Friday, 16 December 2016

2016: #whatjusthappened

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Twenty-sixteen. Woah, amiright?

Srsly it's been *quite* the year. I could zoom in on my life – me, myself, I moi, what fun – and talk about how I started the year on a small sheep station in the dusty centre of New South Wales, in Australia (population: 2) and ended it in the hustle and bustle of London, the 25th largest city in the world.

I could also talk about my own personal highs – starting a career in television, visiting my UK home for the first time in 612 days – and lows, like having to spend the first part of the year stressing over the visa resulting from said experience living on said small sheep station in the dusty centre of New South Wales. 

Or I could just move on to reminiscing about the exciting (read scary AF) global developments that happened in 2016, like 'Brexit' (not a fun new British biscuit to try with your next cuppa, Mr I've Been Living Under A Rock) and T–. Sorry, let me try that again. Tr–. Urgh, sorry I just can't seem to say it. Trump. There we go: President-elect of the United States of America, Mr Donald John Trump. Ahem.

OK, I'll do it all. If you've read this far I probably haven't sent you off to sleep yet anyway 🙌. So, in honour of the year where #whatjusthappened was surely the most used hashtag of all, I present the highs, the lows and the woahs of 2016.

The highs


Trading the sticks for the city lights

Family, friends and readers of my travel blog will know I spent three months working on a farm so that I could live in Australia for a bit longer. The first highlight of 2016 was throwing off my heavy, mud-caked boots and sticky jeans, and pulling on some finer threads to journey back to the bright lights of Sydney. By the end of the first week in January I was back at home in Newtown, spending light evenings sipping wine in the garden, donning a bikini for hot beach days and reaffirming my bond with my laptop (not to mention that thing called The Internet) in order to obtain any employment I could get my hands on.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Playing in Strathfield Symphony Orchestra

In between emails to and from prospective employers, I found an invitation to play the flute and piccolo for Strathfield Symphony Orchestra. I jumped at the opportunity and after several weeks of rehearsals found myself playing fave film scores – cue 'Harry Potter', 'Star Wars', 'Forrest Gump' and the other usual suspects – in Strathfield Town Hall with a damn fine orchestra. A piccolo solo in 'Hedwig's Theme' would be the highlight in *your* year too, trust me.

Continuing to explore Australia 

Another thing I did in between job and visa applications was to continue exploring as many places in Australia as I could. By the end of January I was jetting off to Hobart, the beautiful capital city of Tasmania, and in March the sun was still scorching in the tropical Whitsunday Islands where we spent Easter. Top of my list from Day One has been Uluru and in June we explored the incredible sights of  Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and the nearby(ish) King's Canyon. I also fell in love with Sydney's northern neighbour, Newcastle, after a dreamy weekend spent there devouring French food, sunsets and surf scenes.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Working for television

By now, you might be wondering: did she ever get a job (or ever have time for one)?! After a year of freelancing, in 2016 I finally got my big break in the Sydney media scene and it just so happened that this was in the TV area of things. I found myself producing the social media for Gogglebox Australia, The Great Australian Spelling Bee and, most recently, The X Factor Australia where I got pretty close to the TV production process, trotting around with a camera and social media app-filled iPhone, working with and producing the judges (I ❤️  Iggy Azalea) and contestants.



Running City 2 Surf

When I moved to Sydney, I heard about a magical 14K run that takes you from Hyde Park in the centre of the city, through the picturesque Eastern suburbs, and out to the world-famous Bondi Beach. "If there's anything I want to achieve living down under," I told myself, "It's this run." It just so happened that fate was on my side: a friend of mine announced she had been given a free entry pass that she couldn't use and I was milling about with thousands of other runners at the City 2 Surf start line a week later. It is the longest run I have ever done and I was pleased to have been able to run most of it (even 'heartbreak hill'), although my legs were less pleased, and I couldn't walk properly for a whole week after the race.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Visiting home for the first time in 1 year, 7 months, 3 weeks and 2 days

I arrived in Sydney in April 2015 and since then I haven't looked back. I would be lying if I said the homesickness didn't kick in pretty solidly by the middle of this year and so I *finally* did it: I finally booked myself a return flight to my homeland, my heart, to my beloved friends and family; to the soil I have missed with everything I have. 

