Friday, February 27, 2015

What Mr Lilly thinks of Pisces

Qualities of the Signe Pisces   Is of the watery Triplicity, Northern, cold Signe, moyst, Flegmatick, feminine, nocturnal, the house of Jupiter. and exaltation of Venus, a Bycorporeal, common or double-bodies Signe, an idle, effeminate, sickly Signe, or representing a party of no action.
Sicknesse   All Diseases in the Feet, as the Gout, and all Lamenesse and Aches incident to those members, and so generally salt Flegms, Scabs, Itch, Botches, Breakings out, Boyles and Ulcers proceeding from Blood putrifacted, Colds and moyst diseases.
Places   It presents Grounds full of water, or where many Springs and much Fowle are, also Fish-ponds or Rivers full of Fish, places where Hermitages are, also Fish-ponds or Rivers full of Fish, places where Hermitages have been, Mats about Houses, Water-Mills in houses neer the water, as to some Well or Pump, or where water stands.
Corporature   A short stature, ill composed, not very decent, a good large Face, palish Complexion, the Body fleshy or swelling, not very straight, but incurvating somewhat with the Head.
Kingdomes, Countries, Cities   Calabria in Sicilia, Portugall, Normany, North of Egypt, Alexandruia, Themes, Wormes, Ratisbone, Compostella.

-          William Lilly, Christian Astrology (1647)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Young Australian dancer wins top prize!

It was in 2002 when a young Australian ballet dancer who'd won a lot of awards, wiped the board and won the most important prize for dancers in the Grand Prix of Lausanne.   He went on to become one of the top soloists at the Royal Ballet and is still at his peak, having, as a result of the large prize money, continued his training at the Royal Ballet School.   This weekend I was more than delighted to learn that young Australian Lee Harrison is following in Stephen Rea's  footsteps.   Their approach and style of dance and presentation couldn't be more different!.   Stephen was very much influenced by Nureyev and he admitted to me at the time that, as I suspected, he'd constantly watched Rudi's  performances, and the way he took his curtain calls.   He was a very audacious  young dancer to the point that he decided to make his final variation at the competition, a tap number!   Shock horror.   But now our stunning young Lee is so different.   He is extremely modest, and  was pretty  much gob smacked when it was announced he was the overall winner!   But it isn't in the least surprising his technique is superb, every movement, and indeed every part of every moment is perfection, but with a controlled  youthful enthusiasm coming over so well.   I think he will do brilliantly at the Royal Ballet School, and if and when he performs  the great classics and in particular, the essentially English ballets he will be equally stunning.  He's such a contrast to Stephen, but I'm sure that terrific dancer will give him support and encouragement once he arrives in London.   I'll be following his progress with interest, and indeed I must also send my admiration and many congratulations to his Australian teacher.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

To the President of Indonesia

Julia here!   As ever Shakespeare says it all       Look up the Merchant of Venice  Act 4 scene 1, line182.   The Quality of mercy is not strained. . .   

Monday, February 16, 2015

we went to a stunning exhibition

Hi Guys I know I've been neglecting  you for several months and I'm sorry - this is because I have been finishing off a very long faction family saga.    The story is based on some members of my Mother's family who emigrated to North Sydney in1882.   I know it's  a good page turner, with some 63 characters and a lot of story lines.   It's kept me busy and it's now with my London agent who is very interested in it. . .  If you happen to be, it's to be called Coming South' . . . We'll see. . . I've just started Vol Two.   However I've been motivated to get back to blogging today because yesterday Derek and I went to the most stunning exhibition of jewellery in the Power House Museum here in Sydney.   It is vast, and has pieces from Ancient Egypt down to the most recent experimental.  Every case - and it is beautifully themed - has something to make one gasp, or indeed feel a bit weepy when one sees a collection of decorated pennies with inscriptions of love cut into them by convicts.  In 1954 the Queen was presented with a really corker of brooch of Australian wattle and tea tree leaves   She's lent it for three months and boy, does it sparkle and did even then on the not terribly good movie shots!  The exhibition seems to have had no or very little publicity - we thought it had just  opened  but  learned as we left  it's been on for sometime.   It was dreadfully quiet with hardly anyone there apart from ourselves - and we wouldn't have known about it but for some some casual mention on TV or in last Sunday's paper.   We both rate this show very highly indeed and  feel it is  on a par with what we would expect to see in the V&A in London - if you're in, or reasonably near Sydney, and love jewellery  DO GO!  Yes, and  even if you live as far as away as Canberra come. . . After all, we make the effort to come down to you to see exhibitions from time to time . . . Cheers for now more in the not so distant future always Julia Parker  (Derek's other half!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A great Australian?

