Robbie’s arbitrarily selective list of “new music” in 2015

10 Oct

newmusicEven though I’m not going to be in Auckland to hear (almost) any of this, I’m indulging in habit once more to produce a list of “new music” in the 2015 concert calendar. The APO, the NZSO and CMNZ have all released their seasons quite close to each other.

Points to note:

  • Lilburn 100. I can’t find an official website for that but I presume it’s being run through the Lilburn Trust. Old Gordon was born in 1915, so there’s plenty of his music around in the 2015 season. Quite a lot of chamber music that we don’t hear all that much, and OMG Michael Houstoun’s doing the Chaconne live!
  • Britten 102. You’d think it was his anniversary too, but no. Just coincidence that quite a lot of Benny-Boy is turning up.
  • I’m not bothering with putting in nice photos to break up the long list, since I won’t get to see any of it. Well, except my own pieces and Corwin Newall’s one (obv) and the Dutilleux cello concerto in April. Long story.
  • Kimmo Hakola is a mad bastard. Kari Kriikku is slightly less mad but still incredibly awesome. Well done NZSO for that concerto.

On with it!

New Zealand “New Music” Composers’ Music

BLACKMORE: The First Time I Stood [WP] – Milla Dickens, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
BODY: Melodies for orchestra – APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
COWAN: [new work] [WP] – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
ELLIS: Relish in Immature Bombast – Tim Noon, Jono Sawyer, APO/David Kay – 11 Apr, ATH
ELLIS: [new work] [WP] – Yvette Audain & Robbie Ellis – 19 Apr, Rannoch
FARR: From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs – Atamira Dance Company, APO/[conductor?] – 14 Oct, Aotea
FARR: Shadow of the Hawk – Edward King & John Chen – (18 Aug HAM, 22 Aug WLG)
S FISHER: [new work] – NYO/José Luis Gómez – (2 Jul WLG)
HARRIS: Fugue for piano [WP] – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
HARRIS: Piano Quintet [WP] – Stephen De Pledge & NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Variation 25 – NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Violin Concerto – Ilya Gringolts, APO/Garry Walker – 19 Feb, ATH
LILBURN: Allegro for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – 12 June, ATH
LILBURN: Aotearoa Overture – APO/Rumon Gamba – 18 June, ATH
LILBURN: Chaconne – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
LILBURN: Diversions for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – (18 June WLG)
LILBURN: Sonata for violin & piano (1950) – Natalie Lin & John Chen – 30 Aug, ATH CC
LILBURN: Symphony No 2 – NZSO/Christian Lindberg, 2 May, ATH
MANDENO: Au Revoir [WP] – Jarvis Dams, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
MARGETIĆ: Lightbox – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
MORGAN: Seeking Answers to the Riddle [WP] – [Horomona Horo?], APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
NEWALL: Scientists [WP] – Robbie Ellis & Corwin Newall – 19 Apr, Rannoch
NORRIS: Claro [WP] – NZSO/Christian Lindberg – 2 May, ATH
PSATHAS: Corybas – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
PSATHAS: Island Songs – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
TAYLOR: burlesques mécaniques – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
WEBSTER: Your Letter [WP] – Elizabeth Mandeno, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
WILLIAMS: Symphony No 1, Letters from the Front [WP] – George Henare?, Madeleine Pierard?, NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
K YOUNG: In Paradisum [WP] – Patricia Wright, Graduate Choir, Choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral, APO/Kenneth Young, Tim Gruchy – 4 Mar, ATH
K YOUNG: [Gallipoli Armistice commission] [WP] – St Kentigern College Choir, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum

