Saturday, April 13, 2019

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Concert


As the first school term of 2019 ends so another year of Harry Potter begins. As for my son, it's Year 5 for Harry and things are getting darker.

I'm at the Sydney Opera House with listening to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while the movie is played on the big screen.

The charismatic Nicholas Buc conducts.

I've reviewed enough of these concerts now that it's difficult to write anything new. This is the first of Nicholas Hooper's two efforts in composing a Harry Potter score and I'm rather fond of the soundtrack.

There is a delicate touch to many of the compositions with plenty of tuned percussion from the xylophone family (I couldn't see from my row) and some strong string passages for the more dramatic moments. Very different from John Williams and Patrick Doyle's writing for the previous movies.

The only thing missing seemed to be the electric guitar in the Fireworks piece, though I need to confirm that in the movie as opposed to the soundtrack recording.

The live orchestra really enhanced my enjoyment of the soundtrack. It was lovely and clear against the visual backdrop and the Sydney Symphony did a fine job of performing what I suspect is some quite difficult music.

I'm looking forward to their next effort with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in July.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Leaf


If I were a leaf
I'd be a thief
Stealing sunshine from air.

Some other plants
Would envy my grants
Others wouldn't care.

For when I pass
Down I dance
Carrying gifts from toil.

My days in the sun
Now I've won
Nutrients for the soil.

New leaves grow
They will know
From where their bounty came

From sun and air
The soil we share
Life is renewed again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ishinryu Summer Camp: 5 days of karate


I was too knackered to post about the other two days of the 25th Annual Summer Camp. We had our usual Monday session in the dojo last night, except it wasn't usual because the founder of Ishinryu, Sensei Ticky Donovan was there watching our mistakes.

I guess we couldn't have been too bad because he awarded Sensei Tony his 8th Dan, Sensei Alison her 6th and Sensei Leighton his 5th. All richly deserved in my humble opinion. Sensei Ticky is based in the UK/Thailand and his visits to Australia are increasingly rare. It's been maybe four years since the last time.

Anyway, that capped off five days straight of karate. Thursday and Monday in the dojo, Friday and the weekend at Wollongong.

I did almost every session, except for the competitions and the tai chi/yoga when I was helping with the kids' blocker competition scoring. Alex's team came second in that one after getting gold last year. He missed out on medals in the team kata competition, where an experienced teammate pulled out to join another team and another was felled by injury, leaving him with a single, younger, but enthusiastic teammate.

Alex didn't compete in the kumite. There weren't any others in his age group even if he did want to give it a go.

He did come second in the beach run! I'm just happy that he participated in the events and most of the lessons.



Us seniors tend not to compete. It's a pity as I wouldn't have minded doing kata if I wasn't so utterly exhausted. Not the kumite, not against the Fijians and the giant ex-rugby league player who trains at our dojo.

I feel like I learned a lot at the camp, though it can be difficult to quantify. Some of it is more "aha" moments than new concepts. In partnering with someone from another school I realised how line really affected the technique we were practising. I also watched the very fast hands of Sensei Ticky and Sensei Ryan and how their movements flowed. Not sure I can ever replicate that.

What was somewhat frustrating were the corrections on technique. Some Sensei Ticky has changed since he was last at the dojo, others were small things I have probably been doing wrong all this time. there is a lot to unlearn and it must be done because as we rise through the ranks we demonstrate to the younger students. We must know how to do it right to teach it right.

Apart from that Alex and I had a swim in the pool and played tennis between sessions. B came up on the Saturday and they played mini golf together.

Despite being exhausted at the end of each day I haven't slept well, especially as Alex had me getting up at 5.30 am and training my body for this bad habit of his. I was close to my limit when I drove back on Sunday night and then we had Monday...

A couple of days' rest now and then it begins again on Thursday.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Ishinryu Karate Summer Camp 2019 Day 1


We've only had one session and already I'm confused. Everything I learned about Pinan Yon has been changed by our master Sensei Ticky Donovan.

It's that time of year, the Summer Camp. This year it's a 25th anniversary special with Ishinryu's founder attending.

I'm not in the most receptive state for change. It's been a bugger of a week at work and the two weekly karate lessons were exhausting too, along with a changed Alex routine due to this weekend interruption to our normal programming.

Today was hard too. Washed clothes, vacuumed, ironed on badges for the new gi (they are already coming off), baked brownies, shopped for food to take and finally packed the car. I was slightly late to pick Alex up, but his teacher came out to tell me what a wonderful student he was, so attentive and ready to participate that it made it all worthwhile.

Then off in a packed car to the Wollongong Surf Leisure Resort by Towradgi Beach. No sooner had we carried in the bags of gear brought down from the dojo in our boot and we were put to work laying out the mats. We barely had time to drop off our own bags and change into our gis before we were back doing karate on those mats.

It was a nice dinner at the pub across the road, meeting a fellow karateka with the first name Rhythm, along with many of the usual suspects.

Our cabin is smaller than last year but better for our needs. An early start tomorrow, so time for bed. Q

Friday, February 08, 2019

SSO: 2019 Season Opening Gala



It's 2019 and time for another concert. Actually, I wasn't planning to attend any this month but the Sydney Symphony Orchestra offered a couple of free tickets to some 20th and 21st Century music so who was I to refuse, especially when David Robertson is conducting?

Richard Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra isn't quite 20th Century, but it was made famous by a rather famous movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey, so that counts. The only bit I'm familiar with is the Introduction: Sunrise.

For the rest of the piece it sort of felt like Zarathustra spake too much, but I'm not a huge classical music fan. Too much exposure as a child I should think. But it was certainly interesting from a tonal sense, watching the different elements of the orchestra, including the massive pipe organ looming high above the stage.

A large portion of the orchestra disappeared for Nigel Westlake's Oboe Concerto Spirit of the Wild, written for the SSO's Diane Doherty.

Doherty's virtuoso oboe performance was amazing, but I really enjoyed the accompanying orchestral melodies. Westlake has composed for a number of films and I could quite imagine some cinematic scenes for his music. What I couldn't really see was the Tasmanian wilderness that inspired the score - My own experiences would have lead to very different music. Still, this was the highlight of the night in my opinion.

The orchestra returned for the final piece of the night, Percy Grainger's The Warriors. In fact, it expanded with three pianos on stage, a celesta, two harps and a number of other instruments including a heckelphone, which sounds like an audience rather than an instrument.

The conductor had to enter from the right as there wasn't any room through the normal entrance.

I thought all that sound made the piece rather muddy. It lacked a strong melody and again, it wasn't really my thing. But it was visually spectacular and picking out individual sections made the experience quite interesting. Some of the brass also decamped during the piece and you could hear them play outside the concert hall, which was a curious development.

David Robertson, the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the SSO, was mesmerising to watch, his conducting a performance in itself. If that baton was a wand the spells he would create would definitely be those of a grand musical wizard.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend the opening Gala and am looking forward to a year full of music.


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