Posted by: jkirkby8712 | November 10, 2011

Wednesday, 9th November 2011 – books, concerts, and rain storms…..

One shouldn’t read a sequel to an earlier book, which has not been read, however I broke rule, and late today, completed another book by Di Morrissey – ‘Follow the Morning Star’.  I  guess it’s classified as a romantic novel, but it is the historical aspects that Di brings into her stories, that attracts me to much of her writing.  Basically, this one tells the story of Queenie Hanlon who has a perfect life. She’s the mother of two adoring [adult] children, the wealthy owner of a thriving outback station, and the wife of handsome busman TR Hamilton. Then one day, Queenie’s perfect life comes crashing down. Her bitter and vengeful brother returns from Italy to lay [a fraudulent] claim to his inheritance, her precious daughter is seduced by her uncle into giving up all Queenie’s strived for, and her beloved TR is injured in a riding accident and can no longer recall the life they once shared. I guess I’ve been in the mood for a bit of light reading over the past few days, and this book fitted that category perfectly. Even had the kind of ending I like in a good ‘romance’!!!

Fierce storms and heavy rain were predicted for later today, with warnings of flash flooding in parts of the city later this afternoon. In fact it was a beautiful day, quite warm, though a little humid which suggested a change was coming. I managed to get into the city on one of the evening trains before any change occurred, but as I was walking down St Kilda Road past the Arts Centre, I noticed that there were thick black clouds heading in from the west.  Presumably it all came through while I was in the Melbourne Recital Centre at tonight’s concert – thankfully when I came out, while it was raining lightly, it was obvious by the ground conditions that the rain had been quite heavy earlier. Later on tonight, as I prepared to go to bed, it was raining fairly steadily outside  – don’t mind listening to it, when one is secure inside one’s home.

The concert I went to tonight, at the Melbourne Recital Centre [where else!!] was a recital by the Swedish mezzo-soprano singer, Anne Sofie Von Otter, her debut appearance in Australia.. While she is essentially a classical singer, her repertoire does extend to other genres, as tonight’s concert would show. I have being playing her songs from the album she recorded a few years ago with Elvis Costello called ‘With The Stars’ on which there are some absolutely beautiful contemporary songs she performs. So it was from that album that I was attracted to purchase a ticket for tonight’s performance. It also featured her long time associate, the pianist Bengt Forsberg, one of Sweden’s leading pianists. In fact tonight, we probably a bit more from Bengt than normal, because apparently Sofie had a slight infection of some sort [she called it as Chinese bug] and he played a few extra solo piano pieces from time to time while Sofie sat to the side enjoying the music as we were. Perhaps some in the almost full auditorium might have felt a little cheated, although I don’t think they really missed out on too much singing from Sofie, which during the first half, included songs from composers such as Carl Neilsen, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Edvard Greig, Jean Sibelius [note the strong Scandanavian connection there] as well as Schubert & Liszt. The music of Percy Grainger, Gershwin, Paul McCartney and others provided a different touch to the second part of the program, not the least of which being the fact that most of the first half was sung in Swedish [I assume that’s what it was?]. The concert was preceded by a talk by a woman named Andrea Katz, which I found a waste of time – she was difficult to both understand and/or hear properly, and to be honest, I turned off her, and read my program, what she had to say, it was simply to much effort to try and follow.

I was initially a little offput by Sofie – a tall blonde haired lady, who wore a greyish top covered in silvery pieces, with a long dress which came from just under her ribs to the floor, coloured pink, with patches of white patterns [flowers perhaps]  – not by her singing, but her apparent lack of interaction with the audience. She did seem to warm up after a while, a bit more responsive to the applause, perhaps it was just the fact that she was feeling a little unwell, and certainly when she began to sing some of the more operatic numbers, one could see the ‘acting’ side of her performance come out more.  I think for the first few songs, she herself was a little bemused by the audience – slow to applause, because of an uncertainty and presumably unfamiliarity with the songs she was singing –  no one wanting to clap until  they were sure the song was finished!! Everyone awaiting a start from someone else!

