Tag Archives: Dunedin

A quick trip home!

16 Mar

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

I moved to Chicago on 5 January 2015. Three months on, I’ll be back in New Zealand for a couple of weeks.

To clarify for both Chicagoans and Kiwis: no, I’m not moving back. I still definitely live in Chicago. This trip is to fulfil a long-standing commitment with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra because they’re playing my Relish in Immature Bombast again.

If you’re unfamiliar with this piece, it’s for huge-ass pipe organ, full-on funk/rock/jazz drum kit, and symphony orchestra, take a squiz at this video:

The APO is performing this at Open Orchestra Central, at their home venue of the Auckland Town Hall. Reprising their roles are original soloists Tim Noon (organ) and Jono Sawyer (drum kit) – in fact, it’s ten years since Jono and I first worked together in ska band Jonny Doom & The Forcefields. I’ll be introducing the piece as MC and composer, interviewing some of the performers, and also MCing the rest of the afternoon’s proceedings.

Best of all, this event is totally, 100% free. Come to the Auckland Town Hall at 2pm on Saturday 11 April, and hit “Going” on the Facebook event if that’s your thing.

I also have a fundraiser concert!

Sir James Wallace has been quite generous with both his funds and his home – I’ve got a couple of Wallace Arts Trust-funded compositions in the works, and on Sunday 19 April he’s hosting a house concert for me. Poster:

Robbie-Ellis-Rannoch-RGB

I’ve invited two other composer-performers to join me:

Corwin Newall isn’t all that well-known outside of Dunedin, but he and I got to work together quite a bit during my Mozart Fellowship year. He’s got a new song cycle called Scientists (with movements about Alfred Nobel, Nikola Tesla, Gertrude Elion and Ernest Rutherford), which I’m singing and he’s playing on piano. He and I are also working on Douglas Lilburn’s Sings Harry (as well as a few other rarer Lilburn songs), and performing them at a few concerts. Also, he’s quite a nifty wordsmith and comedy songwriter… these skills will also be on display.

Grooves Unspoken album coverYvette Audain‘s axes of choice are saxophone and clarinet. She’ll join me for the North Island première of my new Sonatina for alto saxophone and piano (a piece funded by the Wallace Arts Trust). She’s also a great composer who last year released an album of work called Grooves Unspoken, for which I did the design and layout.

This house concert is on Sunday 19 April, and you can book in one of two ways:
Secure your seat with a donation
– Reserve a place and donate on the night: rannoch@wallaceartstrust.org.nz or 027 472 3669

There’s a recommended donation set at $40: this is kinda necessary because I’ve had to pay for my flights back to New Zealand on this trip (long set in advance). I would love to see you there! RSVP on Facebook if you will.

Also:
Lunchtime concert at the University of Otago, Wed 15 April.
Pre-concert talk for the APO, Thu 16 April.
Lunchtime concert at the University of Waikato, Wed 22 April.
– I do a concert at 1pm in Hamilton, and fly out of Auckland Airport at 7:30pm. Doable.

PS I’m also in Seattle from 1 to 5 April. Will be nice to visit that city again.

Haven’t published anything in a while.

21 Aug

My life has been quite bitsy, full of lots of small projects.

Well, here’s one resultable fruit:

The Root Vegetable Opera is an overblown comedy song for mock operatic baritone and piano. Eight months on from the recording session, I’ve mixed the tracks. I don’t sound terrrrible, but I’m no classically trained singer. Corwin Newall, on the other hand, is a classically trained pianist.

On the topic of recording vocals, next week I make a studio recording of Annie & Joshua with my two singers. I’m getting Bridget Costello just a week before she leaves for London to study, but Callum Blackmore’s staying around for ages. Good.

Another composition is finally reaching fruition: I just published Trolling the Tuba to SOUNZ, and it’s getting premièred just outside San Francisco on Friday/Saturday/timezone depending. This is thanks to Jess Rodda and the rest of the International Low Brass Trio, which abbreviates to “ILBT”, which must be either a sandwich or a personality type. They’re going to be performing this work quite a bit over the next few months, including on a Canadiadian tour.

I am making plans for two out-of-town tours myself:
Wellington (15 to 23 September): the 2013 New Zealand Improv Festival is on and I am the Musical Co-ordinator and musician for several shows myself. I’ve got a lot of things I’m looking forward to, but the most involved for me will be Time Lord, a Doctor Who-themed long form directed by David Innes from Melbourne. I’m borrowing synths from Wellington people.
Dunedin (24 September to, uh, something). Song Sale! University Lunchtime Concert! Dunedin Youth Orchestra! Improsaurus (I hope)! All in one week.

