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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aloha!

Sheet-music from hulapages.com

I was thrilled to see through the comments on my last post that some of you share my fascination with the ukelele! So now I'm going to let you in on a little secret...I have a bit of an obsession with all things Hawaiian. I'm not sure when it started but I know it peaked sometime during the late 90s when I was researching dance bands in Melbourne in the 1930s and 1940s.

So here for your edification are a few little bits of Melbourne/Hawaiian music history for you. The first Hawaiian troupe came to Australia in 1911. It was lead by Ernest Kaai, a Hawaiian musician interested in jazz. He visited Australia again in 1924 and 1926 playing both traditional Hawaiian music and a style known as 'hapa hoale' (half white) which was characterised by the Tin Pan Alley style of lyric and musical composition made popular through sheet-music and movies during the early part of last century.

During the 1930s Hawaiian Clubs popped up all over Australia with the Melbourne Hawaiian Club opening on the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets (where the City Square is now). Here you could learn steel guitar, ukelele and even hula dancing. There was also a small midnight cabaret venue there during the Second World War called the Blue Lagoon. The interior of the club was painted blue with dim lighting and lots of palms helping to create the desired atmosphere.
For those of you familiar with the Melbourne seaside suburb of St Kilda there was also a large Hawaiian-themed venue on The Esplanade know as the Palm Grove (previously Earl's Court and subsequently The Venue before it was demolished in the 1990s). Here musicians such as Jim Jensen's Hawaiians, The Hawaiian Kings and Les Adams Hawaiians served up swing-inspired Hawaiian music for American servicemen and their partners. Unfortunately there has been very little written about these places and few photographs seem to be in the public record.

So there you go. More arcane knowledge from my endless store of trivia. If you're in Melbourne and feel like catching some sweet Hawaiian tunes you might like to go and see The Ukeladies perform or maybe even join the Melbourne Ukelele Kollective. If that's not your thing you might like to teach yourself to play using one of the many tutorials on YouTube or you could hunt down this book for the great photos and illustrations.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taking the Leap...

Originally uploaded to Flickr on July 1, 2009by Kat Gloor

Last week I went back to dance classes and my soul is singing (or should that be my soles?!). Last night we did 'grand jetes' across the floor to Pink's 'I'm Not Here For Your Entertainment' and as I flew through the air I noticed that I was smiling - not for any audience or mirror - but with the sheer pleasure that comes from launching yourself into space.

Dance has always been a big part of my life. There have only been a few times when I haven't danced. These have been key transitional periods in my life - secondary school to university, university to full-time work, motherhood. The first two breaks were for no more than one or two years but its now been six years since I last took a dance class. SIX YEARS! Why have I been denying myself this feeling for so long?

I've long been aware of the connection between dance and my own wellbeing. I just feel better when I'm dancing. As a person who lives most of their life in their head, dancing gives me a chance to re-align my 'thinking brain' and my 'body brain' - to walk on water without thinking 'Wow, I'm walking on water' and falling in. Obviously a six year break is going to leave things seriously out-of-whack so it's going to take more than a few weeks to get things back in balance but I plan on enjoying every minute of it.

Perhaps you should take the leap too?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Virtual Choir



The Virtual Choir is an amazing project set up by composer/ conductor Eric Whitacre. Whitacre has never met any of these people in real life. They all auditioned and performed online responding to his conductor's track and their performances were then edited together to create this beautiful work.You can read more about the story behind its creation here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Growing Eco Warriors



Holidays are over and we're already back into the school routine. Isabella was eagar to go back as she knew she would be receiving her 'Environmental Leader' badge. Ours is a 'sustainable' school which means that anything to do with the environment is a big deal. A large percentage of the school's power comes from solar energy, the toilets are flushed and the grounds watered with tank water. The kids get to look after the vegetable garden, orchard, chooks and until recently a sheep. Behind the school is a large nature reserve full of native flora and fauna and has an area known as 'Nature's Classroom'.

I think these sort of experiences are really valuable for kids and so does my friend Loretta who is involved with Gardeneers a great program for kids at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society in Canada. 'Gardeneers' is designed to get little kids in touch with nature. From watching a seed grow to exploring garden wildlife, composting and worm farms, kids get to get down and dirty while exploring the whole around them.

Too often kids hear about all the terrible things that are going to happen if pollution and global warming are not addressed. From their point of view it must seem very strange to be surrounded by grown-ups who don't know how (or worse still don't care about) fixing the problem. Old habits die hard. Projects like sustainable schools and 'Gardeneers' empower kids to become part of the solution and hopefully some of the boundless enthusiam for change they generate may rub off on the rest of us. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Australian Made

Evening gown 1954 by Hall Ludlow, Melbourne
silk, Vilene, acetate, nylon, polyester, metal, cotton
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Adrian Lowe, 2005

Yesterday we finally made it to Australian Made: One Hundred Years of Fashion at the NGV. The hundred years in question are the 1850s to 1950s and although that is quite a timespan the exhibition is quite modest in scale. That being said every outfit, hat and shoe deserves its place in the show. The earliest example comes from 1855 (at the height of the Victorian goldrush) and is made from cotton, silk, metal, mother-of-pearl and baleen (whale bone). Incredibly, it was sewn entirely by hand by an unknown maker predating the general use of sewing machines. At the other end of the timescale is a beautiful ruched and pleated strapless evening gown by Melbourne designer Hall Ludlow (pictured above).


