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.

That Monday morning feeling

It is the Monday morning after a weekend of MWC concerts, and, as usual, I cannot settle to anything.  It’s a good thing that I am retired.  If I were still at work, my contribution on days like this would be pretty unremarkable.

Phrases from the music we performed are continually buzzing around in my head, completely at random.  One minute it is Cum sancto spiritu, with one of the long runs (eventually mastered, but only just in time), and the next it is part of Georgia’s glorious rendition of Et incarnatus est.  The full double choir of Qui tollis interrupts, to be displaced in turn by the densely woven harmony of Osanna in excelsis. Then the charming final movement of the Mozart Divertimento cuts in, and only to be overtaken  first by the roof-raising volume of O come all ye faithful and next the magnificent sound of full choir and orchestra in the Hallelujah Chorus.  And so it goes on and on.

They were indeed two memorable performances.   One member of the audience was heard to comment over drinks and nibbles, “They really are a world-class choir!”  Carlos was justifiably thrilled.

As I put my copy of the Mozart score back in the bookcase last night, I bade the music a fond farewell.  It and I have been deeply entwined with each other these past thirteen weeks.  Indeed, we were so strongly linked that, had the music been a person, Anne might have been justified in thinking that I had been having an affair.  It is music of extraordinary technical accomplishment, radiant beauty and great spiritual depth.

And it is wonderful that we, a community choir, should be able to give such competent and convincing performances.  It is all possible through the efforts of many people – ourselves, in diligently practicing and rehearsing the music; the soloists, in bringing music of such beauty to life; the orchestra, in rapidly mastering complex music with apparent ease; and of course Carlos, in bringing all the elements together and infusing them with his consummate musicianship and engaging personality.

Cake and flowers etc.

Last night’s rehearsal was a corker.  Choir and conductor in great form, with soloists measuring up well to their respective tasks.  For us choristers, it is as though we have been mixing and baking a cake over the past fifteen weeks, and it is now out of the oven ready for the decorations to be added – soloists yesterday, and orchestra next week.

And what a cake it will be!

I know that mixing metaphors is bad writing, but I cannot help but make another observation.  The sound of the choir last night was awesome.  Confident, firm, and at time very loud.  However, we were in a small building, which seemed to constrain our sound and leave it, if it were a tree or a shrub, only just in bud.  How wonderful next week it will be to be in the Chapel, where the acoustic will encourage our sound to blossom and flourish in all its glory, with the buds opening to full flower.

The audiences are in for a rare treat.  And we in the Choir should also make the most of the remaining opportunities to sing this glorious music.

A final thought on the Mozart Mass in C minor.  The man who wrote this beautifully crafted, profoundly spiritual music was someone who specialized in writing opera buffa and was disliked by many for his frequent lavatorial humour.  As they say in Yorkshire, “There’s nowt as queer as folks.”