Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A win...and a loss

I've been in Sydney over the weekend, playing for a brass band soloist at a competition called the Ern Keller International Soloist of the Year - the details in the link relate to last year.  Obviously they'll be updated soon, and show that the person I played for (and who took me to Sydney specially to do so!) - John Lewis - won.  Great excitement.   John was the Champion of Champions in the brass competitions for 2011, a title which made him eligible for an invitation to the Ern Keller.

The competition was held in St Mary's suburb in Sydney, where the St Mary's Brass Band has a club that functions all the year round with concerts and a casino and pokies and restaurants and much more.  It's the sort of thing most brass bands probably dream of, because it brings in income that assists the band to function.  Our motel was just across the road - literally.

The weather was much hotter than I'm used to, so it was good that the competition was held indoors in an air conditioned hall, one that's obviously used for other functions where drinks and nibbles are readily available.  The piano was a bit of a disappointment: it seemed muted somehow.  I could only just get it to come to life and no more.  Never mind, in spite of that, the trip was most worthwhile.  And we managed to get away on the plane yesterday in spite of the fact that the terrific storm the night before (with lightning and thunder every few seconds) flooded parts of the Sydney airport, and a good deal of other places.

This is a photo taken around the time
I knew Elizabeth
That's the win.  While I was there, I heard about the loss.  I've mentioned before on this blog that back in the late sixties I was briefly engaged to the opera singer Elizabeth Connell, who was at that time studying at the London Opera Centre; I'd been studying there the year before on the repetiteur's course.  It would have been an interesting marriage, if it had gone ahead: after a difficult start in the operatic world, Elizabeth made a name for herself as singer of roles that required considerable stamina and vocal technique.  She excelled in some of the Wagnerian roles, for instance, and in Turandot, one of the most difficult soprano roles in the repertoire.   When I knew her she was a mezzo-soprano, but she later took time off to lift her voice into the soprano range.   She was briefly married to another singer, but this marriage was later dissolved.

I hadn't heard from her in years, until she wrote to me out of the blue in the early 2000s.  We corresponded a little and I tried to get her email address via her agent so that we could write more directly, but I never heard back from them.   She came out here to judge one of the Lexus aria contest, and we thought about going to the Dunedin concert that came after the event, and then decided against it at the last minute.  Which meant we missed catching up with Elizabeth.

When I was in Sydney this weekend, my wife phoned to say that Elizabeth had died; somewhat suddenly, although she'd been ill with cancer on and off for some time.  She would have been 66 this year.  Even though it's been a long time since we had any real contact, it's still a quite unsettling loss.  I guess people you didn't get married to linger on in the background of your life.  Certainly, on hearing of her death, Elizabeth proved that she had lingered more than a little...

PS: There's a news report about John's win in the Otago Daily Times.




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