The lows


Struggling to find a job

It's no secret to my friends and family that getting a job was *hard* for me when I arrived in Sydney and for basically my whole first year living in Australia (hence the aforementioned farm/visa blip). I don't know whether potential employers didn't like the visa I was on, rejected the previous experience I had had ("wha's this 'BBC' thing you mention 'ere, mate?") or just thought my name was a bit weird 🙅. Whatever it was, it was a struggle (I whinged about it here) and that's why I am so grateful for the stints I had at Music Feeds as a News Producer and then at various TV production companies working as a Social Media Producer.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando

I don't know about you, but to me 2016 seemed to be particularly rife with horrific acts of violence, murder and cruelty. On 12 June 2016 I cried with the rest of the world when I heard that 49 people had been killed and dozens more injured at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, a supposedly safe space where our LGBTQI family and friends should have been able to drink, drag and dance without fear of persecution. What was worse was that media coverage all too often dubbed the incident 'terror attack' instead of 'hate crime' and in doing so failed to really highlight the ongoing plight of LGBTQI people suffering from discrimination across the globe. Anyway, it's not just about us gays. The world weeped when massacre after massacre was reported in the US; when France seemed to take a battering with multiple terror attacks; and when there seemed like there couldn't be much more terrible news, Munich got a turn. And there are dozens I haven't mentioned here.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath

Losing faith in humanity 'cause Australia still hasn't passed marriage equality

My significant other and I attended no fewer than four marriage equality protests this year alone and the Liberal-National Coalition *still* won't put a bill forward for marriage equality in Australia. I'm not even going to go into why this is just the most draconian, dinosaur-y, dogmatic move the government of a 'modern' Western nation could make in 2016 because it's been said a million times.  I mean, even Ireland and it's history of deeply entrenched religious views has managed it. Australia, just... PUT THE BILL. PASS THE BILL. MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOW! See – I even know the protest chant off by heart.




The woahs


Brexit

On 23 June 2016, 52 per cent of the British population voted to leave the European Union. That is: to regain sovereignty over laws affecting Britain and relinquish the rights of free movement, funding for disadvantaged areas and freedom from the outbreak of war between separate European nations (to put it very simply). The lead-up to the referendum vote saw heated campaigning, largely spurred on by extreme right wing intolerance, racism and abhorrent ignorance, escalate into murder when white supremacist Thomas Mair stabbed Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox in a vile and cowardly act of terror. RIP.

US Presidential Election 2016


The US Presidential Election

When I attended Sydney Opera House's Festival Of Dangerous Ideas this year, I somehow found myself at the receiving end of a spiel given by a well-known author-cum-conservative-libertarian (yeah, I know – I should have known better). Anyway, when asked what she thought of the circus that was the US Presidential Election going on at that time, she said "It was a fun experiment watching Britain have Brexit but not in America, please," flinching the possibility of a potential president Trump. Fast-forward two months and November 8 was upon us and, lo and behold, America had it's own Brexit. The disgustingly misogynistic, racist, cheese puff-coloured clown Donald Trump held 306 electoral seats while the dignified political veteran Hilary Clinton clung on to 232 seats in the electoral college. The nation was aghast; the world shocked. But many of us found ourselves to be wearily unsurprised that the deeply ingrained sexism that glues modern civilisation-as-we-know-it together had determined the result.

