Monday, May 21, 2018

21.9.67 - Lost in the cemetery

Sydney 21.9
Oh, dear
MICHAEL FRUSTRATED CROWL will be my name from now on.

At long last I got something positive from the Ballet – and even then it was at second hand (via Anne). No go – well, I’m afraid that I feel rather relieved about that – Ballet’s not really my line and since even the Ballet dancers would have known the music better than me, I think it might have been a little risky. [This is bit of nonsense, of course; no ballet dancers, any more than opera singers, know all the music of all the repertoire.] So, I’m not over-worried about that. More relieved than anything to have something positive at long last. That’s not where the frustration bit comes in!

Rookwood Mortuary Station - not when I was there!
Decided to go out to Rookwood Cemetery this afternoon. So via Cecil and the Caretaker (on the This is my father’s burial number.] Well, clever Michael decides to go and find it, disregarding the fact the everyone sez Rockwood’s a big place. I should have asked the Caretaker exactly where section 17 was, but I assumed that at least they’d be in some sort of order. [2018: Shades of the Aussie library systems. LOL.]
phone) I got hold of the number of the grave: Sect 17, No 3486, believe it or not. [

Well, I got a through train from Wollstonecraft (at Northwood end) to Lidcombe, which took me nearly an hour, so that it was about 4.15 by the time I got there. [I remember this trip: mile after mile of suburbia passing by, a sight I wasn’t to see again until I reached London.] I had planned to get back to Northwood for tea! Well, I went into the cemetery, (which is just down the road from Lidcombe Station) and found section 13 sitting right there. But apart from a section 5, everything else was labelled A, or G, or EE! I discovered later that this was the old part of the cemetery. Well, I trekked around for a while and finally asked a lady in a house that was sitting right in the middle of this bit if she knew where sect. 17 was? She didn’t! So after losing myself thoroughly in this place I finally came upon a sign saying ‘Catholic’ – this was the new part, I presume, though some of the stones had been there for years. To my joy (it was now about 5.15!) I saw some small name-plates that looked like the thing I wanted. But these only went up to 1050 or so. I then went right round that area and found every section (18, 16, 20, 14, 15, 10 *!!!) but the one I wanted. And there was absolutely no reason to it all. So if ever I get the chance again I’ll try again. 

But I wasn’t finished yet. I took the road that I thought I’d come up, but all it would do was insist on taking me in a completely unfamiliar direction. As far as the eye could see there were graves, or bits of unrecognisable countryside. You’ve no idea what an odd feeling it is to be completely and utterly lost (I couldn’t find one of the churches I’d seen on the way in) in a cemetery just before sunset.
Fortunately, a car came tootling around the road I was on, and I waved them down and asked how to get to the station, explaining that I’d got lost on the way through. They very kindly pointed out the direction and were about to drive off when they realised I didn’t have a car. So they gave me a lift to the station which had somehow transplanted itself a good two miles away from where it had been before.

AAAAGH!! Why don’t they put up some sort of signs of where sections are, etc? Of course, by the time I got to the Catholic Office in the grounds everyone had gone home.

So when I got to the station, I rang up Anne and said I couldn’t make it home for tea and get to Rigoletto, (it was now 10 to 6) so I decided to have tea in town (which didn’t bother her a bit) and meet her at the theatre.

Went to the Poet and Peasant for tea, again, and then onto the Tivoli. [2018: in the previous notes I added that this was ‘the theatre’. Curiously enough, according to Wikipedia, the Tivoli stopped presenting shows in 1966, and was demolished in 1969. But this page says the production was definitely presented there. In fact, it looks as though all the operas I mention were performed there that year.] Went to my usual seat beside the tympani player only to find that the harpist (who wasn’t playing) and his girlfriend had already arranged to be there. So in the end, I wandered upstairs and sat in a chair in one of the boxes that no one seemed to want! [2018: Quite extraordinary to think that I could go into the theatre unchallenged like this each time.]

