Deep Blue Orchestra

A couple of months ago, Meg and I went into GPAC to see Deep Blue Orchestra. We had the greatest time. Drinks in the foyer lead to the soft chiming announcement that heralded opening doors and we filed into the small intimate theatre. I had only been in that very theatre a few weeks before to see My Friend the Chocolate Cake (for the second time in as many weeks, but that’s another story). As I settled in my seat, two rows back I found I had an empty seat next to me and I placed down my camera bag, fairly confident I wouldn’t be getting it out. I selected silent on my phone and sat back to await the concert. That’s when everything changed.

First of all we were told to turn back on our phones, that photography – even flash photography – was encouraged. We could tweet and SMS and blog the concert, ideally during the concert and were provided with a hash tag. That included requests. The first thing I did was Google “Deep Blue Orchestra”

deepblue is the orchestra unleashed.

The performance is charged with emotion and engagement. It’s fun, dynamic, entertaining and rule breaking. There is no conductor, no music stands and no stuffy traditions. You don’t have to know when to clap and when to be quiet… you can just enjoy it.

deepblue is part band, part orchestra and part theatre. Whether you like traditional orchestral music or not, you must see deepblue for yourself. The performance is unforgettable and it will change your perception forever.

deepblue marries the traditional string section of the orchestra with a 5th section – digital and electronics. Cameras, big screens and dynamic lighting. It is a rich mix of classical, pop and film music delivered with magnificent sound light, images and stories.

deepblue has broken free from the constraints of a traditional orchestra, it is interactive and audience driven.

It has evolved through audiences wanting to experience the power of the music in a presentation and environment that they have grown to expect from other forms of entertainment. They want the orchestra to be fun again!

Not only is the performance a reinvention, so to is the business model that drives deep blue. Community engagement and audience development replace tradition marketing and advertising as our primary promotional tools. We deliver a range of initiatives to support this such as young blue, thedeepblue Business to Business strategy, the deepblue indoor picnics, a community sponsorship program, workshops and work experience opportunities.

If you’d like to find out more about any of these initiatives, please contact us .

deepblue we never forget who we are performing for.

The music was outstanding as was the showmanship. I took dozens of photos, the best of which can be found here. We really enjoyed the music – classical and contemporary – and watching someone play the cello while 8 foot up on stilts added a new dimension.

Some of my photos were outstanding (that’s the camera, not me) and so I contacted Deep Blue with some copies. They were interested in the originals for use on their web site and so we met up in Brisbane.

I’m really looking forward to their next visit to Geelong and will certainly be keeping an eye out when I’m in Sydney or Brisbane …

My Friend the Chocolate Cake – 21 Years and Counting

Tonight the kids and I went into Melbourne to the Arts Center Fairfax Studio to see, hear and experience once again My Friend The Chocolate Cake (MFTCC), our favorite ensemble band.

We’ve been seeing them in concert, buying CD’s and t-shirts – and now tea towels! – since the early nineties. This time they’re in the middle of their Stopping All Stations Tour to promote their latest album – Fiasco.

This quintessential Melbourne band began in 1989 as an offshoot from the critically acclaimed Not Drowning, Waving (1983-1994) which lay claim to highlights such as the soundtrack for the 1991 film Proof (a Jocelyn Moorhouse film with Hugo Weaving and a very young Russell Crowe – a great movie) and the support band to Peter Gabriel’s 1994 Australian tour. My earliest memories of Chocolate Cake are in the Northcote Ampitheatre holding hands with my girlfriend Meg (now my wife), sitting on the grass, listening to David Bridie (keyboard, vocals), Helen Mountfort (cello) and Hope Csutoros (particularly vibrant violin), enjoying the sun and the breeze and the music.

