Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Observing the Tribe

Just finished a great Festival weekend at Planet Dungog, playing with 2 duo's ..... Ruby Blue with Anousha Victoire ..... and 2PieceSweet with Kathy Clarke.   Like all good music festivals, I came away feeling totally exhausted, creatively overwhelmed, and musically sated.

This time, I shared the weekend with my lovely man and thus was able to experience the festival through his 'first time' perspective and it caused me to reflect on many unique aspects of a festival environment.   Like:
  • the extraordinary range of characters that come together in a shared love of and passion for music.  That you could be sitting next to, striking up a conversation with, or camping beside somebody that in the real world you would never have the opportunity to connect with.... medical students conversing on equal level with a famous surgeon, well known medico, hospital cleaner.....world-traveled geo-technical experts learning a new tune from a man who drives a tractor for a living, ..... 70year old's learning from 16year old's ......and on it goes
  • the tribal nature of such a gathering ....that there are so many points of etiquette followed in such an informal, almost chaotically creative, and seemingly 'no-rules' environment.....and where there is a sense of 'pecking order' amongst many who haven't yet found their 'fit' in the tribe.
  • the sense of family and community .....where regular festival-goers who may not see each other from one festival to the next engage in 'reunion' type behaviours, taking the opportunity to catch up socially with each other, share news and progresses, connect new members of the community to long-time residents, teach and learn with each other...and where - for one whole weekend-  all the family loves each other, expresses a bonhomie to all, tolerates and accepts all the individual idiosyncrasies, avoids harsh thoughts or words, ignores the ego trips, and focuses on simply celebrating the joy of life and music.  
then....at the end of the weekend, it's all over til the next one comes around.  Performers shaking their heads at - and inspired by - the extraordinary amount of talent that surrounds them, vowing to work hard and  aim for a higher benchmark at the next festival {unless of course they've convinced themselves that theirs was already the highest and there's no room for improvement!:)};  non-performers determined to practices those tips or new songs they learned in the jam sessions, maybe apply for a spot at next year's event; non-players inspired to get started on a new instrument.

Despite the disparities, the community music festival environment removes barriers, crosses boundaries, brings individuals together from all age groups, cultural backgrounds, socio-economic circumstances, etc, fosters tolerance and acceptance of all styles of music and encourages all of its members.  Unlike the commercially focused event, driven by and for the almighty dollar, this is a tribe that doesn't depend on the crutches of alcohol or drugs to fulfill it's objectives.

What a shame we can't bring all of this into the general community.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A World of Music

Gosh there's lots happening in my world of music of late - and once again the Great Juggling Challenge is underway.
I'm loving working with the - now - 4 Community Chorus groups/choirs I'm coaching.  They're small groups but so enthusiastic....and I just love to hear their comments as they're leaving a session - like "gee, I couldn't have done THAT 12 months ago!"   and "this is the sanest hour of my week, I LOVE coming here"  or "I'm always learning something new here".   It really makes me feel that I'm making a contribution - on an individual level as well as to my community.

My own personal challenges lay in building 2 different repertoire/s of material for the 2 duo's I'm working in :-  RUBY BLUE   and   2PIECE SWEET .    The sounds are so very different, the material is poles apart, and with varying skills levels, each duo is progressing at different rates.   It does my head in sometimes! 

On the Theatre front..........
Currently, I'm directing a small cast for a new season of "Between the Lines" - you may have seen it when it first opened {@ 3 years ago now - doesn't time fly?!}.  The season opens on 25 October at my favourite venue The Royal Exchange Salon Theatre.  I'm fortunate in having a combination of  very experienced performers and raw recruits - more about the cast next month - bringing a new perspective and new dimension to the production.
Also under wraps is a new musical I'm writing - again for a small cast - which I hope to put into production in November for a Feb/Mar opening.  

Life in The Arts is never boring!.......and provides a never-ending fount of exciting new beginnings.

Monday, June 3, 2013

After Show Glow

Still coming down from the extraordinary experience of Money Honey - a 3-week Season, sold out before it opened, oversubscribed, wonderful review, sensational audience feedback - a WINNER!!  And it had a winning formula from the beginning - a good script, creative Direction, productive rehearsals, an excellent music director, a talented cast, and dedicated, committed teamwork.