Living Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

J ADAMS: Short Ride in a Fast Machine – APO/Garry Walker – 19 Feb, ATH
BERNSTEIN/FOSS: Prelude, Fugue & Riffs – APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
BOURGEOIS: Oesteoblast – Aucktet – 10 Aug, St Michael’s Remuera + 11 Aug, Takapuna Methodist
CORIGLIANO: Flute Concerto, Pied Piper Fantasy – Adam Walker, APO/Eckehard Stier – 5 Nov, ATH
CRESPO: Bruckner Etude – Aucktet – 10 Aug, St Michael’s Remuera + 11 Aug, Takapuna Methodist
HAKOLA: Clarinet Concerto – Kari Kriikku, NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
LEDGER: War Music [WP] – Madeleine Pierard?, NZYC, NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
LÓPEZ: Perú Negro – NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
MÁRQUEZ: Danzón No 2 – APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
J SANDSTRÖM: Echoes of Eternity – Christian Lindberg, David Bremner, NZSO – 2 May, ATH
SCIARRINO: No 2 from Sei Capricci for violin – Justine Cormack – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
SØRENSEN: Trumpet Concerto – Tine Thing Helseth, APO/Eivind Gulberg Jensen – 6 May, ATH
STAUD: Für Bálint András Varga – Vienna Piano Trio – 23 Oct, ATH

Dead Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

BABAJANIAN: Piano Trio – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
BARBER:
  Adagio for strings – APO/Alejo Pérez – 22 Oct, ATH
BARTÓK: Dance Suite – APO/Ilyich Rivas – 14 May, ATH
BARTÓK: String Quartet No 5 – Brodsky Quartet – (18 Mar HAM, 26 Mar WLG)
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No 2 – Benjamin Schmid, APO/Rumon Gamba – 18 Jun, ATH
BERIO: Folk Songs – Fiona Campbell, APO/Ilyich Rivas – 14 May, ATH
BERNSTEIN: Songs from West Side Story – Anna Leese, APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
BRITTEN: Four Sea Interludes – NZSO/Thomas Søndergård – 22 May, ATH
BRITTEN: Poème – Brodsky Quartet – (18 Mar HAM, 26 Mar WLG)
BRITTEN: Simple Symphony Op 4 – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – 12 June, ATH
BRITTEN: Suite for violin & piano Op 6 – Natalie Lin & John Chen – (18 Aug HAM, 22 Aug WLG)
BRITTEN: Violin Concerto – Anthony Marwood, NZSO/Thomas Søndergård – 22 May, ATH
COPLAND: Clarinet Concerto – Julian Bliss, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man – NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
DUTILLEUX: Tout un monde lointain – Nicolas Altstaedt, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 Apr, ATH
GERSHWIN: Girl Crazy – APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
GINASTERA: Pampeana No 2 – Edward King & John Chen – 30 Aug, ATH CC
KHACHATURIAN: Excerpts from Gayane Suites – APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
LIGETI: Cello Sonata – Ashley Brown & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
LIGETI: Cordes à vide – Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
LIGETI: Melodien – APO/Gergely Madaras – 26 Feb, ATH
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Concerto for orchestra – NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
NANCARROW: Sonatina for piano – Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
PIAZZOLLA: Libertango – APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
POULENC: Organ Concerto – David Briggs, APO
RUSSO: Street Music – Corky Siegel, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
SCHOENBERG: Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene – APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 8 Oct, ATH
SCHOENBERG arr Steuermann: Verklärte Nacht – Vienna Piano Trio – (16 Oct WLG, 22 Oct HAM)
SCULTHORPE: Earth Cry – William Barton, APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Firebird – APO/Richard Gill (unwrap) – 13 Aug, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite (1919) – APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 1 Oct, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Pulcinella Suite – APO/Eckehard Stier – 9 July, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Rite of Spring – NZSO/Jaime Martín – 27 Nov, ATH
TAKEMITSU: I hear the water dreaming – Katie Zagórski, APO/Kenneth Young – 4 Mar, ATH
TIPPETT: A Child of Our Time – Indra Thomas, Victoria Simmonds, Nicky Spence, Derek Welton, Voices NZ Chamber Choir, NZYC, APO/Eckehard Stier – 21 Mar, ATH
WALTON: Cello Concerto – Jakob Koranyi, NZSO/Jaime Martín – 27 Nov, ATH
WEBERN: Four Pieces for violin and piano – Justine Cormack & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
WEBERN: Three Pieces for cello and piano – Ashley Brown & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)