Quite a good show, though only the baritone (as Rigoletto) was really good. Somehow feel that the NZ Opera version was rather better all round. (Bias!!) [The NZ Opera version, presented in the heyday of their existence, was firstly designed by Raymond Boyce. This meant that in the middle of the duet between Rigoletto and Gilda, in the second act, the wall hiding the garden from view suddenly shifted forward as the two singers went through the gate, turning the whole scene into the garden.* Boyce used the same effect in Porgy and Bess, going from the outside to the inside of the house in the middle of the storm scene. Hardly a new idea, but very effective in its timing in both instances. As well, I managed to see both performances of the opera in Dunedin, by being an usher, and, because it was really my first experience of the opera, I was overwhelmed by it. I don’t remember who played the role of Rigoletto in the first performance, but it was sung by Lucas Bunt on the second night, a gentleman I was to have more than a little to do with while touring with him around NZ as part of the Opera Quartet. I may be wrong, but I think three other members of the first Quartet I toured with, Ray Opie, the tenor, Corinne Bridge, the mezzo, and Kathleen Johnson, the soprano, were also in at least one of the casts. I don’t remember a thing about this Australian Rigoletto, but in at least one of the performances I saw in London- it may have been that memorable first night that I arrived there – the baritone pitched a note he sings on his own a semitone flat, and when the orchestra came in, something Verdi never wrote persisted for quite a number of bars.]

Got another letter from you, Hurray!!!
So, see yuh, Love Mike

* You can see a sketch of one of the sets built for Rigoletto here. The picture is copyright, so I can't reproduce it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

20.9.67 - The waiting game

Sydney 20.9.67
Hullo, me old friend,
Well, things go along very slowly here – everyone seems to think I’m here to stay and can afford to sit round and wait for them all. Haven’t heard anymore from Krug and Co yet – they’re the slowest of the lot.

Went to see Robert Pikler yesterday; was supposed to have lunch with him, but he was even too busy to do that; he was very kind and helpful – the way everyone is, here (for a start, anyway), and he promised to ring one person at the University who is a conductor there, and also to see the chief coach at the Con and also the Opera School Head, there. Since he’s on the inside, he may be able to do something for me. He sez there are two people there who do nothing but coaching of singers and he reckons they’re both flat out. (They might like to stay that way – since neither is on a salary, but a commission basis.) Anyway, I’ve got to ring him back, or he’ll ring me; something or other, before the week’s out. This means I’ll have to stay till the end of this week at least; awkward, isn’t it. I wouldn’t mind if I was assured of work, but this sitting around waiting all the time rather gets me down. But there’s little I can do, I think. [2018: There’s a considerable lack of gratitude here, considering how generous all these people were. Perhaps Krug and even Pikler thought I wasn’t interested enough in work and didn’t pursue things further.]

I’ve spent most of this morning ironing shirts and hankies. Did a big wash yesterday, now that I was able to get some soap powder. Used to wash me sox in the hotel and leave them in the bathroom to dry – it was always so hot in there, they’d generally dry overnight. Discovered yesterday that I still had one of the keys to my hotel room! Dropped it into them while I was in seeing Pikler.

Watched an odd movie on TV last nite – All the Brothers were Valiant (felt as though I’d seen it before, too) – it had Robert Taylor, Ann Blyth, Stewart Granger and Betta St John in it. (The latter is the wife of the guy who came out to do Fledermaus last year.) [Peter Grant, who also appeared in a few movies.] It was a pretty weird story, but it did have one very good sequence where they were catching a whale – though the whole thing was done in the studio, it was extremely well done – certainly the best thing in it.

It’s a gorgeous day today – lovely warm sun – it’s in the 60s, I think.

I’m still ploughing slowly through my German, but I think I’m progressing. Anne, who spent a year in Vienna, asked me something in it last night – and I didn’t understand a word – so I’m still very much a beginner.

That seems to be all just now, so see ya, Love, Mike

Sunday, May 13, 2018

16.9.67 - I move to Northwood

Northwood, Sydney 16.9.67
Dear Mother,
Shifted out of the Grand Hotel today – thank goodness – any longer there would have ruined me. Got out to Anne’s and since she was going out to do the shopping, stayed in and talked to Christopher.
Though it wasn’t much of a day, Chris and I went to Luna Park, (Jenny was already going out for the afternoon) which was not nearly as big a place as I expected. However, we enjoyed it, and Chris is fortunately not the sort of kid who likes going on the really hectic things – Ferris Wheels, Big Dippers, etc. Though we did go on three things in a row which resulted in my feeling knock-kneed and dizzy, and several other things besides, but I survived the walk home from the station – which is about a mile and a half from here, and a lot of it uphill.

