Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor (op. 85)

Reservoir Cemetery just after the war
Reservoir Cemetery, Ypres, just after WWI

Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor is one of those (for me) rare things in classical music; a piece which I found instantly comprehensible. It is sad. Heartbreakingly sad, and angry, and touched with aching nostalgia. Composed in 1919, it is the composer’s last great master-work, a eulogy for the millions of war dead composed in the same Sussex home from which, during the War, Elgar had heard at night the artillery fire from across the Channel. It has also been speculated that it was a eulogy for one soldier in particular, the New Zealand-born son of his first love, Helen Weaver, who was killed on the Somme. Continue reading “Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor (op. 85)”

Paintings You Should Know: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ (1937)

Guernica is one of those rare things: a famous painting that I’ve actually seen, thanks to a visit to the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid while I was on my O.E. (‘Overseas Experience’) years ago. The overwhelming memory that I have of it is its size: Guernica is a mural, 3.49m by 7.76m, and the sheer size of it makes its subject matter intensely confrontational. As it should be, because Picasso intended his painting to depict war in all its horror, and in particular in the horror of its impact on non-combatants and innocents – women, children, and animals.

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Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937

Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ (1937)”

Lest We Forget

ANZAC OdeLaurence Binyon composed his poem ‘For The Fallen’ just a few weeks after the outbreak of WWI. It is the fourth stanza, sometimes referred to as The Ode, which is most widely known, being recited at remembrance services in a number of Commonwealth nations, including the annual ANZAC Day dawn services here in New Zealand. Continue reading “Lest We Forget”

Seven Classic War Novels

poppyApril in New Zealand brings our annual day of remembrance for our military service men and women, and the ancillary personnel who support them. ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is held on the 25th of April, the anniversary of the day in 1915 when soldiers from the two British colonies began their ultimately futile campaign to seize the Gallipoli Peninsula in what is now Turkey, in an effort to take control of the Dardanelles and clear the way for an attack on Constantinople, at the heart of the Ottoman Empire. The four-month campaign, in which around 16,000 Kiwis and 20,000 Australians served with over 7,000 Kiwi and 8,000 Aussie casualties, was recognised almost immediately as a defining moment for both nations, and dawn services have been held in commemoration since at least the 1920s.

To mark ANZAC Day, the next couple of weeks will feature posts on some of the ways people have responded artistically to war, beginning with this one, which features six recognised classic novels on the subject. For the sake of consistency, I’ve organised this list based on the date of the conflict rather than the year the book was published. Continue reading “Seven Classic War Novels”

The Winery, Queenstown

A self-serve wine-tasting bar? It’s certainly an interesting concept, and when Becks and I happened to walk past The Winery in Queenstown over Easter I knew I had to check it out… just as soon as Lent was over.

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Sauvignon Blanc dispenser at The Winery.

So on Easter Monday, the last day of our holiday, I wandered back and spent a pleasant hour trying it out. Continue reading “The Winery, Queenstown”

Much Ado About Joss Whedon

If you’re sitting there thinking ‘Joss who?’ you’re probably not alone, but Joss Whedon is the reason I was never able to take the Twilight series of books and movies seriously. Because Whedon is the man behind the 1990s TV hit show Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy would have kicked Edward Cullen’s arse. Don’t believe me? Someone made it happen), as well as spinoff show Angel; cult sci-fi shows Firefly and Dollhouse; and the trope-tastic horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. He’s been involved with a number of other big name movies as well, but what I didn’t know, until very recently, is that in 2012 he adapted for the screen, produced, and directed a movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Continue reading “Much Ado About Joss Whedon”

Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie

The uncontested ‘Queen of Crime’, Dame Agatha Christie is hailed as the best-selling novelist of all time, with her works ranked third behind the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. Her most famous and beloved characters are the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple; many of her stories about these characters have been adapted for television. Continue reading “Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)”

On My Reading List: Early April 2016

Douglas Adams’ Ford Prefect may have found the actual getting-from-place-to-place aspect of travel boring, but it does at least provide the opportunity to squeeze in some wuality reading time – especially when the airport bookshop has a small but high-quality selection of classics. And so my Easter break provided a useful opportunity to tick off a few must-reads. Continue reading “On My Reading List: Early April 2016”

Young Shakespeare Regional Festival

‘to enrich and enhance life skills through the study, production and performance of Shakespeare’s works’.

Aim of the Regional and National University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival

Earlier this month I happened to see an article in my local free paper about the regional secondary school’s Shakespeare Festival, which was to be held that Sunday. As it was Shakespeare, and as it was being held in my old school hall, and as tickets were only $5, I decided to head it along and check it out.

Shakespeare SGCNZ Sheilah Winn Continue reading “Young Shakespeare Regional Festival”

A Sense of Place: Favourites from Artists Open Studios

Watt Fountain
Whanganui’s Watt Fountain, a memorial to the town’s first mayor, William Hogg Watt, constructed 1881.

With such a huge range of art by some very talented artists on offer, it isn’t easy to pick out favourites from Artists Open Studios, but I wanted to highlight the work of two artists whose work I particularly loved for their sense of place. Sadly, as photography is banned at AOS I’m unable to post pictures of the specific paintings that caught my eye, but I hope by giving a description and posting a few pictures which the artists in question have made available online that I’ll be able to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Favourites from Artists Open Studios”