Monday, July 27, 2009

Metropolitan Male Voice Choir of South Australia

The Metro Male Voice Choir gave a stirring concert yesterday in Maitland, South Australia, as part of their commitment to country town performances. They are Adelaide based,yet make many trips annually to rural centres - marvellous when you consider that S.A. is the size of France and Germany together (!)

A bunch of us drove the hour's journey up to Maitland, where the local committee put on a nice afternoon tea to complement the singing, conducted by soon-to-retire musical director Don Noblett

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rewritable DVDs - the Awful Truth

Aargh!! I recorded the whole two hours of our five-weeks-to-go concert rehearsal in the church hall at W., and put 'em on DVD. Do I really grimace and twitch like that on the higher notes? Ye gods. Winning my place back from the singing dog must have gone to my head - or larynx.

It is still early days, thank goodness, as far as the stagecraft goes. Our group of a dozen souls is doing a cabaret-theme wrap-around of the varied song content (not just songs from the musical Cabaret) interspersed with some connecting comic sketches. Thanks, Gwenda, chief scriptwriter.

My favourite number in our looming show is Angela's solo Maria Elena in her native Spanish. (Tuyo es mi corazon / Oh sol de mi querer ... ). And with male voice I like it very much as sung by Helmut Lotti, posted on YouTube. Go hear.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quizzical Ronnie Corbett autobio

Last night at the Bowling Club the local Uniting Church held its annual Quiz Night. Our team, give or take a couple of players off the field and a substitute, were last year's winners and we looked to repeat the triumph. Sadly, not to be. We came second by a squeak. I maintain that this was due to dodgy adjudication and scoreboard chicanery. But how can you tell that to the reverend? The desserts table made up somewhat for the humiliation. This is the true meaning of just desserts.

I finished reading the autobiography, entitled High Hopes, of the famously diminutive - and hard working - Scots comedian Ronnie Corbett (b.1930) who was brought up in Edinburgh.

The description of a 1930s Edinburgh childhood is a fine social document in itself. His father was a master baker, and a very good amateur golfer. From him the young Corbett seems to have acquired a lifelong fine-food appreciation, and cooking skills, plus a love of the game of golf. He knew by early high school - during WWII - that his vocation was the world of theatre and he held that vision for years as an aspiring performer from the age of 16. He was soon drawn to the comedic side of theatre, turning his small stature (5'1") to an advantage as the "wee clown".

What strikes the reader is the sheer tenacity of Corbett, moving to London on his own, learning every part of his trade through the 1940s and '50s, working at anything to keep body and soul together. Eventually steady work was forthcoming; club entertainment with Danny La Rue, summer seasons of pantomime. Small film parts started to come along (You're Only Young Twice, 1952), and, in 1957, Rockets Galore ("... a sort of sequel to Whisky Galore") in which he played a Hebridean fisherman alongside stalwarts such as Duncan McRae and Jamieson Clark, and Gordon Jackson - all three of whom your blogger is delighted to have met. In 1951 I took part in an hour-long broadcast from Glasgow's Festival of Britain Exhibition: Jamieson Clark interviewed another schoolboy and me on our responses to the exhibits in the Kelvin Hall. Such is my miniscule showbusiness fame, along with one cast list billing alongside the great Stanley Baxter, in the BBC's Radio Times for a play on Children's Hour. Ronnie Corbett and Stanley Baxter had many appearances together, on stage and on television.

But of course what we all recall best is Corbett with the other Ronnie, the late Ronnie Barker, in their 16-year association as The Two Ronnies, 1971 - 1986. In 1977 the pair got their respective O.B.E. awards from H.M. the Queen. The book tells us that the alphabetical rules for presentation were slightly bent so that they received their gongs as a duo.

The index lists Ronnie Corbett's seven films almost as an aside to his hundreds of live shows and TV appearances: the last film was the 1997 Fierce Creatures which John Cleese wrote but which was not a critical success. Corbett gives very good technical insights into the particular difficulties of the film, and just why it didn't "work". He knows his stuff. He's a even bigger namedropper than me, perhaps because he really has met 'em all, and worked with many. The index has over 500 names! Corbett speaks with humanity and gentleness of nearly everyone, even when remarking on foibles. An exception is his uncompromising mention of the American movie actor George C. Scott ... remember? - the guy who played the title role as (WWII General) Patton. Scott was one of a Celebrity and Golf Pro bunch who were to play a televised golf tournament at Gleneagles. He became so unpleasantly drunk, loud and boorish that the organisers shipped him off home.

A happier incident was when, one season in Bristol, the theatre manager knocked on Ronnie's door. "I've had a call from Cary Grant's secretary to say he's booked seats for tonight, and can he come backstage afterwards?" That's the kind of message you would enjoy. Cary Grant - real name Archie Leach, a Bristol home-town boy - told RC he'd enjoyed the show and they went out for a meal. As one does.