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A short time and a sweet time

14 Sep

Yesterday was the closing night of Short+Sweet Song 2014 in Auckland. I was the Artistic Co-ordinator – a job that I in essence created for myself. A bit of back story:

Short+Sweet is an internationally franchised festival of ten-minute theatre pieces. It’s been running in Auckland since 2010, but last year they added Short+Sweet Song, an adjunct category for musical theatre. I entered a two-hander called Annie & Joshua:

It was not a large show last year: only five pieces in total. I went to the producers and said they needed a specialist to run the Song side of things, and suggested myself. They gave me the job: Artistic Co-ordinator.

logo-song-green-backgroundThe job was to encourage submissions and expressions of interest from writers, directors, musical directors and performers. We ended up with nine pieces in total (review 1, review 2). There was everything from 10-minute excerpts of projected longer pieces (Monopoly – The Musical! and Love and Other Mysteries), an adaptation of a student film (A Girl Like Maria), a story formed around songs by the director’s friend’s band (This Paper City), plays with songs (The Might of Aphrodite, Henry & Hyde), and another piece that went freely in and out of speaking and singing (Cushion).

The Judges’ Choice was Flatmates, a sung-through trio musical written by Wellingtonian Rose Duxfield, directed by Katie Flood and musically adapted by Zac Johns. I’m very glad that Rose had come up to Auckland for the final night – she wasn’t expecting to be showered with quite so many certificates and bottle prizes.

Karaoke Heaven won the People’s Choice Award. Written by Jun Bin Lee (script and backing track), it starred Amanda Grace Leo and Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho as owner and trainee waiter of a karaoke establishment, promoting their venue. This is the second year that Jun Bin has won the People’s Choice Award – last year’s Ninja musical had arguably catchier hooks than Karaoke.

It’s been really satisfying putting this together, building the festival, and spreading the word. The musical theatre community in Auckland is a strangely hybridised and often disconnected beast of occasionally professional, establishment amdram, “emerging theatre practitioner”ish and high school – in fact many private high schools have larger production budgets than some professional shows. It was valuable for my own connections as well as those between those different strands.

Best of all, the casts of the nine different pieces didn’t stay siloed; they interacted and socialised together. They had common warm-ups, they shared dressing rooms, etc etc. I think Short+Sweet’s new venue has really helped. While the Herald Theatre at the Aotea Centre is a nice enough space, spending time within the officialness of a Council-controlled environment like Auckland Live can be stifling. We’re now at TAPAC in Western Springs, which is a small, friendly, nimble performing arts centre with a common foyer area for users of the theatre, hirers of the rehearsal rooms, and audience. I’ve also noticed much greater cross-over support between the different weeks of Short+Sweet (Theatre, Song and Dance), which can only be beneficial.

Someone else will have to be Artistic Co-ordinator next year since I’m leaving the country, but they’ll have great help: Festival Producer Sums Selvarajan, Stage Manager Max Thompson and Technical Designer Michael Craven are utterly professional and hugely helpful, as is everyone else on the team.

I paid tribute to them (and others) just before the awards were handed out last night, in the form of a parody of all nine S+S Song pieces. (I rewrote lyrics to the same music, and sang and played from the piano.) Sardonic reflections on the tech and dress day aside, it sums up my feelings accurately.

—-

[Karaoke Heaven]
If you love singing, then you should know
How magical Short+Sweet Song can be!
Nine great pieces in a single two-hour show…
Sweet, this all came together!
This song is for all of you
Who have been part of Short+Sweet Song.
We put out the call, and you came running;
Now Short+Sweet Song is bigger than before!

[The Might of Aphrodite]
We spread news everywhere, hoping that you’d notice us:
The Big Idea, at TAPAC, and on the side of a bus,
But we were fine; we got our nine
Submitted pieces in.
With directors, writers, MDs, actors,
This thing’s full of win!

[Monopoly - The Musical!]
A nice little slice of theatre,
Just ten minutes or less.
A nice little slice of theatre…
Plus or minus 30 seconds, I guess.
It’s going great, it’s going sweet,
I simply cannot wait to meet
All the beautiful people in this slice of theatre!