If you stroll into the Art Gallery of New South Wales and turn into the second gallery on the right, you will see on the wall what appears to be a painting of a gaggle of gypsies accompanying a horse on which sits a small boy. The boy grew up to become the ‘Australian’  composer and conductor Constant Lambert.
I perhaps rather rudely put the word Australian in inverted commas: his father, George Lambert, was born in St Petersburg and had American forbears, though he was certainly naturalized and is always referred to as ‘the Australian painter’. Constant, though born in England in 1905, never came to Australia, but always thought of himself as Australian, and worked with many Australian artists, including Robert Helpmann and Arthur Benjamin.
His musical education took place in London; while he was thirteen, and still at Christ’s Hospital, he wrote his first orchestral works, and later at the Royal College he learned composition from Ralph Vaughan Williams and conducting from Malcolm Sargent. Astonishingly, at twenty the great impresario Serge Diaghilev commissioned him to write a score for a ballet by Bronislava Nijinska about a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet (the principal dancers who are rehearsing the play make love rather than rehearsing their parts). It was not altogether a happy collaboration – Lambert disagreed with every idea Diaghilev had about the piece, and the impresario lost his temper and took to avoiding him. Then Diaghilev cut an important scene and both Nijinska and Lambert were incandescent with rage. Lambert tried to remove his orchestral score from the orchestra pit, but was forestalled – at rehearsals he had a man on each side of him to make sure he didn’t tear up the music. He told his mother he became so distraught that Diaghilev had him watched by two detectives!
The ballet was not a success, but the audience at the first night called for Lambert until he took a bow, ‘blushing like a schoolboy,’ the Daily Express reported. It was a pretty upsetting experience - but it gave Lambert experience both for writing for the ballet and conducting performances. For the next few years he concentrated on composition, turning out among other pieces his most popular work, The Rio Grande, for piano, alto soloists, chorus and orchestra, to a libretto by Sacheverall Sitwell. It was written for a ballet, A Day in a Southern Port, about low life in a tropical sea-port, with prostitutes in skimpy costumes and an orgy of sailors, and shows Lambert’s interest in African-American music and jazz (he was a great admirer of Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Stéfane Grappeli) . His masterpiece however may be Summer's Last Will and Testament, a choral setting of Thomas Nashe's poem about 16th-century London in the plague years. It is scarcely ever performed.
As a conductor he was very active, highly effective in  the romantic Russian composers, many of whose works he introduced to British audiences. The most important and influential part of his life began in the 1930s, when he began conducting for the Vic-Wells Ballet (later the Royal Ballet). With Ninette de Valois, the company’s director,  and Frederick Ashton, its chief choreographer,  he was one of a trio who really built the company’s reputation, not only musically but with his keen interest in stage design. His enthusiasm, it was said, ‘flowed like a torrent, drenched like a fountain.’ Helpmann thought he was the greatest of all conductors for the ballet: he could, he said, make the Sadler’s Wells orchestra sound doubt its size.
But one must not give the impression that his was a sad and unfulfilled life. It had one great romance: A Day in a Southern Port provided a first starring role for Margot Fonteyn. She fell desperately in love with him, and despite his being married and twice her age, their liaison lasted for many years. Certainly he gave up composition in favour of his work for the Vic-Wells – which among other things meant frenetic work during the war years, when the company toured incessantly – but he also  had a real talent for friendship, with among others Ashton, the Sitwells, Michael Tippett (who he called Arseover Tippett) the artist Michael Ayrton and the writer Anthony Powell – in whose A Dance to the M music of Time he appears as the character Hugh Moreland.
He himself was no mean writer, and his book Music Ho!, sub-titled ‘A study of music in decline’ is acute, opinionated, idiosyncratic and often very funny. Of one composer’s work he writes, ‘The gear-change between the first and second subjects would have made a dead French taxi-driver turn in his grave’, and he claimed that while many composers work at the piano, Brahms must have worked at the double-bass. He composed scabrous limericks, and loved practical jokes: he once published a fake catalogue of a Royal Academy exhibition which included paintings by the highly conventional painter Frank Brangwyn, with the titles ‘Blowing Up the Rubber Roman and ‘The Annual Dinner of the Rectal Dining Society.’ He could also turn out a witty verse at the drop of a hat – for instance a ‘Ballad of LMS Hotels’, inspired by the discomfort of wartime train journeys. Faced with having to rehearse a rival composer’s work, he invented a rhyme to suit the main rhythm: ‘Oh dearie me / I do want to pee / And I don't much care if the audience see.’
Lambert was said to be the most fervent drunk of his generation (he would not have scorned the title). He died, in 1951, of undiagnosed diabetes complicated by alcohol poisoning. He may have been only a demi-semi Australian, but who would not want to claim him s a fellow citizen?