Melbourne for beginners

Well, I'm finally here! Yesterday was my first full day in Melbourne.

In the morning, Willie and I headed out to brunch with a friend at a fantastic place in Hardware St, which was well worth the wait for a table. I had a pot of French Earl Grey tea, and some delicious baked eggs with asparagus. I managed to drip pistou down my front, but luckily I had my trusty Bright Side scarf to cover up the evidence. ;)

By the time we got back to our apartment we were both severely in need of a nap, especially as I never sleep well in a new bed, and my day of travelling on Saturday was pretty draining. When we woke up, there was just enough time to get dressed up, grab a bite to eat, and scramble to get to the Arts Centre for the performance of L'Orfeo. We just made it (hurrah)!

It was amazing to hear this live! The instruments in particular sounded fantastic, in various colourful combinations of violins, viols, lirone, recorders, cornetti, sackbutts, harpsichords, organ, regal, theorbos, Baroque guitars, and percussion.

After the opera, we walked home and again collapsed with exhaustion.
I expect I'll start to feel more like myself in a few days, but until then I'll have to try to take it easy...

Monday night Monteverdi

Last night I went to a Baroque Voices concert, and had a lovely Monteverdi overdose! "The Full Monte: Concert 3" was full of madrigals for different configurations of up to five voices, some accompanied by bass viol plus theorbo or chitarrino. A theorbo, by the way, is a kind of long-necked lute (I think they look really cool with their outrigger strings - see below!), and a chitarrino is a kind of small guitar (I think that's one in the painting below).

Theorbo player, c.1615

The music for this concert was mainly from Monteverdi's third book of madrigals (1592), with some added highlights from the seventh book (1619). Baroque Voices is performing all nine books over the course of their "Full Monte" series - quite an undertaking! To give you an idea of the style of music, here's a video of some of the same singers doing a piece from the second book of madrigals (from their last concert, in April):


And one with instruments accompanying:


The concert was directed by soprano Pepe Becker, who conducted the group occasionally as necessary. The texts of the madrigals are your standard Baroque fare: love-lorn shepherds and shepherdesses, lovers and fair ladies, heroic knights and wicked sorceresses. A neat addition to the concert was the declamation (in impassioned Italian) of some of the texts by David Groves, who had translated them for the programme.

The venue was Wellington's Sacred Heart Cathedral - a slightly odd choice for a secular-themed concert. The interior is a neo-classical pink-and-white confection that always makes me think of meringues or ice-cream cakes!

Sacred Heart Cathedral, in all its pink-and-white glory

One of the most enjoyable aspects (for me) was that lots of the music was unfamiliar. This is the beauty of an unabridged concert series - you don't just hear the same few most-popular works, you get surprises too! Only one of the pieces was one I'd sung before: Ahi, sciocco mondo cieco, a soprano duet which Theresa and I sang for a choir party item once upon a time. Monteverdi is so much fun to sing! I miss my duet buddies, I do...

Handmade: Day 2

This morning I had choir as usual at St Mary's, but with a couple of incidents that weren't entirely usual. During Mass, Olivia and I sang the Monteverdi duet we'd been working on (a 'Salve Regina' setting), and it went really well. We'd had a good run-through before Mass, which helped our confidence a lot. I'm even getting more used to leading now. But alas, Olivia is departing to Berlin to pursue her art career. The choir had a farewell lunch (bring-a-plate style), and it was all a bit sad. But she has promised to return after a year or so, and keep us up-to-date with her adventures via email.

Afterwards, I headed over to Te Papa for more crafting at the knit lounge. I hadn't signed up for any classes for today, so I just hung out and did some spinning and knitting and chatting. A couple of people had brought their spinning wheels, which was cool to watch. I started spinning some rainbow merino on my wee turkish spindle (both recently acquired).


When I got sick of spinning, I switched to working on the little knitted bag that I started at yesterday's two-handed knitting class. Happily, I still remembered how to do it! Still awkward, but I shall keep practising. Eventually I started making mistakes and dropping needles, so I took a hint and called it a day. Time to curl up with a pot of tea and my kindle... :)

Singing at St Mary's

I'm a member of the St Mary of the Angels choir, which is great for my general confidence with singing - performing in public at Mass every week is fantastic for learning to deal with nerves! The choir does lots of Renaissance polyphony, as well as plainchant and various other styles of liturgical music. I've been singing with them for ten years now, and my singing has improved in every respect since I started. Of course, my lessons with the choir director, Robert, have had a lot to do with that.

This Easter my friend Olivia and I sang a Monteverdi duet for two sopranos with two violins accompanying, plus organ and Robert's viola da gamba for the continuo part. Monteverdi is one of my absolute favourite composers, so this was a real treat for me. I've also been learning a solo from Handel's Messiah, which I sang after Mass, once the choir had had our annual Easter treat of singing the Hallelujah Chorus!

My family was in town briefly for a get-together near Wellington, and Dad recorded some of the music. Because we were performing at Mass rather than at a concert, there was a fair amount of background noise (from babies during the duet, and conversations during my after-Mass solo). It's still great to be able to hear how we did. Evidently I need to learn to project my consonants more clearly in such a resonant building. ;)

Our duet (with bonus baby accompaniment):



And my Handel solo is here.