PIAF pulls the plug

THE Great Southern leg of the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) will no longer operate in its current form, leaving a void for the arts community to fill.

Rod Vervest has been the PIAF Great Southern program manager for 15 years and said he regarded this as a positive move, as it would clear the way for a new local festival.

“It’s up to us now to forge our own direction and bring a festival that is very much about here and what it is that we want to say to the world now,” he said.

Mr Vervest said he attended an “encouraging” meeting of about 20 people in Albany on Monday, where it was confirmed PIAF would no longer operate in the Great Southern.

Albany MLA Peter Watson, representatives of PIAF, the City of Albany, Great Southern Development Commission and local arts organisations were also present at the meeting.

Mr Vervest said the region’s cultural landscape had changed with the development of the Albany Entertainment Centre and the steady stream of high-end arts events that were held.

“The case around delivering a festival such as PIAF has been reduced to a degree,” he said.

“They’ve suffered quite a heavy funding hit themselves, and one way and another after 15 years it’s felt that the program as we have known it is no longer a sustainable model here.”

Mr Vervest said he was confident money could be found to fund a new festival.

“We’ve put together a draft plan of how we think a new Albany festival could look, and we have commitment from all our major stakeholders that they will continue to support this idea,” he said.

“Whilst it potentially still has that international gloss coat sitting over the top of it, everything that falls underneath that will have a distinct Albany story and message behind it.”

Mr Vervest said PIAF would still have a role to play.

“We’ll still negotiate with PIAF on bringing acts down here,” he said.

“They will do all that sort of heavy lifting in terms of bringing the international product to Western Australia by paying all those flight costs and transfers.

“All we’ll have to do is basically find the performance fee and accommodation costs on the ground here.”

Mr Vervest likened PIAF to a “parent” and the Albany festival to a 15-year-old teenager that needed to start entering adult life.

“I think the important message is it becomes an Albany-driven event and that we negotiate with PIAF now for the sort of things that we want to curate,” he said.

Member for Albany Peter Watson said he was disappointed PIAF had pulled out of Albany.

“We’ve supported it for so long and the community’s supported it, so I have expressed my disappointment,” he said.

“It’s a sign of the current times; money is tight everywhere.”

However, Mr Watson agreed it was important to maintain a relationship with PIAF so Albany could continue to host international artists.

“We’re obviously not going to get the full bang we used to get before, but at least now we’ll have the opportunity to pick the acts we want,” he said.

“Now we can pick the eyes out of PIAF, and the fringe festival too.”
Mr Watson said the next step was to form a group that would host a local festival and seek funding.

“We’ve got to do something fairly soon, but not much is going to happen until after the budget in September,” he said.

“I’ll be talking to regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan about ways we can help get acts down here.”

In the meantime, Mr Vervest said he now had no official role in the process.

Besides program-managing PIAF Great Southern for 15 years, he has also coordinated Pinjarra’s Fairbridge Folk Festival for the past three.

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Ballroom blitz

ALBANY ballroom dancers have once again waltzed their way to a gold medal performance at the prestigious Dancesport Australia Nationals held in Wollongong.

Jim Watmore and Helen Gee won first place in the Masters 3 division New Vogue dance style, and picked up silver medals in the two other dance styles, Latin and Standard.

Under the watchful eye of former Ballroom Dance champion Joy Hearn, Mr Watmore and Ms Gee have been dancing and competing as a couple for over 5 years.

“We would not be the dancers we are today without Joy’s guidance and her vast knowledge of ballroom dancing,” the couple agreed.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate to have Joy as our dancing coach.”

The couple’s next big dance tournament is the Australian Dancesport Championship, held in Melbourne this December.

The Australian Dancesport Championship is celebrating its 72nd year and was initiated by the Australian Dancing Society.

Hisense Arena in Melbourne will be the heart of the competition, set for December 8, 9 and 10.

The winners of the 2017 Australian Dancesport Championship will take out the title and represent Australia at the World Championship dance events.

“This is very much an international event, with couples coming from every part of the globe,” Mr Watmore said.

“The Europeans are especially strong in ballroom dancing, so we are in for some stiff competition.”

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Hooked on cook book

IN some capacity or another I’ve been fishing since I could walk – my Dad insisting I learn how and making sure I could fend for myself.

Whilst we had a strong tendency to target king george whiting and squid, the occasional herring would make its way into the boat and make its re-entry into the ocean just as quick.

Dad’s rationale was that the little silver darts were too boney, too oily and not worth the hassle of cleaning when there were better fish to catch and eat.

Fremantle author Jacqueline Hagan’s cook book Hooked on Herring, has given me enough reason to pause before I instinctively toss any herring back to where it came from.

