Posted by: jkirkby8712 | December 5, 2010

Exploring the family past, and some music pleasures!

A very warm day in Melbourne, a couple of hours of which, I spent wandering around the vast expanses of the Melbourne General Cemetery [MGC]. A distant cousin, Ann Yeates, travelled down on the train this morning, basically with the sole purpose of showing a fellow family researcher, just where certain members of ‘our’ earlier generations were eventually buried – we are mainly speaking of the late 1800’s/early 1900s period.

Our joint connection goes back to the Kirk/Kennedy marriage which basically began the Australian part of my ancestors. Like myself, Ann was a descendant of the Kennedy parents  –  I went off on the Kirk side, she went off on a different branch of the many Kennedy siblings of my original great great grandmother.  The gravesites at the MGC were of various ancestors connected to the many Kennedy lines, because many of the original family stayed around the Carlton and Parkville areas of Melbourne. The Kirk side travelled up country eventually, and established their lives in the northern parts of the state, where in general, they lived and died.  Oddly enough, I had never before [s far as I can recall] visitede the MGC, though of course have driven or walked past it hundreds of times, and mainly I guess, that was because I was more interested in the early years of my research with my direct side of the family, none of whom ended up at MGC.  It is in fact a huge expanse of potential residential/business prime real estate  land [though hopefully it never will be] close to the heart of the City of Melbourne, and has many old sections of graves from the 1800s. Many of those of course, are totally neglected, with no numbering or plaques, etc to actually identify the ‘site’ owner, although the written records are retained, just no obvious physical evidence. One disappointing aspect for Ann, was that one particular section of her ancestral family were now ‘officially’ buried underneath more modern gravesites – I think this happened in the 1970s when space needs led to that kind of decision. Ann’s enquiries as to what happened to the original ‘occupiers’ of those sites, was that they were left where they were buried – new graves had been constructed on top of them. So much for ‘in perpetuaty’ as had been the supposed original intention!

Anyway, it was a fascinating [though somewhat tiring in the late morning heat and humidity] exercise. Ann herself had been here numerous times, although she still had difficulty remembering where all of the respective graves were located. however, we found most of them. We were not the only confused visitors however – the main normal entrance to the MGC as closed for vehicular traffic whilst a special Memorial site was been constructed just inside the main entrace for the new saint Mary McKillop  – so people being forced to used different entrances were finding it difficult to get their bearings in the vast expanse of the complex.  I gathered meanwhile, that each time Ann visited the MGC, she came laden with a collection of plastic flowers [as she did today] which she faithfully placed on each ancestral grave she came across. In most cases, hers was the only tribute ever left, although the grave of my Isabella Kennedy’s parents who brought the whole family of ten plus children out here to Melbourne in the early 1850s, was generally well cared for by ‘someone’, and naturally Ann was curious to know who. There was provision for messages of enquiry to be left with the MGC office, but in such cases, no names, etc were to be included, just the fact that an enuiry had been made. She tried this, but had received no feedback.

After our cemetery wanderings, I drove Ann over to he nearby Carlton area, searching for some of the old homes that the Kennedys had built themselves in the late 1800s, most of these in the Canning Street area – we found most of those old addresses, although not unexpectedly, one whole section of 5 or 6 buildings in a row were now occupied by a blocks of modern multi story flats or housing complexes. However, it was interesting to wander the streets where the early Kennedys would have lived much of their lives. Oddly, the houses in Ancrum, Scotland where the family had originally come from, were still in existence over there! The need for modern development in those small Scottish hamlets was obviously not as desired as here in the near inner suburbs of Melbourne!

As usual, and exploration of one’s family history always leaves much more questions than answers. I was thinking tonight, whilst watching a TV program called ‘Know Your Ancestors’ [or something similar] and featuring former Australian test cricketer, Rod Marsh, how unfairly easy it was for the celebrities who feature in that program, to have access to all the available records in tracing their family history for the program, no doubt, at no cost to the celebrity concerned, and how ‘simple’ the processes seem to come over in finding the answers in those cases!!  The rest of us have to pay for all that research through either time or money!

