Recorded on a beautiful grand piano (and Røde NTR mics) in the idyllic rural setting at Tanja on the South-east coast of New South Wales, and expressing the calm, joy and reinvigoration of living in Tasmania, this CD explores on piano a wide range of emotional and affirming experiences over the last year or two following up on the warm reception to Steve’s earlier CD, “Midnight Rain” stocked by both Red Eye Records in Sydney and Rock Steady in Melbourne and played on community radio right around Australia, including Lord Howe Island!
On “Trespass”, Steve’s musical moods shift between the joy of hearing bellbirds full of song on a wet and misty morning (Bellbirds and Rain), to a plea for relief from the maelstrom life often becomes (Be Still the Night / iPhone Blues), to the ups and downs of relationships (Thinking of You, Hurt, Wedding Song, The Long Way, Night Dance, Liefde), to the fragile beauty of sunset on the Tarkine / takayna coast in North-west Tasmania (dedicated to Bob Brown and the tarkinaraa).
These pieces reflect a broad yet harmonious suite of piano-led musical styles and expressions, embellished through double-tracking of the piano, subtle instrumental sparkles added by “Slim Fitz” on reed organ, melodica and bells, and sympathetic mixing by Heath Cullen who produced the album before handing it over to Mick Wordley to deftly master it all at Mixmasters. Pete Costello, Terry Mead and Ben Brinkoff added counterpoint multi-instrument touches to “Tarkine Sunset (takayna)”, with the solo piano version bringing the CD to a fittingly melodic close
January, 2019. The Earth Celebration Event at The Cygnet Folk Festival.
Most Sundays in Tasmania start a little later than other days of the week, unless you want to get that early bargain at one of the many fresh food and/or craft markets held just about anywhere around this beautiful island. And, at the Cygnet Folk Festival this year, after a long late Saturday night enjoying the music, food and cider festivities, one might expect Sunday 13th January to exhibit an even slower start to the day, but not so! As early as 8am, scattered sounds of people stirring in and from the hundreds of tents and campers huddled together on the lawn on the south-east corner of Cygnet could be heard as, likewise, the stall holders busied and bustled to ready things for what was looking to be a glorious Summer day for this close and treasured community sharing their locale and energetic spirit with everyone who'd come to town for the Cygnet Folk Festival. What had them stirring so early, despite the groans and complaints of their heads and legs, was Bob Brown's early morning "Earth Celebration", a festival fringe event with a history of delivering much needed optimism about celebrating our planet as a way of ensuring we don't mindlessly destroy it.
For 2019, the Festival organisers had convinced Bob, and his partner Paul who does so much to make it happen, to move the event to the largest venue available - St James' College Auditorium. Even so, over 500 people filled the hall with standing room only, then the doors closed to prevent the risk of over-crowding, leaving late-comers a little annoyed with themselves for being so slow to get up and get there! An hour of live music and messages from local, national and international artists, video message from the traditional owners of the land being targeted for a massive coal mine in Queensland, a video then a live phone call to/from activists in the Tarkine / takayna forest in NW Tasmania, and a rousing speech from Bob about 3 actions for 2019, saw the event live up to and beyond its reputation. I had the honour and privilege of playing for 20 minutes as a prelude to the proceedings, asked by Bob to help people settle in with performances of my Tasmanian piano pieces, some of which have Bob reading his poems to them and available as an EP (with download code) titled "Winter Night At Liffey" (See my Music page) from the Bob Brown Foundation online shop. One of the Spooky Men's Chorale (from the Blue Mountains in NSW) told the audience that even if Bob had asked them to perform a Wiggles song at 3am, in striped pyjamas, the answer would have been a resounding "YES", that's what he means to us. Tasmania's own "Bobfest"! (maybe Neil Young can perform here next year?
