Review of "An Equal Music"

by Jonathan Sturm

"And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there will be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity."

John Donne's sermon on life after death was running through my mind as to the left and above the doors to the main hall of Franklin's Palais Theatre, dimly lit, is the roll of honour for Franklin's war dead: "Died for Empire". An Empire now itself dead!

Roll of Honour -- Died for Empire

My sombre mood was soon lifted by the lyrical voice of Ken Short, the Master of the afternoon's ceremonies. Ken was a frequent presenter of musical events during his career as a broadcaster for the ABC and he has lost none of his abundant talent following his retirement.

The recitations from Seth's novel were performed by Ursula Bethry, Gail Galloway, Ninka Koc, Evan Rolley and John Young. While the overall standard was much better than could be expected from a group of amateurs, Gail Galloway and Evan Rolley provided stunning performances. Both made the most of the excellent acoustic properties of the hall.

An Equal Music is the  story of a professional violinist's love for a pianist he knew as a student in Vienna. The violinist, Michael, never recovered from the loss of his only true love. Ten years later, they meet again, and despite having a husband and child, she accompanies Michael and his quartet back to Vienna. Their passion is rekindled and secrets are revealed. Seth deftly articulates the inner life of a musician, the joy and pain of creating music.

The cast of readers as seen from the balcony

Rachel Bremner on violin and David Bollard on piano provided inspiring performances as one might expect from these virtuosi. Certainly their performance was far and away better than that on the "official" Equal Music CD. Members of the audience barely touched their wine glasses until after the music had finished. My personal favourite was Rachel's rendition of Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major, I Preludio BWV 1006 closely followed by David playing Bach's Contrapunctus 1, “The Art of Fugue”, BWV 1080 for Piano.

The audience was taken more by both playing an excerpt from Vivaldi's “Manchester Sonata” No. 1 for Violin & Piano in C major, RV 3. David and Rachel's affinity for the music and each other made for a memorable performance. Indeed, when asked for an encore, they performed the balance of the work.

The musicians

The Palais Theatre also turned in an excellent performance. Rachel admitted to some qualms about reverberation at the rehearsal, but the audience perfectly absorbed all unwanted echoes. Clearly, the designers of the hall knew what they were doing. The subtle curves of the ceiling in the following photograph are not merely an artefact of the camera lens.

The ceiling of the hall

The afternoon was a sell-out, yet again affirming that our community has far more need of the hall for its intended purpose than as a "business enterprise centre".

The Musicians

David Bollard (piano) -- David is one of Australia’s most eminent chamber music and recital pianists. Originally from NZ, he is a long-time resident of Australia and for 18 years was a member of the Australia Ensemble. He has accompanied many of the most distinguished international musicians to visit Australia, and in 1998 was visiting lecturer at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music.

The pianist, David Bollard

Rachel Bremner (violin) -- Rachel has been a prominent member of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and also notably active as a recitalist and chamber musician. She has toured nationally with Musica Viva and her performances have been widely broadcast. She teaches through camps and chamber music classes, including the Tasmanian Conservatorium and the Mt. Buller Chamber Music School with the Australian String Quartet.

Only a violin -- sadly the picture I took of Rachel was too blurred

The Readers

Ken Short -- Ken’s love of music as a listener and performer gives Ken a special affinity with the characters in An Equal Music. The erstwhile broadcaster feels “at home” in any project such as today’s.

Ursula Bethry -- Her first performance was as a 10 year old in a pantomime in England in 1938. She came to Sydney as a £10 Pom in 1953 and her varied career and unsettled life has kept her very active. She was prompted to ring and ask for a small part in this event, by the overwhelming experience of reading An Equal Music. Ursula lives across the river at Wattle Grove.

Gail Galloway -- is a local writer and performance poet. When she is not exploring time theory, or working on her next novel, Gail writes and performs miracles.

Ninka Koc -- yet another Pom who came to live in Franklin 12 years ago. Ninka lives with her teenage son Sam, her partner Peter and their child Ewan. She grew up listening to radio plays and reading heaps. Along with the other local Palais Theatre freaks, Ninka just couldn’t help but get involved in this event and, incredibly, she hasn’t yet read the book!!!!

Evan Rolley -- Cajoled away from his farm and forests, here in the Huon Valley, he has enjoyed the chance to share with others the vivid word pictures of Vikram Seth. It is 20 years since a less hectic life gave him the opportunity to tread the boards in local Hobart theatres.

John Young -- John always wanted to be either an actor or a boat builder but was temporarily diverted into academic life as an historian and Director of the Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide. He now helps to run the Wooden Boat School in Franklin, is President of the Franklin Progress Association and is looking forward to having time for more research and writing about the past and future of Tasmania.

Our Artistic Director, Jane Gadd -- Jane’s dramatic career included 25 years as a teacher, inspiring children through drama and role play, and producing many notable school productions. Also 10 years performing, often as lead in local theatre and musical comedies. She believes the world is a stage but living in Franklin is like being on set for an episode of SeaChange, except our characters are kookier.

Funds raised from this event will go to the restoration of the balcony seating of the Palais Theatre. The remaining original seats need re-upholstering, the wood reconditioned and the missing seats replaced. The floor needs to be sanded and refinished. The whole area will also be re-painted to match the rest of the hall.


A SturmSoft creation.

© Jonathan Sturm 2001