Hagan’s lifelong addiction to catching and cooking herring was only encouraged when she married her husband Mark.

When the pair aren’t anchored off Garden Island berleying up the fish, they are travelling the world in search of inspiration for new recipes to bring home and try on the humble herring.

The best of these recipes so far has been compiled in the beautiful hard-cover Hooked on Herring, which is interspersed with Hagan’s own tales of travel. These personal recollections provide an authenticity for the ensuing recipes that is often missing in a lot of cookbooks.

Perhaps the secret of this book is that you may never find yourself knuckles deep in herring guts, but that you’ve read some beautiful snippets about travel in parts of the world we’ve all dreamt of visiting.

The other factor in the appeal of Hooked on Herring is that it strikes a chord with the chorus of cooks who have begun celebrating under-utilised and under-appreciated fish, including the West Australian salmon.

Hagan’s book not only makes you think before baiting-up, but gives you some ideas to start using the herring as a staple food, teaching you how to properly prepare the small fish and giving you a large variety of cuisines to tickle the taste buds.

You’ll find Japanese, French, Mexican and Northern European ways to prepare the average fish, a fine way to mix up your regular fish and chips.

Hooked on Herring is an absolute must to add to the collection for her- ring lovers, or those that love cooking small tablefish, and definitely a cook book to add to the collection for foodies in general.

Hooked on Herring is available at margaretriverpress.com.

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Albany vocalist back from the big smoke

PORTRAYING characters more exciting than himself is one of international opera tenor Matt Ward’s favourite aspects of musical performance.

The home-grown Albany performer recently marked his 300th United Kingdom opera performance, and is coming home to celebrate.

His ambitions to perform on bigger stages were fed by early experiences at local eisteddfods and by taking centre stage with Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company.

Despite his favourite experience of performing in 18th century castles, and his dreams of singing in a historic Venetian theatre, Ward had to wait until well after graduation to experience such lavish stages.

When it came to choosing a career pathway in high school, Ward said he had a plan.

“On my TISC form, I crossed out all of the options except being a performer,” he laughed.

“I was later accepted into WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) when I was 17, and I studied classical singing.

“In conjunction with my studies, I was a part of the chorus for the Western Australian Opera Company.”

Having discovered his passion for music early on in life, Ward drew inspiration from his music-teacher mother and avid musician grandparents, as well as other musical influences from his childhood.

“As a kid, I was struck by Jon English as the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance,” he said.

“The idea of becoming other people in different times and different places captured my imagination.”

With music in his blood, Ward succeeded in conquering the opera world, performing in Olivier Award-winning spectaculars, the Queen’s diamond jubilee river pageant, working along-side Stephen Fry and performing at the King’s Head Theatre in London.

Now with a completed master’s degree from the Royal College of Music in London and an ever-growing list of opera performances under his belt, Ward will continue his work with an original piece whilst in residency in Albany this August.

“When you are a performer, you are primarily an interpreter of someone else’s work, in charge of taking their words and making them come to life,” Ward said.

“I am equally as passionate about creating my own work.”

In partnership with Albany’s Historic Whaling Station and Creative Albany Inc, Ward will become guest artist-in-residence at the Vancouver Arts Centre, and construct his own piece of musical history, to celebrate 40 years since the last year of whaling at Cheynes Beach Whaling Station.

Ward will use community singing and acting to join others in exploring the controversy surrounding whaling, and the conservationists who came from across the world in an attempt to halt it in Albany.

“Running these work-shops and attempting to create my own musical drama will give me the chance to test my creative muscles,” Ward said.

Ward’s residency will also include a live con- cert with a scratch choir at the Whaling Station, community singing and acting workshops at the Vancouver Arts Centre, and a final performance featuring Ward’s latest original work.

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Mitchell and the Hot Mama’s

THE Albany launch of the latest single from Myles Mitchell and The Hot Mama Band will feature at the second LA LA TV event at Vancouver Arts Centre on Saturday night.

Mitchell will bring his hip-shaking alternative roots for an up-tempo set at the event, which promotes live local mu- sic and transforms Vancouver Arts Centre into a late-night music club.

Mitchell released the single Together Like This to a packed crowd at the Denmark Tavern recently, and thought it was only fair to share the excitement with his Albany fans.

The success of the Denmark launch saw the single crack the top 10 of Triple J’s Unearthed Roots category.

“We were really stoked about that, so we’re looking forward to another great launch at Vancouver Arts Centre,” Mitchell said. “LA LA TV stands for Live and Local at The VAC, and it’s a great event for music lovers and part of a really big push to support live local music.”