Anyway, this is the way Sofie was described, in a bit of a bio –  Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter will perform an intriguing selection of songs showcasing the great diversity of her skill as a vocalist as well as her incredible capacity to share great emotion with her audiences. Anne Sofie von Otter’s broad repertoire has played a key role in sustaining her international reputation both as an operatic force and as an artist who loves to add her own interpretations to great popular songs.  Born in Sweden, Anne Sofie von Otter’s studies began in Stockholm and continued with Vera Rozsa at London’s Guildhall before she became a principal artist of the Basel Opera. Her international career has now spanned more than two decades. Equally active in opera, concert, recital and recording, and noted as one of the most versatile artists of her generation, Anne Sofie von Otter appears regularly on the world’s major stages and boasts an unrivalled personal discography.

Now while many of her songs tonight were not sung in English by Sofie, we were given the opportunity in the Program guide to see the English lyrics, and I’d just like to share one of those with my readers here. It was from Carl Nielsen [from Denmark] and his Sommersang [Summer Song] which was one of a collection of six songs to text by Ludvig Holstein, and as you will see from the words that follow, a text teeming with Summer’s promise and bounty, from early apple blossoms to the nightingale’s song in the summer night [remembering that the poet is speaking of the northern Scandinavian kind of summer!] – only at the end is there some concern about the elusiveness of summer, which is apparently not an unusual theme in a Nordic song!

Summer Song

Filled with flowers flushes, branch of apple tree.

Deep and blue the heavens, warm and pure and free.

Through the blooming flowers Honeybee is

humming, Giddy from its load –

Ah, the summer powers!

Dreamily you’re coming down along the road?

Flowers’ pleasant fragrance carries far away.

Cuckoo in the distance calls the livelong day.

Listen, from the dingle

Where the runnel’s running, ringing out of sight,

Nightingale, though single,

Trills its long and stunning song throughout the night!

Westerly the breezes, through the corn and grass.

Rolling plains bring promise, riches they amass.

Showers, gently vented over gold that’s growing,

Falling from she sky –

Pollen smoke is scented, as its waves are flowing

Over flow’ring rye.

Ah, the summer powers. Full of longing love,

Dream of beauty rises into clouds above.

White as swans it’s beaming like a beauteous jewel

In the depth of blue –

All the earthly dreaming

Of deep joy’s renewal never can come true.


Of course, there is the Spring season too, where we in Australia are at present, and this time, the composer, Edvaad Greig has put the muisic to the words of Aasmund Olvasson Vinje’s ‘Vatren’ [or ‘Spring’]….something else I would like to quote here.


Once again I have seen winter

make way for spring;

The hedgerows which once bore flowers

I have seen blooming again.

Once again I have seen the ice

flow off the land,

The snow melt and the rapids in the stream

cascade and break.

The grass becomes green

and is made rich with flowers;

again I have heard the spring bird sing

to the sun and to summer.

Again I immerse myself in the springlike vapour

which fills my eyes,

again I would find myself a home there

and lie afloat.

Everything that spring has brought me,

each flower I pick,

I believe was the soul of a forefather,

dancing and sighing.

Therefore I have found a riddle amidst birches

and evergreens in spring;

therefore the sound of the flute I have carved

seems to me like weeping.

Translation, 1993, Dr. David Fanning. Reprinted by kind permission

of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH Berlin / Universal Music Australia

. Now I must confess that I didn’t see the end of Sofie’s concert. I had a wonderful seat just 5 rows from the stage, though usually I prefer to sit up near the back of a concert hall, and on this occasion, it would have been preferable  – simply because I knew I was going to have to leave early in order to catch the last train to Sunbury, not having made other arrangements.  The first half went longer than I expected and by the end of the interval break, it was obvious I was going to have to walk out in the middle of one of her closing songs [and there wax no way I would do that] or leave early before the final bracket began. Sadly I had to miss the last few songs for that reason [and they were probably all sung in English]. It was at that point that I discovered that it had been raining quite heavily whilst the performance had been going on.

Meanwhile, I shall keep my eyes open for a ‘professional’ review of tonight’s concert, if one appears anywhere! What followed was a comfortable trip home [to Sunbury] on the Bendigo train, though outside it looked anything but comfortable –  wet, damp and humid conditions, a lot of moisture around!



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