Dress, c1855. Maker unknown, Australia.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Micheal Parker, 1983
It was the shorter evening gowns from the 1920s, however, that really caught my attention, initially on purely aesthetic grounds but then by a personal connection. Four of the items on display were donated by a wonderful woman I first met when I was just starting my career and she was just finishing hers. Her name was Irene Mitchell. Renee was an actor, director, teacher, head-honcho at St Martin's Theatre and mentor to literally thousands of theatre professionals in Melbourne and by extension Australia. She was an icon on the local scene from the 1940s to the 1990s and even in advanced age she was still a force to be reckoned with. She still had an amazingly rich, rounded voice that projected to the back of the room and she commanded great respect form all those who knew her. She wore wonderfully over-sized jewellery and carried herself with great dignity - a true grande dame of the theatre. You can find a lovely photo of her here and more information about her career here).



Pictured above is one of the gowns she donated to the Gallery in 1975. It was made in 1919/20 by Hicks, Atkinson & Sons Pty Ltd in Collins Street, a retailer with an 'elegant European atmosphere'. It is described by the curator as being made of 'black silk with an overlay of net draped into soft panniers at the hips and decorated with iridescent sequins' and tiny glass beads.

If you are in Melbourne you really should go and take a look at this show. It may not be as big as some of the 'Winter Masterpiece' exhibitions but every piece in it is a jewel.



PS: You may remember that I was tagged recently by Style Wilderness. In turn I've tagged Debby at Cooking Up A Storm In A Teacup and Estelle at Curbside Style so why don't you go and have a look at their funny, witty, interesting answers?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not Quite A Hat...


Isabella periodically suffers from earaches so I like her to wear a hat when the weather turns cold. Unfortunately the older she gets the less inclined she is do so. She does, however, love headbands so by way of compromise I made her this very wide garter-stitch head-thingy. I think she looks quite fetching in it and so does she!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tag - you're it!

Image sourced from Sensibility.com


I've been tagged by Fourth Daughter over at Style Wilderness! This is my first tagging so I'm quite chuffed. Fourth Daughter is going on a literary speed date soon and needs some advice so some of the questions are related to that dilemma while others are from previous taggings so here goes:

1. If you had to spend 3 consecutive days on the same train who would you want with you and why?
I'd have to say someone very patient! I'm not very good at enclosed spaces (more on that later) but someone with a great life story and sense enough to know when I need to retreat to my book would be a good bet.

2. Have you ever had a sewing-related injury? Give gory details! If not any irrational fears?
Luckily I haven't had any sewing accidents I'd describe as gory but I do have an overriding irrational fear - claustrophobia. It's a real downer let me tell you. I haven't been in plane for over 7 years and at one stage I even found going to the cinema a challenge. I avoid crowded public transport and always have one eye on the exit wherever I go. For the most part I think I hide it pretty well but it can be very exhausting!

3. What wouldn't you be caught dead in?
Shorts, bikinis, midriff tops, mini-skirts, pastels, tracksuits...

4. What garment/ accessory do you wear the most?
At the moment I'm living in my long black boots - it's very cold here. I've also recently acquired a cute little mother-of-pearl flower brooch which seems to be following me from outfit to outfit.

5. Which pattern/ vintage style have you been thinking about recently?Before I had children I used to wear a lot of dresses now I never wear them. I think that's a shame so I'm scouting around for new shapes. I've always loved 1940s fashion so something like the dress pictured above might fit the bill.

6. What is one place you really want to visit that you haven't been to before?
San Francisco! My sister and her young family live there and I feel terrible that I have never visited them (see irrational fears).

7. What do you wear when you want to impress?
I'm going to give an earnest answer here. If I'm going on a date (it's been a long time!) I want my date to be impressed by me not my clothes. I also don't want the distraction of worrying about my choices/ being uncomfortable etc that come with impulse bought new outfits. My advice is to wear something you love, is typical of your style and in which you know you look fabulous.

8. Who is your favourite literary character and why? At the moment I would have to say Inspector Montalbano. The Inspector and I have spent a lot of time together this year (10 novels) and I have come to love this grumpy old so-and-so. I love his enthusiasm for Sicilian cuisine, his eccentric ways of piecing information together and his constant confusion about women.

9. Which handmade project are you most proud of?
My first really big knitting project was a black ribbed, roll neck jumper in 4 ply wool (for non-knitters that's baby wool!) for Tom. It took me forever but it's such a classic pattern I just love it.

10. What was the best date you've ever been on?
I've never actually been on a really formal date but my second or so date with Tom was quite memorable. We went to a bar for a drink and I was so nervous, and gesticulating so wildly, that I somehow managed to karate-chop the top off my glass without spilling a drop of my drink - very impressive!

So there you have it. Good luck with the literary speed-dating Fourth Daughter!