Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Zealand, My Homeland -- ANZAC rehearsal

ANZAC Day is tomorrow, and yesterday we rehearsed for the ANZAC concert at the Fountain Theatre in Dannevirke.

ANZAC Day is a public holiday in New Zealand, a day set aside to commemorate the New Zealand and Australian soldiers who died during the Gallipoli landings in Turkey in 1915 during the First World War. See and for further details.

Every New Zealand city and country village has a cenotaph inscribed with the names of the fallen from their community, and on ANZAC Day those names, and the names of soldiers from subsequent wars, are honoured by a public parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph. New Zealand’s defense forces are kept busy providing uniformed personnel for fly-overs and as escorts, guards, and guest speakers.

In recent years, the Dawn Service (5:15am) and 9am Parade and Wreath-Laying Ceremony, traditionally attended by representatives of community clubs, associations, and schools, have become extremely popular for families and young people to attend. Rather than letting it fade into oblivion, the public have declared it is fashionable to remember the past. As an old soldier said, "A new generation are taking an interest in the battles that helped shape New Zealand's sense of nationhood." Long may we remember, for he who refuses to study the past is condemned to relive it.

The motto of the day is “Lest We Forget”, and the emblem is the red poppy. For the week before April 25th, members of the Returned Servicemen’s Association are out on the streets selling this fabric lapel pin to raise funds for the RSA. The poppy is a reference to the famous poem by Canadian John McCrae titled “In Flanders Fields.” See for text of poem.

My contribution to helping people remember not to forget is two brackets of songs in the afternoon concert. After my success at the Irish concert six weeks ago, I was given carte blanche on my choice and length of program.

The result:

First Half:
For Anzac Day (by E.D.T.)
Finlandia (by Jean Sibelius)
The Last Farewell (by Randy Sparks)

Second Half:
New Zealand! My Homeland! (by Robert J. Pope)
Recessional, or Lest We Forget (by Rudyard Kipling and Reginald de Koven)

I will place the lyrics and program notes in the concert post.

The first bracket is very hard to sing because it’s in a low register and very broad, particularly “Finlandia”. I haven’t found the secret yet for ensuring “Finlandia” is turned on full (my warm-up takes 30 minutes already). The director was delighted with my first bracket, but I knew I could do a lot better.

I stumbled through the song introductions with retired Naval officer Bill Ingram. He was almost word perfect (so far he’s been unable to get his tongue around Jean Sibelius, and keeps referring to me as Nerrily), but as he said to me later, he gets to read it all, while I’m doing it by memory. I’d better have it right by sing time, though! The singing has been my focus, so the speaking part has gained far less attention than it deserved. At least I’ve got a reasonable grip on the tone (you’ll be glad to hear that, Sarah! And thanks so much for working on it with me!). We’re not using microphones but everyone could hear us perfectly, and I didn’t feel any strain from projecting.

The strain and stress of the past month and the voice problems of the last week culminated in a stunning presentation (incl. lyric memory loss at the start of the fourth verse, for which Wendy kindly paused and gave me a prompt) of the Kipling “Recessional”. As I was singing I sensed the rustle and murmur of the venue go totally still. I had them and I knew it. A powerful feeling.

When I took my bow, the awed applause was rounded off by voices acknowledging that for those three minutes I had held them in the palm of my hand. Director Dave Murdoch climbed the platform steps to tell me as much, and as the next performers crowded onto the stage and Dad called after me that I had forgotten to collect my mp3 recorder from the front of the stage, Alan Holmes said with wink in his voice, “What’s that, then? Were you miming?!”

It's strange, though. When I listen to the recording, I'm not sure why they were impressed. Perhaps that’s something to do with my listening apparatus being inside the head that’s making the noise.

Yes, Katrina, I love your shirt, but I’ve decided after studying these pictures that it really is too big for me. For on-stage events, sparkle is good, so I’ll just have to get myself another shirt for rehearsals. Once I earn some money, that is. =/ And concert gowns entering the New Creation list shall be subjected to the sparkle test.

Hey! The above phrase, which I’ve just capitalized, would be a good label for my designs, don't you think? Narelle Elizabeth Worboys and her aims for Boutique Narelle...

ANZAC Day Variety Concert

Dannevirke Fountain Theatre
Wednesday, 25 April, 2007

Compered by LT CDR Bill Ingram (retired)

The theatre was full, a nod to the organizers altering the time from a 7pm to a 4pm start. (The majority of this event’s patrons are at an age when they do not like to leave their cosy homes after dark.)

