ACT News


Music somewhere, every day

It's not easy at teeming Questacon for musicians to compete for attention against attractions such as RoboThespian, the Gravitram and especially the Jellyfish Vortex, but Tobias Cole and his family played and sang pluckily.

Settled in the entrance hall and unfashionably arranged beside the fire hydrant and hose reel cupboard, just along from the cafeteria with its chip-guzzling children, they trilled and piped beautifully on Monday. They were taking part in an early session of The Musical Offering, a plan to present a short musical event somewhere in and around Canberra every day this year.

Yesterday the dynamic and democratic Tobias Cole (he is, among other things, musical director of the Canberra Choral Society and in its performances he give his audiences, democratically, a chance to warble), his wife, Katie, and his children Marcel, Gabriel and Jessie got through a great range of music with a great range of instruments.

They began with an instrumental version of the politically incorrect (when sung) La donna e mobile (The Woman is Fickle) from Verdi's Rigoletto and moved on eventually to Julie Andrews' Do-Re-Mi, from the Sound of Music, in the first version of that sugary classic that hasn't made this columnist squirm.

These sorts of short, agile concerts, bailing us up everywhere we go, are the brainwave of the brainy professor Don Aitkin.

He wanted Canberra's musical community to take part in the Centenary, providing music throughout the year. He put it to Robyn Archer (creative director of the Centenary Celebrations).


''She blessed the idea and what came out of the thinking and discussion, and the gathering of like minds, is The Musical Offering, an initiative whose aim is to provide a short musical event every day throughout the Centenary year. You would encounter the music when you were shopping, or visiting one of the national institutions, or outside a government department, or at a hospital. The music would go to the people, rather than asking people to go to the music, as is the usual case. We have remembered those who can't easily travel, and there are musical events in retirement villages …

''The music is the offering, and the musicians are giving their music freely, as a gift. No one is paid, and there are no venue charges. Could we get the support of Canberra's musicians for such an ambitious venture? I thought so, and so far the response has been enthusiastic. Musicians like to play. So far the enterprise has taken wings. We haven't missed a day, and the variety is extraordinary: choral music, jazz, solo piano, solo flute, the Japanese shakuhachi, cello and piano. The music attracts an instant audience, even in a shopping centre. One shopper stopped, sat down and said to me, 'Isn't it wonderful - and so much better than the sounds through the public address system!'''

Lots of the musicians who give their music freely, as a gift, this year, will need some true grit, some adaptability. The informal venues and informal audiences will present some challenges. Yesterday, Tobias Cole joked, that at least for the duration of the concert Questacon had turned off the nearby Gravitram, which usually has flying, ricocheting balls making a racket.

But in any case, he's a veteran of difficult gigs.

''When I was living in London I busked at Covent Garden market, so that was a little gig I had, and when I was 10 I started busking in Sydney streets and then at a Sydney railway station at Christmas time to raise money for trips overseas with orchestras. So here [laughing] it's such a luxury to have the [Gravitram] balls turned off. I'm used to far worse!''

Remember when Rockley ruled

It is reliably rumoured that the planners and designers of Googong (the exciting new townlet near the Googong Dam and not far from Queanbeyan) are going to name some of Googong's places after sportswomen of Queanbeyan who were legendarily fine Rockley players.

Gang-Gang is pursuing this story, but meanwhile ''What's Rockley and when did it come to Queanbeyan?'' I hear you chorus, hungry for knowledge.

Rockley was a form of ladylike cricket that modern female cricketers have alas abandoned in favour of the manly version of the game.

Feminism is probably to blame for Rockley's demise.

On August 30, 1899 The Queanbeyan Age reported that the boon of ''THE ROCKLEY GAME: LADYLIKE CRICKET'' was about to arrive in Queanbeyan.

''The advent of Mr J. Still O'Hara to Queanbeyan [he'd been transferred to that town to work] will be marked on Saturday by his introduction of the game of Rockley, which is a form of cricket made especially suitable for girls.

''There are the usual cricket wickets and boundaries … and the ball, instead of being hard, is an uncovered tennis ball. The boundaries are made smaller, and are marked all round with flags. When matches are played the girls of each side wear exactly similar dresses. Rockley has been so conducted by Mr O'Hara as to please the tastes of girls, as well as to provide recreation and enjoyment.

''The game was first originated by Mr O'Hara at a township named Rockley, from which circumstance the game takes its name … He is going to start the game here, and we may expect the girls to soon become adept in the art of wielding the willow. Every care is taken over the players, and none are allowed to play in matches without the written consent of their mothers.

''Hitherto the young people have had no summer outdoor games to enjoy, and it was mainly to meet this want that the game of Rockley was introduced. It gives them something to fill up what may otherwise develop into idle hours.''

Readers, are there any ladies among you who remember playing Rockley, ladylike cricket?