Sat up and watched The Window on TV – it finished about 10.15 – in fact I was going to watch another movie but decided not to; it’s about a little boy (Bobby Driscoll, who was the voice of Peter Pan, a bit later) who sees a murder, but no one believes him because he’s a tall story teller at the best of times. Arthur Kennedy and Ruth Roman were his disbelieving daddy and mommy. Very good. They have an incredible number of movies on TV here. (Of course, there’s four channels.) But I reckon, I could stay home and see a movie every night with ease, and probably two. What a life! [In those days, new movies were worth seeing, and Mum and I had gone regularly, week after week, to a five o’clock Friday session to see a new film, from the time I was quite young. When I was able to pay my way, I’d often go to more than one in a day, or a weekend, and if there was a Film Festival on, I could wind up seeing more.]

LATER Mary Williams, (the cellist) has been out for the afternoon and we three went wandering all round the suburb, in the sun; Anne pointing out various interesting things.

Watched Hole in the Head on TV, a Frank Capra, of the 50s, with Frank Sinatra, Edward G Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Thelma Ritter, etc. Marvellous.

Anne’s house is very nice – she’s apparently re-done it, in a lot of ways – modernised it slightly etc. She’s got quite a bit of furniture that she brought from England, some of it very old (it belonged to her mother before her). And she has a couple of Renoir prints and an old original (not by anyone famous) dated 1611 (!) in her lounge.

[In the original letter there is a drawn plan of the house.] As usual everything here is a little out of proportion, but I dare say you get the picture. It’s not really as big a house as it looks either, I suppose it would be about the same size as our place, perhaps a trifle smaller. [Which must means that the rooms are very small, since there are four bedrooms in the plan.]

This doesn’t seem much of a letter for 2 days, but I don’t seem to have done much. Got to ring Aussie Trust again today – so, we’ll see what happens. Supposed to see Pikler for lunch tomorrow – don’t know that he’ll be of much use, now, since I’ve already been to the Con where he works. We’ll see. How’s Fred? [the cat] Love, Anyway, Mike.

Friday, May 11, 2018

19.9.67 - Considering the ballet

Sydney 19.9.67
Peggy van Praagh
here is my first day overdue – and I’m still up in the air. Unless something comes up I should be starting home later this week, but ---- (Heh, heh, heh!) last night I went to Don Giovanni (see below) and met Gerald Krug there. (He’s now to be the Ballet Conductor - I think I told you, didn’t I?) He came over to me and said, Had I ever done any ballet work, and I said only local groups at home, and he said would I be interested, and I said, if there wasn’t any other work available it was certainly better than nothing (very hard to sound keen and not so keen in the same sentence!). Well, he said he was going to see Miss Van Praagh (she seems to run the Ballet) tomorrow (that is, today) and if they could be interesting, to say the least. For one thing I scarcely know any of the music, and it’s only about three and a bit weeks! Scream! But we’ll wait and see what happens.
needed me, would I be interested? So I said, yes, but that I couldn’t improvise or anything for them warming up etc; he seemed to think that that was a minor problem, and so he’s setting about it today. Well, that

I’m supposed to meet Robert Pikler today at lunch; I find he’s working at the Con, where I’ve already been (think I’ve told you), but it might be interesting (!) to see what happens when I go there with someone on the inside and don’t try and approach it from the outer as before.

Jim Sharman
Don Giovanni as produced in Aussie has been generally disliked in other towns, particularly Melbourne, I believe, and I find this hard to understand. The main cause of the trouble has been the set which consists of nothing but a chequerboard pattern not flat on the floor, but on an angle. [2018: raked, I presume.] It’s black and white, but with various lightings appears as several other colours throughout. With the exception of a couple of chairs (shaped like rooks) and a square table there is nothing else to dress the stage at all. The whole thing is surrounded by black drapes which people Jim Sharman, just 21, (and a friend of Glenda’s) and I think he’s done a very good job. The characters are all well defined (they’re all well written anyway) and we don’t have those funny little gaps that normally occur in opera production – I liked it!
vanish into as exits. I felt, however, that nothing else was needed; DG is a fairly lively show, and the actors did plenty of wandering around, so I don’t feel it got boring. (Last night was youth night – for those under 26) (and they really enjoyed it – even laughed when the poor old Father got killed!). The producer is

The costumes were fabulous. Not done in black and white (fortunately – that would have been a bit much!) but rather in a muted red, and various blazing whites, and blacks with large chunks of gold etc on them. All the characters at the beginning came down during the overture to the front of the stage, and donned these hats and crowns that the chorus men gave them. The procedure was reversed at the end. I like it!