The single, with its feel-good reggae vibe, is just one of the tracks Mitchell hopes will form an EP.

“It’s definitely part of a bigger picture,” he said.

“We’ve got heaps of material, so we’ll be back in the studio later this month.”

South Coast blues duo Old School Road will join Myles Mitchell and The Hot Mama Band on the bill for the show which starts at 7pm at Vancouver Arts Centre. Entry is $10.

LA LA TV is the brain-child of Kim Johnson and his friends at the Vibe Sound Collective, and has gained support from the City of Albany.

Johnson said he aimed to provide an experience where music lovers could enjoy a range of live music styles in a supportive environment and to provide opportunities for bands that might not be best suited to the pub circuit.

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Many of us set for treat as Sum of Us gets new life

FRESH from the success of their season of the murder-mystery A Home For Stray Cats, Spectrum Theatre is getting a bit serious with final rehearsals and preparations underway for David Steven’s acclaimed play The Sum Of Us.

The play explores the relationship between widower Harry and his gay son Jeff, as they both tackle the task of finding the right partner.

The play was brought to the big screen in the 1992 film adaptation, starring Russell Crowe and Jack Thompson.

Spectrum Theatre director Daniel Turner said while he took a few liberties modernising the set, the themes and issues that were addressed were as relevant as ever, and the script barely needed tweaking, despite the play being nearly 30 years old.

He said the production also offered enormous challenges for the relatively small cast, with several lengthy monologues.

“It is a real challenge for these guys, but they are totally up to it, and it’s very exciting to see it take shape,” he said.

“With a small cast, there is a real chemistry that develops that you don’t always get with bigger shows.

Morgan Levingston plays the lead role of Jeff Mitchell, while Thomas Bloffwitch makes his debut for Spectrum and plays Greg, Jeff’s new boyfriend.

Gavin Crane plays Jeff’s accepting father Harry, and Gillian Evans will tackle the role of Harry’s new girlfriend, Joyce.

Turner, who is directing his third show with Spectrum, said he had enjoyed watching the cast and characters develop during the long after-hours rehearsals.

“It’s been really exciting to see Morgan and Thomas gel,” he said.

“Gavin and Gillian also help bring a tightness to the cast. This is shaping up to be a great performance.”

Turner said audiences can expect to be challenged, but also entertained.

“We try to mix things up throughout the year with our plays, with a bit of comedy, a bit of suspense and a bit of drama,” he said.

“This is definitely a more serious play, with strong themes that are very topical at the moment, but it’s also very rewarding.”

The Sum of Us runs on July 14, 15, 21, 22, 29 and 29 at 7.30pm, with matinees on July 16 and 23.

Tickets are available from Paperbark Merchants on York Street.

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Little dancers prance into Albany’s library

A GROUP of young aspiring dancers had the rare chance to meet real-life ballet performers at a workshop in Albany last week.

The West Australian Ballet presented a story-time workshop for 3-6 year olds at the Albany Public Library on Thursday, June 22.

Children enjoyed listening to a reading of the famous ballet The Nutcracker and later danced to the Nutcracker music, where they were introduced to different ballet positions and steps that are used in the dance.

The 45-minute educational session was coordinated by WA Ballet teaching artists Robert Mills and Kelly Astbury.

During the workshop, Mr Mills and Ms Astbury presented the eager children and their parents with an ornate 15-year-old tutu that was used by the company for an older production of Cinderella.

WA Ballet Education and Access Manager Deborah Robertson said the education program allowed children to experience the different elements of ballet.

“There are a lot of assumptions that ballet is light, fluffy and only for girls,” Ms Robertson said.

“However, ballet is very tricky!

“We aim to break down the different aspects of ballet to children and show them the possibilities of a career in the arts.”

Ms Robertson explained that the education program targeted both boys and girls, to give them the opportunity to explore the different options available to them for their future endeavours.

“We tend to capture boys with the challenge of doing something tricky, as ballet is very technical and demanding and children love a challenge,” Ms Robertson said.

Specialised workshops with local dance schools and school visits acted as an introduction to ballet before the stunning performance of Don Quixote at the Albany Entertainment Centre on the weekend.

The Great Southern ballet program tour included visits to Denmark Senior High School, Yakamia Primary School, Mount Lockyer Primary School and Golden Hill Steiner School.

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Author writes a moving memoir of her mother

LOSING a loved one is difficult and perplexing.

New Albany author Laura Manning hopes her new book Keeping Mum will allow other people to realise that they are not alone in their feelings of confusion and despair.

Written after her mother died, Ms Manning’s memoir travels through time to encompass the period spent caring for her mother.

This includes her mother’s experiences with different aged care facilities, after she developed dementia as the result of a stroke.

