A vocal era, gone…

I might have supposed it had gone in 2007, the year I left Summerhouse. My time with that extraordinary vocal ensemble  – all a cappella and secluded, that had climbed to unimagined heights – was over. I had left for good my friends and compatriots in the ensemble in which I had learned to be part of so many different types of music,  types that were unavailable to me as a soloist: with Summerhouse I could be a part of music that was sung tenderly, beautifully, ravishingly. The comic efforts upon which I had plied my artistry as a soloist were left behind – no more patter for me, thank you Mr Gilbert. I felt that with Summerhouse  I could be taken seriously. All kinds of thing that my dear little doll-like voice could not achieve on its own, collectively we had a  shot at: we made beautiful music out of my arrangement of the Janis Ian ballad  “She must be beautiful “; sang the Armenian hymn Aravot lousaber as if we were fresh from a  monastery; took to new pathways the Stephen Taberner arrangement of Rex Sexsmith’s poignant lullaby “Sleeping with the angel’”; and fell under the enchantment of Monica’s piece “Gaia’s Voice”.

And since that magnificence,  I’ve enjoyed six years as director of Close Harmony Choir, a  community choir, in Subiaco/Nedlands (2011-17). We have likewise pulled off some audacious projects: Christmas songs under a gazebo in Kings Park; a reenactment of that Christmas cult movie, called Christmas, Actually this time; two appearances at Dunsborough Songfest; a weekend retreat for our own pleasure at New Norcia; and, my personal favourite, in support for my one-man show Adventures of a Poet. But now that’s all come to a close as I pass the reins to a new Prince and crown him Young King Ryan.


It seemed fitting that this cycle of ascendancy took place at the Guildford Town Hall, where many years ago it had witnessed my giddying rise to glory as the EmCee in Garrick Theatre’s production of Cabaret (1985?). And if then I sang the opening number “Willkommen”, now I had an exit to make. But there was no farewell song, although there were rousing cheers.

There were 12 singers today (plus 2 conductors) – a small enough size for a choir. But despite having the odds stacked against them they clutched for grim mercy against the occasional musical demands I asked from them – the crescendo to a shattering last chord on Yawei; the subito pianissimo on verse 2 as Brothers got a farewell from the womenfolk in Stand by the shore; the surprising swell that emerged in the bridge passage of Great is He; the precision of the choreography in Akekho, and the unbridled delight of releasing Pete Townsend’s familiar pop hit “Left my love” in which Ryan and I joined in the singing as guest basses.

Unexpectedly, a farewell from Sammi – in public too – and I felt I heard a wave of applause from the audience that was meant as support; one of their own (there were many choirs in the Town Hall that afternoon) had leapt from the ledge of the cliff-top one final time as he winged his way toward foreign shores. “Bon chance”,  they seemed to say.

I didn’t cry. I rarely do. But believe me, if felt as though much medicine had been ministered to the soul that afternoon, and,  for all the struggles I have faced and will face, this makes me grateful to the core, the very vital fabric of my core.

fullsizeoutput_179f Thank you!



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The Singer takes a break …

You really ought to listen to The Disney Album to hear the expressive range, or hear her disc It’s Better with a Band for the thrilling exuberance of the sounds of a soprano whose voice wants to make you dance or the OBC (Original Broadway Cast album) of Candide (the original of course, 1956) to set you giggling as a coloratura hits a glorious high C (in the aria Glitter and be gay – this, long before the modern-day whacky diva Kristin Chenoweth sank her not-in-considerable musical chops into the piece, but the original by Cook honours composer Bernstein’s intention more truly by relishing the operatic and lyrical parody set down before her). There is so much more to write about the Barbara Cook “songbook”, and yet she is gone … as we all must do sometime, but to lose such a unique artist. Irreplaceable. Continue reading

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New beginnings 

Yesterday I left Sheldrake Way for the second time in less than 10 years. Robert and I have separated after 14 years, and I have moved out of our home first acquired in 1985. 14 unmissable years. Madeleine and I are living with Aunty Heather in South Perth and she is taking excellent care of us. She loves the puppy very much. Continue reading


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Health check

I collapsed at work, 6 February, so  I took some time off to monitor my health. The next week, at home, on my way into the study and the iMac, I lost balance, tripped, stumbled and shuffled furiously forward toward the window. My hand naturally shot up and outward and it went straight through the glass pane of the window (no arteries or nerve endings were damaged, miraculously, but I needed more time off, and 14 stitches.) And that’s when it started – the downhill, backward slope of treachery. Continue reading