As reported in earlier “Breaking News” (see June 2018 below), Bob Brown, Australia’s most respected environmentalist, used Steve’s music “Tarkine Sunset (takayna)” as the soundtrack for his photo montage for the Bob Brown Foundation 2017 Christmas video message. In March 2018, happening upon a book of poems (In Balfour Street, NewPrint 2010) by Bob, Steve commented that maybe one day he would put some of Bob’s poems to music. Bob unhesitatingly replied, “Then start with “Winter Night at Liffey!”. Fortuitously, this was Steve’s favourite poem but his knees started shaking at the thought. After some false starts, Steve came up with music interpretations for four of the poems and in July Bob and Steve went to Reel to Reel studios in Margate, south of Hobart, and recorded them “live” in just a few takes.
Watch the video here!
Heath Cullen mixed the tracks at 9 to 5 studios in Candelo NSW, using software to mimic the gorgeous sound of Ocean Road Studios in LA (Frank Sinatra, Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Radiohead…) and Mick Wordley from Mixmasters in the Adelaide Hills did his magic thing mastering the tracks for MAD CDs to produce; all under the umbrella of the Bob Brown Foundation.
The result is Winter Night At Liffey, a CD package featuring poetry read by Bob Brown over interpretative piano pieces by Steve. The package includes a physical CD, booklet of the 4 poems, notes from Bob and Steve, and a bonus free unique download code. It’s also available as a stand alone download card, and there is a sheet music and poetry folio available on the “Music” page of this website.
Bob says of Winter Night in Liffey - “The poems were written between the 1970s when I was in my Twenties. “Winter Night..” is at Liffey, under the Great Western Tiers in Northern Tasmania. The original shingles of my 1904 farmhouse had been replaced with corrugated iron. It was unusual for snow to settle long at the house but, often, I’d awake in the morning to find the mountain behind ladden with white.” Steve sees Bob’s poems as vivid, rugged, gentle, funny, brave accounts of various events in Bob’s life in the 1970s. Steve’s musical sketches were improvised by conjuring up what the poems meant to him focusing on key events in each - in this case, the peacefulness of the snow at the end of a night time storm at Liffey under the Western Tiers / Taytitiheeker (Dry’s Bluff) above Bob’s old house he shared with Paul (now cared for by Bush Heritage Australia). The other three poems on the CD are “Katie Kingston”, “In Balfour Street” and “Wynyard Girl”.
Reviews have started coming in with Heather Rose (Award winning author of The Museum of Modern Love etc) observing “What a poignant thing this is. Together, Bob and Steve have created a little bit of wonder. Enjoy!”. Raewyn Connell (Internationally acclaimed author of “Southern Theory”, busy sociologist, obscure poet and ever-hopeful feminist) sees the CD as “Music and poetry – a classic combination, put to new use evoking moments in an Australian life where complex emotions are linked to place, landscape, and mysteries of relationship. Steve Crump’s music works from, and beyond, Bob Brown’s reading of his own texts, creating subtly different pieces that will remain in memory.”
If you would like to purchase “Winter Night At Liffey” please visit the Bob Brown Foundation Online store: https://www.bobbrown.org.au/onlinestore $20 includes postage
June, 2018. Piano pop up everywhere!
From snazzy Hong Kong hotels, to cavernous railways stations in Utrecht, Maastricht, Arnhem, all over the place, pianos started popping up everywhere last northern Spring. The amazing things is pianists started popping up everywhere too! I must have walked past the piano in Utrecht about a dozen times before there was any chance I’d get to play it.. but my fingers were itching (see Blog page story) so I persisted - between precocious child prodigies and modest elderly maestros I managed to tinkle out a few tunes, once almost missing my train (see me jump and run after “Winter Night in Liffey”!) These are incomplete performances, just snap shots of what people have liked on my CD “Midnight Rain”, as well as previews of 2 tracks from my next CD, “Trespass”, plus a brief hearing of the outro of music I have composed to the poems of a very humble but significant human being (more on that in a forthcoming News item). I was in (and on my way to) Europe for a special family birthday - these pianos became friends as they gave me the opportunity to play and practice (and road test) some music that means a lot to me and others.
