THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Looking and listening
At the next Kettering Concert, take time to look around you. The artist exhibiting in accompaniment to the musical feast is Roseann Johnstone, and her colourful fabric pieces will be both eye-catching and unique. Many Channel spinners and weavers will remember Roseann from her role teaching these skills with Adult Education in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a craft she’s enjoyed for 40 years.
However, when she was invited to join a group of textile artists while on a trip to Queensland, she discovered a new art form - Nuno felting - and on returning home embraced this with enthusiasm. Inspired by scenery as diverse as aerial views of Lake Eyre, the blue seas and red rocks of East Coast Tasmania and blue gum trees around her Woodbridge home, brilliantly coloured after rain, Roseann set to work. She loves the way wool, cotton and silk interact, has found a new way of using hand-dyed and spun wool, and incorporates beads found in op shops in her creations. The display will make a perfect backdrop to the concert, featuring violinists Sue Collins and Sarah Schmeermeijer in solo and duet performances.
Music and passion, as practised on the violin
Violins were always the fashion - in eighteenth century Europe. And when Johann Sebastien Bach and Jean-Marie Leclair composed for the violin they were brought to particular prominence in their native France. Much of this is due to Leclair, who was born in Lyon, France, and became an accomplished musician, but left to enjoy a respected career as a dancer in Turin, Italy. “Ironically, his time as a dancer in Italy was significantly important for his music career,” writes Karl Stobbe for Analekta.com. When Leclair’s dance career gave way to music, he returned to France. “Armed with the technical prowess of the great Italian violin school, he quickly showed the French public that the violin was more than just an orchestral instrument,” writes Stobbe.
The piece for two violins to be played by Sue Collins and Sarah Schmeermeijer, is a technically demanding work, says Stobbe, “with lilting pastorals, graceful sarabandes, and fiery jigs.” Leclair’s life had its share of scandal, and ended with his stabbing death, a murder never solved, but with suspicion spread between his estranged second wife, his nephew, or the gardener who found his body! “Leclair’s music does in some way seem to be a metaphor for his life ... tribulations and trial, romance and violence ...” which all adds a certain piquancy to this work. J.S. Bach would benefit from Leclair’s groundwork as “the father of French violin playing”. But his solo piece, played by Sue Collins, is a triumph in its own right. The movements consist of four ‘dance types’ and a fifth in the form of ‘variations’. It is the fifth, the Chaconne (the movements are often listed by their French, rather than Italian names) that steals the show. It’s as long as the first four together and was described by Yehudi Menuhin as “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”. And violinist Joshua Bell says of it, “It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect”. Johannes Brahms considered it, “one of the most wonderful, incomprehensible pieces of music ... a whole world of deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings”. It has been transcribed for piano, cello, guitar, organ - and no doubt many other instruments, such is its strength.
Teacher and pupil
On reading the biographies of the two performers, we discover Sarah is currently a PhD candidate in Music Performance at UTAS, under the tutelage and mentorship of
Dr Susan Collins. Sarah was born in Germany, switching from cello to violin and playing duets with her twin sister. At age 9 she was invited to perform solo before the governor of Queensland. She has enjoyed a stellar musical career, performing with many ensembles and gaining many accolades and awards along the way. Sarah’s mentor, Sue Collins, also debuted at a young age, performing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at age 14. She has been engaged as Concertmaster with many orchestras around Australia, and in 2003 was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for her work with opera and ballet.
When and where
This concert will be held on Sunday 17 October at 3pm at the Kettering Community Hall. Tickets are only available online at www.ketteringconcerts.org.au, and are $15. The program consists of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita for Violin in D minor, and Sonata No. 2, from Six Sonatas for two violins, Opus 3, by Jean-Marie Leclair l’Aîné (the Elder).
What lurks in the wilderness?
Whilst at Strathgordon, at the edge of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area, the conversation naturally turned to the Tasmanian tiger and whether it could still exist.
Looking out over the miles and miles of untamed wilderness, it seemed quite conceivable that somewhere out there they could still be around.
So it was no surprise to find an article headlined “Once thought extinct, the Tasmanian tiger may still be prowling the planet” by Wendy Bowman, which was updated as recently as April this year.
“You’ve no doubt heard about the Tasmanian devil or, better yet, even seen an animated version of the whirling dervish in a Looney Tunes cartoon,” writes Bowman.
“But what about the Tasmanian tiger? Actually, not even a tiger at all, instead a marsupial scientifically known as the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), this creature is thought to have gone extinct almost 100 years ago.
But did it really? While many experts believe the last-known thylacine died at Australia’s Hobart Zoo in 1936, yet others ardently claim the animal still exists because they have spotted one or more in
So, what is the definition of ‘extinct’? Kathryn Medlock, honorary curator of vertebrate zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, says Tasmanian tigers “are officially an extinct species. Although designated as officially extinct, it is difficult to prove something is not there as opposed to proving it is. There are many cases of species being ‘rediscovered’ after many years of supposed extinction.”
There is even a Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia. Spokesperson Neil Waters says, “Do I think
the animal is extinct? No, because I have seen two and been coughed/barked at by one in South Australia in 2018. There have been more than 7,000 documented sightings of thylacines (or animals that appear to be thylacines), mostly on mainland Australia.
The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife website provides a lot of information about the Tasmanian tiger and its history, including this description: “The thylacine looked like a large, long dog with stripes,
a heavy, stiff tail and a big head. Its scientific name, Thylacinus cynocephalus, means ‘pouched dog with a wolf’s head’. When fully grown, it measured about 180cm from nose to tail tip, stood about 58cm high at the shoulder and weighed up to 30kg. The short, soft fur was brown, except for 13 to 20 dark brown-black stripes that extended from the base of the tail to almost the shoulders.”
It was the introduction of sheep in the 1820s which led to conflict between settlers and thylacines. The shepherds were convinced thylacines were taking their young lambs. By 1830, the Van Diemen’s Land Company had introduced a bounty on thylacines.
Within a few years, they were considered rare. Zoos around the world wanted a specimen but thylacines were never bred in captivity and had only a short life span of five to seven years.
In 1933, one of the few remaining thylacines was captured in the Florentine Valley and sold to the Hobart Zoo. But, on 7 September 1936, that last known thylacine in captivity died.
There are dedicated searchers, including Waters, who famously released a video of a ‘sighting’ in March this year. He filmed the clip when wandering around the northern Tasmanian bushland.
He invited international dog and cat show judges, vets, and wildlife experts, to view his video.
“Five vets all agree it looks like
a four-legged animal and not
a macropod that hops,” he said. Waters says these signs include “the way the tail sits, the fact the feet are broad and there are four toe pads with claws. The animal also has short feet like a Tasmanian tiger and ‘shiny hocks’, with evidence of striping on the tail.” But not all who saw the footage agreed.
There is also a YouTube video with more information about the search for the “most sought-after extinct animal in the world”.
Of course we didn’t see one but, if you do, film it if possible, and report it to the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. They continue to record sightings and take them seriously.
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