Usually I find a picture for posts, so I googled-imaged-searched “most random image on the internet”. This is what arrived.

Happy Wednesday.

Chewbacca wielding a crossbow astride a giant squirrel fighting a regiment of Nazis.

Tele-spruiking

21 Feb

Looking east onto North Pender Island from the Gulf of Georgia.

Looking east onto North Pender Island from the Gulf of Georgia, taken as I write this post.

I write from the ferry between Victoria and Vancouver, in the territorial waters of British Columbia/Washington State/British Columbia. It’s Wednesday 20 February here in North America, but en Nouvelle-Zélande it’s a Thursday at a particular time of the month. This means Song Sale is on in Dunedin!

Now, it is a little odd and a little superfluous for me still to be spruiking for this monthly gig. Yes, I founded it in Dunedin and it was my baby, but now that Daddy has moved to a new city some foster parents have taken responsibility for the rambunctious toddler. Or something. I’m not good at parent-and-guardian analogies.

Regardless, I look from afar wishing all the best for this year’s gigs. I know it will thrive under new management: Corwin Newall is a fantastic writer and performer, and even though he’s young I can see him developing into a really good teacher and director of talent. Gabby Golding is one of the most enthusiastic and organised people I know in the Dunedin arts scene, and late last year she enthusiastically took the reins to organise this mother. (Told you my family member analogies weren’t good.)

They’ve secured funding from both Creative Communities and the Dunedin Fringe Festival, so they must be doing something right – importantly, this means the gigs remain free entry. They’ve also engaged Angus McBryde, a professional, to do their graphics. This is instead of retaining my, uhh, ‘idiosyncratic’ design principles of textual overload. Compare December 2012 and February 2013:

But beyond who manages it, Song Sale is not only an entertaining show for an audience, it’s a valuable vehicle for many different types of creatives.

For a songwriter in the generally-popular-music world, it’s a chance to submit one’s self to a deliberately constrained process: writing something in a hurry. If the song is no good, it can die after its first outing. If it’s great, all the better. If you write enough songs in a hurry, you develop good instincts about which is which and this helps you early in the writing process.

For composers – those trained in a classical, dots-on-paper tradition – Song Sale teaches timing, audience interaction, and Seeing What Works. So many composers are nervous wallflowers, afraid to put themselves out there. While the gig may look terrifying to total introverts, the vibe of the show means The Audience is On Your Side. Even if you try and fail, the audience will still love and support you.

That’s a precept of improv theatre as well – worth mentioning since many Song Salers are members of Improsaurus. The audience doesn’t come to a show to see the perfect response to any situation, they go along to see what on earth the response ends up being. There’s always a little thrill for an individual audience member when that person’s own suggestion is picked up and turned into a scene (for improv) or a song (for Song Sale), but even if the suggestion didn’t come out of your own mouth, you still feel like you have a stake in it: it came from the room and You Were There.

Added to this, many improvisers are also stand-up comedians and many stand-up comedians incorporate music. Song Sale is a pretty sweet song development laboratory, and it bubbles up musically comedic moments that don’t occur when you deliberately craft songs on your own. After a year-and-a-half of Song Sales in both Wellington and Dunedin, I have a heeeap of songs that have had several outings, become more refined and cogent, and could be turned into a solo show and/or an album.

If you’re reading this from Dunedin, do turn up tonight: 7pm at The Church, 50 Dundas St. The gig has a new structure (or a structure full stop): an established act performs for the first half – tonight it’s Reed Street Posse from Oamaru – and the commissions come after the interval. As always – and with gracious thanks to Creative Communities funding – entry is free and commissions are $5 per song. Here’s the Facebook event – go forth and spread.

General Update

9 Jan

A generic travel-related icon.

A generic travel-related icon.

There are a whole lot of things that I should have written about, but haven’t. It’s been a while since an update.

In the last month I’ve moved cities from Dunedin to Auckland. Over my last week down south (10-17 December), I had a whole lot of stuff to finish off: my last Song Sale, recording the tracks for Promise & Promiscuity, recording further vocals of songs with other Song Salers, and producing a live radio broadcast from Albany Street Studios. And of course there was the simple fact that I was leaving Dunedin after my one year as Mozart Fellow, a damn significant time in my life… maybe I should blog about these things when they come to fruition.