“Tarkine Sunset” Revisited
In December 2017, Steve had the huge privilege of his music being chosen by Dr Bob Brown, Australia’s most respected environmentalist, as the backdrop to a collage of Bob’s photos that formed the Christmas message of the Bob Brown Foundation (click here to view the video).
Steve’s music hoped to capture the beauty and fragility of a sunset from a beach on the wild coast of North-West Tasmania, an area known as takayna / The Tarkine of rare natural beauty and deserving World Heritage protection - though it is not even granted National Park status. Patagonia outdoor company has recently joined with the BBF to help push, worldwide, for recognition of, and legal protection for, this unique and treasured environment, see: http://www.bobbrown.org.au/global_corporation_backs_tarkine
“Tarkine Sunset”, described as “hauntingly beautiful”, and “stunning”, and “impossible to get out of my head!” has been heard by over 1,200 of Bob’s supporters around the world as well as being played at the Cygnet Folk Festival “Earth Celebration” in Tasmania in January 2018. Inspired and proud of this response, Steve decided to “revisit” the music by gathering a few friendly local musicians to tease out some of the underlying melodies and counter-harmonies he could hear in his head, but are impossible to perform solo on the piano.
Under the watchful ear and eye of Steve, with Zarven Kara on the soundboard at his unique “Reel to Reel” studio in the hills south of Hobart, Ben Brinkoff added double bass, Pete Costello added violin and Terry Mead added soprano sax, counterpointing each other as well as Steve’s piano in a luscious and sensitive interpretation, capturing the feeling Steve searched for as he composed the piece.
Listen, enjoy and take “action for earth”!!
Photo by Christine Dennis
Announcing an exciting collaboration between Steve and Australia’s most respected environmentalist, Bob Brown as part of the Bob Brown Foundation campaign to “Save The Tarkine”. Bob has very generously used Steve's piano piece 'Tarkine Sunset' behind a montage of his photos of the Tarkine as his Christmas message for 2017 from the Bob Brown Foundation.
Steve’s melody is intended to express the fragile and transient beauty of a sunset - something nearly everyone has experienced. In this case, the sunset in Steve’s mind was one from the Tarkine (takayna) coast south of Arthur’s River, on a beach almost buried in huge flotsam logs twisted and tumbled into sculptural forms only Nature could imagine and achieve.
Steve first visited this area in 1978, the second stop on his first trip to Tasmania, when access was rough and ready, but mostly impossible, drawn by the magic that seemed to even inhabit maps of the NW of this special island. There’s now a lookout near Arthurs River called “The Edge of the World” - exactly what it feels like when the Roaring Forties wind strafes your face with sand and foam from the relentless waves travelling from the African coast; you feel there’s nothing else tangible except yourself and ageless Time.
The Tarkinaraa were here for tens of thousands of years and their artefacts, spirit and descendants still shape how one reacts to this country and speak of resilience and formidable courage. Yet all this is now threatened with destruction so the music melody is not only intended to express the beauty of that sunset, but also the danger the sun will set on the Tarkine / takayna as we (and the flora and fauna for which it is home) know it, if the bulldozers and chainsaws move in.
Bob Brown’s photos speak to the same ephemeral and transient beauty, though powerfully portraying renewal and hope through how Earth owns us all and how we should own our responsibility to care for it. It is a huge honour and privilege to collaborate with Bob on this small contribution to saving the Tarkine / takayna and Steve is humbled by Bob’s generous spirit and lifetime of trying to set things right while many of us find it hard to look beyond our daily struggles.
Music, Life and the Hereafter....
