Monday, July 20, 2015

Maestro Wenarto the man to bring opera into the twenty first century? Janette Miller

"dear friends:
I have making youtube videos for a long time and now I have more than 2,000 videos. Mostly opera parody, chansons, lieder, zarzuelas, and many songs from around the world. So far I sing in 36 languages and only few of them are good and most of them are just, my style, which is voice with no training, and on top of that, I can't read music.
Recently there's an Opera article about me, and one of the writer in Seattle said "there's nothing new in the past 5 years" - and this sentence stuck in my heart since. The production of opera youtube is now diminishing but replaced by simple art songs like the attachment below. It is an example that although it is short, it took me few days to learn it (without the score). Myself is about evolution, not revolution.
So at 3 in the morning today, I woke up and asked myself, why I am doing all of these (spending so much money with no payback). From economic stand point, artist like me are a perfect example of not able to save money (but who cares about the money). And now that there are less and less viewer on my channel, I keep saying to myself:
I am doing this FOR ME. I study almost everyday to channel my creativity through music, cooking, painting, gardening, and many more. Music is just one of the outlet in the last 10 years period. Before that was painting. So what is next? God only knows...
I think when I am gone from this earth. I can be remembered by my friends through my art works or my music." Maestro Wenarto.

Maestro Wenarto is a YouTube celebrity extraordinaire. There is no one else like him anywhere on YouTube, He is a one off and very special. He does opera his way. He loves it and is not afraid of it. Make no mistake this man knows his opera and he knows what he is doing and yet he feels that he gets little recognition. I am afraid for a creative artist deferred gratification is still the order of the day. One gets it when one is dead but even so artists do their own thing regardless thank goodness. 

I know exactly how Wenarto feels. I feel exactly the same. I make original short YouTube videos of Leider in a very untraditional way. I used to do this with opera and ballet.  I get little or response yet a YouTube featuring my local master butcher , and believe me he is an artist at his work gets 100,000 hits although my rendition of 'Daisy, Daisy' didn't meet today's young audience's approval  who had never heard of this Victorian ditty.

Like Wenarto I do it because I love Lieder, opera and ballet and fine art and I want to share my love with my friends today. Art or music from a previous age needs constant renewing, Shakespeare is a good example. 'Hamlet' is cut and refreshed and made relevant to the age, everyone can see today that Hamlet is Gay that is why he shuns Ophelia and he dies in Horatio' arms, maybe someone should do the same with the Ring. Chereau made a start. 

Wenarto does this. Some of his YouTubes seem fun on the surface but some like his 'Erwartung' are so clever and so creative. He used hands to describe the forest, a sea of living hands, and I learned only recently that is what Schoenberg had wished for.

Creative artists push artists to push art forward , using past models as a base. This is going to be difficult in future if copyrights are locked up but this is how it works. Opera needs to be brought into the 21st century and so does art song if it is to survive because even a thriving art form will die as the traditionalists die out.

The world needs artists like Wenarto, a he is an artist, to stop our complacency and make us think. We should appreciate these people but we don't.

We do projects because we need to express our passions. Culture is learned and shared. My last passion is Schubert's ''Winter Journey, yes I use an English title as the majority of my friends speak English and I want them to know what it is about and I sing it in English too and I orchestrate in a modern way because this is what this work says to me today, not hundreds of years ago.

But will it get viewed? Yes by a few, and I get the occasional comment that makes one feel it is worthwhile but not in my lifetime. I have decided to try and finish it, all 24 songs and I am going to devote Fridays to it."
Maestro is a master. It is a pity he is not running the Met and he needs encouragement.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Garageband, Apple's gift to Singers Janette Miller

"For most of us, the Apple store is a place to buy aspirational goods,  and, if you’re a teenage boy, to try to leave a mildly explicit image on a Macbook Air. But for rapperPrince Harvey, the outlet in Soho, New York, became an entire recording studio. Using the GarageBand app and an inbuilt microphone, he recorded a whole album in secret while in store, on a display laptop."   UK Guardian

Garageband is an amazing.

I can see why rappers enjoy it. It allows people with no formal musical education to write out and arrange their own music  and not only rappers but classical artists especially singers, many of who do not play instruments.