“I wrote at night after she died,” Ms Manning said.

“It is a cathartic thing.

“I have always loved writing and it was my way of coping with the loss of my mum.”

Ms Manning’s condensed family history gives a glimpse into the uncertainty and reluctance of family care for the elderly.

Keeping Mum reveals the constant responsibility that comes with aged care and the struggle of seeing a loved one’s health decline.

Keeping Mum also explores the unexpected and unexplained “signs” people may experience in the aftermath of a great loss.

By creating a memorial for her mum, Ms Manning hopes that Keeping Mum will be a way of connecting with others and revealing the truth about the struggles of elderly care.

Always the perpetual student, Ms Manning’s writing career began in London and continued after her move to Australia, with film script writing also being a part of her résume.

However, writing Keeping Mum presented a new type of challenge.

“Writing absorbs you,” Ms Manning said.

“It is hard at times because it takes you to a different world.

“Despite my publishers being very patient and meticulous, the whole publishing process and deciding what information to keep in the story was an experience of its own.”

Now considering other novels and possibly more film scripts, Ms Manning’s primary focus is encouraging people to be honest and speak about their struggles and experiences.
Keeping Mum is available from Paperbark Merchants and online at lauramanningbook.com.

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Beethoven: the full Monty

It’s hard to get past Neville Talbot when writing about Albany Sinfonia, the state’s first regional orchestra.

The man is a musical polymath.

Ostensibly the orchestra’s artistic director, he is also its conductor, producer, arts manager and administrator, as well as teaching music, percussion, voice, choirs and band at Albany Senior High School.

His apparently unlimited enthusiasm and ability to organise resulted in the latest treat for music lovers at the Albany Entertainment Centre last Friday and Saturday, titled Beethoven: the Full Four Quarters.

Actually Ludwig didn’t show up until the second half, but the audience was completely taken with introductory offerings such as Handel’s stirring Zadok the Priest and Bach’s Concerto for Oboe d’amore*, plus Oblivion by Piazzolla, both of which showcased the great talent of Mt Barker-born soloist Leanne Glover, who now plays with the WA Symphony Orchestra.

The Albany Chamber Orchestra performed with distinction, as did accompanist Marius Mulder.

We also welcomed back mezzo soprano Courtney Weaver, who sang Saint Saens’s Printemps qui Commence, and bass Mark Alderson in Vaughan Williams’s Silent Noon.

New to Albany – and more than welcome – were soprano Stephanie Gooch, with Rusalka’s Song to the Moon, by Dvorak, and tenor Jun Zhang, whose spirited Nessun Dorma, by Puccini, brought the first half to a dramatically satisfying close.

Three marvellous movements from Beethoven’s fifth, seventh and third symphonies – performed by a 100-strong combination of Albany Sinfonia, the Albany Chamber Orchestra and Albany Youth Orchestra – provided a thrilling lead-in to the climax of the night: the last movement of the Symphony No 9.

Soloists, players and the Albany Choral Society came together in a memorable performance of this timeless classic, which the composer, because of his deafness, could never hear. We, in the audience at AEC, considered ourselves twice blessed to hear it for him.

*Not seen or heard much these days, the oboe d’amore (oboe of love) is a slightly larger version of the standard instrument and has a more plangent sound, rather like that of another relative, the cor anglais.

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Nothing is ever what is seems

THE Albany City Wind Ensemble (ACWE) is taking it from the top with another entertaining family concert next weekend.

Director Sue Findlay promises a program packed with popular classics from musical greats such as Scott Joplin, George Gershwin and Henry Mancini.

In what has become their signature style, the line-up for the June 24 concert at Albany Baptist Church will again include laughs and unexpected twists.

“Nothing is ever what it seems with the ensemble,” Ms Findlay said with a wry smile.

Three brave pianists will play 57 well-known tunes on one piano at the same time and special guests, About FACE will join the fun with their own style of entertainment which will include Il Divo singing and roosters.

“I love to surprise the audience during my concerts and catch them off guard,” Ms Findlay said.

“There is nothing quite like the laughter of a happy audience.”

Through a live re-enactment, the audience will also be treated to a rare glimpse of the “nearly-extinct” species of animal, the trombonasaurus.

In another first, ACWE will screen the world premiere of the silent movie Jan.

Ms Findlay said ACWE has been in rehearsal for four months and are ready to hit the stage.

They have taken delivery of a brand new concert bass drum, which will feature in its debut performance.

“We’ve added the spit and polish and can’t wait to let loose on our audience,” she said.

The show kicks off at 7.30pm on June 24 and tickets are available at Uptown Music, at the door and online at www.albanycitywindensemble.com.au

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