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US road trip, (1990) Part II: Woodlands and Seabords

If the major cities represented punctuation marks in my 1990 travels, then the grammar of the journey was filled with sentences of woodlands and seabords – places off the beaten track, and places full of enchantment. I had set a course and I was heading to Philadelphia, home of  the Second Continental Congress, seat of that remarkable Sherman Edwards-Peter Stone musical, 1776. But before I could reach it, I first took on the central woodlands of West Virginia followed by the candy beach houses of Cape May on the New Jersey coast. Continue reading

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Ising article #2

That informative digital mag for singers – very knowledgeable, very well connected – iSing has published a second article I submitted. Still about singing for Parkinson’s.

Here it is in pdf.


I think I am more productive than ever, Could this disease have its up–side??

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Christmas in the Library

Not since 1995 when we magnificently transformed the 2nd floor Music Library in the Alexander Library Building into an ethereal place of thanks to farewell legendary Manager Kaye Hill have I dared to undertake such an audacious site-specific multi-layered setting such as this.

It is ‘Carols in the Library’ at Riverton Library this Friday night Dec 16th 2016, and it is a festival of Christmas spirit all in the one place and for one night only.

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Aunty Else, a souvenir

Aged 97, Mums eldest sister (and only surviving sibling), Aunty Else (Dodd) , has left us for remote shores, and we cannot follow, for now.

To sing her a lay of farewell, the family invited me to deliver the eulogy at the service. I am deeply touched by the honour. As I have said to the celebrant, I would rather it was called a Remembrance.

Here it is, a remembrance of Aunty Else.






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Dunsborough Songfest

imgp9349-1We returned to Dunsborough in 2017, Cl0se Harmony Choir and its conductor, hoping to revisit the unexpected delight that met us in our first visit two years ago. And if that year’s program had been delivered in the quiet acoustics of St Michael’s Catholic Church, this year I planned a more vibrant, up-tempo program for the Old Town Hall.

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A fall … now, a rise?

The annual charity event, A Walk in the Park, was for Parkinson’s WA and had me at full tilt in September. I was the leading fundraiser in WA.  I was eager to complete the event; hungry to raise funds; groomed to lead my choir into song on the day. And then two days before, the flu. A persistent kind of belittling viral (or bacterial) infection that did more than just produce its usual kind of symptoms in me – it seemed somehow to exacerbate the Parkinsonian symptoms.


The continence problems were the first to make an appearance – with each hacking cough, the bladder opened up, and I couldn’t find a compensating kind of Hoover-Dam effect with which to offset it. Then lethargy came with it. Unsteadiness (my old, odd-companion) turned traitor, and one fair midnight, in the garden, toppled me. For 5 silent minutes I lay there, Madeleine nearby – toiletted and puzzled – as I put my arms out wide into push-up stance, and heaved  … but no movement, nothing. No strength, no momentum. I smiled. I was grounded.
My pill frequency had become one-every-two-hours. I had ceased to run (to ‘joffle’), had abandoned the ballet-barre and the cross-trainer, mumbled my way through the last half of choir, and waved my arms as if to conduct (but in truth this was an outward show of some kind of movement. More accurately, I approximated a sick seal at Sea World as I flailed my meagre ‘flippers’ around my waist, never at chest height as would a good conductor). Maybe the medication was not strong enough?

I have seen the neurologist since. We have increased the strength of the extended-release medication Sifrol to improve the chances of the other medications attaching to the neurotransmitters of the brain. All should be good, right? It’s not.

Are my neurotransmitters at fault? I am obviously no Wireless Hill and mywee neurotransmitters (all them pesky little critters) ought to be stripped down and replaced! I take a pill … I still feel ill. But … there is some show of improvement. My pill-interval is now 4 hours instead of 2, and as it takes a hold (say, 2 hours) I am refreshed. I’ve even been accused of running! I’ve shouted (in jest!) at the choir. I’ve stayed up past 8:30. I am beginning to write again.

We have some way to go to stabilise my condition, but finally, after a long fall, a rise … but Robert and I have each other, and beautiful family, and caring friends and are blessed with a choir that nourishes us both xx

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