After Christmas with the family in Auckland, I was back down to Wellington to do some work as a presenter for Radio New Zealand Concert, and some development work on At Least We Have Our Jobs, a drama production for Radio New Zealand National. I spent a lot of time in the studio for that.

Tomorrow I fly off to Mexico and I’ll be away from New Zealand for four months. In that time I’m going to Cuba (Cuba!), the Seattle Festival of Improvisational Theater and the Chicago Improv Festival, and I’ll be in Austin during SXSW. I may not answer emails or Facebook quite as regularly.

I’m feeling a bit arse because of vaccines and dental work a couple of days ago. I still have tax and GST to do, not to mention packing for four months away. Eep.

Article

9 Dec

Charmian Smith interviewed me for the Otago Daily Times – article m’nyahr.

All over the radios (including festival times)

15 Oct

Mstislav Rostropovich, Dmitri Shostakovich & Sviatoslav Richter in 1968. (Source)

I wrote and presented the most recent Composer of the Week programme for Radio New Zealand Concert. It’s not about a single composer; the topic is rather works written for Mstislav Rostropovich. You can listen to it here until Sunday 28 October (embedding won’t work sorry).

Yes, of course, there are the famous cello concertos: Shostakovich’s two, Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto, all of Britten’s cello works, but there’s a whole lot more besides.

In the programme I don’t even have a chance to mention any pieces by Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho and James Macmillan, just to name a few. But I do get to play music by Aram Khachaturian, Leonard Bernstein, Krzysztof Penderecki, Miecysław Weinberg, and Boris Tchaikovsky (no relation).

Actually, I realise now I completely left out Ástor Piazzolla, not even name-checking the guy. Oh well, wasn’t just him I left out.

Well represented too is Alfred Schnittke, a name that’s often left off when talking about Rostropovich’s great composer collaborators. I get in a bit of his opera Life With an Idiot and his Cello Sonata No 2.

I reviewed four concerts in the recent Otago Festival of the Arts for Upbeat. Firstly, the Vienna Boys Choir and Hahn-Bin Amadeus Leopold on Thursday’s programme:

And then Le Vent du Nord and H’Sao today:

Besides these four, I went to see Rita & Douglas (compelling performance from Jennifer Ward-Lealand and very well-judged playing by Michael Houstoun, might have been a bit long though), the Spooky Men’s Chorale (lol), and the wind quintet Zephyr performing both for the Festival and for Chamber Music New Zealand (a well put-together programme with very interesting music).

But my most fun experience of the Festival? Catching up once again with an old mate from Wellington, Carlos Navae, and being invited to play trombone for his late-night Festival Club gig. Haven’t had a Latin jam in aaaaages. (Wellington: lots of Latin music. Dunedin: not so much.)

The power to surpr**SPANISH INQUISITION Y’ALL**

2 Oct

Radio New Zealand last week, and Television New Zealand this week. All I need to do is resurrect NZPA from the dead and I’d have the trifecta.

Megan Martin and Ross The Cameraman from TVNZ’s Dunedin bureau came along to the most recent Song Sale at The Church. She filed this report for Close Up in which we sing of blenders, root vegetables, the onset of Spring, spiteful inheritances, and Mark Sainsbury.

Next Song Sale is Thursday 25 October, btw.

Mark Sainsbury, Megan Grinlinton & Trubie-Dylan Smith on Close Up
Singing up a storm

When plans change.

11 Sep

I'm probably not supposed to do this to the logo.A month ago I was informed that my application for the 2013 University of Otago Mozart Fellowship was unsuccessful.

Given the largely consistent pattern in the last decade of Mozart Fellows having two years on the trot, I was under the illusion that a second term was assured as long as you were doing good work and got your application in on time.

Obviously I was wrong – all applications are assessed against each other fairly and without favouritism. Consequently I offer my congratulations to composer Samuel Holloway and the four other fellows just announced.

I’m grateful one of the selection panel rang me to break the news personally. Extending the courtesy of a phone call sure beats the terse two-sentence letter subsequently posted to me by the university’s HR department.

Still, it hardly lessened the effective kick in the guts. I went into a disbelieving stupor – after all, two years in a row was standard. What the hell had I done wrong? How was my application deficient? Had I made an irrevocable departmental political faux pas at some point? Had I spent too much time outside Dunedin? (..he asked during his fourth trip to Auckland that year.)