[The Might of Aphrodite]
It made us feel all special
That so many folk would join,
Though I got kinda nervous when I saw that a person
Had a singing flesh-tone groin…

[A Girl Like Maria]
Easy running was the pre-production;
Easy running with amazing producers.
I went to them to ask for 32 lapel mics;
They said, “Go fuck yourself, do you think we’re made of money?
We’ll just get actors with impeccable projection
Over pianos and keyboards and tracks,” and I said,
“I want a piano with a big motherfucking sheet,”
And they said, “Yeah, we can do that.”

[Love and Other Mysteries]
(bong bong) Tech day!

[Cushion]
The day is bright and sunny!
The sun’s a ball of energy,
But we’re stuck inside, it’s funny
How pasty our skin can be.
So Max is sorting props and set
And Craven’s got every fresnel.
We keep on going to swiftly get
Through this phosphorescent hell!

[Henry & Hyde]
Cause we’re a mean machine,
A theatre-making mean machine!
Figuring out that change of scene
And how to get that cyc so green!

[Karaoke Heaven]
And nothing suits us better
Than getting a 7-foot-4-tall love heart through 6-foot-6-high double doors.

[Cushion]
But we’re here for you,
We’re here for you,
Whatever scene and set changes you do.
At least until your 45 minutes are through!

[Love and Other Mysteries]
Twenty minutes down, you’ve barely started lighting;
Haven’t yet decided where that chair goes.
Thirty minutes down, it’s time to start a full run
So you stop and start, continuity blows.
Forty minutes down, you’re barely halfway
And everyone’s frustration grows and grows…

[This Paper City]
You’re all like:
“Take your time, now rewind, now do it again, rehearse it right yeah”

[Love and Other Mysteries]
Forty-seven minutes and we’re giving the hint
That you really don’t have time to complete a new run.
Fifty minutes down and we’re telling you “Get off,”
There’s another team waiting, I think that you’re done…

[This Paper City]
Cause we’re all
Running on empty (running on empty)

[Flatmates]
I’ve got no idea how I’ve managed to survive this long.
Have we finished tech times yet? Oh it’s now the one with the giant dong.

[Love and Other Mysteries]
Sixty minutes out and we’re giving the briefing
Telling all the cast how to do curtain calls.
I get a little note, all of you should come forward,
But I only tell Amanda, not the rest of you, balls!
Forty minutes out and we’re having sound issues;
Craven’s banging his head against a digital desk.
Twenty minutes out and it’s getting no better;
Why’s the stage-right foldback not fucking routing?

[This Paper City]
Craven is just hanging on!

[A Girl Like Maria]
Cause he’s got leather jeans on!

[Love and Other Mysteries]
Zero minutes out, Craven’s swapping out the mixer;
Using old equipment is often the best.
Twenty minutes late… but I couldn’t care less…
Cause your pieces get going… and they’re bloody brilliant!

[Flatmates]
If worse came to worst, this could have been a mess,
But directors, you minimised all of my stress.
(Though I can’t say the same when I gave Sam a fright:
I forgot to plug his keyboard in opening night.)
Anyway…
As I conclude this self-indulgent review,
I just want to say thank you.

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Fact of the Day, Day, Day, Day, Day

20 Aug

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is an organisation I’ve had plenty to do with since I was a teenager. They played my first orchestral compositions (now blessedly forgotten); they ran the New Zealand Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra when I played double bass, their concerts introduced me to such key works as Mahler 3, Concierto de Aranjuez and the West Side Story Symphonic Dances; and that’s all before I’d left high school.

Now I’m an adult[citation needed], I’ve done damn near everything for the orchestra except play in it. Composing, arranging, MCing, pre-concert talks (like next week’s concert), video production, tutoring high school composers for APOPS, and I regularly present radio broadcasts of their concerts on Radio New Zealand Concert (e.g. in two weeks’ time).

Yesterday, I added “conducting” and “fronting for commercial radio” to my APO CV.