*

So, as I come the end of 2016 I find my heart is broken and my cynicism is at an all time high. But there is still hope; the is always hope. Aussie feminist powerhouse Clementine Ford published her powerful feminist manifesto, 'Fight Like A Girl, in 2016; fave musos Daughter, Wild Belle and James Blake and M.I.A. all released albums I couldn't stop listening to in 2016, and J.K. Rowling released a new Harry Potter book, 'The Cursed Child', albeit it in play form. I mean, look, there is *always* hope.

So there you have it: my romp back through 2016, which included a series of unfortunate events (and otherwise) that may well have shaped your year as well as mine. Now all that's left to say is Happy New Year and see you on the other side! 

– RP x


Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath



*

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

More adventures in medium format photography




"In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a Leitmotiv.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

*


It is always a treat to reach for my 1970s' Seagull Twin Lens Reflex camera, blow off the dust, gently unravel a roll of 120 film and feed it through the delicate plastic spools ready for shooting. Where others might have a couple of cute pups bouncing around their feet, I have my weighty old cameras to give me the perfect excuse to get out the door into the sunshine. I recently took that excuse and used it to explore the backstreets of the Sydney suburbs of Newtown, Eveleigh, Darlington and beyond.

My adventure started on King Street and took me along Wilson Street to Carriageworks and then way over to Glebe, via Redfern, Chippendale and Ultimo. By then it was more than time to turn my nose homewards and with aching feet and a full roll of film I followed Parramatta Road back to the suburb I call home (via delicious coffee at Deus Bar & Cafe). 

"Every straight horizon I achieved was a small victory, every matched vertical line a triumph"

I found focussing on small details through the Seagull's flipped viewfinder as magical-yet-stomach flipping as usual. Every straight horizon I achieved was a small victory, every matched vertical line a triumph. Key learnings this time round? Don't do a medium format shoot without a trusty tripod (or similar) and *buckets* of patience.

– RP

*

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Saturday, 20 February 2016

From Bach to the blues: how daring, eclectic programmes have made The Song Company Australia’s foremost vocal ensemble

This article was originally commissioned for Sinfini Music Australia. It is reproduced here with the permission of Universal Music Group Copyright © 2016 Universal Music Group 




Last June Australia’s pre-eminent acapella ensemble, The Song Company, announced that it would be appointing a new artistic director after an illustrious 25-year journey with the esteemed Belgian-Australian conductor Roland Peelman. With the New Year began The Song Company’s new regime under artistic director Antony Pitts and they are kicking things off in style: with an irresistible selection of Bach, Brahms and Mendelssohn motets and chorales in a programme called Bach & Forward.

Since being founded in 1984, The Song Company has released a number of acclaimed recordings and performs extensively around Australia and internationally. Apart from its high performance standard, what makes the Company stand out is its confidence to put together wildly eclectic programmes. In one season the ensemble can perform anything from Renaissance polyphony to modern blues, to brand new chamber works.

‘For me, it’s the range of repertoire and the freedom to be daring in programming, coupled with an elite team of singers who are given the time to prepare and experiment, that makes The Song Company stand out,’ current artistic director Antony Pitts tells me. ‘It’s a winning combination that has flourished under Roland and I’m honoured to be taking up the baton.’

‘Its more than enough to entice me and my family to move halfway around the world,’ he adds.

2016 is all about legacy and transformation for The Song Company; about taking what’s been achieved over the last 30 years, building on it, and going in some new directions as well. 

‘Our tagline for 2016 is “transfigured voices”,’ Pitts explains. ‘We have a wide range of programmes across the season with both old and brand new music, as well as some hopefully intriguing juxtapositions: early Dutch songs next to Indigenous Australian sounds, Billie Holiday tunes next to new Australian works, and Monteverdi rubbing shoulders with one of my own pieces for Easter.’

Pitts continues: ‘In 2017 we’ll be opening some very different doors onto soundworlds where opposites both attract and clash, from a medieval pageant to refugees from the Middle East, and from 1920s high society to the radical vision of Martin Luther’s 1517 revolution.’


