John Clare Writings

Intimate music

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Perhaps the best room for intimate music in Sydney is attached to the church about half way up St John’s Road in Glebe from Wentworth Park Road below  and Glebe Point Road above. Whether those who organise the music are religious or not is hard to discern through the general flippancy, though a direct question would no doubt sort that out. Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. It is called Colbourne Avenue because that minor through way passes alongside. As I live down and along to the left on Wentworth Park Road I stroll up there every Thursday night unless some other exceptional event has found favour.

The room does not necessarily handle drums well unless the executive has a well developed sense of what volume and complexity will be accepted. Mike Nock and Laurence Pike are superb there as a duo. Andrew Dickeson impressed and excited recently with  solid impactful sound that never crossed the border into distortion.

Recently I heard one of the finest nights of both free and organised chamber music here I have absorbed. I say  chamber music with reference to dynamics and interaction. Several genres entered the space. On clarinet and bass clarinet was Paul Cutlan, on piano and accordion Gary Daley and cello Oliver Miller.   Both the cello and bass clarinet can be played with edge and impact and can also be made to sound like softly shaded graphite on the air. These dark columns of sound can take on dimension and tangibility, solidity as well as transparency. The cello when played this well has a regal grace and command. The edges  can begin to furl like a cloak or a royal robe. Echoes move within the sound. It walks down a hall toward you.

There was a point within this performance when a very strange and magical sequence occurred. The light was dim in here, which was evocative but suddenly a bright light went on up near the top of  substantial wall which my seat faced, crosswise through our hall. The room up there was not bright either, even with the light, but glowing tabs and tags – rectangles in short – seemed to adhere to the texture of the glass up there. Into this moved a black silhouette and the little shower of light seemed to surround the head. It was a narrow shouldered man who appeared to either sit or lean toward us. Who else had looked up and seen this? The figure moved away, leaving the crown of lights.The figure came back. No feature was discernable.  A black being. Then the window was gone and everything it contained. Including the light of course.

Then Gary Daley began to play Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz. How antic, how formally brilliant. It appeared suddenly in the air so that I thought the opening figure descending seemed like a brilliant idea improvised. Half way down those stairs of light I recognised it. Fats Waller plays it on the organ on my record. Bernie McGann quite often played it. Unforgettably.    

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