November, 2018

Fiddes’ law for a melodic marriage

MUSICAL LIFE: Composer and pianist Ross Fiddes has balanced a legal career and a passion for music. Picture: Jonathan CarrollWHEN Ross Fiddes’song cycle Love Stories is performed at the Newcastle Music Festival on August 18, the composer himself willhear not just rhythm and melodybut also the sound of a matrimonial commitment fulfilled.
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Love Stories has been inspired by –actually, requested by –Jill Fiddes, Ross’ wife of 38 years.

“Jill said to me, ‘You’ve written all this music for other people, and we’ve been married a while. You haven’t written me anything’,” recounts Fiddes. “So I said, ‘Okay, well I better get on with it’.”

For the piece, Fiddes has composed seven songs set to the words of Australian poetJohn Shaw Nielson. Theworks for baritone and piano will be performed by Fiddes and Melbourne-based singer Michael Lampard at the festival.

It will be the first time Jill Fiddes has heard Love Storiesbeing performed. Although she didhearher husband playing the piano part.

“She said, ‘I don’t know what to think of it’,” Fiddes says.

“Is that a metaphor for the marriage?”

Helaughs and replies, “She’s gorgeous.”

Ross Fiddes has selected Paul’s Asian Affair in New Lambton for lunch. He likes the five-spice chicken.What’s more, the restaurant is close to his heart and home.

Ross and Jill Fiddes have lived in the suburb for about30 years, raising their four children here.And just down the road from the restaurant, Fiddes had his law practice for more thana decade.

For most of his life, Ross Fiddes has pursued both alegal career and his passion for composing, finding harmony in words and music.

Ross Fiddes, right, at lunch with Scott Bevan at Paul’s Asian Affair, New Lambton. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

ROSS Fiddes was born in Newcastle in 1944. He was a baby when the family moved inland to Gunnedah, because his father wasto manage a department store.

Fiddes grew up hearing music in the home. His mother, Una, played the piano and worked with choirs, and so her boy was drawn to the keys. He began learning piano when he was about seven.

“Mum taught me for two years, then I wouldn’t listen to her, so she packed me off,” Fiddes recalls, explaining he was sentto the local convent for lessons.

In his New England home, the schoolboy began playinghis way through the giants of European music:“Probably the standards like Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. And then when I got a bit older, I found Mahler and Prokofiev and Shostakovich.”

He also liked pop music – “for a bit of relaxation I used to go to the local radio station … and sit with the DJ”. Fiddes still has every album of rock band Pink Floyd.

“I was fairly eclectic,” he says.“And then I discovered Dave Brubeck and the Modern Jazz Quartet, things like that.”

More than being a musician, young Ross was a budding composer: “It was weird. I found I could do things. So I wrote them.”

He wrote his first composition when he was about 12–“Not as precocious as, say, Mozart at four. It wasn’t very good”. He can’t remember the music, only the title,Reverie.

Word of Fiddes’ playing talent travelled across the countryside. When he was 14, hewas “lassoed” by a piano teacher in Tamworth, an hour’s drive from Gunnedah.

“He had high aims for me,” Fiddes says of the teacher. “He’d already booked me in for the Con in Sydney. He made me make an LP, and that was sent over to Wilhelm Kempff, the concert pianist in Germany. “And he [Kempff]said, ‘Come over and audition’. So I was tentatively booked in there.

“But myfolks sat me down and said, ‘You know any musicians we’ve seen who look like they’re doing well?’”

COMPOSER: Ross Fiddes wrote his first piece of music when he was about 12.

The teenagerlet his dream of composingand playing music for a living drift off.

“I probably didn’t have a massive drive at that stage. I was just fiddling around with composing, which I was enjoying.”

Around that time, a locallawyer phoned Ross’ father and said he was looking for an articled clerk. At the age of 16, Fiddes veered into a law career.

For years, Fiddes fitted in his music around his job, performing with local singers, helping run eisteddfods and founding and directingthe GunnedahMadrigal Choir.

Amid the voices he found the love of his life. It was the late 1970s, and Jill Leitch, a young teacher, was in the choir.

“Was it her voice that attracted you?,” I ask.

“No, she was a damn good looking woman,” Fiddes replies.

The relationship was bornwhen he fell over her at a party:“There was a blackout. I tripped over her. Landed on her. And that felt quite nice, so I thought, ‘I’d better ask her out’.”

Ross and Jill married at the end of 1979.

“I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without her,” he says. “The support, encouragement, criticism sometimes.”

In 1987 the family moved to Newcastle:“Bigger pasture. I thought more and better music, better education [for their children].”

While workingfor the law firm Harris Wheeler, Fiddesbegan exploring Newcastle’s cultural landscape.

“I went along to a couple of concerts and wondered whether I should move back,” he recalls. “We did better back up in the bush.”

Rather than just sit back, Fiddes involved himself in the local music scene.In the early 1990s, he was the artistic director and principal conductor of Opera Hunter and the Novocastrian Arts Orchestra (now Orchestra Nova).

CONDUCTOR: Ross Fiddes, centre, with members of Orchestra Nova in 2003.

His works were also finding a home and building his name. An opera he had written in the 1980s,The Proposal, which had been workshopped by The Australian Opera, was performed in Newcastle. Fiddes composed an acclaimed opera,Abelard and Heloise, with the libretto by University of Newcastle academic and poetPaul Kavanagh –“As it turned out, he lived 20 doors down the road from us.”