"2016 is all about legacy and transformation for The Song Company"

The Bach & Forward programme Pitts will conduct this month begins with the coupling of  Bach’s Motet BWV 228 ‘Fürchte dich nicht, Ich bin bei dir’ with Mendelssohn’s Motets, Op.69, and contextualises Bach’s music with works by the Romantic composers who helped to revive it.

Bach & Forward is the first of our seven main season programmes in 2016, and comes out of a legacy programme I inherited from Roland,’ Pitts says. ‘Essentially, it’s three of the extraordinary Bach motets interwoven with 19th-century music inspired by Bach’s own legacy. We’ll be joined by two extra singers, Tobias Cole and Andrew Goodwin, and by Daniel Yeadon and Neal Peres Da Costa on cello and organ, both in a continuo role and as a duo.’

Pitts continues: ’Bach himself said “The ultimate end of thoroughbass [bass continuo] should only be the glory of God and the recreation of the mind.” The continuo combined with the eight voices should achieve what Bach’s contemporary Johann Adolf Scheibe described as “A spiritual motet [that] if you perform it with its full potential, creates an extraordinary, heartfelt joy [that] enlivens us and yet makes us thoughtful.”’ The programme looks back to Bach, just as Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms all did, while looking forward to music inspired by his genius.





"Bach just gets it right"

Why Bach’s music and legacy has continued to inspire leading composers and performers over time is a subject as fascinating as it is boundless. Whether its the spontaneity of expression or Bach’s mathematic approach that contribute to his music’s enduring appeal, its not possible to exaggerate the influence it has had on Western music.

‘Bach just gets it right,’ Pitts enthuses. ‘He knows what he’s doing with the notes so that it always adds up both vertically in terms of the harmony and horizontally in terms of the individual lines.  And I think our brains and our minds – and no doubt our spirits – like that sense of order and beauty.’

He continues: ‘Getting it right is not always easy listening, though, and we should remember that some of Bach’s contemporaries complained his music was turgid and confused.’

Bach was all but forgotten in the fifty years that followed his death. In fact it wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th Century, when German musicologist Johann Nikolaus Forkel published a study of Bach’s life, that the revival of Bach’s music really gained momentum. Mendelssohn’s  1829 centenary performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and the subsequent publication of collections of Bach’s complete works, helped cement the composer’s legacy and his reputation in history.

"This is not a man in an ivory tower, however pure and heavenly his music, but someone battling with life and working so hard that his music flowed in a way that now seems totally natural to us."

‘What I find interesting (and relate to very well) is the accounts of how Bach had to deal with the administration surrounding his employment, his family, and the local officials,’ Pitts tells me. ‘This is not a man in an ivory tower, however pure and heavenly his music, but someone battling with life and working so hard that his music flowed in a way that now seems totally natural to us.’

When asked what he’s got planned for The Song Company over the next few years, Pitts reveals that he’s been writing a kind of manifesto for the ensemble.

‘What I find I keep coming back to is the importance, today more than ever, of beauty,’ Pitts explains. ‘I don’t mean simply Shakespeare’s “concord of sweet sounds” or the complex euphony of some of the rich counterpoint we sing, but the beauty of purpose, a higher-order harmony of connections between themes and people, ideas and the expression of those ideas. I really believe that music has a radical power to make a difference in this troubled world, to reshape our minds and to see things more clearly, with more sympathy – and a nourishing ability to open up and distill our restless hearts, resulting in a new appreciation of the possible.’ 

Bach seems as fitting a composer as any to start bringing such a manifesto to life.


The Song Company performs Bach & Forward in venues in and around Sydney from Sunday 21 February to Saturday 27 February. Visit www.songcompany.com.au to find out more



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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Playlist: Grimes



Grimes's newest album, Art Angels, juxtaposes the most ethereal and upbeat fairy-princess pop songs the singer can make ('California', 'Belly of the Beat' and 'Artangels') with her scariest growly stuff ('SCREAM' featuring Taiwanese rapper, Aristophanes), and it's great. 

