Sunday, 20 November 2016


Musical birthday cake with the Sydney Opera House
We went to a spectacular birthday celebration yesterday … a tribute in honour of Lauris Elms 85th birthday … and a celebration of her contribution to Australian music. As a contralto of astonishing vocal range and emotive depth, she made her debut in Covent Garden with Canadian tenor Jon Vickers in a 1957 production of Verdi’s ‘Un ballo in maschero’. She made many recordings with fellow Australian – the soprano Joan Sutherland. To hear her at her sinuous and sultry prime, just listen and watch here: 

 Lauris being interviewed
While in London under contract at Covent Garden, she met and married a fellow Australian – Graeme de Graaff – then completing Graduate Studies at Oxford University. Even though she was at her prime as an opera singer and singing a wide range of leading roles, homesickness propelled Lauris and Graeme back to their native land. At first, Lauris focussed on futher developing her art song and Lieder repertoire.  She made many recordings for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and was of great help and influence to young Australian singers. 

Sunday’s concert, a series of collected
memorials and an interview with Lauris was organized by Sally-Anne Russell (contralto) and Louise Scott (pianist). They performed some of Lauris’s favourite works in the art song genre including Schubert’s ‘An die Muisk’ and Elgar’s Sea Songs. The singer graciously stepped back when her voice faltered (she had pneumonia!) and this gave us a chance to hear a wonderful performance of John Field’s Nocturne #1 (Louise Scott) and our own Debby de Graaff performing a Saint-Saens clarinet and piano ‘Romance’.
Lauris and Deb at intermission
Lauris Elms is still a gracious, beautiful woman with a commanding personality and an astonishing memory (as witnessed by her responses to the interviewers questions). 
How did Larry and I get to know Lauris and get invited? Well …one of  Lauris and Graeme's greatest accomplishments has been parenting our wonderful friend ... Deborah de Graaff. 
On Saturday we were able to spend a few hours together – and this is where both Water and Music intersected. 

Deborah de Graaff, clarinetist
We gave a ‘command’ performance of our talk entitled ‘Our Northwest Passage aboard Traversay III’ for a select audience including Lauris and Graeme.  The get-together took place at Debby and her partner Leah Lock’s spacious home – shared with 2 cats and 2 dogs and an outside menagerie including several chickens, wild turkeys, an echidna and – intermittently – a python. Leah and I took advantage of a little time before ‘showtime’ to play through Bach’s E minor sonata for flute (and harpsichord … only a piano was available this time!)
Mozart run-through
Leah and M.A. play Bach
The potluck which followed the NWP was a fabulous success – especially since Kris Spikes partner Ginny had concocted an amazing spicy soup with nuts, chives and sour cream accompaniment. She has just retired from running an award-winning Patisserie for nine years. John Cran brought greens from his garden and roast chicken, Deb and Leah contributed further herbs and veg, and Larry and I brought a coconut flan with raspberries for dessert while Diane Gardner brought a host of wine bottles (full!)
After dinner we assembled and fit (as best we could) into Deb’s studio to play Mozart’s Quintet for piano and winds. Everyone was sight reading and I found it a little intimidating to be performing with such able professionals – John is a retired first bassoonist with the Sydney Symphony, Deb is a top clarinettist, Leah is rated as one of the ablest flutists in the country and I had well-known Australian composer/pianist Kristofer Spike turning my pages. However, our friend Di scored the most amazing coup by transposing the French Horn part and playing it on the flute. This was particularly wild when Mozart made her dip down into the Bass Clef for a few notes! The culmination of the evening for me was hearing Kris’s most recent flute/piano work … it was being sight read by Leah – a remarkable achievement – and Kris brought great virtuosic flourishes to his piano score with an impressive range of thematic and colouristic hues. The ABC has recorded a number of Kristofer Spikes works and Deb and Leah have participated in many of these recordings. Leah is branching away from music to explore her fascination with veterinary science. This week she's out at a sheep farm!

Traversay and Ella show off matching canvas
We had a very full weekend. It was due to Lauris and Graeme's forsight that Deb did a lot of sailing with her parents as a girl, and Larry spent quite a while discussing sailing with Deb's parents. On Friday ‘Ella’ (Deb and Di’s sailboat) rafted up to us in Towler’s Bay. We had great fun jumping into the water which was 23C degrees (warm!) All 3 girls jumped in and had fun but Larry jumped into the water with scuba gear to clean barnacles off the propeller.However I believe he still found it to be fun. At any rate, having a clean prop should make our passage to New Zealand later this week much faster.
Deb has been telling us amusing facts about AUS, identifying bird calls and organizing our time in the most helpful way. She has been driving driving us hither and yon especially out to Bobbin Head Marina - a most restful and beautiful place to stay. I greatly enjoyed ‘sitting in’to listen to some of her impressive teenaged students. 12-yr-old Anny was playing advanced repertoire (a-la-Benny Goodman).
Deb and Di aboard Ella
Now we've re-located to Sydney Harbour itself, and tomorrow I’ve been invited to come along and hear one of Deb's students performing her Graduate recital. If I can get from our anchorage here in Rose Bay over to the ferry dock I’ll be able to walk right up the hill from Circular Quay and make my way past the Governor Generals Residence to the New South Wales Conservatory to hear more brilliant beautiful music.

A great place to relax and do laundry - Bobbin Head Elite Marina

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