Who are the Peacemakers?

At last night’s rehearsal, we basses practiced the modest section in The Peacemakers where we take the limelight.  It was a revealing moment.

We were singing in the style of a Gregorian chant, the words being provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  It’s one thing to read or listen to these words; it is quite another to sing them properly.  Singing them makes you think about them and what they really mean.  And they are challenging.

Particularly so this week for me, as I had been sounding off to anyone who would listen about the dreadful nature, in my view, of most, if not all, politicians.  Until, that is, a friend reminded me of two old adages.  “Countries get the politicians their people deserve”, and “Politicians tend to reflect the nature of their constituents”.

Hmmmm.  Does that mean that I am part of the problem?  It is indeed exactly what the Dalai Lama means when he writes – and we basses sing – “Peace starts within each one of us”.

That set me looking at the rest of the words in The Peacemakers. In some ways it is Jenkins’ choice of the text rather than his music whch make this piece special.  Yes, the music adds to the words, but the words are fundamental to communicating the nature of this work to an audience.

It is good that Carlos, as always, makes us reflect on the words we are singing.  Our performance could be, in its own modest way, one of that myriad of small actions which lead to a more peaceful world.


Coincidence – or not?

Are you a cruciverbalist?  It’s a rather fine word for someone who enjoys solving crosswords.  Anne and I both enjoy them, Anne from her background as a language scholar and teacher, and me from a background in computer programming, where the different languages, in common with spoken languages, each have their own vocabulary, syntax and grammar.

The Sydney Morning Herald crosswords keep us amused each day – we like to solve the Quick over morning tea and the Cryptic after lunch – a collaborative effort for us as we reckon that two brains are better than one, especially for DA’s fiendishly mind-warping puzzles on Fridays.

And then there is the Omega general knowledge crossword on Mondays, which requires familiarity with sports, art and popular culture, mainly Australian.  Solving it is a great way for newcomers to learn something of Australian history.  Sample clues are “Children’s TV series with fruit dressed in stripy night attire (7,3,7)” – that’s Bananas in Pyjamas (we knew that one)  and “Winner of the Women’s 80m hurdles at the Melbourne Olympics (7,10)” – that’s Shirley Strickland (we had to look that one up).

Imagine our surprise when in this week’s Omega the clue for 23 Across was “They are said in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount to be the children of God (3,11).”  Answer, of course, The Peacemakers.    Now that’s a bit creepy, and reminiscent of an incident in World War II, in the build up to the D-Day landings on the coast of northern France.

A cruciverbalist who was one of the few civil servants in the know and also an avid completer of the crossword in “The Daily Telegraph” noticed that, over a period of weeks, there was an alarming number of answers which were code words for key elements of the D-Day landings – Utah, Omaha, Juno, Pluto and so-on.  This was suspicious.  Was a German spy trying to communicate with their homeland?  After an investigation, it was decided that the appearance of these key words was no more than a co-incidence and that taking any action could well prove counter-productive.

Back to this week’s Omega crossword.  Does someone at the SMH have the best interests of MW Choir at heart?  Are they warming up Sydney for the release of Kerry’s magnificant publicity machine next week, complete with posters, postcards and press material persuading everyone to attend our May concert?

It would be nice to think so, but deep down I have a suspicion that it is just another of those delightful occasional co-incidences which brighten up our lives from time to time.

Time out of Mind

Most of us in the Choir know Margaret Zanardo as the graphic designer responsible for creating a number of stylish posters and programmes for the Choir over the past ten or so years.  Maybe we knew that she had taught English in a variety of schools and colleges.  What we did not know – until recently – is that she is a poet.


Time out of Mind – Poems of Love and Loss is Margaret’s first published anthology.  It is a modest booklet, or chapbook, of twenty short poems written over the past three years.