Chocolate Cake have managed 10 albums in 21 years and have a dedicated following across an extraordinary age range. Tonight’s concert started at 6pm and was done shortly after 8pm – there were kids and grandparents in the audience, nodding and tapping and singing away to the music. Our seats were one row back from the stage – Helen and Hope were literally 4 meters away, Greg Pattern (drums, cool  black shirt), Dean Addison (seriously funky double bass) and Andrew Richardson (acoustic guitar) not much further, and of course David off to the left, facing us over the top of his piano.

It’s quite something to be that close and personal with any ensemble musical performance; with Chocolate Cake – it’s quite something else again. On top of the music, the interplay and interaction between the band members as they work the magic that is Chocolate Cake is something to behold. The glances, the smiles, the cues, the acknowledgments – it’s all inspired, prompted and timed by the music that’s coming forth. It’s amazing. As someone who’s profession is to work as part of a team in an unscripted yet highly choreographed routine of give and take to achieve a common goal – this was something else yet again. I found that aspect of it absolutely fascinating. To quote Dick from High Fidelity, I wish I was a musician.

Closest to us was Hope with her violin. She is capable of coaxing and cajoling an extraordinary range of tones and emotion from that little instrument. It’s one thing to be gifted in your expertise with your instrument – it’s quite another to feed into that gift clear enjoyment and delight in the playing of it and the appreciation of the pleasure of the audience around you.

Front and center facing the crowd as she was this evening, Helen Mountfort would seem to be the least likely to be in touch with the group (other than the synchronicity of the rise and fall of the music that binds them all together – along with the audience – in an ensemble cast)  and yet she continually established eye contact with other members of Chocolate Cake, sharing the joy that was apparent to all present in the music and theater they were creating for us. In particular the ongoing exchange of cues and timing, synchronised bowing with Hope next to her; the simple delight at the challenge and joy of working so closely together through the pieces, was wonderful to watch. I’ve been to Opera and Plays that were far less entertaining, far less engaging than this these 6 musicians, doing what the do so well and clearly enjoying it.

The evening commences with the three originals, David/Helen/Hope and as a piece is played, another musician joins the band until all six are present. The music was a mix of old and new; and although my personal favorite Cello Song for Charlie wasn’t played – the moderately more commercial I’ve got a Plan was – my kids and I used to sing this together as we drove along in our Blue Volvo Station Wagon – you’ll have to listen to the song to understand the reference.

The Fairfax Studio at the Arts Center is as small and intimate a venue as one could hope for given what I would estimate to be about 300 seats. While clearly biased by my love for their music and the seats we enjoyed, at $35 a ticket it was a wonderful evening any family with an appreciation for music will enjoy.

Afterwards the band were in the foyer, signing t-shirts and tea-towels for the audience, before heading back in for the second performance which started at 9pm. Since my wife Meg is galavanting through Europe on a well deserved holiday – I got her a tea towel now emblazoned with the signatures of the entire band. This won’t be used to clean dishes.

My Friend The Chocolate Cake are touring at the moment and the dates and venues can be found here. They told me this evening they’ll be coming to Geelong early next month – I’ll be seeing them again (this time with Meg) when they do.

Chocolate Cake instead of Nuclear Chicken.

This evening I was SUPPOSED to be in Singapore. Sitting at Fatties. Eating Baby Kai Lan, Black Pepper Prawns, BBQ Pork and Nuclear Chicken. Instead I’m in Canberra, in a hotel, having just returned from The Street Theatre, where My Friend the Chocolate Cake were in concert.

Singapore Ferry

My airline is nearly at the end of a period where we have been one aircraft short, as four of our five aircraft cycled through heavy maintenance in Auckland. The last of these is headed up to Singapore this weekend, to be painted in the new Virgin Australia paint scheme (tail included). For at least this one aircraft, gone will be the stars on the tail, finally replaced by the (rather plain) Virgin logo. It will be a sad day for some of us really.