Fortunately for me, I had to put all that bullshit aside and project positivity onto two high school music events later that day. At lunchtime, the St Peter’s & St Mary’s Sinfonia rehearsed my piece General Intransigence and I contributed the composer’s opinion. In the evening, I definitely needed an upbeat demeanour to present the monstrously large Westlake Music Gala, part of my high school’s 50th Jubilee: four hours of music from 17 different ensembles over two sessions.

In the intervening month, when I haven’t been wallowing in my own pity and being unproductive, I’ve had time to think about what I could get up to next year. I’ve reached the following conclusions with myself:

  • Shit happens. You had no divine right to a second year.
  • You’ve still got just half of your Fellowship time left. Pull your head in and do some more bloody work – that’s what you’re getting paid for.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have your plans messed with. As Patti Stiles would say, every offer is a gift.
  • As annoying as it is to move cities twice in one year, Dunedin is not the place for a theatrico-comedic composer to make a freelance living. Without full-time employment, full-time study or any family ties here, I’ve got to move away. The lease on my unit comes up on 31 December, so it’s got to be before then.
  • As much fun as the busy annual summer festival season is (Wellington Fringe, Auckland Fringe, Dunedin Fringe etc), it’s financially a slow start to the year if you’re not in full-time employment. It’s not essential to my livelihood to be around for it.
  • It’s high time I did some sustained overseas travel. Consequently I will go to Central and North America from January to May next year, moving from south to north as the weather improves. First to Mexico to hang out and indulge my once-upon-a-time obsession with all music Latin American, then onto major hubs such as LA, Chicago, Toronto, NYC, etc for improv theatre and sketch comedy. Take some workshops, sit in on some gigs, see what comes.
  • The first commitments I have in 2013 are both in Auckland (reminder: APO Organ Spectacular, 23 May 2013, Auckland Town Hall), so it’s high time I based myself in the city of my birth for a while. Since moving away in 2008, I’ve continually kept up useful professional connections there, so I have enough opportunity to make a freelance living. Let’s do that then.
  • Despite working within in a university department this year, I still have no grand desire to embark on further postgraduate study. But if I change my mind, depending on what I want to pursue, the University of Otago and Dunedin would be quite pleasant places to work indeed. I will keep them in mind.
  • Nobody can hold the Mozart Fellowship for more than two years. Being rejected for 2013 means that I can apply for a second term some years in the future. If I’d retained the Fellowship for next year, I wouldn’t have that opportunity.

On that optimistic note, I leave you with this YouTube embed. Two years ago I went through a relationship break-up. At the same time, I had recently seen the episode of Making Tracks where Nick D visits Trinidad. Sitting at my desk at RNZ, unable to do any work, I played this relentlessly positive Soca hit over and over and over again. Actually, “hit” is an appropriate word – every time I played it, it was like getting a dose of cheeriness morphine.

So, PALAAAAANCE!

Instant Songwriting – now in dead tree form!

17 Aug

Dear world,

A while ago I contributed some backing tracks to a book project. Instant Songwriting is written by Chicago actor/teacher Nancy Howland Walker. It’s a series of exercises designed for improvisers who want to acquire that magic skill of song construction in the moment.

Through the first half of this year, its four parts (Dunce, Decent, Distinguished and Diva) were published as individual ebooks on Smashwords. Now the whole thing has been printed in paperback.

BUY IT FROM AMAZON NOW NOW NOW! It’s US$15.95 and eligible for free Super Saver Shipping, as they say.

If you need further inducement, many many tracks from the book (possibly all?) are freely available on the Instant Songwriting website. I’m in the company of amazing musos from around the world like Michael Pollock (Second City Los Angeles & Improv Olympic West), Mike Descoteaux (Boston ex Chicago), Jeff Bouthiette (Second City Chicago), Kris Anderson (Brisbane) and Joe Samuel (London). Tracks by me include a cheesy bossa, a big pub waltz, and a metal thing without much of a consistent key centre.

Next week, Improsaurus begins training for their first ever long-form musical. Instant Songwriting will be an important teaching text for me.

BUY IT NOW NOW NOW.

Song Sale tonight

30 Jul

Song Sale is on tonight – 7:30pm at The Church on Dundas St.

Here’s the Facebook event, and we’re on dunedinmusic.com for the next 12 hours or so.

Enjoy a song from one of the Fringe Festival gigs:

And tonight’s poster:


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