It was an honour to stand under that flag and sing for my country, and it was even more rewarding to sing God-honouring songs in a theatre where respect for righteousness is conspicuously absent and the name of God is regularly blasphemed.

Bill and I rambled through our introductions in fine style, although Bill is probably embarrassed that there were murmurs from the audience at his interesting rendition of “Jean Sibelius”, but at least he realized that his first effort at my name wasn’t right and managed to find the correct version on the third try, while the audience chuckled and I stood there grinning. I was delighted that after his stilted rehearsal readings (which had me fretting about my speech-writing), he came to life for the real thing and helped me play the audience for some good laughs.

It went thus:


Bill: (Escorts Narelle on stage.) Please welcome Narelle Worboys.
Narelle: Last time we were together I was wearing that uniform you have on!
B: It almost fitted you, too. [Audience laughs.] That was for a couple of nautical songs at a few retirement gatherings. Today you’re going to sing the first three songs as a medley. Why don’t you tell us something about them.
N: I discovered “For Anzac Day” in a Dominion Songbook dating back to my mother’s intermediate school music classes in the 60s.
B: So the book has been around for a while, and the song even longer.
N: If you know anything about its history, please tell me.
B: [Points to self incredulously.] Can’t help you there, sorry. [Audience chuckles.] “Finlandia” is a famous anthem written by Jean Sibelius in 1899.
N: A prayer from a much-divided, fought-over piece of land.
B: “The Last Farewell” has quite a history with you, doesn’t it?
N: Yes, and it’s allowed me to meet some rather famous people. Have you heard of the New Christy Minstrels?
B: Yes, a popular band of the 60s, still performing and recording today.
N: Have you heard of Barry McGuire?
B: His song “Eve of Destruction” knocked the Beatles off the #1 spot in 1965.
N: Twenty years ago he sang “The Last Farewell” at the Dannevirke Town Hall. Captured by its haunting theme, I went home to write the lyrics in my poetry book.
B: And when you wanted to sing it at this concert, you decided to try and locate the source.
N: I’d been trying to find the music for quite a while, actually, but hadn’t thought to do a general internet search for the songwriter, whose name I knew was Randy Sparks.
B: Randy still sings with the New Christy Minstrels, and so does Barry.
N: I’ve been swapping emails with both of them about the song’s history and what they’re up to now. You will be able to hear the New Christy Minstrels’ version of “The Last Farewell” on their Greatest Hits CD which is being released in the next few weeks. [Murmur from audience.]

The marcasite bracelet I’m wearing belongs to Isabel Worboys (my mum). It was given to her on her 21st birthday. It looked good with the outfit, but I liked the sentimental value of it, too.


For Anzac Day

E. D. T.

Honour we the true and brave,
Who, their lives for us unsparing,
Danger daring, sorrow sharing,
All for King and Country gave.

May we loyal comrades prove,
Bravely for the right contending,
Truth defending, gladly lending
Life to win the world for Love.


Jean Sibelius

This is my song, O God of all the nations,A song of peace for lands afar and mine.This is my home, the country where my heart is.Here are my hopes and dreams, my holy shrine.But other hearts in other lands are beatingWith hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover,And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,A song of peace for their land and for mine.

The Last Farewell

Lyrics by Randy Sparks
Music: The Water is Wide

I’m going away at eventide
Across the wild and windy sea.
I bid you stay, stay here by my side
And share a last farewell with me.

Through snowclad mountains proud and tall
Or a thousand miles ‘cross the burning sand,
Our last farewell then will I recall
When I’m alone in a far off land.

A wandering song is all I know,
Yet I love you more, more than words can tell.
I hear the call and I’m bound to go.
I leave you now with a last farewell.

Click here to view "The Last Farewell" from the ANZAC Medley:

To my horror, there are a couple of points in the medley where I sound off key, which has reminded me of the last concert I attended at this venue when acclaimed soprano Jenna Baxter was on the verge of being off key, and young pop singer Anna Sinclair was very badly off key for a sustained fortissimo. They were both singing to a recorded soundtrack, and I supposed at the time that the foldback speakers weren’t arranged so they could hear properly. I had a live accompanist, but I still managed to sound less than accurate – at least, in the video recording from a camera which, while being less than excellent in its visuals, has so far provided reasonably faithful sound. This is a mystery into which I shall explore more purposefully before I’m asked to sing at that venue again! I do a better job recording with my mp3 player in my lounge. Please do listen to the Town Hall recordings for a more faithful representation of my sound than the Anzac clips provide.

