Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cabin Fever

I’m writing this from a caravan park in Nambour, Queensland, where Marianne and I are living until we find more suitable accomodation in the Sunshine Coast area. (Insert your own trailer trash joke here.) Setting up my Logic-based studio is too much of a challenge in these close quarters, so I’m playing guitar and enjoying hearing a bunch of birdsong I’ve not heard before. No internet access except at the claustrophobic and greasy local internet café.

Summer Do, Summersong

I’ve just finished two summer schools back-to-back, the Northland Crafts Trust Summer Do and Summersong. The Summer Do was 8 days’ straight of singing, and I enjoyed my class very much. Kind of a brutal schedule though, 9 - 4.30 every day, so we took a lot of breaks - but in 8 days you can cover a lot of material and still have time to explore any tangential issues, listen to archival recordings and watch some DVDS. Thanks to Claire and Kristin for attention to detail, efficiency and charm.
As always, Summersong was a sensational week-long party: a reunion of old Summersong chums, and the discovery of of new voices, talents and ideas. And space to learn something new: I spent most of my downtime at camp playing guitar, working up some new solo guitar pieces, looking for new chords.
As always, I taught two classes, both exploring a variety of styles, though the morning choir worked on some more challenging songs and the afternoon choir was more improvisatory. I also ran a more informal men’s choir, and we had fun doing some quartet stuff. I also sang a couple of songs (Holy Day, Call Me Elvis) on the staff concert night, backed up by the exquisite duo of Marianne and Heidi McDermott.
The peak moment for me was hearing my vocal arrangement of Born To Be Wild - based on the string quartet arrangement I did for the Lounge Quintet - which exceeded my expectations. It’s so unlike any of the other music I teach or perform, I was apprehensive about teaching it - would the choir like it? would it work? was it singable? but they liked it and sang it brilliantly, and it was a highlight of the week.
Other highlights of the week: Carl Panuzzo’s wacky testifying on his song Cream; Doris, the duo from WA singing their song Deep Waters; Brenda Chapman’s anthemic Facing Facts; hanging out with Kristina, Alison, Catherine McEwan, Heidi, Gentleman Geoff; playing bass for three hours’ straight on the party night with Karl Farren and a succession of drummers: Carl P, Jessiah and Troy, and briefly playing lead guitar with Ivan...thanks to Alison, Kristina, Pam and Troy and everyone.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

a big year...handing over the frothing jug

2007 has been a huge year: the Café of the Gate of Salvation undertook a really successful tour of New Zealand, I had a wonderful time running workshops in Samoa, Paris and Vancouver, I took the Band of Angels to sing in Memphis and Chicago and visited New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. I worked with the All Blacks. Turned 60 and sang at Sam Neill and Bryan Brown's 60th. Sold the Bondi flat where we've been happily living for 6 years, and we're heading north this year to become trailer trash in Queensland.

But possibly the biggest change has been quitting the Café of the Gate of Salvation after 21 years of manning the machine. It's time for change and I have no doubt that the choir will go on to bigger and better things. I will still be supplying the choir with songs and arrangements and will do some gigs with them from time to time. I thank the choir for a fabulous 21 years of music and love and learning, for being my family. What's the next song?