the whole scheme of our country's natural history.  Many give individual histories of one species or group of species, or of the geography but give us only a partial view, so in this one we see a very different angle.

A taste of the content can be seen on this page of the NHNZ website:
This is a television treasure which stands re-watching numbers of times.  What a great gift this would make for any ex-pat relatives or friends, or for one's own collection for that matter.  The DVD can be purchased here:
And while you're on the NHNZ site take a look at their stock footage page and browse through some of their amazing video clips:
For those of us lucky enough to have access to it here is
Reviews and articles from other sources:
Peter Elliott is such a good presenter.  I greatly enjoyed the 'Explorers' documentaries which he presented as he tramped and toiled along in the footsteps of this country's early explorers.  In full tramping (hiking) gear and carrying a heavy pack he made his way through seemingly impenetrable country and along wild coastlines, against seemingly impossible odds.  This was a unique way to get a close look at unforgettable scenery and appreciate the astonishing courage and or foolhardiness of some of our early pioneers!  For his role in this series Peter won the 2005 Best Presenter award of the Screen Directors Guild Awards.

I wish I'd seen the 'Captain's Log' series, also presented by him.

I am mystified not to be able to locate copies of these series on DVD for sale.  If anyone else has located them please let me know!

Oh, and why can't we see 'Gloss' again sometime - a little retro-fashion-soap tele?  Now that would be fun!  Remember Peter as the unforgettable Rex?  Of course you do!  Come on TVNZ!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter music ~ The St Matthew Passion oratorio ~ Peter Sellars and Simon Halsey discuss J.S. Bach's great choral work

The great choral work St Matthew Passion (in German Matthäus-Passion) was composed by J S Bach in 1727.  It is based on chapters 26 and 27 of the biblical gospel of St Matthew, the story of Jesus' conviction and crucifixion, which Christians remember at Easter, so there is much drama and soul searching within the music. 

I've sung in it myself, rather a long time ago, but I still have my somewhat worn copy of the libretto (choral parts):

It never ceases to amaze me how composers manage to put this sort of thing together: this work was written for two choirs as well as two orchestras!  Here is a look at a couple of pages in which eight sections of the choir(s) are singing different parts at the same time:

The music shown below the choral parts shows only the basic accompaniment such as may be played on a piano for the purpose of rehearsal, whereas in performance there is an additional set of music for each part in the orchestra, or in this case two!

Bach's St Matthew Passion has a lengthy history.  He wrote it in German in 1727, and revised it a number of times in the years that followed.  It doesn't seem to have been much performed during his lifetime, possibly because of its length and complexity.  In 1829 composer Felix Mendelssohn performed an abbreviated and modified version in Berlin which was very well received.  In the 1850's the text was translated into English by Helen Johnston, which made it more accessible to English speaking audiences.  At this time its place as a well known and widely performed concert piece is well established.

The video clip below shows Simon Halsey (choir master) and Peter Sellars (director) discussing their interpretation and performance of this complex and beautiful piece of music.  For each of them the study of this work has taken place over decades.  I was fascinated by what they said, and although it is a long interview I came away from it refreshed.

Musically this type of music is described as an oratorio in which the singing parts are similar to those used in opera, with the difference being that an oratorio is intended to be sung only rather than acted.  

In the highly original version of the Passion under discussion by Halsey and Sellars, the choir memorised the entire piece so as to be able to move freely about the stage in a semi-dramatisation of the content.  By all accounts these were very powerful performances, engaging the musicians as well as the audience very differently to any other performance I have heard of.  The outcome was very challenging, which not everyone liked.  Performances of anything which affects us emotionally cannot be universally pleasing as not everyone wants this level of involvement.  Whatever one's reaction, there would be no dozing off in the audience!  Good!