Another interesting facet of that venue’s mechanical attributes is that despite a rehearsal with two technicians present in the lighting box, they let me walk out of the lights during “The Last Farewell.” When they didn’t fix it, I backtracked, but on the video I reckon I look like I’ve momentarily forgotten which concert I’m at and have slipped into an Irish jig. This is, of course, my perfectionist opinion which the passage of time may mellow.

Rebecca Gowan, who was operating the camera for me, came backstage and worked a major hair job on me between acts (big thanks for both those services, Rebecca!). Here’s the picture she took on our practice run the day before. Having had my hair cut short before the Irish concert, I didn’t have any long tresses to wind into anything close to 1890s style, so I was going for an 1850s look, a blend of a young Queen Victoria and the Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind, with the assistance of a $2 Shop hair piece to provide the shape and bulk.


B: (Escorts Narelle on stage.) Please welcome again Narelle Worboys. Narelle is going to sing “New Zealand, My Homeland.” Another Dominion Songbook piece, this song brings to mind New Zealand of a century ago.
N: My friend, the late John Meacheam, who was born in 1921, loved to tell me about his boyhood when Te Rehunga was covered in thick bush [murmur of recognition from audience]. The birds were so numerous that the fella standing next to him had to shout to be heard.
B: That’s a lot of birds. [Audience agrees.] This is the New Zealand that thousands of soldiers left to defend and never came back to.

New Zealand, My Homeland

Robert J. Pope

New Zealand! New Zealand! My fondly loved homeland,
Thy mountains and forests are dear to my heart.
I roam with delight o’er thy hills stern and craggy
Whose mantle of manuka perfumes the breeze.

New Zealand! New Zealand! My heart yearns towards thee.
I love thy cool glades and thy fern-shaded streams,
Thy evergreen forests, majestic and silent,
With rata’s red blossoms and clematis crowned.

New Zealand! New Zealand! May fate ne’er compel me
To long for thy charms under alien skies,
But life’s journey ended, the hope of my heart is
To mingle my earth, dear New Zealand, with thine.

[Note: I cut out the third verse which has some archaic language in it. Having it in would have threatened the piece with tedium, especially seeing as the accompaniment was very basic.]

Click here to view "New Zealand, My Homeland":

B: Narelle’s next song is called “Recessional”. Rudyard Kipling, the author of “Jungle Book”, wrote this Recessional during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, a time that celebrated the great power of the British Empire.
N: But Kipling chose not to celebrate. He wrote a lament to the pride that births and fuels war, and a warning that while pride is near so is war. It was a prophecy of what was to come, and the song of a heart pleading with that haunting phrase…
B: “Lest We Forget.”

Recessional (Lest We Forget)

Words by Rudyard Kipling
Music by Reginald de Koven

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, Lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies,
The Captains and the Kings depart.
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget! Lest we forget, forget!

Far-call’d our navies melt away.
On dune and headland sinks the fire.
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, Lest we forget!

If drunk with sight of pow’r we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boasting as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the law,
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget! Lest we forget, forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!


Click here to view "Recessional":

For the finale, I joined the rest of the cast on stage singing “Now is the Hour” with the Lions Pride, opening up at the end for Gary Mitchelmore, former Army dentist, to play “Last Post” on his cornet. The curtains came together on the last notes, and we were marshaled by the stage director to move forward to take a bow, something he hadn’t told us to do at the rehearsal. By the time we were reassembled and the curtain opened again, the audience were halfway to the door! Dave started the bow anyway, and when a few noticed the curtains had opened again and the cast were doing, er, what? they dropped their coats and handbags and offered a smattering of applause. The curtains were promptly closed again, covering my giggles.

I managed the actual vocals without any hiccups, although while waiting backstage with sore, dry throat, there was no certainty of that. What is noticeable is that my body language got disconnected from the songs, making some look like an afterthought. A bit like those old movies that got out of sync with the picture. My head was there, but the rest of me seemed to have decided its job was done and it could go home.

Home and quiet is what I need for a while. A bit of hibernation. It always takes me six weeks to recover from a big project. My next concert is scheduled for the end of November. Until I start preparations for that, I’ll be focused on catering for the blossoming interest in, conducting into reality, rectifying my winter wardrobe situation, and making Operation Christmas Child – the fill-a-shoebox mission – happen in this district. Perhaps I will also find the time to prepare some music manuscripts for sale on Songuine.

