Sondheim on Sondheim

Sondheim on Sondheim

My friend Colin had a framed type-written signed letter from Stephen Sondheim on the wall of his apartment. He also had one from Dame Judi Dench also, but that’s just bragging :) I don’t remember exactly what the letter said, though I’m guessing, since it was Sondheim, it was probably beautifully written, sensitive and with a twist of humour. I don’t imagine it was a form letter.

The reason I feel this way is because I began to understand a little more about his character from attending “Sondheim on Sondheim”, a musical review featuring some of the best of his works, currently playing at Sydney’s Seymour Centre. The songs are accompanied video inserts of Sondheim himself providing a narrative, talking about his works (the good, the bad, the indifferent) and his feelings about them many years later. The narration is very funny, often touching (as he spoke about being raised by Oscar Hammerstein, for example), and always witty and intelligent.

The performances in this particular production are stellar. “There wasn’t a single dud amongst them”, a friend who is a performer told me during intermission. Great voices. Great harmonies.

Though it could have been little more than a “hits and memories” musical, this particular review steers clear of that. Sadly for me, the production failed to include some his bigger hits, “Another Hundred People” and “Ladies Who Lunch” (for example), instead featuring some of his more obscure works. One song, for example, we’re told was only performed once and then dropped. There’s also a segment which takes the piss out of arguably his best known work, “Send In The Clowns”. Very funny.

If you love musical theatre, I’d highly recommend seeing it during its short run at the Seymour Centre. Colin would have loved it, I’m sure.

5 MV

Twenty Five Years

5 MV

5 MV

The official employment offer letter states it was twenty five years today that I was offered a job at the ABC.

I’d previously been employed at the community radio station at Bourke in Western NSW. I’d applied for a few ABC jobs during the previous six months. When the call came through from Don Bensted offering me the position, I actually had to ask him “for which job”. In reality, it didn’t matter much to me, as I’d long wanted to work for ABC Radio.

I have a vague memory of finishing work in Bourke on a Wednesday or a Thursday, driving overnight via Broken Hill, and of arriving in Renmark on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. I’m pretty sure I went to air the following Monday, though it’s possible I had a few days to settle in.

Twenty five years later and I’m still working for the ABC. Along the way, I’ve been the Morning Presenter in Wagga Wagga, the Statewide Afternoon and Drive presenter in NSW, and have acted in other jobs in Darwin, Perth, Canberra and Lismore.

Ten years ago I made the switch from on-air presenter to Manager which wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it might be ego-wise. In a lovely piece of symmetry, I’m currently back in Regional Radio, working as the National Manager of our regional stations.

I’ve had many great opportunities over the last twenty five years, and I continue to love working for a really terrific organisation. Win.

Bottle Brush, Surry Hills

Bottle Brush

I’ve always been fond of the bottle-brush (aka Callistemon).

We had one in our front yard of the house in which I grew up in South Lismore. I remember when dad planted it, it seemed like a fragile little thing. The last time I drove past the house, I noticed it was still there, almost as tall as the two story house itself. I think dad would be happy to know it has survived for thirty to forty years.

Until earlier this morning, I’d never really noticed the bottle brush in my street in Surry, Hills, Sydney. But as I made my way down the street to get a haircut, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this one. The colours are vibrant, even if you can’t necessarily see them in my photograph taken on my phone.

Mental As

If I could afford it (which I can’t), I’d love to buy the work by Ben Quilty, currently on display at the ABC Ultimo HQ. It’s a beautiful work about a soldier living with post traumatic stress disorder. Ben has done a lot of work documenting the lives of Australian soldiers who have fought in recent conflicts, and I think this is a particularly beautiful one. The large slabs of paint. The great colours. The subject matter.

If you have the money, and you like the works, it would be good if you could support #mentalas, an auction in support of mental health research. Details are here, http://www.smhr.org.au/mental-as-auction.aspx. Hope you like the images which I snapped on the way home from work tonight.

Australian Life

“At my funeral, can you take a photograph instead of having a guestbook?”, I asked my friend Sue on the weekend. “It’s always so hard thinking of what to say”, I added, noting it would be far more interesting and far easier just to take a photograph of everyone. The photograph of those attending the funeral of Martin Sharp was one of my favourites in this year’s “Art and About” “Australian Life” photographic competition.

Yes, “Australian Life” not “Sydney Life” as it has always been. The other addition this year was a separate photographic exhibition for children. “The composition of some of these photographs is really amazing”, Sue noted as we wandered around looking at the photographic work of children. “Most of my photographs from that time feature too much sky and lots of chopped off heads”, I noted.

Even with the changes this year, the photographic competition remains one of my favourite part of the annual “Art and About” project in Sydney. Although I thought there were a few photographic cliches this year, I still really loved the competition, and have shared with you, in situ, my favourites from this year’s competition.

School Photographs

As we stood and waited in line, we laughed about some of our own experiences from many years ago of school photographs. “Which of us will need to sit down in front with their legs crossed?” we wondered. “Have you worn the proper school knickers”, I asked Sue, reminding her to “cross her legs” if she had to sit down the front. The idea of sitting for a modern day “class photograph” was an enticing one, and why we could be bothered standing in line outside the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney on the weekend.

As part of Art and About in Sydney, there’s a photographer re-creating “school photographs” with a modern twist. The “modern twist” is that everyone’s much older, and there’s definitely a much larger level of cultural diversity in the photographs of modern day Sydney than you would find in the photographs of, for example, South Lismore Public School in the early to mid 1970s or Richmond River High School in the late 70s to early 1980s.

It was a really fun project to participate in. Best of all? You got a free photograph at the end.

All of the digital photographs are online.

In case you’re wondering, here’s one of my class photographs from the early 80s.

Surry Hills Festival

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. It was perfect weather for a lunchtime wander around the Surry Hills Festival. There were LOTS of other people who’d come to a similar conclusion. What I experienced this year was pretty good : still very community focussed, but with broader appeal. Much improved from the years when the festival had aspirations to be a “big rock festival” with (I thought) little connection to the community itself. Here are some photographs I snapped.