Fletch, Vaughan & Megan present the breakfast show on the Top 40 station ZM, and one of their regular segments is “Fact of the Day”. The three of them perform the musical intro sting live every morning:

Last week they pondered having it performed by an orchestra. Long story short:
– ZM is part of The Radio Network
– TRN’s parent company is APN
– APN publishes the New Zealand Herald
– The Herald is the naming rights sponsor of the APO’s 12-concert Premier Series
– TRN talked to APO Sponsorship
– APO Sponsorship talked to APO Artistic
– APO Artistic talked to me.

The Artistic Planning Manager might have been thinking of these vocal mockups from 2011. They were part of my proposal to write the piece that would become Relish in Immature Bombast:

This isn’t thaat far apart from what Fletch, Vaughan and Megan do every morning. A few more voices, a few more octaves, but just as out of tune!

I did two different arrangements: one straight as per their style, and a sad version “for serious facts”.

factofthedayscorep1factofthedayscorep2

(I actually worked on these arrangements while in the broadcast booth for Bach’s St John Passion.)

Then came the recording. The three ZM DJs, plus a cohort of videographers, soundies and social media folk, turned up to Philharmonia Hall in Mt Eden. They had their fun in and around the orchestra’s rehearsal space following the full orchestra’s James Bond rehearsal, while the Operations team, with their usual military precision, took exactly 15 minutes to clear the room of extraneous players and set up for an 18-piece string orchestra.

Then it was on me! I’m not a conductor by training or even by habit, but I did get to do these dozen bars as my professional orchestra conducting debut. Was a bit scary demonstrating musicality in front of full-time players who know me more as a composer and general loudmouth, but I got through it by summoning all of my conducting training (one semester with Dr Karen Grylls, nine years ago… I think I got an A- or B+).

It’ll be used for Fact of the Day on air tomorrow morning at about 8:20am, and it’s also in a video on zmonline.com! Click through to enjoy my conducting, Vanessa Carlton piano skills, and general social media fronting.

Freelancing. It’s a fun job.

Update: It’s in the morning show podcast, listen from 44:48)

Speaking of Vanessa Carlton, I uploaded this yesterday:

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Get out please Robbie, head overseas.

1 Aug

So, news.

Uniquely American objects.

Uniquely American objects.

I have a US green card. Well, I have a thing in my passport which entitles me to enter the USA within the next five months and hold permanent residency.

It was nearly two years ago I entered the Diversity Visa lottery on a whim, but my number came up (literally) and I went for it. It’s been a long process – from entering the lottery to entering the United States will be 26 months all up – but hardly an arduous or harrowing one. All in all, if you meet the criteria and are careful and conscientious with your paperwork, getting from the chance stage to the “heck yes I got me a green card” stage is straightforward*. My interview at the US Consulate had remarkably few questions for me to answer – just a two-hour wait while I read some Thomas Mann.

So I am moving in less than five months. Today I booked flights from Auckland to New Jersey to see my sister and my nephew (who is currently -6 weeks), and following that I will migrate westward to Chicago and settle there.

What a lovely view.

What a lovely view.

Why Chicago? In short, because the North Side of that city has the highest concentration of comedy, sketch and improv on the planet. Three of the best improv shows I’ve ever seen were during a short stay in Chicago last year. Also, thanks to the heritage of The Second City, there’s great respect for the role of music in comedy.

Furthermore, just this year there have been all sorts of venue expansions for the better:
iO is relocating from two stages in Wrigleyville to their new four-stage home in Goose Island, with one theatre dedicated to a new sketch revue from TJ & Dave;
The Annoyance has just moved from Uptown to Belmont;
– The Second City is expanding its premises in Old Town;
– and least of all, but most excitingly for me, Chicago now has possibly the world’s only theatre dedicated specifically to musical improv and musical comedy.

This image, on my own site, is 14th in my Google Images search results for "improv troupe stock photo".

This image, on my own site, is 14th in my Google Images search results for “improv troupe stock photo”.

