Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What I've been listening to…

Mourning the late James Brown - the greatest performer I've ever seen, up (close and sweaty at a club in Takapuna in 1979) by keeping Cold Sweat (the seven and a half minute version), There Was A Time, I Can't Stand Myself and Prisoner of Love etc. on permanent rotation.

The Golden Eagles Gospel Singers (1937-1940) Complete Recordings (Eden ELE 4-200 - vinyl). A favourite of mine and an inspiration for the Amazing Grace Brothers - I haven't listened to it for years, but I rediscovered my fondness for their versions of He's My Rock (definitive), The Prodigal Son, When Death Comes Creeping In Your Room (= Hush) and A Warrior on the Battlefield. The group remains obscure, though we know one of the singers was Thelma Byrd and blues artist Hammie Nixon adds harmonica on four tracks. 5 women and 4 men appear in the photo, and there is some guitar on the first 6 tracks. If you can use the term 'primitive' without it sounding pejorative, this is primitive but far from unskilled - raw and casually fervent with a lovely lead and prominent bass line.
(You can find the Golden Eagles on Document Records 5377: - and listen to or download from the Emusic site -

Sun Gospel (BCD 16387 AH) - various artists, some white some black. A few years ago Len at Hounddog's Bop Shop (Victoria St Melbourne) insisted this was a mandatory purchase, and while not all of it's to my taste, there are some lovely items: the Southern Jubilee Singers' Forgive Me Lord, an unknown male quartet singing Working On A Building and Hank Williams' House of Gold sung gorgeously by some 'unknown chicks'. And of course a track from the Million Dollar Quartet: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale (SPOOKY1) - Stephen Taberner's crew wryly shrug and grunt through a shedful of tunes, some original, some post-modern tips of the hard hat to pop classics like Satisfaction (riveting), some Georgian (the beautiful Shen Har Venahi), Kasey Chambers, the Beatles, the Front Lawn and more. Exceedingly droll and enjoyable.

My sojourn in Victoria

• Melbourne was - as always - hospitable and funky in the two weeks I recently spent there. I caught up with various old chums in the a cappella/roots music/choral worlds including Roger King and Therese Virtue from the Boite, Stephen Taberner and Tracey Miller; plus I got to hear several choirs, always an educational experience.
The Sweet Mona's performed brilliantly at their 10th Anniversary show, and I was impressed by the extent of their presence in the Ballarat community, encouraging singing, teaching singing, and organising their young childrens' choir the Mini-Monas. Their choral outreach includes getting me there to work with the choir and with 120 members of the community who came to a 2-hour workshop and then sang with me on the night. Thanks to Dani, Anna, Stella, Barry, Zach and Geoff and all of the SMs for looking after me so well, it was an honour.
Hurtling from Ballarat to Melbourne, I hit the South of the River Community Choir's CD launch just in time to be asked to join them on One Morning Soon, a treat for me though I suspect the lack of any kind of rehearsal mitigated against it being an overwhelming experience for anyone else. Their performance was great, good sound and energy, and I was honoured to be part of the program - thanks Annemarie and Debi for your generosity and good taste. Photos of the night are at:
After a series of workshops in Melbourne and Queenscliff, I finished my stint in Victoria singing some solos with the Melbourne Singers of Gospel in the Spiegeltent in Melbourne, and loved that - Phil Heuzenroeder and his 80+ voices are a warm and uplifting mob and sounded pretty thrilling. (A pleasure to hear Diana Wolfenden and her girls in the Gospel Belles at the same gig.) Thanks to Phil, Cora, Jelena, Sheira, Will and all.
I ran (notionally) two a cappella arranging workshops under the auspices of Community Music Victoria (a great organisation). I didn’t get as deeply into this as I’d hoped – partly because of time restraints, partly because I didn’t understand where the participants were at until too late. I gave them homework at the first session, and was amazed when we met the second night at the high level of skill and ideas they came back with. I outlined a lot of techniques, starting points and gospel devices, we sang some stuff and discussed a lot of ideas - and in having to articulate what it is I do in the arranging realm I got a lot out of it, and I hope the participants all got something useful. Thanks to Nerida, Christoph and Nimity for providing me with this opportunity.


My favourite event of ANY year is coming up:

January 17 - 23
Lake Ainsworth NSW

The faculty will be:
Tony Backhouse, Kristina Olsen, Richard Lawton, Kathryn Riding,
Steve Nugent, Karl Farren, Mandy Nolan, Gyan and Alison Pearl.

Tony will be leading 2 singing classes; Kristina will teach one Songwriting and one Slide Guitar class; Richard will teach one Performing Skills and one Vocal Techniques class; Mandy Nolan will be teaching us Comedy and Confidence (insight into one's overall performing approach, using comedy AND comic/humourous/ironical/satirical Songwriting); Steve Nugent will be teaching African percussion and dance; Karl Farren will be teaching two levels of Guitar class, one for complete beginners, and one for the next level up; Gyan will be one of several people who will co-teach Songwriting with Alison. The plan is to have Gyan, Tony, Richard & Mandy co-teach Songwriting with Alison. Kathryn Riding will again lead her Bodywork/breathwork/improvisation blend to keep us going for one intensive week.

The web site now has the Registration Form and the required Medical Form ready for you to download.
Please note that the only way to register is by posting a deposit to Alison Pearl along with the Registration and Medical Form.
Alison Pearl
PO Box 234 Mullumbimby 2482
02 66 845 570
0428 845 570