The intro – 'laughing and not being normal' – is all luxuriant strings and orchestral textures, with Grimes's idiosyncratic high-pitched voice soaring over the top. 

Other highlights on the album include 'Kill V. Maim' and 'Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream', which made it into the Triple J Hottest 100 (#71) this year.

Grimes plays Enmore Theatre in Sydney on 10 February 2016. Visit: www.grimesmusic.com











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Sunday, 24 January 2016

What if you could have a 'Netflix' for live music? Now you can: enter, GiggedIn Infinite...

Gigged In Netflix for live music, Sydney


Have you ever wished there was something like Netflix for live music? That you could pay one, small monthly fee for as many gigs as you like without having to spend hours trying to find the next best live events before signing up to several websites to get hold of tickets?

Now you can. Enter, GiggedIn Infinite. Dubbed 'the best investment any person can make for their social life' due to its power to give members the ability to attend an unlimited number of live music events every week, GiggedIn works just like Netflix and Spotify.

How GiggedIn Infinite works


• You pay $35 per month
• New gigs are dropped on GiggedIn's website at 12pm every day with two day's notice
• If you want to attend an event, click the RSVP button and you'll automatically be placed on the guest list for that event – there's no need to book tickets separately 
• On the day, give your name and ID at the door, and say you're on the GiggedIn guest list, and you're in!

Easy.

GiggedIn Infinite is the latest offering from entrepreneur Edwin Onggo's Sydney-based company GiggedIn. Founded in 2012, GiggedIn was born of Onggo's desire to get more people out of their homes and experiencing live music. It was founded as a crowdfunding platform for music fans and musicians to get more live shows put on and sold out, and has worked with the likes of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and George Said Management to put on events. The company expanded to GiggedIn Infinite five months ago and the service is currently only available in Sydney, with plans to extend to other cities in Australia. You can get tickets to events at Metro Theatre, Oxford Art Factory, Plan B Small Club (formerly Goodgod), The Vanguard, Newtown Social Club and many more venues in Sydney.





Why you should subscribe to GiggedIn Infinite


It's so easy – you pay one monthly fee and have unlimited access to events at over 20 venues in Sydney. There are no nasty hidden costs, complications or catches.
It's great value – for $35 a month ($8.75 a week) you can go to a different gig every day. Think about it, most gigs ordinarily cost around $20, so as a gig-goer you are saving a huge amount while seeing more music than ever.
You will discover lots of new music – if you're going to a gig every day for the price of peanuts, you won't think twice ever again about going to a performance by an artist you don't know because you're only paying a couple of dollars for it. Imagine all the fantastic new music you will find!
You will be supporting musicians and venues – there is nothing worse than playing to an empty room, and by signing up to Infinite, you are helping to guarantee artists an audience to play to. Plus, while venues are closing all around us, GiggedIn is doing important work in keeping the scene vibrant and getting music fans to fantastic events. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?





So, you want in? I have a special offer for all my blog readers looking to get the most out of Sydney's music scene.

How you can sign up to GiggedIn Infinite (and get $15 off your first month of membership, on me)


• Enter PRROSIE and click 'claim' 
• You will have a seven-day free trial, starting from the first event you want to attend
• If you decide to stay a member, you will get $15 off your first month's fee

Visit infinite.giggedin.com or GiggedIn's FAQ page to find out more. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment below, email me or find me on Twitter.

Happy listening!

___



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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Playlist: The Drones



Australian alt-rock band The Drones dropped the world premiere of 'To Think That I Once Loved You' yesterday (Monday 18 January). I heard it on Triple J and was completely blown away by how visceral and raw and beautiful the track is. Frontman Garreth Liddiard strains his low voice through reflection and pain and hate in the most affecting way, and the homorhythmic treatment of the backing vocals in the chorus makes it all the more poignant. It's powerful stuff.