Having put cricket into my mind, I shouldn’t neglect to refer to the outcome of Day 3 of the 2nd Test between Australian and England, in Adelaide. I think play ended a couple of hours early today due to rain in Adelaide [which we will probably get in a day or so], and the Australian might well be counting themselves lucky that play stopped when it did. The English team had been batting for two days now, and creating all kinds of records along the way. Probably the most amazing of those records was the fact that in all test matches between these two countries, this was the first occasion that England had achieved an innings  score of over 500 runs in consecutive innings [even though in two different games]!  Anyway, at stumps tonight, the situation was looking grim for Australia, again. In response to our 1st innings score of 245, the English team had moved to 4 wickets for 551 runs, a total of 306 in front of Australia. A ‘Cricket Australia’ reporter writes tonight that:

‘Heavy rain during the tea break ended play on day three in the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval with England in prime position to take a 1-nil lead in the series courtesy of a Kevin Pietersen double century.  Pietersen starred for England on day three smashing his way to an unbeaten 213 with 31 boundaries and a six as he demolished the Australian bowlers to take his side to 4-551 and put the visitors in front by 306 runs. After bowling Australia all out for 245 on day one, the Poms mowed down Australia’s total and were spearheaded early by first Test hero Alastair Cook.  Cook produced a fine knock of 148 and formed a strong 173-run partnershipon day two with Jonathan Trott, who ended his innings on 78, before both were eventually removed by quick Ryan Harris. Pietersen then set a new match high partnership with Cook, 175 runs, before the opener’s departure. Pietersen continued his onslaught on Australia posting a solid 101 fourth-wicket stand with Paul Collingwood who raced his way to 42. After Collingwood was trapped lbw by Shane Watson, middle-order batsman Ian Bell immediately resumed the slaughter and remains not out on 41, with another 100-plus-run partnership looming as he and Pietersen have together chalked up 99 runs.  Australia has had little joy in the second Test with a disappointing performance with the bat and an even more appalling display with the ball. ‘.  There seems no immediate end to the ‘Aussie’s pain, which must seem even worse, as it is partially at the hands of one of our most competitive opponents, Kevin Pietersen.

I bought a real ‘Christmas tree’ yesterday, as I do each year. Most years, Susan finds my choice not as good as she’d like it to be – too tall,  not thick enough, a lean at the top, etc, etc!!  This year, I think I was the first customer of the local Scout group from whom I purchase my tree, so I had the perfect opportunity to ‘get it right’!  And I think I did!  I was out last night, when Susie returned from work to find the tree installed, awaiting her specific decorating skills, and it must have satisfied her immediately, because by the time I returned home from my concert, the tree was decorated,  the lights glittering in the window of the lounge, and the approach of Christmas suddenly seemed a little closer.  It’s dark here now, on Sunday night, and I’ve just gone around the house, switching on the various Christmas lights that Susie has set up – she’s gone out, so I thought it only right that she can return later from wherever she is, to find her home ‘sparkling and flashing’ as a result of her handiwork.

As for last night’s concert,  that was the 4th [and final] concert of the year by the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra, a suburban orchestra located over in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Although I must admit that after a day in which I followed up a morning walk, with a rather tiring and hot period of mowing lawns, and a bit of gardening, that I would have preferred a Saturday night at home – which is generally how my like to spend my Saturday nights these days – especially with the 6.30am radio start on a Sunday morning. However, despite that, I did want to go the concert  – no other commitments, the weather was good [I don’t like driving long distances in the rain at night], all in all, I had no excuse not to go!