Rumour has it that one of my relatives was the black sheep in Horatio (Lord) Nelson’s family, the Vice-Admiral who lost an arm, an eye and then his life in the final sea battle of the Napoleonic Wars, famously painted by Turner. It’s a little more than “rumour” but I prefer to let sleeping sheep lie because what’s newsworthy for me is that, sent away to the Colonies or not, Andrew St Clare Nelson (1864-1904) was an accomplished musician, buried at his request with his clarinet. I can relate to that.
Andrew Nelson became the first government school teacher at South Grafton, a beautiful town on the North NSW coast, where he also led the German Band. His obituary observed “he was very popular with both parents and children” having taught across generations of families, how he taught music outside schools hours and “frequently figured as an instrumentalist in local bands and orchestras”. The Grafton Amateur Band performed once a month on the Cricket Ground, mostly on Thursdays and, as The Clarence and Richmond Examiner reports, “... in the presence of a large gathering, principally ladies”.
Even more newsworthy for me is that he composed a number of pieces, including “Grafton Waltz”, “Neapolitan Mazurka” and his “Galatea Polka Mazurka”, the latter featuring high in the program welcoming Prince Alfred (on his ship Galatea) to Australia. Some of his compositions are documented in Graeme Skinner’s resource on Australian musicians in the colonial and early Federation era, see: http://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony
His illustrious relative is reported to have signalled “England expects that every man will do his duty”, an order that cost his own life, his last words thankful for such as death. I think Andrew Nelson likewise ‘did his duty’ as a professional teacher, an amateur musician, and a constructive member of his community, a hero in my eyes as much as anyone else.
I can’t get the image of him being buried with his clarinet out of my mind. It seems so contemporary. I think of him affectionately, proudly, as having some style, knowing what’s important in life, and taking a bit of that with him into the “here-after”.... .
Horatio Nelson’s body was preserved in a barrel of brandy for the trip from Gibraltar back to England, receiving a hero's funeral. Andrew Nelson left the world much more quietly, leaving a widow, three sons and four daughters, with the Grafton City Band playing “The Dead March” at his funeral as acknowledgement of a life well-lived from a grateful town.
My thanks to Sister Joseph (Aunt Joan) for telling me about the clarinet.
“Midnight Rain” across Australia!
Last week AMRAP sent out 60 copies of “Midnight Rain” to radio stations across Australia. This mail-out is co-ordinated with CBAA and helps independent music artists get airplay and build a fan base, as well as create interest when touring in the area and so on. Already played on radio in Victoria and Queensland through the “AirIt” service, including on the influential inner Melbourne 3RRR “The Australian Mood” program hosted by Neil Rogers, this mail out should boost the exposure of Steve’s music to a broader audience through placing all 14 tracks in the hands of DJs rather than just the 3 tracks arranged through “AirIt”. As Neil Rogers said, this is “Just a beautiful album" (see the Reviews webpage), and Steve is thrilled AMRAP supported his CD so strongly. So listen in at 2RRR, or Braidwood (2BRW) or CoastFM (06.3) or Great Ocean Radio (3WAY FM) or Cairns FM (4CCR) or Radio Adelaide (SUV) or Katherine (8KTR) or KCR FM (6KCR) or even out on beautiful Lord Howe Island, or any one of the other 50+ stations hopefully in your area.
About the cover art for Midnight Rain...
MIC REES FLOOD SERIES - CATARACT GORGE 2014
This painting was produced as part of a series whilst on a residency at Kings Bridge Cottage, Cataract Gorge, Launceston. The series involved painting on site at night in Cataract Gorge in the Winter, a deliberate Juxtapose to a previous series (Summer at night on the Mid North Coast of NSW). This painting was produced using an ipad and a painting app on site. The ipad allowed Mic to paint at night as the screen is illuminated. This also allowed Mic to introduce a whole new process with his work. The series explored the dark, wild & moody sights and sounds at night during a large downpour that flooded the Gorge. Mic then watched the Gorge transition over the weeks back to the gentle calm, as the waters subsided, and
the Dolomite Cliffs towered and quietly reflected back on the water.