Elements: Simon Gleeson

SG24601

This debut album from musical theatre star, Simon Gleeson, will not leave anyone disappointed. Currently starring as Jean Valjean in the acclaimed new production of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les o_iP87-NMiserables, Gleeson shows that he is a world-class singer and actor. On this recording, he has assembled songs that are a personal testament, reflecting elements of his life, as well as his stage persona.

Composers and song-writers, such as Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Elton John, George Harrison, Billy Joel, Matt Alber, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, have been placed alongside each other, creating a strong selection of some of the greatest songs ever produced.

Gleeson has a voice that is beautifully rich and full of colour, from the highest notes in his range to the darker low register. In each song, he tells a story with clarity and ease. A Bit of Earth and End of the World sit easily alongside iconic show songs such as Anthem (Chess), Being Alive (Company), and Bring Him Home (Les Miserables).

(This review first appeared in Fine Music magazine, 2015.)

I Was Flying: Music by Sally Whitwell

ABC 481 1704

The piano music of Sally Whitwell will become even more accessible from this original recording. Many already know of this Sydney pianist from her recordings, particularly the music of Phillip Glass, as well as her performances with numerous ensembles and soloists. This disc, however, thrusts the individual personality of Ms Whitwell centre stage.

Sally Whitwell discIt is not only the playing that is assertive, engaging, spirited; the works also, themselves, have a great amount to say, mostly on a very personal level. The liner notes detail the pianist/composer’s approach to composition, her inspiration and her journey as a composer. It is written in a chatty discourse and draws the reader in, just as her music does.

Not all pieces are for piano solo, but feature other musicians. A Hundred Thousand Birds (from a poem by Christina Rossetti) features the singers from Vox (a vocal ensemble for skilled young singers aged 18-30). Starlight Steeple has some wonderfully exciting textural shifts and vocal effects, and is based on a poem from a recent collection by Monique Duval. A more poignant setting of another Rossetti poem is Echo, which highlights an expanded choral range and expressive demand with its extended phrases.

With text from her own pen, Whitwell ponders upon her own cultural heritage in To Your Shore, which is filled with hope and fear, in seeking a new life. The piano accompaniment is busy, with its little repetitive figures (almost like the ebb and flow of the ocean waves) whilst the vocal lines are more arching and beautifully sustained. The harmonic gestures used in the choral setting of Byron’s poem She Walks in Beauty has a simplicity, but also a restful quality which comes from the composer’s reflection of falling in love. Flying, is based on a 3-line poem by Australian poet, Michael Dransfield, who battled drug addiction. Whitwell gives wings to the text in this delicate setting for choir and piano.

Along with these 6 choral pieces, there are 7 songs for piano and soprano (with soloist Alexandra Oomens).

A slow moving vocal line is offset with a beautifully rolling piano accompaniment in Some World Far from Ours.

The Birds, a short song cycle with words by Rossetti (Skylark, Nightingale, Linnet) evokes beauty, sadness, hope and joy (as Whitwell states); these songs are truly poignant and yet at times, glorious.

The Yeats poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree gives Whitwell a rich lyric in which to express her longing for a sustainable eco-friendly life. She has created a mesmorising song, In the Deep Heart’s Core, in which there is a faint sense of her own heartbeat pulsing throughout.

Flatworm’s Heaven is a complete contrast, with its inspiration taken from city life frustrations, in particular, train travel (with text taken from The Train Now Standing by Michael Rosen). The incessant rhythmic piano lines almost collide with the text, and finally in a comic final phrase, alludes to the Sydney Trains 4-note announcement cue.

On hearing these songs, one gets the distinct impression that Whitwell craves for joy, and sharing that joy with others. In Warm Where Snowflakes Lie (with text by Rossetti), she allows the vocal line almost to calmly climb and recede, whilst the piano decorates and weaves around in an optimistic manner.

Loopy Lady is a set of 4 piano pieces (Reels, In the Middle, Waltzing Alone, Spin Out) which explores the frequently changing emotional states of teenagers. Musically, they exhibit rhythmic challenges, quirky shifts in style and mood, as well as a lyrical beauty in the slower sections, and some more robust moments.

Road Trip is actually a flute and piano solo (recorded here with flautist Sally Walker) that takes its inspiration from a weekly train commute for the composer from Sydney to Newcastle. There is constant movement throughout, other than a small flute solo, making this an exciting experience.

Whitwell describes The Insomnia Waltz (a piano and violin solo, recorded here with violinist Kirsten Williams) as a “frustratingly meandering stopstart of a piece”. The fragments of thematic ideas capture the mind of an insomniac, as they grapple with disrupted sleep and thoughts.

Winter Love (a piano quintet) was written specially for the Arcacia Ensemble (String quartet), and Whitwell here displays a fine grasp of dealing with the different timbres and textural contrasts that she so ably produces. It is especially appealing, both melodically and rhythmically.

Whitwell is a remarkable composer and pianist of her generation, with an adroit hand at writing for solo piano, chamber ensembles, vocalists, and choirs. She infuses her own personality into everything she writes and performs, making for some striking musical experiences.

Poor Parenting Skills

How entitled children are making their parents’ lives hell

Cosima Marriner and Rachel Browne
Published: January 3, 2016 – 11:17AM

“She terrorises us.” That’s how bad it is for Steve Richardson* and his wife when their 17-year-old daughter is at home.