No more news just now, I’ll see if I can’t put this in with the letter from yesterday which I haven’t posted yet.
Love, Mike.

Monday, May 07, 2018

15.9.67 - Not listening to good advice

Sydney 15.9.67 (Noon)

Pencil economy! Not really – just haven’t a pen. Hullo! Have recovered my usual buoyant sense of humour (probably as a result of enjoying Fiddler so much, and because it’s so warm, and because I’m going quite well with my German – if I can keep it up.)

It’s a funny sort of day. Sort of diffused – if you know what I mean – there’s a haze over the city, but the sun is filtering through – and my left arm is feeling, and looking, rather burnt. I’m sitting in one of about a dozen parks (small) in KC, just down the road from the Hotel. These parks (even the very smallest) seem to have fountains and trees and shrubs, and there are any number of seats – in fact there are seats all over the city, and parks!

[back in ink again]
LATER Got a letter from me mother! Hurray! I laughed at it all the way up in the lift (otherwise empty) and along the corridor and into my room. Looks like I’d better take my umbrella into town with me tonight – it’s been raining most of the afternoon – should be okay – the repair job seems to be all right.

MICHAEL CROWL – MUSICAL DIRECTOR, No, no. MUSICAL DIRECTOR ----! That’s totally funny – I’d probably be awfully inept at it. [Not sure what the reference here is; probably my mother trying to cheer me up. 2018: anyway, I’d done musical directing in various ways before I’d gone to Oz, so I’m not quite sure why I found it so funny.]

I’m going to ring the Trust in about half an hour and see if I can get some satisfaction. Hope that today I’ll know what the future will be. I haven’t gone anywhere much for the last couple of days; it’s been sort of frustrating to have to sit round and wait like this. Can’t even book me flight home. And I’ll have to go easy on the old pocketbook, too, if I’ve got to stay on a bit longer. Anyway, I’m determined to come home with something left over. I would have had a lot more if the Hotel bill had been what I expected. (Don’t be surprised if every now and then you find nouns with capital letters in the middle of a sentence. In German all nouns have capitals and the ones that I know in German I’m inclined to put down with a capital! Silly, isn’t it?)

I’ve spent most of this arvo in the little library round the road reading Tobias and the Angel, a comedy on the Bible story, by James Bridie. The Aussies don’t seem to be able to put books in order. It’s awfully hard trying to find anything in the 2 libraries I’ve so far been in. The Main one in town has only a vague order. Nothing is alphabetical as far as I can see, so how they ever find anything! [Still griping about libraries 25 years later.]

LATER I’m really beginning to think that I need a business manager or something – I, myself, must be handling things wrongly – or something! Just rang the Trust, again, and now we’ve got to wait till Mr Krug gets himself moving re the Ballet Co. He’s their conductor. (P. Schwartz apparently stayed in Sth America or somewhere obscure – how odd!) [Peter Schwartz was a chain-smoking Austrian conductor who’d made his home in NZ; he was involved in the Summer Schools in Dunedin where I met him, where he was very encouraging in terms of my accompanying. I hadn’t heard of him since for years until I became involved in the brass band movement, and there he was conducting a band as one of the many strings to his bow. 2018: I wonder if I intended the wordplay/pun?] So they were going to wait till Tuesday, but I said that my time was limited (so it is; I’m fed up with waiting around for them) and so I’ve got to ring them on Monday at lunchtime. Heavens, they do muck around, don’t they! They must surely know whether they’ve got room for an extra pianist, or not – their excuse, according to the (not so) charming Miss Swan is that they’ve got people dotted all over the country just now. Marvellous!

