Channel panorama, taken from Woodbridge Hill Pool
where Helen, Chloe and I had a private swim
I hadn't seen Helen for more than a year. She was singing in the Cygnet Folk Festival in January 2013 so that seemed a good time to visit. Dac and I booked the lovely Gardener's Cottage (about 4km out of Cygnet) and headed off for a week or so.
Chloe, Helen and Skye at Gardener's Cottage.
Out of shot: the late lamented Teesy, fast asleep on the lounge
I also heard my daughter sing, and attended her Gregorian Chant workshop at the Folk Festival. I hadn't seen her teaching and directing before and was deeply impressed when, after an hour, she had a roomful of untrained people (about 50 of 'em, crammed into a classroom on a hot and humid day) happily singing chant in five parts. :-)
Another highlight was the Ida Bay Railway, which describes itself as the last operating bush tramway in Tasmania, and Australia's southernmost railway. Waiting in the cafe beforehand, I was extremely pleased to encounter a plain family-sized china teapot brimming with nice plain tea. I can't remember the last time I had such a good cuppa while out!
Helen and I enjoyed the train ride, the button grass, the ruins, and the cygnets. Helen even got to speak some Dutch to the person sitting in front of us on the train - another Folk Festival attendee.
Jill managed to time her Australian trip to include Coriole, and Annabel was again able to slip out between rehearsals. Travelling with these two dear friends made me very happy, as did the festival, even though it was mostly about German romanticism of the second half of the nineteenth century. As always, my suspicions about the works were overwhelmed by hearing flawless performances in beautiful surroundings.
We had a little time on the first day for Adelaide tourism: we visited Light's Vision. In the first photo above, Annabel and I are admiring the extraordinary number of cranes over Adelaide. In the next, Jill and I are demonstrating, beneath Light's statue, different perceptions of the ambient temperature. I am indebted to Jill for these photos.
After the festival, we had breakfast with Dac's sister Julie in McLaren Vale, and then drove back to Adelaide, where we took a moment to try out the O-Bahn - highly recommended! After that, we went our separate ways (I visited Brenda) and yet managed to find each other again and fly home together. Jill has written a wonderful blog post about this day, and the loss and recovery of her raincoat, and then more about the raincoat.
Helen was singing in the premiere of The Sun of Umbria by Ralph Middenway so I booked myself a cabin near Cygnet, and bought myself a GPS for the hire car. I really can't travel on my own so I was depending on Qantas to remember that I needed help, which they did - off and on. :-/
I was absolutely thrilled with the GPS. As a person with no sense of direction whatsoever, I'm lost whenever I leave Canberra, and I find being lost quite stressful. This trip was different! On the first day alone, I found my way to my cabin in Cygnet Bay and back to Helen's QTas rehearsal venue in Hobart, with a side trip to visit Antoinette L in between. Later in the week I made it to Helen and Andrew W's place, and would have visited Judith P if she'd been answering her phone. Not being lost is liberating!
We had a busy week, especially Helen, who kept having to drive up to Hobart for evening rehearsals. Unfortunately the place where I was staying proved to be pet-unfriendly, a problem we should have anticipated. :-( Skye and Milly had to wait outside in the ute, which they didn't like, especially as the landlord's cats and dog ran around taunting them.
An oasis of calm: Chloe took me to Cygnet's "Stitch'n'Bitch" on one of the nights. It took place in a beautiful shop that was a combined bookshop/apothecary. Cups of tea abounded, and no one minded that I couldn't stitch. The range of projects being undertaken was interesting, from mending a silk banner to darning a pair of felt slippers, from knitting a hot water bottle cover to knitting in the round.
H & C had been looking for a while for somewhere more accessible to live. During my stay, a place at Cross Road |:-| came onto the market. We were shown round the two-bedroom house while the doggos checked out the valley and the creek and the wallaby lawn. H & C will be moving there soon.
Helen and Chloe at their current house
The concert was a great success and attracted a short but favourable review in the Mercury. I enjoyed the story of St Francis and Ralph Middenway's setting of it and, as always, I enjoyed Helen's singing - of which I was soon to hear more. :-)
Helen was Newman College's first Senior Choral Scholar, 12 years ago when the choir was founded. She missed the first Advent Festival, being in Holland, but sang in the second, just after returning to Australia in 2011. The third was coming up, and she had been asked to sing.
Rehearsals started the Tuesday before. I registered to attend the festival, staying at Newman, but was also permitted to book in early. How good it was to escape my routine and all my commitments for a few days, to spend time with Helen, to live in a little room with my little computer, and to stroll down the cloister to the dining hall for meals.
We only managed one lot of bubble tea from the Union during our stay, and it was during a major downpour, and we got lost trying to take a shortcut "home". On less rainy days, we squeezed in some clothes shopping at Richmond, and lunch with Lindy and Geoff, between their Wagner commitments. In and amongst, we watched the whole of season 2 of The Killing. :-)
And then there was the Festival, which was brilliant. It seems to me that Advent is solemn, with more emphasis on preparing for the Second Coming than for Christmas. This was a devout weekend.
The aim of the Festival is to allow you to experience sacred music and art as part of daily life - as it was for those in a medieval community - rather than simply attending a concert.
The programme was full-on, from Lauds to Vespers, with great swathes of chant, and wonderful performances all round. The final concert was Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610:
Directed by Gary Ekkel, the Choir of Newman College and the Renaissance band, La Compañia, perform the work in the College's Dining Hall, using its galleries and alcoves for the intimate solos, and the domed dining area for Monteverdi's magnificent collaboration of brass, strings, organ and ten-part choir.
Newman College Choir currently counts among its members twin tenors, Daniel and Matthew Thomson (good names!), whose twin voices added a dimension of awe when they sang together. It was an exhilarating performance.
I keep thinking I will stop crying in Helen's concerts one day. The Vespers is hardly a weepy work, so I made it to the end - but then people kept coming up to me to praise Helen's singing and to say that I must be very proud of her.
Indeed I am.
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Page created 31 December 2013; last updated 09 January 2014