Olivia has dropped out of school and goes missing for days at a time. She’s smoking pot and has been arrested for shoplifting. Tensions quickly escalate when she does return to the family home in Sydney’s north west.

Like when she lost her iPhone recently. “She was screaming at me to buy her a new one,” Richardson says. “It couldn’t just be any phone. It had to be the newest, most expensive iPhone.

“When I said ‘the phone is your responsibility’, she started abusing me, screaming at me and smashing her bedroom. She said, ‘I’m going to destroy the house, I’m going to kill myself’.”

Her father called the police.

Richardson is one of a growing number of parents under siege from their children.

The pointy end of entitlement

Sons are smashing windows, furious they’re asked to stop playing computer games. Doors are hanging off hinges having been slammed so hard in a fit of pique. Teenagers are holding knives to their mother’s throat, or threatening to kill themselves.

This is the pointy end of entitlement, the defining characteristic of this generation of children.

“It’s the end result of giving kids everything they want,” psychologist Judith Locke explains. “Tough love is really being called for, but we’ve got a generation of parents who are much less inclined to do this.”

Eager to deliver the perfect childhood, parents are emotionally and materially indulging their children. Boundaries are rarely enforced and consequences aren’t imposed by parents who want to be their child’s friend. Kids who grow up expecting attention and success are so accustomed to getting what they want that they don’t know how to cope when they don’t.

Richardson blames himself for spoiling his daughter. “She has always been given everything she wanted.”

Unable to tell anyone what’s going on at home, he and his wife have travelled to the eastern suburbs to attend a meeting of Toughlove​, a confidential parent support group.

His story resonates with other parents there. “I would always buy my daughter whatever she wanted because I thought that would make her happy,” says Janet Burchfield*, a blonde woman in her 40s. “Now she hits me if she doesn’t get what she wants. Today she told me she was never going to speak to me again because I never get her what she wants. I can’t win.”

Path of less resistance

Parenting experts say the trend towards smaller families has upped the ante on parenting with the goal of maximising the outcomes for each child. But often working parents are so time poor that they will take the path of less resistance.

“Sometimes parents haven’t got the time to have that fight with the kids so we just give in,” parent educator Michael Grose says. “Often we don’t delegate to the child, or allow them to do it themselves, because it’s easier and quicker to do it ourselves.”

No parent likes seeing their child upset but psychologists believe we’re going overboard in our quest to please our kids. “It’s well-intentioned but extreme responsiveness to the child, which can actually stop their resilience,” Locke says.

Schools report that kids are now so conditioned to receiving a ribbon just for showing up at the sports carnival that they overreact when things don’t go their way.

“We are very quick to gratify our students,” admits Australian Primary Principals Association president Dennis Yarrington. “This notion of putting in effort, working hard, having delayed gratification, is something I see young people today struggle with.”

Growing up with the Internet and social media hasn’t helped. Anything kids want, from pizza to porn, can be satisfied 24/7 via the Internet. Social media breeds narcissism by making kids the stars of their own lives on Facebook, Instagram​ and YouTube. Having a newsfeed​ full of what their peers are getting and doing dials up the desire to have the same.

Saying no a matter of choice

Yet kids rarely have to go without. With most families now dual income, saying no to a child’s latest whim is a matter of choice, not because parents actually don’t have the money to buy the new iPhone 6 or PS4.

“Because we can give them so much, kids now see it as their right rather than a privilege,” Grose says. “We forget that with rights come responsibilities.”

The never-ending requirement for more peaks at this time of year. “Kids tend to focus more on the number of presents and their expectations on the present being exactly what they have asked for, they don’t experience the joy and gratefulness of receiving one item,” psychologist Michelle Pritchard observes.

Pritchard stresses that entitlement is a normal part of kids’ development, which strikes with the egocentrism of the toddler, and then the boundary-pushing of the 15 – 18-year-old teenager. “But when that entitled expectation is reinforced with no boundaries, it can become really unhealthy and negative,” she says.

Some parents are compensating for their own childhood, indulging their children the way they feel they weren’t.

Others are making enormous sacrifices for their kids. They might be working long hours or piling up the debt. They’re turning themselves inside out to organise their schedules around dance, swimming, piano and Mandarin lessons, or funding overseas trips for their kids which they themselves won’t be able to afford in retirement.

“Often children remain on the parents’ payroll a lot longer when they’re brought up like that,” Locke says. She wonders what this will mean for parents in their old age. Will children who are so used to being lovingly tended to – and funded – well into their 30s be able to adjust to the role-reversal and take care of their parents when the time comes?

Mental health issues predicted

Kids who grow up insulated from difficulty and disappointment are also likely to struggle in adulthood if they don’t get into their first preference for uni, miss out on a job, or are dumped by the love of their life.

“Because they haven’t really developed resilience, they emerge a lot weaker from tough experiences,” Locke warns. She predicts mental health issues will emerge in this generation as they mature.

In a bid to clamp down on entitlement, principals are encouraging parents and teachers to emphasise the concept of personal best.

“It’s learning that if you have done your best, if you have done whatever you can to achieve the best result, that’s what’s important. Not whether you came first or last,” Yarrington explains.

Schools are adopting the KidsGive program, where children use crowdfunding to raise money for the cause of their choice. “You counteract the age of entitlement with the age of giving,” Yarrington says. “Kids learn that sometimes it is more about others than myself.”

*Names have been changed

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/she-terrorises-us-how-entitled-children-are-making-their-parents-lives-hell-20151218-glqtl0.html