I don’t know what to do about Pikler, now. Doubt if he can do much at this stage, and anyway, the place he’s mainly concerned with is the Conservatorium, and I’ve been there! And that other fellow that Cecil introduced me to, John Hammond, reckoned if he were in my shoes he’d get a job, any job, just to be on the spot. [A sound piece of advice which I obviously wasn’t hearing.] I’m inclined to think I’ll get as much musical experience back home – (where I’m obviously appreciated – heh, heh) and where I won’t have to pa out exorbitant amounts for lodgings. Look out, I’m going to scream – [printed very large:] AAAAGH!

That feels a lot better.

Courtesy Creative Commons
Better go, got all me packing to do tonite – go to Anne’s tomorrow. Mary Williams, who was also in Fledermaus, a cellist (whose flat Claude and I went to for tea, remember?) is coming over for the afternoon, on Sunday, so we can have quite a chat. [Claude was a genuine Frenchman [2018 I’m not sure why I wrote ‘genuine’], a clarinettist. There was some relationship between him and Mary but I’ve no idea how serious it was. I seem to recall Claude mooning around after a fairly disinterested Mary. My one other great memory of Claude, who was an excellent clarinettist, is that he couldn’t get a single note out of a clarinet I owned, and which I took on tour with me round NZ, and could actually play!] My poor old left arm’s burnt nearly through, while the right is only red.

Oh, well, see ya, love Mike.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

14.9.67 - Feeling sorry for myself

Sydney 14.9.67
Dear Mother, here follow the Trials and Tribulations of a poor County Youth who got snared by the Big City.

All right – it’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s been a rather frustrating day – with nothing accomplished and little done. Rang S. Hall this afternoon, but he was in conference and so his secretary answered. She read out a letter that I should have received (and which subsequently turned out to be downstairs) which sez: ‘Dear lovable Mike – thanks for coming and playing this week. While we all liked your playing (!), I am unable to offer you anything at present. If you wish I’ll be happy to mention you to the Ballet (!) who might need someone for their forthcoming season.’
So I said I’d ring him back later!

Well, poor little old self-pitying Michael went down to Elizabeth Bay and threw himself in! Unfortunately, no one was watching so he clambered out again and spent the rest of the afternoon thinking (!) and talking to animals who either barked at him or ignored him entirely.

Finished up thinking that even the Ballet isn’t the bottom of the rung, so when I rang back to see if I could speak to Hall, he still wasn’t speaking to the likes of me and his charming secretary (who was the last person I felt like talking to – her name’s Miss Swan) told me that she’d see what was happening and contact me tomorrow, or if I didn’t hear from her, for me to contact her. AAAGH!
So – I said all sorts of funny things to cheer myself up and then went and paid the bill for the last week – which I’d got this morning. It was for 7 days – yes, one week - $61.65 (still with me?) which I managed to get reduced by 75c because they charged me Room Service, which I don’t recall having had! So - !

This plurry room is $8.40 a nite (with Brekfit) not the $5 or so I expected.

A lovely day!

However, rang Anne to see how she was and inform her about news and ask her if I could borrow her room from Sat morning on (over the weekend) (anyhow) and she finds that it fits in beautifully if I care not to go out on Sat. night – and stay home and babysit for her 9 year old boy. Well, as I see it, if she’s good enough to have (vaguely) offered the room, then I can do that?!

So! she reckons the Ballet could be quite good as they go on much longer than the Opera – they’re about to start another season here (the Ballet are) so -! We’ll see what eventuates and not raise our teeny hopes too high this time!

Was originally going to go to the pictures tonite, but eventually decided to go and see another musical, Fiddler on the Roof – there were no really good films on for the mood I was in, so I thought this might fit the bill. Anyway, I can probably catch upon the films later.

Her Majesty’s is the hardest theatre to find – I asked 4 people all told (on two different trips – I didn’t get there the first time) and it was only after much foot-slogging that I found it tonite. Of course, I would pick to walk all the way – from KC. It must be getting on for 3 or 4 miles! No kidding.
It was worth it.

FOTR. I wouldn’t have missed for worlds. Forgive me if I’m phrasing like a Jew, but you see, that’s all this show is about. The Jews in Russia before the Revolution. Like Oliver and Half a Sixpence it ends in hope, but not happily. But what a terrific show. The music is nearly all based on Jewish-type themes, and they’re terrifically hummable. And it’s so sad one minute, then so happy! Sniff! I loved it. All the way thru there’s a guy pretending to play a fiddle on stage (and very well done, too) and though as far as I recall, he only plays one tune, it fits all moods. And we get all those Jewish type foot-stomping, hand-clapping dances, with a bit of Russian thrown in at one part. I really wish you could have seen it – it’s one in a million.