The Drones formed way back in 1997 in Perth, an outlet for Liddiard's experimental music that has seen different members come and go over the years. The more permanent fixtures include bass guitarist and vocalist Fiona Kitschin, who joined in 2002, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Luscombe, who joined in 2007. The project is now based in Melbourne.

'To Think That I Once Loved You' features Melbourne-based band Harmony, which adds an extra layer of richness to the single. We are on the cusp of The Drone's seventh studio album release – Feeling Kinda Free is out on 18 March 2016 – and I can't wait to see what else they do.

Visit: thedrones.com.au









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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Adventures in medium format photography

Photo © Rosie Pentreath


This Christmas, I was spoilt to a beautiful 1970s Seagull Twin Lens Reflex camera. A medium format camera produced by the Shanghai General Camera Factory from the 1950s onwards, the original Seagull was based on Franke & Heidecke's iconic Rolleiflex and exists in several models that take varied film types, although most are designed for 120 format film.

As the name suggests, a Twin Lex Reflex (TLR) camera has two lenses – one for the viewfinder and one that takes the shot – with  a large viewfinder at the top for the user to look down into. TLRs seem to have first emerged in the 1870s to facilitate focusing while shooting and were later defined by the use of an internal reflex mirror to allow viewing from above.

For a modern user it can be quite confusing because everything is flipped in the viewfinder: move the camera to the right, for example, and the image in the viewfinder will jump quite abruptly left. It is quite tricky to get used to steadying the camera to line up with horizons and verticals too, but once you get a feel for it, the 12 exposures come out satisfyingly crisp and bright. Using a fully-manual camera is a fantastic way to learn about which aperture stop (which controls how much light is let into the lens to expose the film) and shutter speed (which controls how long light is let into the lens for) to use in certain light conditions too.

I own the 4-A-I 03 model Seagull and recently trotted along to Sydney Super 8 on King Street, Newtown to pick up my first set of developed 120 negatives. All 12 exposures came out, with none over-exposed and none under-exposed, so I am pleased as punch. I just took a few snaps of furniture in my garden and views of a nearby park to practice, but next time hope to be a bit bolder and try some action shots. And I am still taking plenty of photos on my Pentax MV1, which I often publish on my travel photography blog, The Explorer.

Visit: microsites.lomography.com/seagull

Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath

Photo © Rosie Pentreath

Photo © Rosie Pentreath

Photo © Rosie Pentreath


All words and photographs © Rosie Pentreath

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Hello 2016



The turn of the year was an unusual one for me. I was flung out of space over in Australia, upside-down; down-under; on the other side of the world. I finished 2015 labouring on a farm in the outback and, although I was afforded a break over Christmas, began 2016 in an anticlimax back on the farm.

So the first week of 2016 was as strange as the last quarter of 2015, but we are a week into the year and I am finally back in Sydney for good. And how wonderful it is to be back! The end of 2015, spent thousands of miles from the people and places I know and love, was a time of reflection while the beginning of 2016 has already been filled with brand new memories: of stunning firework displays at Sydney Harbour, of photowalks with my new medium format camera, of meals from sushi trains, of long late-night discussions, of wonderful open air cinema experiences.

Being back in Sydney has made me determined to make 2016 a year of creativity. I want to take all the things I learned from the remoteness of the Australian landscape and put them into how I write, how I see and how I photograph. I will continue to travel, visiting new parts of Australia including Tasmania and Uluru, and I would love to make it to Japan this year as well.

It's an exciting year for all of us. We more interconnected across the world than ever before and social movements, including those for gender equality, LGBT rights and gun control, are gaining more and more momentum as the internet exposes people to issues that they may have not thought about before; movements that will have a positive impact even on populations that think these issues have nothing to do with them.

New Year's Resolutions? I probably wouldn't tell you even if I did have some. And besides, any day of the year is as good as any other to change so it's as likely to be the middle of May that I make up my mind to do something in my life differently as it is now.

I am a little late saying it, but Happy New Year! R x













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