All over the radios (including festival times)

Mstislav Rostropovich, Dmitri Shostakovich & Sviatoslav Richter in 1968. (Source)

I wrote and presented the most recent Composer of the Week programme for Radio New Zealand Concert. It’s not about a single composer; the topic is rather works written for Mstislav Rostropovich. You can listen to it here until Sunday 28 October (embedding won’t work sorry).

Yes, of course, there are the famous cello concertos: Shostakovich’s two, Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto, all of Britten’s cello works, but there’s a whole lot more besides.

In the programme I don’t even have a chance to mention any pieces by Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho and James Macmillan, just to name a few. But I do get to play music by Aram Khachaturian, Leonard Bernstein, Krzysztof Penderecki, Miecysław Weinberg, and Boris Tchaikovsky (no relation). read more

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LEN LYE a review

I’m in Auckland until this afternoon. I came up on Wednesday to see my former composition lecturer’s new piece LEN LYE the opera, and to review it for Theatreview. (Actually there are more like four of my old teachers among the core creative team…)

It’s “a major statement of advocacy for the overlooked genius and forward-thinking artistry of Len Lye”. My review’s here. The NBR and the Herald carry shorter write-ups.

Today I meet with Penny Ashton, Thomas Sainsbury and James Wenley about musicals in various stages of development. read more

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Organ & Orchestra developments

Pull out _all_ the stops!

Yesterday I was catching up on podcasts from Upbeat.

Phil Brownlee reviewed a concert by NZTrio in which they brought in a drum kit for Kenji Bunch’s Concerto for piano trio and percussion (from 10:38):

“It’s often challenging in a concert setting. […] [An] issue with the drum kit is just the balance, particularly if you’re alluding to the rock setting, the rock-jazz kind of sound. Early on the piece it felt like Lenny Sakofsky was holding it down to balance with the trio and it doesn’t sound like a drum kit until you start hitting it hard.” read more

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Zomburlesque reviews coming in.

Taking a narcissistic point of view, which is the more quotable review quote in the long run?

Jonathan W. Marshall on Zomburlesque for Theatreview:

A special non-zombie, non-burlesque treat is when Ellis, showing a musical and comic virtuosity which would not be out of place in the old Cotton Club’s own stage shows, effectively plays both the trumpet and the trombone at once, calling on the cast beside him to hold one instrument as he reaches to grab the next and immediately continue the same musical phrase on a new instrument. read more

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Sorry, I meant to see your show – the lyrics!

By request, here are the lyrics to my song, commissioned to open the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. I owe a clear debt of gratitude to the superb opening number to this year’s Tony Awards.

I’ve also uploaded the demo I made for the singers:

Sorry, I meant to see your show (demo) by Robbie Ellis

Some lyrics changed in the rehearsal process (and we certainly slowed it down from my speed-demon intentions), but most remained the same. Forgive my falsetto for soprano parts.

“Sorry, I meant to see your show” was performed last night at the Wellington Opera House by MC Emma Kinane and the Shoreline Cab Savs (Carmel McGlone, Bryony Skillington, Jess Robinson, Martyn Wood, Nick Dunbar & Gareth Farr/Lilith La Croix), with me (Robbie Ellis) on piano. read more

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Sorry, I meant to see your show

I, George Nēpia publicity shot

I, George Nēpia - winner of four awards including Production of the Year, and yet another Wellington theatre success story I didn't end up seeing. (Publicity image thiefed from circa.co.nz.)

Last night the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards took place, an annual Wellington institution to recognise awesome. I played continuity music.

I also wrote the opening song called “Sorry, I meant to see your show”, which was performed brilliantly by the Shoreline Cab Savs and MC Emma Kinane. (Edit: Lyrics & demo here.) It’s quite appropriate: out of the nine shows that won awards – the cream of this year’s Wellington theatre crop – I saw only three. At least Nēpia has a return season starting tomorrow (Edit: Thursday) so there’s no excuse there. read more

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New Zealand Improv Festival – systems go!

A lightbulb moment.So I missed the first night of the New Zealand Improv Festival in Wellington. I was filling in for Kate Mead on Sound Lounge. And I’ll miss the second night too. I’m filling in for Kate Mead on Nights with Bryan Crump. (See what happens when people take leave from work?!)

But I’ll be there the third, fourth and fifth nights, playing musical accompaniment for ten different shows. You should come. Book at BATS Theatre.

Two in particular leap out at me as being very exciting:

The Long Weekend. I blogged about this a few weeks ago but since then I’ve actually workshopped it with the players! The ideas they have will make for some emotionally honest improv – the disconnect between idealised memories of uni days and the reality of late-20s-hood / early-30s-hood is perfect fodder for interpersonal relationships to laugh and cry over. Thu 13 October, 9:30pm. read more

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The weekend

So it’s the weekend – the time between two runs of shows, and the time in which I can do a load of washing.

Last night was the close of The First Asian A* B* – it was a reasonably successful season, considering that shows from Auckland seldom get the same audience numbers as Wellington shows. There’s just not the same degree off on-the-ground promotion.

Tonight is the opening of Zomburlesque. Out of the band of six players, I’m the only one not to have seen any rehearsal of the action yet. But I’ve received descriptions from those who have… I reckon it’ll be epic. read more

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The First Asian A* B* up and running.

Place of birth / Lieu de naissance: TAKAPUNA, NEW ZEALAND

We are two performances into our eight-show season of The First Asian A* B* by Renee Liang. In a show of provincial loyalty, I went onto Trade Me and bought a second-hand 2009 North Harbour rugby jersey as a costuming decision. Its size is L, about 1.5 sizes too large for me, but it works well enough.

John Smythe has reviewed us for Theatreview, concentrating more on the script and story construction than the performances. Laurie Atkinson from the Dominion Post attended opening night; there may well be a review in Monday’s newspaper. (Edit: Dom Post review indeed appeared on Monday.) read more

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