Here is an excerpt from the performance:

The original  source page of this video is the Berlin Philharmoniker website   

Musical performances require extensive collaboration not only of individuals but also of large groups: 

The participants of this performance were:
  • Sir Simon Rattle, Conductor
  • Rundfunkchor, with Simon Halsey as Choir master 
  • Peter Sellars, Director of Ritualisation of the performance
  • Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra
  • Soloists: 
    • Camilla Tilling Soprano,  
    • Magdalena Kožená Mezzo-Soprano,  
    • Topi Lehtipuu Tenor (Arias),  
    • Mark Padmore Tenor (Evangelist)
    • Thomas Quasthoff Baritone (Arias),  
    • Christian Gerhaher Baritone (Christ)
You can:
Happy Easter!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

'Songs from the inside' ~

The television series 'Songs from the inside' began screening on Maori Television tonight, and will continue to screen on Sundays at 8pm for the next twelve weeks.  Based on the opening episode a friend has given it a very high recommendation.  I'm sorry I missed it and have noted it in my diary for next Sunday.

The synopsis of the series as given on the Maori Television website says that:
'Songs from the Inside' follows New Zealand musicians Anika Moa, Warren Maxwell, Maisey Rika and Ruia Aperahama, who went into Rimutaka and Arohata correction facilities to teach songwriting to prisoners.
Here is the trailer:

Friday, 9 March 2012

Grand Designs ~ presented by Kevin McCloud

I don't watch much television these days, but the UK programme, 'Grand Designs' is an enduring favourite.  Although I'm often not all that keen on some individual designs there are always lots of interesting stories and new ideas to consider.  

Some designs I do like very much, and the one about the Tenby lifeboat station in Wales was one of these.  The home site at Channel 4 gives the episode reference as
...which seems to contradict details shown on New Zealand's TV3 listings and in Wikipedia where it is listed there as 
Anyway, New Zealanders can view that episode via the Internet for the coming week if they wish, using the link above.

The Grand Designs part of Channel 4's website used to be first rate and appears to have had a less than satisfactory overhaul.  Looking at it just now I found it almost impossible to navigate and did not find the level of content that I enjoyed in the site's earlier scheme, so for additional information it's Wikipedia to the rescue: here is their entry for the Grand Designs programme.  Note that episode lists are in a separate entry linked to at the right of that page.

In my view presenter Kevin McCloud, is a large part of the shows success: amiable, plain-spoken and relaxed, he talks with home owners, consultants and site workers as they progress with their projects, and always closes the show with constructive comment, which is refreshing.

Fans of Kevin may be interested to see more about his own project at the HAB site, in which housing will be "environmentally sustainable, affordable".  The text on the pages is small and is a lot easier to enjoy when enlarged: Microsoft users, hold down the Ctrl button and roll your mouse wheel forward...

Note for New Zealand viewers: on 7th Sept 2011 an interview with Kevin McCloud - screened on TV3's Campbell Live show.  In it Kevin shares some thoughts about the post-earthquake Christchurch rebuild.

Eurovision Song Contest 2012 ~ Buranovskiye Babuski perform

Move over 'American Idol', ' The X Factor' and other talent shows, and tune into the Eurovision Song Contest to catch a look at these women totally enjoying themselves.  They are Buranovskiye Babuski and represent Russia.  Their enjoyment is infectious and they get a lot of fun energy moving throughout the crowd; it shows that the joy of song and dance can include everyone!  The piece they perform is named "Party for Everybody", so the song has a fitting title!  Thank goodness for cultural diversity and the absence of botox!

Here you can see the BBC coverage of this group of women:
Links about the contest:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Jeremy Wade presents the 'River Monsters' series

My enjoyment of the 'River Monsters' series came as a surprise as normally I find fishing programmes a big turn-off: I'm a vegetarian and hate to see well-to-do powerful men making sport of battling with helpless flailing sea life, and then chopping it up and eating it - it turns my stomach.  Having said that, I have no objection to local people fishing for what they need to live.  At all events, to find myself not only watching this show but taping it to re-watch again later was unprecedented and an indication of how different this series is from other fishing shows. 