All up, 9 months work for me 4 months of solid rehearsals for the cast ....and it was worth every moment.   This troupe - The Novocastrian Players - are truly unique in the world of theatre.   They're a tight-knit group that supports each other, they work hard, they honour their commitments and their audience/s,  and oh my oh my do they know how to play and party!!  Mostly tho', they are all simply passionate about amateur theatre.
Every show is different - it has it's own characteristics...it's own dynamic.  I can't imagine ever doing another show that would have the same buzz that this one has had. It's been such an enjoyable - albeit challenging - project. Can't wait for the next one with this troupe!   Here's some pics you might enjoy.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Curtain UP!

6 months of solid work comes to fruition tomorrow night when "Money Honey" opens at the Theatre on Brunker.  From the first meeting with the committee, conceptual design, vetting the troupe, Scripting, Casting, music selection, choreography plans, then into a heavy rehearsal schedule, costuming, technical planning, and juggling the demands of such a large cast, it's been one hell of a journey.  "Hell" in parts, but mostly loads of fun and absolutely joyful.

This will be my first production where I haven't been on stage in one form or another so it's quite a unique experience for me!  As has been the realisation and acceptance that with such a large cast,  compromise is not only demanded, but inevitable. 

Some of the highlights and lowlights include:
  • the fascination of watching an experienced troupe - with diverse yet complimentary skills - work together as a team and create a 'smoothing' effect of the various strengths and weaknesses.
  • the joy of watching some of our "first-timers" discover and develop their abilities - and feeling blessed to have been able to contribute to that process
  • the hard job of having to critique others work in an endeavour to improve the performance standard - it's not easy for an artist to step outside the creative process and rein in others creativity
  • the frustration of having to juggle artistic ego's - it requires the wisdom of bloody Solomon!
  • for a Writer, the thrill of seeing your written words bought to life on stage by an experienced troupe
  • the pleasure of working with experienced musicians who understand that it's NOT all about the music!
All in all, it's been a project I've thoroughly enjoyed being a part of, with a brilliant group of people - although  I won't be too sorry to get back to my own life at the end of the Season.    Oh, and a Sold Out 3 week Season at that!!  How good's that?!?!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stepping in to the new Season

Gosh I feel so blessed to be living this life in this city of Newcastle - surrounded by such talented musicians and artistic friends.  And this sense of gratitude is currently inspired by a couple of things -
  • Like....here we are into Autumn and I have friends who swim at the beach regularly, still enjoying 20degrees in the water.   
  •  Like.....in the middle of a crazy day, deciding to catch up with a friend at Merewether beach where the sun shone brightly, the water was the most amazing aquamarine, the kite surfers and paragliders were floating on the crisp offshore breeze, and people everywhere lingering in this paradise - on a mid-week working day!!! yeah!
  • Like .... extending that catch up to a 2 hour coffee while we chatted music music and more music!.   
  • Like....the excitement of forming a new duo with my friend the oh-so-talented Anousha Victoire  {keep your eyes and ears peeled for RUBY BLUE coming somewhere near you}who keeps introducing me to a raft of wonderful new songs and talented songwriters that I'd never heard of before!
So for those readers doing it tough at the moment, may your season pass soon.  And may I encourage you this way; 
 as I look back over a lifetime of tough seasons, where sometimes the going was so hard that I wanted to throw in the towel, where sometimes the future looked hopeless, and where in my WILDEST DREAMS I could not envisage the path I would take to bring me to this current season .... have courage and faith in your higher power to lead you to new directions.  Take the dolly steps you need to take, when you need to take them - but just TAKE them and don't give up.  Because the tough seasons don't last forever.

Here's a little vid clip I wanted to share with you - so you could enjoy Autumn in Newcastle too!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Finding the right fit

Wow, the last couple of weeks have flown by in a flash! 

Loads of gigs, creative projects, and adventures have been immensely enjoyed - even the one where the gear and the muso's got soaked in a monsoonal downpour that lasted @ 3 minutes!  This year's St Pat's show/s worked a treat with some fabulous support musicians guesting in the spots.   Whilst the International Women's Day event was packed to the brim and very thoroughly celebrated in Newcastle this year.

In the middle of all the zing, an audience member who knew me from my corporate days said to me " .....I can't believe it - you've just bloomed since you left all the stuff you didn't need, behind.....".  And it's true....for too many years I lived a successful life that was a perfect fit - for someone else!