However, there is a wider question: why improv? To compare to other things I’ve done and could pursue overseas, it’s not as stable as a job as a radio producer or presenter; it’s not as well-paying as composing (assuming you can attract commissions); and it’s a lot more niche than music recording and production.

But out of all those things within New Zealand, there are many composers, lots of broadcasters, and plenty of people who produce music, yet there are very few of us who do musical direction for comedy. There are even fewer who play music for improv. If I’m going to pursue something, it should be the thing that I am the most specialised in. The United States is a big place with potential careers that simply do not exist here in New Zealand, and you don’t just turn down a green card.

This is a daunting time – I’ve never moved countries before, I’ve never sold a large proportion of my worldly possessions, I’ve never calculated rent by the month, and figuring out the United States’ health insurance systems scares the crap out of me. Also, January is not exactly the warmest time to move to Chicago. Regardless, I am finally fulfilling every middle-class kiwi’s destiny by living overseas.

I will hold a massive farewell bash in Auckland on Saturday 13 December (also my 30th birthday), and departing New Zealand exactly two weeks later. In the meantime, you should give me lots of well-paid work, cause I’m freelance and I need the money.

This is happening!

— — —

* As long as, like me, you are an educated, healthy, white, middle class male native speaker of English with a sensible haircut, a clean criminal record and no visible piercings or tattoos, and are not a member of any organisation to the left of the Labour Party. It also made life administratively simpler that I am unmarried, have no children, and have never lived in a country other than New Zealand. And it helps I live only 35 minutes’ walk from the only US Consulate in this country. Your mileage may vary, but in most cases you have nothing to lose by applying. DV-2016 opens October 2014.

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Lots of work for one performance.

28 Jul

One grand cliché of being a composer is that it’s straighforward enough to get the first performance of a new work, but damn difficult to get the second. However, some of my favourite experiences have been writing songs that are very much intended never to be done again.

Andrew Grenon benefit posterLast night I MC’d a Wallace Arts Trust fundraiser concert for my flatmate, tenor Andrew Grenon. A lot of Andrew’s supporters know me as his piano partner in Politics The Opera, although it’s been a long time since we’ve made one of those videos. Life gets in the way, you see.

Andrew has a sense of humour and is a Song Sale writer-performer, so he asked me to sing my Root Vegetable Opera at his concert. That’s always huge fun, though when I perform it in the company of actual real opera singers I give a mountain of disclaimers about my vocal technique beforehand! Andrew also told me I was free to introduce the concert as I wished… maybe something musico-dramatic?

Two-and-a-half years ago I was fortunate enough to write the opening number for the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in Wellington – very much in the style of a Tony Awards opener. That’s a song that has so many specific references to Wellington theatre, film and current events circa 2011 that it will almost certainly never be performed again.

I did something similar for Andrew. The song has so many particular references – e.g. the setting of the concert, the night’s fellow performers, our Grey Lynn flat, his circumstances (heading to the Wales International Academy of Voice), and the country of Wales itself – that it will never be performed again. It’s a one-time bespoke job.

But you know what? Those jobs are bloody fun. You can go as specific as you like, and your song can be tailored exactly for the assembled audience and their context. I get a kick out of making comedy and art out of the timely, specific and the local. That’s no way for a work to appeal to a wide or enduring audience, but I’ve got other material for that. And given that one of my life’s ambitions is to write the opening number for the Tony Awards, I’ve got to take these opportunities to practise the rather niche craft of occasional songs.

I’ve uploaded the sheet music (hang piracy, I’m never going to sell this song for money) and chucked the video on YouTube. Massive thanks to the pianist Claire Caldwell for adding flair to my Sibelius copy-and-paste dots & chord symbols.

Good luck Andrew!

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Perfunctory blog post

23 Apr

Eketahuna German Literature Society coverPoint the first:

I’m now a published author. Given that I expended so much of the effort of publication late last year and well earlier this year, these launch events feel more like niche geeky parties than big culminations of work. I’m not good at writing about these things, but I spent A LOT of time consulting German poetry collections in the University of Auckland library.

You should buy a copy via instructions here – we will deliver to anywhere in the world. $20 if you buy one off me in person.

