Sunday, July 30, 2006

Polite Night

I mentioned Polite Night a couple of posts ago. This was from an invitation sent to me by a friend (Gen) who I met through Best Beloved and his work. When Brad Pitt & Jen Aniston were still together I used to think of our friends Brad & Gen as 'the real Brad&Gen', but now they are tagged in my mind as 'the surviving Brad&Gen'.

Polite Night was just Gen, banishing Brad from (that part of) the building, showing her supportive female friends how her piano playing was progressing. Accompanied by a table groaning with fabulous home-cooked food and a never-ending flow of wine and champagne. I have the very elegant printed programme next to me, so I can tell you in detail what was played. Not being of a classical bent, there's no way I could remember the order of proceedings without written help.

There were 3 parts to the evening. The first romped through a few Bach pieces, Gounod, then Beethoven, on to Debussy and finishing with Miriam Hyde. Each piece played had a little bit of printed information about either the piece of music or the composer. I'd never heard of Miriam Hyde, an Australian composer (1913-2005), but Gen spoke of her with such infectious interest that I will seek out her music next time I visit Abels Music Store.

After an intermission full of home made dolmades and incredibly tasty vermouth-soaked olives, she launched into another Beethoven piece, followed by cranky little piece by the Russian composer Aram Ilyich Khachaturian, called 'Study from Pictures of Childhood'. According to the programme, the playing notes for this advise that one should 'aim for a dry and brittle sound ... reaching savage climaxes'. Indeed, after hearing this piece we all agreed that he was neither a happy child nor was he inclined to be endearing to children. The following image and caption were also in the programme notes:

Khachaturian in a light-hearted moment

Next came jolly old Mozart, and then Gen shifted into one of her own compositions, called His Red Coat. Her partner is one of those (very nice) people who likes dressing in historical costumes and re-enacting war scenes with other like-minded people, and this piece was inspired by Brad's amazing (and please forgive me if I get this wrong) Napoleonic War getup. A truly amazing getup, because he gets every. detail. right. Down to getting particular cloths and buttons sourced from the Right Places. Anyhoo, Gen was very impressed by Brad when they met, and went home and composed the piece she played, and it was beautiful. You could feel the love.

It was a much more thoughtful group of women who recharged their glasses in the next intermission. You see, all through the night Gen had been self-deprecatingly funny, and playing charmingly, but with a few little errors here and there. All nice stuff, and typical of self-taught pianists. But when she started playing her own music, it was quite a different scene. She had confidence, and poise, and talent.

The third section was all her own improvisations, from jazz to ethereal to blues. And lo, it was GOOD. We all felt absolutely privileged to have been there. The piano/keyboardy thing she was playing had a 32-track recording facility, and we urged her to record each piece, but she didn't want to. And then she played what she called 'Third Improvised Thingy', and it was REALLY GOOD. She used mostly only black keys, and only two white ones. Afterwards she said regretfully that she wished she had pressed 'record', because there was no way she'd be able to play it again the same way. So it was one of those moments you just have to hold on to in your head.

You know, even if she hadn't played her own pieces, it still would have been a great night; it's always a pleasure to see or hear someone having a go, and sharing what they love. I said the other day to someone that the best music I've ever heard has been live in people's loungerooms, and I stick by that.

Gen, it was a wonderful idea. I look forward to the next one. Make it ALL your music next time, truly.

Oh, and I hope you liked the bananas.


Boysenberry said...

Sounds like a wonderful time was had. :)

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

how cool! improv is magic stuff, but tinged with a bit of 'oh' when you realise you'll never hear it again. do make sure someone records it next time (even if she doesn't know).