I'dont. All though my career I have had to rely on friendly pianists or pay vast sums to accompanists to rehearse and of course the chances of singing major works with vast orchestras was out of the question and then at the end of my life along came Garageband and my life changed.

By accident I found out I could write out my accompaniments. I started with simple Schubert. Then I found I could orchestrate and I sung The Songs of the Auvergne, which are beautiful to sing but almost impossible for an ordinary accompanist  to play.

September by Richard Strauss was always on my to sing want list and Garageband made this possible. I just wrote in the 90 instruments. Took a bit of time and for me a fascinating learning curve into orchestration but the finished product sounds better than any orchestra as an orchestra can never play it this accurately and if you think mistakes add to a performance you are sadly mistaken. Strauss is so subtle. The birds stop in mid breath  and the bees a bit later.  Sadly I cannot put this up because of copyright but I don't care I can sing it whenever I like with full orchestra and in about 5 years the copyright lapses and I will if I am still around.

Garageband is not a toy. It has enriched my life. More musicians should learn to use it. It can do anything and in fact more than many professional programmes for free!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to Support Artists by Janette Miller

How to support Artists?

I try to do this but being an artist myself I have never had the means to do this in a substantial way. Only rich patrons can indulge in true patronage. At least I can appreciate the work of other artists.  I am a good audience and in my day an employer, although sometimes those   I employed could make my life very difficult. I know what went into their creation, hours and hours of rehearsal, thought and angst. Today social media gives many artists like me an outlet  and Like on FB and YouTube can be the only reward.

This small act costs nothing, you do not have to like the work but it shows the artist you have looked and appreciate it and yet this tiny action that costs nothing is so often withheld. I suppose it gives that feeling of power. I do notice when I put up a Lieder video that I have spent weeks on and I get not one Like from my friends. It tells me something I suppose,  it tells me what I do is so useless even my friends cannot bother to look and if they do look they do not Like what they see.. Fortunately artists just soldier on. It is not my fault that my friends do not like Lieder  the same way as they love other topic, sensitivity prevents me from naming them but a bit of encouragement along the way would help. They might get to Like Leider. Leider is super.

When I bought my Tony Fomisons, he was destitute. I was hard up. Today his oil paintings are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars and grace the walls of art galleries and company board rooms. He knew he was great and carried on regardless. Pity public recognition came a bit late but because of me BNZ and Auckland Art Gallery possess works that would never have been if I had not commissioned them and recognised his genius when nobody else did. Only 600 came to our opera  Fidelio  Beethoven's music with his mise en scene based on his experience of  life Paris prisons where he was sent for being an unlicensed pavement Artist with no money to pay the fine.

There are many ways to support artists without actually buying anything by sharing their work on FB and YouTube so they get known to wider audiences. A feedback, a comment would do and by comment I do not mean acid criticism even if you do hate it.  Artists get enough of that already. We need artists to enrich our lives and broaden our horizons. Artists can say what ordinary mortals cannot through their art. We are usually sensitive creatures and well aware of our limitations.

Lastly I think society is too hard on artists. People want art for nothing and it is the artists who pays the price. The music industry today is being slowly killed because musicians and singers have difficulty in getting paid a living wage for what they do. Downloading too instead of buying DVDs is great for the buyer and Amazon but not the artist who gets little if any payment.

Message is be kind to your artist and grateful that they have the guts to do it and show appreciation in anyway you can. Here endth the lesson for today!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

White Hair the horror of aging

At the age of 33 I experienced total Alopecia. I lost every hair on my body. Being on the stage I was used to wearing wigs, my lank mousey hair made this necessary, so it was no big problem.

Now well past my sell by date I realise it was the best thing that could have happened to me as I have never had to experience the horror of my hair turning white. It is the white hair that seriously ages people. Mine is still the colour of my youth and I look years younger than my real age.

Having no hair is wonderful. Makes showering a breeze, no hours in the hairdressers, my hair always looks good, a good wig is all you need but you do have to wear it constantly to get ensure that nobody notices you aging.

The only hair I miss is my eyelashes. I do miss them but you can't have everything I suppose.

SkyPath - How did the Commissioners come to this Disastrous Decision?

