I spent the first few days of November in the peaceful surrounds of Lake Kanuga in North Carolina at Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp. This inclusive, communal and creative gathering is now an annual must-be-there event for me. I always return home refreshed, encouraged and full of new insights, ideas and skills.


morning-on-lake-kanugalabyrinth-at-kanuga_fotorPoet, Glenis Redmond, shared her powerful words which now, more than ever, will be needed to jolt us out of systemic injustices that exist across the world.

Jonathan Santos sang songs of ancestors and breaking through.


If not for a chance glimpse at a bill poster outside the Lazy Bones live music venue in Marrickville, we would have been blissfully unaware of the fact that Ursula Yovich was appearing there with Alma Music last night.

As well as a stellar stage, film and television career as an actress, Ursula Yovich is also a talented singer and songwriter. Adm Ventoura (bass player, composer and producer) is the man behind Alma Music, a collaborative and moving feast of musicians.

And BTW, Ms Yovich’s voice is AMAZING.

Ursula Yovich gig 2Ursula Yovich gig 3Ursula Yovich gig

Many people fail because they quit too soon.

Focal dystonia is an insidious condition, a progressive loss of muscular control in highly practiced movements. If you were an accomplished acoustic guitarist at the top of your game, a diagnosis of focal dystonia would, understandably, leave you in a dark place wondering how you could possibly not be able to play your instrument and be who you are.

Billy McLaughlin is another person who shared his work at Patti Digh’s DYLC last weekend in Georgia. By teaching himself to play guitar another way, he has brought joy back to himself and to others.  Here’s a link to Billy’s TEDx Atlanta talk. It’s inspiring. He plays mostly with his eyes closed because he says he can see the music better that way. You can hear it better that way too.

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Before I fall asleep in the second lot of jet lag I’ve experienced in the past week, I wanted to post this slide show of my last few days ‘at camp’.  More details will emerge of the amazing poets, artists and musicians with whom I had the great privilege of sharing the experience. There is so much magic to absorb and I’m grateful for the creative juices that are firing away inside of me right now.

Thank you to the amazing Cary Cooper for foreshadowing ‘exactly how I hoped it would be’ on Day One.

There’s a lot that those of us who are not-so-musical can learn from musicians.

They show up.

They improvise.

They have fun.

They start anywhere.

They are generous.

They say yes even when they’re not quite sure what it is that they are saying yes to.

If not for a big and unambiguous yes to an out-of-the-blue email request, all the people at this party (inadvertent Joni Mitchell reference) would not have had such an amazing evening celebrating Marie’s 80th birthday.

Marie dancing

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That first “Yes” (which brought on an unrehearsed and absolutely satisfying solo happy dance from yours truly) came from the amazing Cazzbo Johns – an extraordinary tuba player and all-round entertainer.

Then Craig Schlencker – composer and double bass player – (we knew each other back in the days of the old schoolyard) said “Yes”.

Then Craig asked his daughter, vocalist Lauren Lucille, and Lauren asked her pianist Wade Gregory.  All “Yes”.


Lauren and Wade

birthday combo


The four had never played together. Not even a rehearsal. They made beautiful music and put layers of icing on the event. Professor Dumbledore (aka J K Rowling), Headmaster of Hogwart’s School of Wizards said best what they brought to the celebration...“Ah music.  A magic far beyond all we do here!” Thank you Cazz, Craig, Lauren and Wade.  Amazing musicians and human beings.

These music clips take you right back to the music of Brisbane in the 70s and highlight the talent of one Carol Lloyd – first as the lead singer of Railroad Gin and then fronting her own band.

HT to JonSouthMusic – YouTube upload

HT MrPurser – YouTube upload

MrPurser is archiving some great Australian music history on his YouTube channel.  Browsing highly recommended.

HMV Portable Record Player

Photo credit: NFSA Australia / / CC BY-NC-ND

It may not have been this exact record player that I heard my first sounds of musical theatre, but you get the  idea.  It was the high-tech portability of its time – His Master’s Voice (HMV), now under administration in the UK.

I cut my teeth listening to show tunes into the night while I was supposed to be sleeping. One I’d forgotten, until recently, was Lola Montez, an Australian musical about the dancer and actress who came to Australia to entertain miners on the Victorian gold fields in August 1855.  She was in the country for a mere nine months, scandalizing many with her famous Spider Dance.

Lola Montez LP cover


It’s been a delight to hear it again and to enjoy broad Australian accents belting out songs about Ballarat and the gold rush.  Have a listen and see how it stacks up after all these years.

02 Southerly Buster

05 Saturday Girl

Close your eyes to listen to this instrumental piece from Joni Mitchell. Beautiful!

one week last summer - Joni Mitchell


From the CD notes for this track on her 2007 album Shine.

I stepped outside of my little house and stood barefoot on a rock. The pacific ocean rolled towards me. Across the bay, a family of seals sprawled on the kelp uncovered by the low tide. A blue heron honked overhead. All around the house the wild roses were blooming. The air smelled sweet and salty and loud with crows and bees. My house was clean. I had food in the fridge for a week. I sat outside until the sun went down.

That night the piano beckoned for the first time in ten years. My fingers found these patterns which express what words could not. This song poured out while a brown bear rummaged through my garbage cans.

The song has seven verses constructed for the days of that happy week.  On Thursday the bear arrives.

Alto Sax: Bob Sheppard.  Piano and all other instrumentation: Joni Mitchell.

Thanks to HonestlyKyoko for uploading this to YouTube.