Wellington appreciation

I was lucky enough to visit Wellington last week! Willie's grandma was turning 90, so we all came over from Melbourne for the celebrations and to see our family & friends. It's always great to see my home city again, but this trip had a few extra-special highlights. 

Thursday was a whirlwind of brunch at Island Bay, settling into the hotel where we would be holding the first of the birthday parties, and zipping around town gathering supplies (and coffee)...

The waves at Island Bay, across the road from our brunch cafe

Julian and I stopped for long blacks at the Flight Coffee Hangar!

On Friday, after the party, I went for a lovely solo stroll from our hotel to the waterfront and back. The familiar landmarks looked beautiful in the early evening light...

Looking across the harbour

Over the bridge to Civic Square

My favourite library ever (sniff)...

Old Bank Arcade with overhead bus power-lines

I had Saturday afternoon all to myself, so naturally I headed for Tash's amazing yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Co, stopping for a quick lunch at Deluxe on the way.

Oriental Bay beach, below my old flat

Deluxe Cafe has reliably amazing salads!

I spent nearly two hours at the yarn shop, browsing and chatting... and spinning! A spinning group was in residence on the shop's couches, with wheels and spindles whizzing. Jen invited me to join in, and loaned me one of the shop spinning wheels and some fibre to have a try at wheel-spinning.

I had only ever spun yarn using a spindle, so I needed help to get started (thank you Alexis!). I managed to get everything flowing nicely a couple of times, in between fighting with over-twisting, re-attaching my fibre, and spinning the wheel the wrong way. I definitely got a good taste of using a wheel, and I've started researching affordable models. ;)

Holland Road is a wonderfully colourful place!

A rainbow of Quince & Co yarn

The Brooklyn Tweed Shelter wall

My very first wheel-spun yarn!

An amazing Sophie's Universe blanket on the shop's knitting couch

Heading back to Oriental Bay via the waterfront

Boat-sheds in the sun

The other big highlight of my few days in Wellington was joining my old choir on Sunday morning for some plainchant, Byrd, and Palestrina. Due to a long and expensive period of earthquake-strengthening, St Mary's has been closed for the last few years and only re-opened a couple of weeks ago. It was so good to see my choir friends and sing with them again...

The restored St Mary of the Angels, open again at last!

My view from the choir loft

I rounded out my trip with a lovely lunch with Willie and family, and then headed north to my family in Whakatane. I'll be here for a couple more weeks before I fly back to Melbourne. So far I've been enjoying Mum & Dad's cooking, scoffing all the feijoas I can find, and quietly getting back to my knitting projects.

These are my precious new yarn pets from Holland Road - aren't they gorgeous?

Knitsch Singularity + Brooklyn Tweed Arbor

Yarn is definitely my favourite kind of souvenir. <3

It's Bach season!

It's March, and for those of us in choir-land that means the countdown to Holy Week has begun. As well as our St John Passion performance on Good Friday, my choir at the Scots' Church is doing a few Bach cantatas spaced throughout the year. We did one last Sunday - the first half of BWV 147, 'Hertz und Mund und Tat und Leben' - and it was really lovely to sing. The opening chorus was fast and exciting with its trumpet solos, and the final chorale was just beautiful. Definitely worth getting up at 7am on a Sunday. ;)

There's a video of us singing & playing the final chorale here on Facebook, courtesy of our organist Ria. The tune is best known as "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" - you might recognise it when you hear it. I remember coming across a piano arrangement at Nana's house many years ago and playing it on the dodgy old piano...

This is a video of the whole cantata, performed by The Sixteen:

I'm glad it won't be my first time singing the St John Passion this year, there aren't many weeks left now to brush up on my German (not to mention all of the notes). I'm also glad we have more than one special rehearsal scheduled this time in addition to the Sunday morning run-throughs.

One of my favourite Bach interpreters, John Butt and his Dunedin Consort, have recorded a liturgical reconstruction of the St John Passion. Here's a short intro video with some rehearsal clips:

After filling my head with all of this music, I'm going to be super-primed for a very, very exciting trip... This April I'll be heading off on my first trip to Europe with Willie and Julian! I really can't believe it's actually happening. We'll start with a visit to Berlin where Chloe and Celena live, and spend three weeks exploring a few different cities including Florence, Rome, and Amsterdam, with short stops in Leipzig and Munich. It was incredibly hard to narrow down our list of places to visit, but I prioritised the places with the art and architecture I most want to see (as a consequence of my years of studying music and art history and Latin).

In Leipzig I plan to visit the Bach Museum, the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, a museum of musical instruments, and a music bookshop. And hopefully a coffeehouse or two!

More on the trip later. For now I need to work on my German and Italian (both beginner-level, alas) and do some more plotting and planning...

A good Good Friday

Last night was my big Bach concert! My choir and a fantastic Baroque orchestra performed the St. John Passion. As a first-timer, I had to put in a lot of practice to make sure I had my head around all the rhythms and my tongue around all the rapid-fire German. And it really paid off - on the night I wasn't nervous, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Willie, Julian, Chloe, and Hamish came along to hear us,and Willie took a couple of photos:

The Scots' Church is really pretty.

A chorus in full flight! I'm near the middle. :)

At home afterwards, enjoying a well-earned hot cross bun.

Here are a couple of my favourite choruses, performed by The Monteverdi Choir. The first is one of the fast, tricky choruses, and the second is the final chorus (which I adore)...




If you're a Bach nerd like me, you might want to poke around the All of Bach site, which will eventually house free videos of all 1080 of Bach's surviving compositions, performed by the Netherlands Bach Society. Bach's other great Passion setting, the St. Matthew, is the newest addition.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Bucket-list Bach

Disclaimer: I don't actually have a bucket list. But if I did, performing Bach's large-scale choral works would definitely be on it.

In a few weeks the Scots' Choir will be singing Bach's St. John Passion, which is massively exciting for me, as well as scary! I have a lot of music to learn, and a lot of German pronunciation to perfect. As I did in the lead-up to Messiah last year, I'll be listening to lots of different recordings as well as practicing on my own with the piano. Wish me luck!

Here's the opening chorus, 'Herr, unser Herrscher', performed at a cracking pace by the Academy of Ancient Music:

Hallelujah!

Our Messiah performance on Saturday was a success, and heaps of fun if a bit nerve-wracking at times! Willie came along to listen, with Chloe and Celena and two friends. They brought me a bunch of flowers, which was lovely - one's first Messiah is a big deal, after all. ;)

A lot of the choruses rattled along at a cracking pace, which is exhilarating but also scary if you're not totally confident with your part. The period-instrument orchestra was excellent, and added a lot of sparkle and depth to the music. 
I loved Chloe's comment that the choir sounded "tight" - coming from a rock musician, that's a great compliment.

Here's one of my favourite choruses, the final "Worthy is the Lamb" and "Amen". These guys take it slower than we did, but it still sounds fantastic...


I'm nearly ready for Christmas! Jam Drops, Salted Toffee Almonds, and the all-important Pavlova have been baked. My mini-solo for Christmas morning choir has been practised (a verse of a carol called "Past three o'clock"). Tonight we'll wrap presents and put up a few decorations. And tomorrow afternoon, we'll go to Chloe and Celena's house for an "Orphan Christmas" featuring a vast vegetarian feast, cocktails, a performance by Booty Pageant, and a Slip 'n' Slide. ;)

Merry Christmas all!