Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet

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Recently my Dad gave me a real treat: he took me out to see The Imperial Russian Ballet’s ‘Festival of Russian Ballet’ at the Whanganui Opera House. With the tag-line ‘if you only see one ballet in a lifetime, make it ‘A Festival of Russian Ballet’, they were certainly confident in what they had to offer, and over the course of the three-hour performance they delivered. Continue reading “Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet”

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Poems You Should Know: The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde

In 1895, Irish novelist, essayist, and playwright Oscar Wilde was riding high on the success of his latest play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and his relationship with young aristocrat Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). But the good times were not to last. Douglas’ furious father, the Marquis of Queensberry, left a calling-card at Wilde’s club inscribed ‘for Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite’ [sic]. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde”

Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)

Vermeer Girl With A Pearl Earring 1665
‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, Vermeer, c.1665

While the historical novel by Tracy Chevalier, and the movie based on it, have told us otherwise, the truth is that we have no idea who this girl is, or why she’s dressed up in Oriental garb, complete with the titular earring (which one Dutch astrophysicist has suggested might actually be made of tin). Perhaps this mystery is part of what makes the picture so intriguing. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)”

Author Profile: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Hemingway in later life
Ernest Hemingway in later life.

Born at the close of the 19th century, Hemingway embodied, for good or ill, a type of masculinity seldom encountered in the West today. He was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, into a conservative middle-class family. His musician mother, Grace, endeavoured to teach him the cello, but his physician father, Clarence, seems to have been more influential, spending their family vacations teaching his son how to camp, hunt, fish, and generally love and thrive in the great outdoors. In high school he was involved in a number of sports, but also excelled in English and wrote for his school paper. Continue reading “Author Profile: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)”

Philosophy: The Core Areas

The Culture Project has always been about starting at the very beginning, and nowhere is this more the case for me than in Philosophy, a subject which has been studied for millennia by people of tremendous genius, and about which I know practically nothing. In the grand tradition, then, of posting literally all I know about a particular subject, here is my brief explanation of the four core areas of Western philosophy, as studied for thousands of years by people much smarter than me.

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Raphael’s ‘School at Athens’ a.k.a. ‘that one really famous painting of a whole group of philosophers that you’ll see pretty much any time the subject is mentioned, anywhere’.

Continue reading “Philosophy: The Core Areas”

Treasure Trove: The art of Louise Ingram Rayner

Born in Derbyshire, England, Louise Ingram Rayner (1832-1924) was a watercolourist who, throughout the summers of the 1870s and 1880s, travelled throughout England painting exquisite cityscapes. I encountered her work through the Female Artists in History Facebook page, which I’ve blogged about before, and am always happy when one of her beautiful pictures of Victorian England appears in my newsfeed. For me, they capture views that are at once familiar (many Victorian buildings are still standing in England today), and foreign, with a gentle touch which admittedly disguises some of the uglier realities of Victorian life.

Poems You Should Know: ‘The Maori Jesus’ by James K. Baxter

Mid-twentieth century poet James K. Baxter was a complicated man with a certain prophetic bent. A number of his poems, like this one, challenged contemporary social assumptions. In ‘The Maori Jesus’, the Christ is depicted as a somewhat down-and-out member of New Zealand’s indigenous people who pays a heavy price for living outside comfortable White social norms. For me as a Christian, Baxter captures something in this poem which is too easily forgotten in our ‘nice’ White, middle class religion.

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Excerpt from ‘The Maori Jesus’ on display outside Te Papa museum in Wellington. In my student days I often used to walk past this but it took me years to look up the poem it came from.

Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘The Maori Jesus’ by James K. Baxter”

Musical Instruments: The Brass Family

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The saxophone. Not technically a brass instrument.

Seated up the back right as you look at an orchestra is the brass family. In typical classical fashion, not all instruments in the brass family are made of brass, and not all instruments made of brass are members of the brass family: the term actually refers to instruments which produce sound through the ‘sympathetic vibration’ of the player’s lips against the mouth-piece of a tubular resonator. Thus the digeridoo, which is made of wood, is technically a ‘brass’ instrument, but the saxophone, which produces sound by means of a reed in the mouth-piece, is not a ‘brass’ instrument. Continue reading “Musical Instruments: The Brass Family”

Local Culture: A Whanganui Opera Homecoming featuring Bianca Andrew and David Kelly

Bianca Andrew.jpgThe more time I spend exploring the cultural offerings of Whanganui the more I realise just how much is out there and just how proud our community is of what we have to offer. That pride was in evidence a couple of weeks ago at a fundraising concert for Bianca Andrew, an alumna of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama who originally hails from Wellington and was, during her undergraduate studies in New Zealand, a well-loved part of Whanganui’s annual Opera Week.

Continue reading “Local Culture: A Whanganui Opera Homecoming featuring Bianca Andrew and David Kelly”

On My Reading List: August 2017

It’s getting towards the end of the month, so I thought I’d update you on what I’ve been reading lately. Here’s my current reading list, accompanied by my cat, Angel, who quite likes it when I read because it’s one of the few times I stay still long enough for her to have a really good snooze on my lap.

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Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott (1819): One of the first modern adventure novels, Ivanhoe is picturesquely written and set in Merrie Olde England. It’s an ‘historical romance’ in the loosest sense of history and (mainly) chivalric sense of romance. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a while and I finally decided I really should start clearing my extensive backlog. Continue reading “On My Reading List: August 2017”