Looking at the length of the series as indicated in Wikipedia I can see I have viewed only a small number of episodes, but would be keen to see more any time they come to air. 

Jeremy Wade is an engaging presenter: I enjoyed his respectful interest in and involvement with local people in all manner of small and out of the way communities, many of them living in very primitive conditions; I enjoyed the stories about the 'monsters' and the strange twists and turns through which his searching led him; and most of all I enjoyed his excitement and delight when he finally tracked down his fish, caught them, held them for the camera, and then very carefully let them go again...   Nice one, Jeremy!

My understanding is that many of these fish have not previously been scientifically documented, and their very existence the source of rumour and legend.  

'River Monsters' is available on DVD and also in book format.

Writing up recommendations - less depth and more infomation!

Previous reviews have been carefully thought out and often included in-depth content, but I have such a backlog of films, shows and what-not that I want to mention that I've decided to write less and focus more on simply passing on information.  Hopefully this will mean more articles are published more often. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

D H Lawrence and "Mr Noon" ~ 'What is man, his days are as grass...'

'What is man, his days are as grass.  Though he rise today above the vulgar democratic leaves of grass as high as a towering stalk of fools-parley, tomorrow the scythe of the mower will leave him as low as the dandelion.  What is a social status nowadays?  The wind passeth over it and it is gone, though the place thereof may see it again next summer, even the crown of the cow-parsnip soaring above the herd of green...'
This excerpt is from Chapter 13 of "Mr Noon, Part Two" by D. H. Lawrence.

When I reflect on my own changing fortunes and that of those around me I often find reassurance in this particular passage.  And I imagine that Lawrence had a kindly twinkle in his eyes when he wrote it...  

Lawrence had close personal experience of the vagaries of wealth and poverty, social standing and the loss of it, and was an acute observer of the natural world.  The main character of "Mr Noon", Gilbert Noon himself, certainly shared this acquaintance! 

"Mr Noon", which is written in two distinct parts, is one of my favourite books.  Aside from having the same main character, Parts One and Two are very different in style as well as content, and Part Two has the distinction of being a raw first draft which was never completed.  Their publication history is also very disjointed: Part One was published in 1934, and Part Two in 1984, but both have great charm.  They have in common a depiction of the human state which is both wry and comical, and a wealth of widely divergent characters.  Set against a background rich in the social context of pre-World War One England and Germany, the stories dance of the pages.  Part Two includes many vivid observations of the German countryside. 
In Part Two I very much enjoy the sense of impulsiveness in his writing, the tangential asides and unrefined text, my only disappointment being the trailing off of the narrative in the last episode of the book.  It is a lightly fictionalised account of the early phase of his relationship with Frieda von Richthofen, who became his wife, and he may have felt that the story was too personal to pursue.  Whatever the case it is clear that he lost interest in telling it as the draft was abandoned in mid-sentence.

Setting that aside, to read it is to spend an evening or two with the great man himself, as he revisits his past with affection, good humour, and a decidedly dry wit.  I'm grateful to him for sharing it for all the happy hours I have had of reading and re-reading it.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dan Piraro's cartoons in Bizarro Blog lighten up gloom!

Bizarro Blog is a site I visit when I need to lighten up: it often gives me a good laugh, or at the very least provides fresh viewpoints.  Writer and artist Dan Piraro has a very quirky, somewhat satirical view of life, and sometimes even his despondency makes me smile and puts things in perspective.  Each article he writes contains humour in three layers: one in the cartoons, another in the text, and the third through an unlikely gallery of images accessed via click-through links.

Three I've particularly enjoyed are:
Thank you, Dan Piraro, for helping so many of us laugh about our confusing world!

I've placed a permanent link to this blog in the right hand side-bar of this Chronicle, under the heading, 'Recommended Sites and Links'.