Must go – that show was well over two and a half hours long and it’s after eleven.
See ya, love Mike

Hayes Gordon
[Fiddler on the Roof really was one in a million. This particular production outshone the London one I saw a few years later, by far. The London one was tired; this was vibrant. The stage effects, though no doubt not all that original, had a marvellous freshness – I can still remember the ghost of the Grandmother sailing onto the stage with horrifying effect, and though you knew it must be someone on stilts, there was something utterly fascinating about it. [2018: can’t have been stilts: she swept around the stage as though she was on rollerskates, as well as being about ten foot tall.] I think the lead was played by an American, surrounded by a mainly Australian cast, and he was far more right in the role than either Alfie Bass who played it in London, or Zero Mostel, who played it in the film. Perhaps it was just that it was all so fresh in every respect that made me appreciate it and remember it; perhaps it really was one out of the bag.] [2018: the lead was Hayes Gordon, an American musical comedy star who’d been in the original production of Oklahoma. Blacklisted in the 50s, he went to Australia to star in Kiss Me, Kate, and carried on living there, establishing a theatre school there.]

Thursday, May 03, 2018

14.9.67 - Filling in another day

Sydney, 14.9.67 Morning.
Hi there! 
Spent an odd day yesterday not getting anything much done – Stephen Hall should have contacted me by last night, but there was nary a word. I’ll ring him this arvo if I don’t hear from him by then.

Had breakfast with a Mrs Notts (that’s right!) yesterday, and she and I chatted quite a bit. She comes from up country (near the Castlereagh River) and is down to see her daughter who’s been in hospital about a month with a baby that’ll have to arrive too soon. This morning had breakfast with a Melbourne man in Civil Aviation (he detests opera, but chatted about it) and he was very interested in the flight I had over here. (These two days are the first times I’ve had breakfast with anyone – generally the ‘woman who guides you to your seat’ plunks me down in some far corner where everyone (particularly the waitresses) ignores me!

Went outside after that (yesterday again) and did No 2 lesson in German – it’s not nearly as hard a yet! Then since I hadn’t heard from the Trust, I decided to go to Luna Park – it was shut until Friday; went to Manly on the Hydrofoil, but Manly was rather cold – there were still quite a few on the beach, though. If I thought it was cold, heaven knows how they felt! Didn’t stay there long, but it was about 2.30 when I finally had some lunch. Thought that I might go to Fiddler on the Roof, so I asked directions to get to Her Majesty’s, [as opposed to His Majesty’s Theatre which still went by that title in Dunedin] to see if I could get a seat. Still haven’t found H.M’s, but found about 3 secondhand bookshops! I don’t know what Customs will think – perhaps I’d better post some of them home! (There’s only nine including 2 I bought with me!)
language as I was led to believe –

Went back to K.C. via taxi after not finding H.M’s, and as usual arrived with me heart nearly popping out of me mouth. Sydney’s taxidrivers are probably the best in Australasia, but I wouldn’t bank on it! Back to town to see Barefoot in the Park which was quite a lot of fun, but not as funny as Mrs Notts had led me to believe. Had some tea in a place called the Poet and Peasant (I don’t know why) and then decided to be madly daring and go and see Guide for the Married Man (directed by Gene Kelly) which really was funny – Mrs Notts hadn’t liked it as much! [Not sure why I needed to be ‘madly daring’ to go and see this.] The theatre was apparently situated above the subway, as every now and then there’d be a terrific rumbling and the place would shake a little. GFTMM, which is all about a man trying to learn how to have an affair without letting his wife know about it (sounds a terrible subject, doesn’t it?) is actually a very moral film (!) because  not one of the characters is allowed to get away with any misdeed at any stage of the film. So it’s a Guide in more ways than one. [I think I was trying to reassure my mother that I wasn’t watching anything immoral.]

Back to me little room where I was too tired even to write to you – so I hope this catches the post and doesn’t break what must be an all-time record for me! See ya, love Mike.

(PS Thanks for the Peanuts – marvellous!)