In a couple of months’ time, I will look back and realise, holy shit, I’m an actual proper published author. Not bad for a composer by training.

Point the second:

Augmented Fourth? Pledge Me? $400 short? 4 days to go? Get pledging. We’ll write you a song. We need us some wireless mics.

Point the third:

Oh god, there’s more? So much self-promotion going on. I should become a much better blogger and write about one thing at a time. About half of my franticisms can be traced back to the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Go see shows. Most of all, go see ours in Auckland or Wellington. Especially Auckland. We’re driving like 10 minutes to the theatre and 10 minutes back. Not like those Wellington people who only have us doing a 16-hour drive.

Point the fourth:

Just friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Or keep up with the events in the sidebar, I’m quite good at updating those. But on this blog… I’m really not making it easy for you in this Web 2.0 age… wait… it’s not Web 2.0, that was like 2006. Man, I’m 8 years out of date.

Article the Fifth:

Ko tangata whenua te nope I can’t speak Treaty of Waitangi.

I should not publish this post.

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Give us all your money.

17 Mar

Please.

Sam Smith and Robbie Ellis are Augmented FourthSam Smith and I make up a musical comedy duo called Augmented Fourth. We’ve known each other literally half our lives, and through school, university, post-university, and real life we’ve performed together in all manner of musico-theatrico-comedico-debating events.

This is the biggest project we’ve ever undertaken together: a one-hour show in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival called Augmented Fourth.

Now, I could ask you simply to book tickets for either Auckland or Wellington, but we’re getting more creative than simply ticket sales… we’ve arrived three years late to the crowdfunding party.

Specifically we want money for headset mics. Buying, hiring, whichever, but the Festival quoted us $1200 for two mics for two weeks. Here’s our pitch video!

Head on over to our PledgeMe page which details the pledge rewards – tickets, custom-written songs, namedrops and even singing telegrams. We’d be grateful for any contribution you’d care to make.

Also, we have another video which we recorded with our old high school orchestra. Granted, we both played double bass and percussion in this orchestra, not trombone…

PHWAAAAAAAAMP
PHWAAAAAAAAMP
PHWAAAAAAAAMP

PHWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP

Also, see us in Song Sale next week. Monday 24 March on Ponsonby Rd.

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We’re on a radio show about the arts on Sunday

15 Feb

It’s taking me all my will power to avoid writing Arts on Sunday when referring to Radio New Zealand National’s rebranded programme Standing Room Only.

Oh, Lynn Freeman’s still presenting, Simon Morris is still producing, Justin Gregory is still doing his out-and-about reports, but they’ve got a new name for 2014.

Yesterday (Friday) Andrew Grenon and I were interviewed in a pre-record for The Laugh Track, a segment where ostensibly funny people get to select their favourite comedy. They’re going to play bits of our videos under the banner Politics The Opera. Here are those videos:

Our other-people music choices start with Victor Borge’s pastiche of Mozart opera, specifically the bit about tenor arias from 3:47:

Then Corwin Newall’s amazing a cappella number Bass, which I really should have asked to upload to SoundCloud or something… this was a product of Song Sale Dunedin.

Finally, Tim Minchin. Not one of his amazing wordy, wickedly funny numbers with impeccable logical constructions and syllogisms, rather a far less wordy and achingly expressive but less funny number still with impeccable logical constructions and syllogisms:

…but not this recording. The far more beautiful one from Tim Minchin vs the Sydney Symphony that was broadcast on ABC television, which isn’t up on YouTube. That recording has amazingly warm piano sound which balances with and cushions Minchin’s voice, as opposed to the above YouTube clip which pushes the voice way out front and centre, not letting his natural little adjustments to the piano texture leave room for his voice (which they do)… argh. Mixing is hard.

Speaking of mixing (and writing and recording and editing and mastering), I made this theme tune this week for this show:

Anyway, back on topic to me and Andrew, not Christine Brooks. Listen in live at 2pm tomorrow (Sunday)! I can’t, cause I’ll be working. Standing Room Only tends not to podcast the Laugh Track segment, so listening live is usually your only option. DO IT.

