Sunday, June 22

Opera in the schools

A group of 4 schools in Sydney are collaborating to produce an opera; completely dependant upon the students themselves. To produce the libretto, musical score, sets, staging and choreography under the guidance of their school musical teacher. Apparently many of the students had never even seen an opera before, and decided to see La Boehme to give them idea of what it is all about. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for students to discover many new dimensions in creativity they would not otherwise experience.

It also reminded me of two instances many years ago proving how easily things can go wrong even in the most professional opera companies. One instance concerned the use of Great Danes who were fitted with shaggy mains around their necks to make them look like lions. They looked magnificent. It was decided to save time there would be no need for them to join in on the dress rehearsal since all that was required was for them to be led out onto the stage at the required time. Alas on opening night when the dogs were on stage and heard the high music they all simultaneously began howling at the top of their voices; there was no alternative other than to lead the dogs off and close the curtain much to the amusement of the audience l

The second instance concerned a rather nervous soprano making her debut who was unduly concerned about a high note in her aria. This particular production called for stage extra’s who acted as spear carrying warriors under threat they would be sacked by the Producer unless they followed implicitly the directions of the prompt (The prompt sits below the stage and cannot be seen by the audience) who had been given the job of directing them into their required positions on stage.
When the soprano began her Aria the men had already entered the stage and as she continued she fluffed her top “C”. It wasn’t anything so terrible, but the Prompt grimaced and held his hands over his ears in sympathy, to which all of the spear carrying warriors acted simultaneously to the merriment of the audience. The soprano thought they were all laughing at her and tore off the stage in tears, the curtain came down with an ominous thud and after a short interval the opera recommenced. The show must go on!

Thursday, June 12

Office Scene

The modern office has been transformed because of what’s been invented in the past 40 plus years.

Personal computers, personal phones,the Internet,voice and e mail and even fax facilities which are now taken for granted simply didn’t exist then. Usually there was only a number of shared telephones and communication and storage of information was only a tiny fraction of what it is today.

Communication was largely by a hand typed letter which was reliant on the typing pool or if you were a boss via your personal secretary who took shorthand. Hand written notes were commonplace, even in official communication with external parties and most systems relied on manual input efforts or at best were mechanized inputs using accounting machines to record transactions onto hard copy individual ledger records.

Other aspects of office life that have almost disappeared include the beloved Tea Ladies, the ritual of formal morning and afternoon tea breaks, official sing on and sign off books, lunchtime interoffice sporting competitions,lunchtime card playing and the Friday afternoon office lunches.

When I was first began my working life I was also studying of an evening, for seven long years. Having left my home in the country for the city and residing in a not so flash boarding house, I often arrived late for work in a crumpled mess during my earlier disorganised years.

Ode to an old office scene

Drab and grey buildings greet your dreary day
Cold and unfriendly, they reflect our modern way
Murmurs of distant voices, dim echoes from my past
Sign the dreaded time book before your time is passed

There’s a murmur of a fact that cannot be denied
Lindsay’s train is late again, the boss is not surprised
Stagers in, faces grim, casual fashion one might guess
Forgot to iron his trousers and shirts a crumpled mess

He settles into work, to check the ledger cards
The system is manual; a checkers life's not hard
Tea break is upon him, tea lady says gidday
Not afraid to tell you, office secrets every day

Lunchtime is a signal for people great or small
Assemble at the front desk to represent us all
Teams are chosen wisely, football teams a must
Victors or Vanquished, return to slaps or cheers or hugs

Card players are a serious lot, there is no idle chatter
Game is called 500 and the rules are all that matter
For woe behold the new recruit to join the old brigade
To trump his partner's trump, can it ever be the same
Hangs his head in sorrow, prays to learn to play the game

The afternoon drags slowly on; the output's just a trickle
Soon all the work is done as we hear the knock off whistle
We stand in line in time to sign, our work is truly ended
Goodbye my friend, nostalgia time, that time I fear is ended

Sunday, June 1

The Psalms -As the deer longs

I have belonged to one of our local Catholic parish church choirs for over 20 years and I never tire of singing liturgical music, especially the Psalms. As a group we are able to choose individual hymns and psalms which fit in with the church year calendar focus and hence it’s a continual moving feast. We might choose a Psalm to be sung as a hymn or as a responsorial Psalm which is how they were first intended; the verse/chorus is repeatedly sung by the congregation after the choir sings the verses.

The Psalms have several authors; with many attributable to King David. Most people are familiar with the 23rd Psalm “The Good Shepherd (The Lord is my Shepherd) which is prefaced simply as a Psalm of David. Whether it was actually written by King David is problematic as scholars recognize many of the events described within these Psalms attributed to him happened many centuries later.

What I find interesting about the collections of 150 Psalms is the extent of the full range of emotions and drama that are cleverly interwoven to describe celebrated past events and hopeful aspirations of a community; of a rich theology. They reflect the poetic nature of the Hebrew Bible which in turn is indicative of the popularity of poetry in Israel and its surrounding regions at the time.

According to the Jerusalem Bible’s introduction to the Psalms the best way to generally characterize them is in terms of their literary types; of which they are three , Hymns , Entreaty (for use in public and temple court) and thanksgiving.

Here is one of my favorite psalms, which would fit under the heading of an "Entreaty" shown here in abbreviated form.

Psalm 42~is headed: For the Choirmaster ~ of the sons of Korah (which is a reference to the sons of Korah who were musicians at that time of the original composition)

As the deer longs for running streams,
so I long, so I long, so I long for you

A-thirst my soul for you the God who is my life!
When shall I see, when shall I see,
see the face of God?
Echoes meet as deep is calling unto deep,
over my head, all your mighty waters,
sweeping over me.
Continually the foe delights in taunting me:
“Where is God, where is your God?”
Where, O where, are you?

As the deer longs for running streams,
so I long, so I long, so I long for you.

Defend me, God, send forth your light and your truth,
they will lead me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place.
Then I shall go unto the altar of my God.
Praising you, O my joy and gladness,
I shall praise your name.

Adaption taken from Hymns listed in ‘As One Voice’ © 1988 Bob Hurd Published by OCP Publication` 'AS THE DEER LONGS'