Monday, December 24, 2012

The Santa thing

Last year Alex was frightened of Santa, making work and preschool Christmas parties challenging, as was the annual shopping centre photo shoot on Santa's lap. This year he has been totally into the whole Santa thing. He talked himself into being confident receiving presents at the parties, pleaded to have his photo taken at each visit to the shopping centre and has been acting extra good (if that's even possible) to ensure that Santa will leave him a gift.

What makes him most confident that Santa will be pleased with him is that he has been very helpful when brushing his teeth. Not sure if there is a little Santa/Tooth Fairy confusion going on here.

Anyway, he absolutely deserves those presents under the tree, unlike the young idiots who placed a used condom on our front door handle this afternoon. On one hand I'm glad they used contraception because I would hate for them to breed. On the other I'd be quite happy for them to contract an STI that causes their privates to drop off.

But back to happy thoughts, I am so glad to be spending a couple of weeks together with the four of us (dog included). Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular - Sydney

It was Sydney's turn today to host the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Back in February the family attended one of the sold out Melbourne shows and I reviewed it as
One of the best concerts that I have attended. A perfect performance by the orchestra, choir and soloists as well as a wonderful atmosphere generated both by the production and the audience that attended it. The whole family loved it.
So how did Sydney compare?

A bit has changed between the two shows. I'm now more familiar with the music, having had time to listen to the Series 6 soundtrack. Much of the music of Series 6 takes a few listens to appreciate in full, but it is highly rewarding to do so.

Gone were the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Concordis Choir and the venue of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, to be replaced with The Metropolitan Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and that most famous of all concert halls in Australia: the Sydney Opera House.

Alex Kingston (River Song) and Mark Williams (Brian Williams) replaced Mark Sheppard (Canton Everett Delaware III) in hosting duties.

The line up of pieces to be played changed slightly, with An Untimely Arrival, Almost People Suite and the Closing Time Suite replaced by Brianosaurus and The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond.

I was quite curious to see how The Metropolitan Orchestra would perform as I've been quite disappointed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's performance in comparison to the Melbourne Symphony. At least the conductor would be the same Ben Foster who conducted not only in Melbourne, but for the series recording  themselves.

The Sydney Opera House is a lot tighter venue that the Melbourne Convention Centre. The foyer was chaos as Doctor Who attired patrons attempted to buy merchandise, pick up special memorabilia packs, purchase drinks or take photos with various Doctor Who cutouts and costumes. Fortunately there is an outdoor area, where we escaped to watch the Costa Romantica cruiseliner push past the Harbour Bridge and berth at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. I met a work colleague also attending the concert and we chatted while B and Alex bought a TARDIS soft toy. Then it was time to go in.

Our seats inside the concert hall were quite far back as the very large front sections were unaffordably expensive. Still, I don't think they were any further than in Melbourne. The hall was much narrower, however.

After a prerecorded introduction from Matt Smith, the current doctor, on the video screen behind the orchestra the performance began with A Madman in a Box. Immediately, I thought the Soprano Antoinette Halloran was tonally wrong, despite her flawless performance in Melbourne. In fact, the whole orchestra's sound seemed a bit off.

The reason why didn't hit me until Alex Kingston emerged to introduce herself and the next performance. She was typically sassy, taking full advantage of River Song character being a far more substantial member of the series than Mark Sheppard's Canton. However, her voice, and that of every other announcer, came out of the auditorium speakers sounding thin and missing in middle and base frequencies. Either the speaker system is flawed or the acoustics of the hall are faulty.

Unfortunately, these issues detracted from the entire concert for me. The orchestra sounded unbalanced, unlike the near perfect sound in Melbourne, but I just don't know if it was them or the venue. The choir too sounded unbalanced, with the male voices too weak. It looked to me that the choir had fewer members than in Melbourne.

Despite the problems, I did enjoy the concert, still got tingles down the spine when listening to The Majestic Tale of the Madman in a Box, the Saturnyne vampires in Liz, Lizards, Vampires and Vincent, farewelling Amy and Rory in The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond, the powerful countertenor voice of Daniel Bonic-Goodwin sing Vale Decem and the encore Song of Freedom.

It was also nice to hear from the composer Murray Gold, who again attended the concert.

Four year old Alex was a bit tired today and fell asleep during the beautiful Abigail's Song, to awake after the interval for the Daleks of Battle in the Skies. He asked too many questions during performances and complained later that the show was too long. Understandable, as he usually sleeps longer and some of the pieces are a bit slow for his age. I let him play Angry Birds on my phone for a while to keep him quiet. When the Daleks, Cybermen and other creatures appeared on stage Alex loved it. Especially, when a vampire lady stalked the aisle beside us. He also swung his arms around  in excitement, conducting and dancing, when he heard the recurring I Am The Doctor theme, his movements reaching fever pitch during the Ron Grainer's Doctor Who theme. He was singing it out loud as we walked along to the Opera House.

Was it as good as Melbourne? Sadly, much as I still enjoyed this concert I could not answer yes to this question. Perhaps the orchestra and choir wasn't as good as the MSO and Concordis choir, but more than anything I blame the venue. The Sydney Opera House may be  the most famous piece of architecture in Australia, but I am certain now that there are serious issues with its acoustics and it's really starting to annoy me. (That, and the sloppy disdain for modern popular music held by the Sydney Symphony and those associated with it).

But if you are a Doctor Who fan and there are still seats to the Symphonic Spectacular available don't let my criticisms stop you. You must come and see the concert, because it really is spectacular and a lot of fun.

Music performed

The Madman With A Box
I Am The Doctor
A Stitch In Time
Abigail's Song
The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe Suite
Battle In The Skies
The Majestic Tale Of A Madman In A Box
Liz, Lizards, Vampires & Vincent
The Wedding Of River Song
This Is Gallifrey/Vale Decem
Pandorica Suite
The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond
Song Of Freedom
Doctor Who Theme

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