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Song Sale Auckland

13 Feb

Song Sale, which started in Wellington and which I brought to Dunedin, is starting in Auckland! Almost seems like we’re franchising this thing proper…

I’ve wanted to start Song Sale Auckland since I settled in the city of my birth in May last year. I’ve held off until now because I only entered Auckland’s stand-up comedy scene a couple of months ago. Now I feel I have the contacts to make it work…

So it’s taking place on Monday 24 February at One 2 One Cafe on Ponsonby Rd. (Facebook event here.) According to the poster below:

Not made by a professional graphic designer.

Not made by a professional graphic designer.

We have Augmented Fourth on MC duties. This is me (cause I’m used to hosting Song Sale), and Sam Smith (because I want us to have plenty of performing experience together before our Comedy Fest show in May).

Becky Crouch is a comedian I’ve never met in person, but many in the scene have told me she’d fit right in. Sam Polwart is a comic I’ve come across a good few times, sometimes working musical audience interaction into his sets. Louise Beuvink studied in Dunedin and finished just before I arrived in 2012… all through that year, fellow performers told me she would have been great in Song Sale Dunedin, had she been around. Well, she’s in the very first Song Sale Auckland. Hoorah!

Rounding out the team of songwriters are Penny Ashton (I’ve done music for four of her solo shows); Clare Kelso (like Penny, one of the creative directors of ConArtists); Swaren Veygal (producer/DJ, former Music Director of the University of Otago Capping Show, and Song Sale Dunedin veteran); Josh Clark (choir director/accompanist who is wickedly funny); and my flatmate Andrew Grenon, my flatmate and the tenor with whom I make Politics The Opera videos.

By the way, Andrew and I are getting interviewed for the Laugh Track on Standing Room Only this weekend – after the 2pm news, Sunday on Radio New Zealand National. Listen eh. They don’t tend to podcast that segment so I think listening live is your/our only option.

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Silly graphics

10 Jan

Actual work I’m doing:
– Being a real composer with three commissions on the go. All of them involve violin and/or piano.
– Preparing the comedy show Augmented Fourth with Sam Smith. An hour of musical comedy, in both Auckland and Wellington for the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
– Editing and working up a book of poems from the Eketahuna German Literature Society.
– Writing songs for a musical theatre collaboration with Thomas Sainsbury.
– Tidying up other sheet music and recordings here and there.

Procrastination I’m doing:
– An anagram map of the Congestion Free Network.

I’ve been following the Auckland-focused transportblog.co.nz for a long time. Their collaboration with Generation Zero and the Campaign for Better Transport last year was a superbly clear vision for the future that reached a lot of people, and the maps made us reimagine our city. Aucklanders are starting to realise that efficient, modern public transport doesn’t just have to be for overseas cities, and one of the spin-off benefits is playing silly buggers with maps.

congestionfreenetwork

Anyway, here’s Anal Duck as you’ve never seen it before. Where possible, I tried to make the anagrams fit the place:
– Silverdale = Avid Resell (full of outlet shops)
– Devonport = Pot Vendor (lots of antiquey places)
– Britomart = Tram Orbit (well, once they extend the line from Wynyard Quarter…)
– Grafton = Fang Rot (there is a hospital there, and I presume dental surgeries too)
– Pt Chevalier = Vehicle Trap (down the end it is)
– Smales Farm = Rams’ Flames (that’s what happens when you hold laser light shows on a farm)
– Ellerslie = Seller Lie (I bought a car from the car fair there, it died 18 months later)
– Redvale = LED Rave (it’s near Snow Planet)
– Greenhithe = Neigh There (I can attest that there are plenty of horsey people in the area)
– Glen Eden = Glendene (they are adjacent suburbs after all)
– Ranui = A Ruin (stink for you)
– Mount Roskill = Tourism Knoll (a slight exaggeration of its purpose)
– Interchange Station = Sanctioning Theatre (I hope they do)
and my favourite:
– Waitakere Hospital = Weak Oral Hepatitis.

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