I was to take the aircraft (with the Chief Pilot) up to Singapore this weekend. We were guaranteed at least two meals at Fatties (I was hoping to work a lunch or two in there as well). Unfortunately the trip slipped back two days (Damn you Air New Zealand heavy maintenance) – and the revised journey clashed with a course I’m attending next week on Sim Evaluation with SimuLinc. Hence I’m here in Canberra, visiting my son at the ANU, fortunate enough to catch Chocolate Cake in concert while we are here.

Wing Seong Fatties, Ben Coolen Plaza, Singapore

My first visit to Fatties was circa 1996, and I was taken there by my oft-time mentor Alan Cooke, at one time my Training Captain on the Airbus, and long since good friend. We spent almost 12 years on the 777 together – Al as a Captain, myself as a First Officer, then Captain, then Training Captain. The mentor/friend relationship developed a lot – but in many ways is still the same.

I remember sitting down with him for the first time at Fatty’s and being surprised when the “waiter” brought Al his dinner before bringing me the Menu.

How often have you been coming here” I asked.

Hmm” he said… “About Forty Years.” – True story, but I’ll save that for another time.

Fatty’s of Singapore is something of an institution – certainly amongst aircrew. It seemed to be forever frequented by Locals (good sign of quality) and Air Crew (good sign of cost effectiveness). During my dozen or so years of eating there at least once a month, I saw it move three times. I was fortunate in the early days to meet the original Fatty, who sat outside the restaurant run by his sons, something of an institution himself. Fatty’s started in the 40’s as a restaurant designed to bring local cuisine to the Americans, who seemed  at the time to have inexhaustible appetites, and inexhaustible wallets. You couldn’t eat in those day at Fatties without indulging in Peking Duck, or so I’m told.

By the mid 90’s it was (and still is) a popular air crew hangout. Every night, at some time or another, you’ll meet Qantas, Emirates and several other airline crews, passing in and out of Fatties. Along with their food, the newbies will be consuming bottles of Tiger Beer (along with the arsenic induced hangover the next morning) and those in the know will be quietly working through their Tsing Tao’s.

The Kai Lan is fresh and young, smothered in garlic; the Black Pepper Prawns are enormous, just as fresh and juicy; BBQ pork is a must for anyone laying over from a Middle Eastern base; Nuclear Chicken is an Indonesian Curry dish with morsels of chicken swimming in this yellow/red fire sauce with chilli through it, guaranteed to clear the sinus’s as well as fill the stomach. Just on it’s own, this last dish justifies at least three beers and a bowl or rice.

Ordering at Fatties is always a fascinating experience. If you’re a regular (and I was) then sometimes you didn’t get to. If you were lucky you got in early enough if you wanted something different – but otherwise you’d sit, order a drink and the food would arrive. Often out of order. Sometimes the rice would come after you’d finished the main. Sometimes the Spring Rolls would never come. But you take it all in stride as part of the Asian experience.

Sometimes you’d start ordering as a group and then the ordering would peter out and you’d stare expectantly at Skinny (Fatty’s Son). He’d say “More Food! More Food!” and you’d head back to the menu to choose more. Other times your ambition was too great, you’d be halfway through what you thought you wanted and Skinny would interrupt “Too Much! Too Much! You Get Fat!” and he’s walk away, and you knew your ordering was finished.

Over 14 years I never figured out the billing experience. I could go there on my own, order three dishes (small) with rice and a drink. The price would come to $27 SGD. Or I’d go there as a part of twelve. We’d order as much food as the table would hold, keep ordering beer until we couldn’t get up from the table to hit the toilet because we were surrounded by bottles – the bill would come, we’d divide it up and it would come to $26 SGD. I think they made their money not on the margin on the food or beer but because they never invested in any sort of tiller or accounting system and just multiplied the number of guests by some figure in between $25 and $30 and that was good enough.

My Friend the Chocolate Cake

I’ve written about My Friend The Chocolate Cake before. As always their performance was both polished and fresh. Familiar and invigorating. I’d go again next week – or tomorrow night – in a heart beat.

But man, I’d love some rice and left over nuclear chicken juice …