Actually, a bit of a bonus with last night’s concert, as there were two shorter ‘twilight’ concerts on before the main one – the first by  a local Junior Strings and Youth Orchestra [which I didn’t get there in time for], and the second, by the Heidelberg Wind Ensemble, which I did manage to enjoy. Their short program was quite entertaining –  beginning with Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance Military March No. 1 [which most people know through the tune of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’], quite a ‘brassy’ performance I must say [well, it was a ‘Wind Ensemble’ after all!];  next came a composition from Mendelssohn, the ‘Overture for Winds, which had been especially transcribed and re-scored for a contemporary wind band]; and finally a piece called ‘Fantasies on a Theme by Haydn’, written by one Dello Joio, and based on the opening theme of the Finale of Haydn’s String Quartet No. 2. I wander what Haydn would have thought of the way his quartet had been re-commissioned, shall we say?   The modern ‘composer’ wrote that ‘The subtly conceived theme offered an opportunity to fantasize in the musical language of today… is my homage to a composer who will always remain contemporary’

The Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra [HSO] concert, commenced at 8pm and was titled ‘From Bach to Tchaikovsky’. I did wonder, despite the promise of some wonderful music, whether I could last the 2 hours duration. I’d found that on the 45 minute + drive over to the concert hall, that I had been feeling extremely tired, and was in a bit of pain from a swollen left ankle [complements of  the day’s lawn mowing I believe. Added to that, with the warm night we were having, the Performing Arts Centre itself was quite warm and humid during performances with the doors all closed of course, and particularly up at the rear top part of the auditorium, where I was seated!  However, we did survive, thoroughly enjoyed the program, although I must be honest and say how glad I was to get out of that building into some fresh air at the conclusion. My drive home was mostly undertaken with the car windows open, taking full advantage of the natural airflow, irrespective of the car air conditioning.

The HSO began with the full orchestra, and a very exuberant rendition of  Johann Strauss’s ‘Die Fiedermaus [or the Bat]  Overture’ – light, humorous and exciting music really.  This was an operetta first performed in Vienna in 1874 with Strauss himself conducting the orchestra. The plot is a mixture of deceptions, disguises, mistaken identities, and planned revenge.  No wonder the music was so full of life, and various alternating melodies!   J S Bach’s cantata ‘Ich Habe Genung’ [or ‘I ask for no more’]. This featured a smaller part of the orchestra, mainly the string section with piano, and a solo oboe player [beautiful sound]. For someone who was already feeling extremely tired [and with some of the orchestra members not involved in this piece, coming up and sitting on the aisle steps adjacent to my seat, leaving one feeling a little ‘crowded’ in the humid conditions], this was probably not a good choice. In fact, it was beautifully performed, with the musician joined by young baritone singer, Jonathon Bam.  The Cantata is a pure solo cantata and was first performed on February 2nd, 1727 for the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. It’s text is apparently based on the Biblical story of Simeon [Luke: 25-35].  The arias and recitations which formed a lovely part of the Cantata flowed so easily with the music of the various strings, together with the oboe. It really was a delight to listen to.

The major work last night was Tchaikovsky’s very popular  Symphony No. 5. Interestingly, although successful as a composer, Tchaikovsky’s private life held problems that he found difficult to solve. Writing for the program notes, Isabel Milsson notes that ‘The symphony reflects his melancholy and introspection. It is in four movements, which are unified by the appearance of a motto theme typifying ‘fate’ in each movement. The music is dramatic with contrasts of dark and light, sombre and happy, both of which are vivid and intense’.  A good description of No. 5  – ‘intense’, and as to be expected, the HSO drew that out so well in it’s presentation of Tchaikovsky last night. This was of course a symphony with which I was quite familiar, but it is always good to hear it played by a different orchestra.  Meanwhile, whilst at the Performing Centre last night, I purchased a copy of the second of the HSO’s cd productions, which feature selections from their various concerts over the years. More material for my Sunday morning concert, from which in fact, I played a track in this morning’s program, from ‘The Planets’!





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