Auf Wiedersehen, friends!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Town Hall Debut as Soloist

On March 19th, 2007, the Dannevirke News featured on its front page a quarter-page review of the St. Patrick's Day Irish concert at Dannevirke's recently renovated Art Deco theatre. The article was artistically written -- they have a new reporter who seems to have a reasonable grip on language and logic -- and the tenth paragraph declared:

"Narelle Worboys made her Dannevirke Town Hall debut with an effortless performance of "The Quest". Her crystal-clear voice soared easily to the back of the audience during this beautiful rendition and was appreciatively received."

View "The Impossible Dream":

The gown I wore for "The Impossible Dream" -- referred to as "The Quest" in the program -- was created for me by Deb Watkins. After 5 or 6 years of dreaming about it, I now have a Dress.

In the second half of the program (for which the reporters did not stay), I sang "The Mists of Islay", a soaring, melancholy melody which my teacher Ileana Otto-Johansen says suits my voice perfectly. The accompaniment is very pretty, and I loved the eerie, echoing quality I got from singing in the expanse of the Town Hall.

View "Mists of Islay":

I was amused to hear the compere, a high school geography teacher masquerading as Liam the Leprechaun, comment on the song's Irish charm, and asked him just how Irish does he think the Hebride Islands are? The song can't be considered purely Scottish, though, because the songwriter, Wishart Campbell, was Canadian.

I later explained to those in the audience of Scottish birth that I felt having an Irish-born great-grandmother whose daughter married my Scottish-born grandfather permitted me a certain amount of license when selecting my program.

For this Celtic lament I made a gown of pale green fabric embroidered with shamrocks, layered with a delicate crocheted shawl with long wispy fringe drooping over my fingertips. I was going for a misty look (dry ice is something that sensible singers avoid). Ileana said it made her think of fairies. Someone else said they thought of an angel with droopy wings (the strong lights made the dress look white). When I emerged from the wings, Mum heard an audible intake of breath from the two ladies seated next to her in the balcony, which she interpreted as surprised pleasure.

My outfits are distinctly different to the usual soloist garb of slinky, revealing dresses, so while I aim to match the theme of my music, I'm also making a statement for a web project that is being incubated by friends Genevieve, B'Ethel, and I -- Boutique Narelle, an internet helpline and resource for modelling modesty, the how-to of dressing with stylish practicality and feminine modesty.

The Bush Telegraph declared my performance was achieved with "no sign of nervousness", so I won't tell any secrets there. They seemed under the impression that I hadn't sung in public before. While I do have extensive performing experience with my siblings, it is quite a different thing to be alone on a large stage, faced with a large and unknown audience and solely responsible for the sound they will hear.

To give you an idea of the magnificence of our Town Hall, here are some photos of the interior taken during rehearsals. This blog doesn't accommodate sound bites, nor does my video camera do the acoustics justice. Suffice to say that the hall attracts bookings from nationally-recognized producers because it has a reputation for having the best acoustics outside of a main centre in New Zealand.

I was quite overwhelmed by the response to my singing. So many people came up to speak to me. Strangers shook my hand. People gave me hugs (thankfully that lot weren't strangers). And my Dad told me he cried when I sang "The Impossible Dream". I was very happy with what I achieved, and that people liked it so much. And I was very, very tired.

After the show, I came across all that was left of Liam the Leprechaun...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lyrics for Irish Concert

The Impossible Dream

Music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion.

In this song, Don Quixote explains his quest and the reasons behind it. In doing so, he captures the essence of the play and its philosophical underpinnings.

To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go.

To right the unrightable wrong,
To love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!

This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far;
To fight for the right without question or pause,
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause!

And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest,
And the world will be better for this;
That one girl, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with her last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars.

The Mists of Islay

Music and lyrics by Wishart Campbell

Lost in the mists of Islay.

Through a veil of bygone years;
Through the exile's hidden tears;
One dear vision oft appears,
Out of the mists of Islay.

Waters break on rocky shore;
Sea winds sighing as of yore;
Sea birds crying as they soar
Over the mists of Islay.

Isle mem'ry home to me,
Nevermore thy hills I'll see.
Evermore my heart will be
Lost in the mists of Islay.

Lost in the mists of Islay.

Maestro Baby

This is my nephew Joshua in the winter of 2006.
His mother's piano is one of his favourite toys.
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