In June 2015 I made a submission to the Resource Consent Hearing for SkyPath a shared cycling/pedestrian 4 meter wide footpath across Auckland's Harbour Bridge. Having spent my life dealing with large crowds I was shocked to see that 14,337 people were expected  to access the landing at Northcote Point through one 5 meter gateway which was blocked by turnstyles. To make matters worse there was a gradient ramp running down to the barrier. At the same time the public on the landing were expected to enter the SkyPath plus bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs.

It does not take much imagination to see this would be a disaster, especially if there was a panic as people will push forward unaware that the people in front are being crushed at the same time as people are trying to get on. No security was planned at all. The more I read and looked at the demonstration video the worse it got. It seemed to me that it was a gigantic cage for 2,000 people as there is no other exits.  Once on the thing you are trapped.

The landing is just 50 sq meters at Northcote Point and the actual SkyPath takes up most of that so where on earth were the thousands of people to go? Each needs at least 1 sq meter for safety. The fact that there were to be no toilets and no parking and there would be difficulty in getting more than one fire engine in, and no hope at all for ambulances or police cars in the event of an emergency pailed into insignificance.

Having experienced an angry crowd myself when unexpectedly 2,800 turned up for my first children's show at Auckland Town Hall I know a disaster when I see it and if 20,000 turned up on the first day of SkyPath, as they will because Auckland has been sold this dream anything could happen.

There is no way 2000 an hour could make it through the two turnstiles available. It is very serious as people panic. It happens somewhere in the world many times each year, usually through miscalculating capacity and bad planning. Sometimes it results in many deaths.

Having had a rather serious illness I did not feel up to presenting personally so I made a 15 minute film to show the dangers of building SkyPath in its present form. A picture is worth a 1000 words and a moving picture is priceless and I knew that the Commissioners had experience with traffic & town planning but none with crowds. Crowds are not like cars that one can manage easily. People do what they want and cyclists are known to be aggressive.

It was not easy to do as the subject is not what the Commissioners wanted to hear as the Mayor had made it plain in the press that the consent had to go through. The Mayor chose the Independent  Commissioners. However one hoped they would be reasonable when people's lives are at stake.  A Shared Path of this magnitude  in a 4 meter tunnel has never been attempted anywhere else in the world as it is too dangerous. It UK it would be illegal simply because cyclists are vehicles and can kill pedestrians as easily as cars kill cyclists.

The press who were supposed to be there were late so instead of the dangers to human beings being reported the danger to life  bird life in the local reserve got the article. Not quite the same thing.

My video was watched in horror by the submitters and the Commissioners. It was clear everyone there had got the message but with no press it was quietly buried.  The decision entry says "The video addressed issues of whether the facility would be safe for users"! This is the understatement of the year.

Today is not like yesterday where the powerful could do this and get away with it. Social media has given me the opportunity to set the record straight. If just one death from a shared cycle/pedestrian  path occurs it will be the Commissioners fault because they have been warned. They know that the path is too narrow even under NZTA guidelines, there is no world research into shared paths and certainly not this type of shared path. They know it is dangerous. Our main street is just 4 meters wide yet nobody would think of sharing it with cyclists one way let alone going both ways on the same path. It is illegal because it is deadly.

I hope that the fuss I am making will make deaths from a human panic avoidable. Again the Commissioners know but have done nothing. They cannot say they have not been warned. I should not have to do this.

I have read all the evidence and they have seen mine so it is hard to understand how they can have come to the conclusion that SkyPath is fit for purpose and safe for humans without a complete redesign like make SkyPath a dismount for cyclists area and make them push their bikes over, or make the path 6.5 meters wide and put up a median barrier or have another SkyPath on the other side and separate the two. How you increase the ground footage on Northcote Point defeats me or solve the problem of the Onewa Road intersection where there is to be another shared path. This time cyclists and school children! I may win that one.

Hopefully now when 20,000 turn up on the first day something will be in place to avoid an angry crowd who cannot get on or off the SkyPath, cannot buy tickets and cannot park their cars and cannot get back onto the motorway without a 4 hour wait. The one thing the Commissioners did do was to provide a couple of WCs. They had to be forced to do this.

The fact that if the numbers do not eventuate will mean the Auckland Ratepayers will have to stump up is minor to the mayhem that might ensue if a 20,000 crowd were left to its own devices. This is one event where I hope I am wrong but like Cassandra at Troy I fear I could be right.

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts. Now watch the video!