There's plenty more of considerable interest in this plainly written tale. Ghost-written, I think, and none the worse for that. I believe it was compiled from many taped interviews with Oliver Pritchett. The book was first published in 2000 when Ronnie Corbett was 70, still accepting performing engagements, and praise be, at the time of this blog he is still with us.

In his profession here was a giant spanning an epoch, from vaudeville, seaside pantomime and club shows, to the signature small screen monologue: stand-up comedy while seated in an armchair. Big statistic: in its heyday The Two Ronnies routinely attracted a weekly viewing audience in the U.K. of seventeen million, and nineteen million for the Christmas specials. Wow. Bless you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

House by the Huon River

Ten days since the last post? Where does it go?

Today I have a sell contract on my rental property in Huonville, a 40 minute commute south of Hobart. I am sad to sell it, but it is a question of scrambling to try to put my finances back in some kind of order. Among other matters, I know I will not see more than a few cents in the dollar recovered from investment-lending I made to a person who petitioned for and was granted bankruptcy this month - owing in total 6.8 million dollars to many unfortunate people, such as me. He now lists his occupation as "consultant". As a bankrupt he cannot hold directorships for a period of three years. He appears able to manoeuvre round such hurdles quite adroitly.

Happier note. Our choir's tenor Don survived his 85th birthday skydive. The plane broke down and the event was called off.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flaherty's Beach

Further down the Spencer Gulf coast from Parsons Beach - do I put in the apostrophe? ... nah - is Flahertys Beach, another long remote stretch of seawrack, sand and shell. There's a single gravel road for access. no difficulty there, and even a handy visitors' carpark.

Today is Tuesday which means it's the song-group practice day. Wish they'd let me call it a choir. Anyhow, about every second week after the practice I drive over to the Flahertys Beach carpark and set off either north towards Hardwicke Bay or south towards Point Turton and walk on the beach for a half hour to maybe an hour. For me this is welcome and much needed exercise, especially since seven months ago I damaged my right foot and it is not quite 100% back to A1 at Lloyds. That means, it is still playing up. Stuffed. Buggered.

So that's Flahertys Beach. Not a tall ship in sight today.

However I took along the little JVC hybrid GZ-MG630 camcorder that I got with Fly Buy points. Slowly I am getting the hang of some things it does. When all else fails I read the destructions. More later. Talk soon.

P.S. The singing dog was a no-show at the song practice (there are two concerts scheduled for August) so I keep my job! Yay.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Huonville or bust

Personal diary. Well, that's what this is, isn't it? Today I put on the market the house I have had for over six years in Huonville, Tasmania. It has been tenanted for nearly all that time. But it is an income-negative asset, and repair and maintenance costs have been more than an investor (or landlord) wants. We shall see if a sale claws back some of the losses.

If you don't know, Huonville (and the lovely Huon Valley) is about 40 minutes south of Hobart.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sing for health enhancement

Nice one! Gwenda sent an email to say she'd seen one of those you-beaut TV shows on health and lifestyle, and it offered expert evidence to the effect that people (dogs and cockatoos too??)who sing ARE likely to enjoy better health than those who refrain from singing. Nobody says you have to sing WELL :) But we knew that. Singing is a joyful expression of ... well, joy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Parsons Beach and Melaleuca Court at Minlaton

So now it's July. Wow. Here in Australia that's the start of a new tax year, but enough of depression-inducing things.

My blog is currently called Tall Ships and Tall Tales. Today you get a tall tale - even if it is true.

Mind you, I still travelled to Parsons Beach on the Spencer Gulf shore of the Yorke Peninsula - thanks for the ride in your midnight blue station wagon, Gwenda - a beach with five kilometres of little-visited scenic solitude: a beach from which you could have watched the windjammers coming to or going from Port Victoria not far north on the same coast, of which I wrote some notes during June.

And why the trip to Parsons Beach? Aha! A home there, one of a small cluster of year-round homes in the tiny community, is where our singing group rehearses on the morning of our monthly concert at Melaleuca Court, performed for the residents of that nursing home in the charming inland town Minlaton. Minlaton - or Minlacowie - was named for the old aboriginal sweetwater wells, which can still be seen.

Glad to say that today's concert went O.K., the audience was appreciative and the six piece brass section and the dozen singers were fed cakes and tea or coffee afterwards. A satisfying start to the new tax year :) Wendy even played the piano and sang to accompany her dog Sam who rendered Singing in the Rain, with some competition from the cockatoo in a corner of the residents' lounge who was singing How Much is That Doggy in the Window. My main concern now is that this dog might oust the newest member of the group ... me. A small compensation is that the bird was already offered the job but turned it down.