The booklet is indeed modest in size, and the poems are all short, each occupying less than a single page in print.  Most I found immediately comprehensible; some took more than one reading, and even then I am not sure I fully understand them.  And a few remain  a mystery after several perusals.

The subject – Love and Loss – is interesting, as we each have our own experience, some the greater, some the less.  These poems do not spare the reader.  Feelings and emotion, longing and yearning, ooze out of each one.  It is impossible to read them without being moved by the grief and pain felt in losing someone or something which has been an integral part of oneself and then disappears, never to return other than in the imagination.

It is possible that Margaret has written entirely from her imagination.  But the power of the poems suggests that she writes from deep felt experience.  If this is so, then she deserves the thanks of her readers on two counts.  Firstly from those who have also experienced such loss, that the poems help them to come to terms with what has happened.  Secondly, from those who have yet to experience such loss, that they may be better prepared for how they might feel in similar circumstances.

It is hard to choose one or a few favourite items in this anthology as each poem highlights a different nuance on the overall topic.  Perhaps, for this reviewer, When do I think of you?  is a summation of the theme, as the answer, without giving a spoiler, is more than all-pervasive.

Margaret will be at a Choir rehearsal on February 27th with copies of Time out of Mind  which cost $5 each.  Otherwise they are available from the publisher, Ginnindera Press.

A Botanical Bookmark

This year’s promotional Bookmark for the Choir seems to have raised a good deal of interest in its recipients. As in the past few years, it was designed by Kerry Foster.

A number of people have asked Kerry about the flower and the reason for choosing it for the Bookmark. She responds that it was particularly prolific last September in the bushland areas of the Northern Beaches. She even thought it might be a weed. But after investigating, she discovered it is indigenous to our area, also being found in all three east coast mainland states; hence her interest in having it feature on our bookmarks.

Kerry took some photos and describes the flower here in more detail for the botanically minded.

It is clematis glycinoides, a climbing shrub belonging to the ranunculaceae family. Native bees enjoy the flowers, as is seen in the photo. The leaves can be simple or trifoliate. They are ovate or lanceolate, and shiny green. When the leaves are crushed the resulting aroma is so strong and irritating that it reputedly gets rid of headaches. (Kerry hasn’t tried this as she suspects that the cure could be worse than the disease!) Clematis are dioecious, the male and female flowers being carried on different plants. The flowers are only 3 cm across, white or greenish and starry, covering the plants in spring.

Female flowers produce one seeded, small dry fruit that has a feathery tail up to 6 cm long, which facilitates wide dispersal by the wind. Both the flowers and the fruit are very decorative.

The growth is very dense, which is how Kerry first spotted the flower, and provides safe nesting sites for small native birds.

Ready, steady, go!

It seems quite some time since the Choir’s hugely successful concerts at the start of December.  In the intervening time we have all been celebrating Christmas and New Year with family and friends, taking advantage of the warm weather to spend time at the beach – and, of course, worrying about the drought and the bushfires and their horrendous consequences for many of our fellow countrymen and women.

Now it’s time to start singing again.   It’s a great program for the year (check it out here), starting with Karl Jenkins’ The Peacemakers.  The music is very much in Jenkins’ usual style, and the message of the piece is crafted not just by the music, but also by the words and the reasons for their inclusion.

Early in January there was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.  It’s a fascinating read about a modest local choir (originally called the Hurlstone Park Choral Society) transforming into a prestigious world-class choir.  Much of what is written resonates very strongly with our activities in MWC, especially the contribution of choral singing to individual well-being and self esteem, and to community cohesion.  The article is well worth reading: to find it, click here.

One of the points made in the article is that the whole choir is dependent on the skills and personality of the musical director – in SPC’s case Brett Wymark.  MWC is no different.  We are fortunate to be led by a man of consummate musicianship and great humanity.  As usual, Carlos will no doubt extract all the meaning from Karl Jenkins’ words and music, drawing us all with him on the exciting journey which makes up rehearsing and performing great music.