Now, as a fully fledged, paid-my-dues member of the Arts Community, I've found my perfect fit....and the joy comes not just from doing it, but from sharing it.   Sharing the joy of music;  sharing knowledge and skills with fellow artists that don't have the same skills set;  sharing the joint thrills and spills of performing, with others who are still learning their craft; sharing that incredible sense of being part of the inner-circle - performing artists whose natural environment is the stage and its behind-the-curtain sandpit.
Because when you finally figure out where you belong ....not where someone else, or society, thinks you belong ....the natural order and rhythm of YOUR life, beating to your own heartbeat, brings you to an incredible place of peace and contentment that sustains you no matter what is happening in the world around you.
My wish for you today is that YOU, too, can find the heart of your centre....the place where you find your own perfect fit.
{and to help you meditate over your belonging space, why don't you sip a little Peppermint Tea with me?   Here:   Peppermint Tea}

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Celebrate International Womens Day in Newcastle

International Women's Day is a day to recognise and rejoice in the contributions, achievements, aspirations and visions of women around the world. Globally, it celebrates women in all spheres of achievement both current and past, leaving aside all divisions of any nature - age, economic, political, nationality, ethnicity, cultural, religious. It happens on the 8th March each year and in some places extends over a number of days.
In past years in Newcastle, the day was celebrated with marches, parades, rallies, and music festivals.  However, over recent years it's lost impetus and although still celebrated by individual women's organisations, it has ceased to be a true community event with access for all women.   I wanted that to change this year.  I decided to organise an evening variety concert at the Royal Exchange Theatre [my favourite venue] but also wanted to take the celebration into the community. 
After submitting a proposal and subsequent discussion with local business group Newcastle NOW, they engaged with the Darby Street traders and a number of them were enthusiastic about getting an event happening.  Consequently we have a 'pilot' event happening this year which - if well supported - could become a large scale event next year.    
Here's the program for the day:

 8-10am ...An Arts Breakfast in the Darby Street Cafe precinct - with live performers rotating in @15 minute performances between 5 participating cafes;  They are *Zinc  *Longbench *The Depot *Cafe 88 and *Coco Monde.    Performers are:    *Sonya Manzalini - one of Newcastle's finest Belly Dancers performing solo *Ann Caddey - who runs the Drawing Room in Newcastle, will be drawing and storytelling  *Gleny Rae - one of the finest fiddlers around, will be doing some instrumental tunes  *Sharon Allen Actress and musical comedienne, with a one-woman act and song  and finally *Maureen O'Brien [oh wait, that's me!] singer/songwriter who will be sharing some good women's songs both original and covers. 

 11am – 2pm ...A garden event at the YWCA in Dawson Street, Cooks Hill [the street behind the hotel in Darby Street]...myself and Anousha Victoire will be delivering music throughout the day which will also include an Art stalls, Wine and Cheese Tasting/s, face painting and other activities for the kiddles, belly dancing and other demonstrations.   The event will conclude with a Big Sing led by Anousha and I, in which everyone is encouraged to join in and sing along.  

8pm...A Variety Concert at the Royal Exchange Salon Theatre, 32-34 Bolton Street Newcastle, featuring a number of local women performers including *Dani Graczyk *Limerick Kaye  *Phoebe Carter-Swain  *Heart of Erin  *Two Piece Sweet  *Anousha Victoire  *Catherine Knight  ...and more to be confirmed.  The night will be a mixture of song, music, story, dance, poetry.  Tickets are just $12 at the door and children are free.
  • This is a day to celebrate womanhood by all women - and the men who support the women in their life - hope to see you at something on the day.

Late Edition/s
Just announced that the Newcastle Art Gallery will be exhibiting the work of 5 women artists with the gallery director giving a talk about the works at 11am on International Women's Day ....this is a free event
Jean Bas will be in store all day, offering impartial advice and expertise on fashion challenges
Whitakers Jewellers is offering free jewellry cleaning in store and a generous discounts on purchases
Coco Monde is also offering their High Tea experience all day - but bookings are essential   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Busy, Blurred, and Blessed

Gosh we're well into 2013 and it's become a blur already!

Juggling a number of large projects including * the new musical for Novocastian Players and *a day of events for International Womens Day,...plus;  my *Irish Show, *upcoming gigs,  now coaching *3 community chorus groups, working up a* duo with Kathy Clarke and a *duo with Anousha Victoire, singing in a new *Improv group .....and its no wonder I'm just plain dizzy some days. It's scary when you start singing one song and finish another ...what th' ?!?  Sometimes I've got to look in the mirror to check which hat I'm wearing.

But most days I just can't believe how blessed I am to be inhabiting a world of creativity, to be surrounded by like-minded folk, to be the blessed recipient of Divine Inspiration, to have the opportunity to share my gifts with many more people, to have the ability to inspire others, and - through others - to make a difference to my community.

I'm guessing this round peg has finally found her way to a round hole.  Hallelujah!  And it only took one lifetime.  Lucky, huh?