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Mein gläubiges Herz(e)

June 2, 2010

An eventful few months, and a couple of hospital stays, and I’m the proud possessor of a reconditioned heart. Danke, mein Herz, for soldiering on when I should have had you in for servicing years ago. I suppose I should also have put these last weeks to good use, composing and practising, but I have to fess up and say that I’ve simply been vegging out here in Melbourne with mum, watching films noirs and eating lots of porridge.

Still, what with all these cancellations, I’ve had a chance to think about string quartet no.2 for my friends the Flinders Q (who launch their June programme on Saturday 5 June) and the piano quintet for the Goldners and myself to tour next year. The string quartet is shaping up as a second essay in colonial folk song evocation, a part of our musical heritage that has taken my fancy recently and which is the basis for my clarinet quintet. The piano quintet will take shape from sketches for a symphony that now looks unlikely ever to be written, mainly because there seems little prospect of a commission for such a large work. That’s life, I suppose, and I’m happy to write what does need writing.

The Coriole Festival came and went, and I wasn’t there, to my great sadness. I missed playing with my colleagues the Goldners and Geoff Collins — sorry Geoff! — and didn’t get to introduce and hear the premiere of my first string quartet ‘Woodcuts’. Fortunately, the GSQ played it again at the ISCM World Music Days festival) and they were brilliant. I do think I have been very fortunate in my short composing career to have had so many performances by so many wonderful groups. And I’m looking forward tremendously to being well and fit for the tours next year. Musica Viva sent the delightful photographer Keith Saunders down to spend a day photographing my ugly mug for the brochure next year, and sent me a long questionnaire of curly ones to answer for the blurb. I remembered my principal’s advice long ago when I was being invested as a prefect, to ‘circumscribe my behaviour’, and refrained from sarky remarks in response to a few of them… But perhaps, admitting that here is just as bad? I don’t know.

My pupils have been getting along without me and have all sent the most beautiful messages. I came over all avuncular when I read them, and was reminded what a privilege it is to teach. George Bernard Shaw, you always were full of it. How on earth do you learn much of what it’s necessary to learn without teaching it first?

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