The sun whose rays ..


Gilbert & Sullivan were a favourite …. recall Yum-Yum. “The sun whose rays …. ”   Gloria Wilson, that beautiful lady, that most pugnacious of singing teachers, that wise woman, has finally been called home.  And those rays of gold, of russet and rose, are now dimmed at dusk.  Rest you.

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The Storyteller

Anthony is gone from us; a journey to another land, and we cannot follow him. For now.

And I am reminded of his passion for telling stories.

They arose in him like a boyishness. An impish giggle,. From some deep mirth  in him that let you know he was a serious joker..  There … under his lips, squeezing out of his mouth an observation, a truth, an insight, but most probably something jocund.

Like the time he dialled the operator and asked for the number of some business in Melbourne … Punt Road … [a pause]… “Is that with a ‘C'”… [equal value silence] …. “no. Its with a P. As in Penis!”

Or wearing tights at an audition, and being told to … slowly … “turn around” … which was funny enough but the choreographer was a woman. Helpless mirth.

Or “That’s the 3rd funniest thing you’ve said today”. And you laughed to think that somebody had been keeping tally ….??

Of boyish manhood and travels in Europe. Waking half-naked on some beach in the the Mediterranean coast. Deeply romantic. But always, Mario, The stories came back to Mario.

The time he and I attended a class in contact improvisation under the tutelage of a passionate advocate for that now-dead art form …. after hours of body contact with a stranger, rolling around on the floor we emerged from the melee below breathless and exhausted “sex without the benefit of orgasm” said he.

Or at me, as I chortled underneath my breath at the ballet barre, at some wicked aside from Terry … “And what are you guffawing at so silently, Mr Dawson? Do, share.”

and there is a crack in the universe,  a vicious, piercing, yawning, deepening void and I have been too frightened to look down it for a long time. I shall miss him for as long as the day is as endless in my own time.

That fervent  literate febrile mind that seemed to understand things to their core.

That shapeless lithe form that exuded wit and delight whenever it turned to choreography and form; that demonstrated strong health and love for beauty.

Blasted by something neurological, too … we had seen the fight  gone from him too soon, the capability eroded, the passion dimmed and fled. We had had them over for dinner one evening, and while the others ate, Terry and I held him aloft and danced as we did a pas de trio with him, following, leading, smiling, doing the steps he had taughht us at ballet a million times before, steps that he now briefly  remembered and joined in, and smileed at , beamed at …but that was nothing compared to the bitter hardship years that must have surrounded him, and engulfed Mario, too.

One set of nights two years ago, in 2015 – still, darkened, but brilliant nights – he came to me and haunted my head so that I had to write a poem for him. Here it is;

Song for Anthony

I watched a bird –

I thought of you –

A Snow White Crane

Dancing to a sarabande,

Before it flew

Into a sky too beautiful to last forever.


I looked for you.

You were not there –

Though there you are;

The bird and you,

In perfect promenade,

Have flown too far

For me to ever follow.


No rain can quench your blue white flame; it sears the past remembered sky

No flood can douse the bright white light of memory, though time might try

You are too clear to me

To dear to me

For tears to wash you far away

My forever dancing friend.


Each twining line of flight

Poised, exquisite

Fades from sight. Or is it

Tears held back which blur the vision?

I never said goodbye

Or thanked you, proper.


No rain can quench your blue white flame; it sears the past remembered sky

No flood can douse the bright white light of memory, though time might try

You are too clear to me

To dear to me

For tears to wash you far away

My forever




Martin Anthony McDonnell  19/10/1949 – 16/10/2017

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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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Health check #2

I am permanently disabled now. My GP and  neurologist agree. In fact, the neurologist thinks I will be a candidate for deep brain stimulation. I tell him he will be a candidate for the deep pile rubbish heap if keeps up that sort of dirty talk. But he just smirks in his enigmatic  sort of Mediterranean  way (he’s of Greek heritage; we have a lot in common. I loved Greek mythology as a kid, so at least we have the gods of Olympus in common), and writes me a script for medication  – for a higher dosage  or increased strength, increased frequency, that sort of thing.

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The Singer takes a break …

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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 

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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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