With a day job and four children, Fiddes would work on his music early in the morning and late at night. But when he started his own legal practice in the mid-1990s, he stopped composing.

“I was too busy being a lawyer,” he explains. “I still played but it wasn’t regular.I was missing not being involved in music.”

After a break of about 12 years, Fiddes returned to composingwhen an American singer, Jennifer Wilson, contacted him saying, “I’ve heard some of your music. Will you write a little opera for me?”

The notes flowed once more, including composinga song cycle for a Turkish-Australian singer to commemorate the Gallipoli campaign centenary in 2015. Fiddes loves working with words, particularly poetry, and writing for voices.

“They give you not just rhythmbut a sense of what you want to do with the music,” he says.“They give you drama, joy. Whereas if you’re Beethoven, you can create all those things without words.”

These days, Fiddes has more time for composing, as he has cut back on his work as a lawyer. I wonder if he regrets not taking the music route when he was a teenager.

“Can’t call it regret,” he replies. “You could say ‘what if’. What if I’d done that, would I be somebody who could live off composing?’

“You’re lucky if you can make a living from what you enjoy, but I’ve always enjoyed law. Being able to live bothlives, if you like, has been very fulfilling.”

He practises the piano at least an hour a day, but he’s been playing more lately:“There’s this piece this damned composer wrote calledLove Stories, and the piano parts are pretty taxing. I’ve cursed him a few times.”

Composer and lawyer Ross Fiddes with Scott Bevan. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

More than having acreative role atthe Newcastle Music Festival, Fiddes isone of its founders. The festival grew out of a conversation he had with local conductor and music educator, David Banney, in late 2015.

Now in its third year, the festival, which is on until August19,allowsmusic lovers, from near and far, tohear what Newcastle is capable of.

“I don’t know of another festival that involves the locals as the primary attribute, if you like, as much,” he explains.

It’s time for Ross Fiddes to leave. He’s preparingLove Stories, ready to wow an audience. Especially one audience member who has been waiting so long for her songs.

“I do hope –I can only hope –she will love it,” says Fiddes of his wife. “Because it is genuinely for her.”

Go to newcastlemusicfestival.org


Environmental back-down worth a bagging

BAG MOVE: Reader Stephen Dewar argues the Coles decision to delay its plastic bag transition is a betrayal of customer support for the decision to eschew them originally. COLES haddecided to not return to its original decision to ban single use plastic bags and to continue to hand out free plastic bags (“Coles in backflip on bags”, Herald 2/8). Many people applauded Coles’ original decision,but this is a betrayal of customers’ hopes to cut down on the billions of plastic bags polluting our environment each year in Australia.Unlike many other countries where single use plastic bags are totally banned, Coles’ actions originally were a great first step in cutting down on the number of the bags. I believe 85% of people supported Coles and people were getting quite used to bringing their own bags to avoid the cost of buying multiple bags.
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Shame on Coles for caving in to a very small minority who can’t adapt to change, which was in fact a change back to behaviour of the past that didn’t waste resources or trash our environment. Sorry, Coles,not good enough.I, and many acquaintances, won’t shop in your store until your bag ban is reinstated.

Stephen Dewar,TorontoA HEARTY PORT WELCOMEI WELCOME the appointment of Craig Carmody as the new CEO at the Port of Newcastle and his plans to pursue the construction of a container terminal in the city.

The government should never have been able to apply an anti-competitive cap on container movements at the Port of Newcastle.I have been pursuing this issue for the past four years. I have asked over 80 questions in NSW Parliament on this issue, met with the ACCC who are investigating this Port lease and relentlessly called out this restrictive contract for what it is – a handbrake on the local economy.

I am pleased that their vision aligns with mine.Acontainer terminal would deliver jobs,providea boost to the economy and offer savings to businesses who are currently forced to use a port in another city and suffer the higher freight cost that comes with it.There is a great need to diversify the Port and the employment that this will bring over the next 94 years.

Tim Crakanthorp, Newcastle MPVOTERS CHILLED BY‘KILL BILL’I THINK the Kill Bill campaign trumpeted by the Coalition and their media backerswas the result of at least five minutes of ‘careful’ planning in the lead-up to the weekend by elections. The Coalition poured all their resources into this simplistic Abbott style soundbite and were miserably disappointed with the result (“Turnbull to have ‘humble’ rethink”, Herald 30/7).

By the way, the Coalition is the party charged with running our nation but this pathetic by-election catch cry was their best effort. It was a spectacular fizzer.

Not surprisingly, many LNP MPs are feeling nervous about the massive swing against the Coalition in Longman and the implications for the federal election result in Queensland.Maybe a little effort on the part of the Coalition could have helped their campaign. Instead of taking their usual negative approach, the LNP could have seen past the history of by elections and adopted a truthful, positive style – but this is completely alien to their conservative natures.

Mr Turnbull said this was a contest to show who had the best policies and the people of Longman, once a LNP stronghold, sent a clear ‘Murder Malcolm’ message to the government.

Dylan Tibbitts, Raymond TerraceSTRAWS ARE NOFINAL STEPTHE WAR on straws seems to be going well, with McDonald’s announcing that they will phase out the use of plastic straws by 2020. But, if you are concerned with keeping animals in the ocean safe, don’t just look to your drinking straw—look to your dinner plate. In fact, eating fish does far more harm to our oceans than sipping your drink through a straw ever will.

Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear — otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’ — is a problem that spells catastrophe for marine life. At least 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are added to our oceans every year, killing and mutilating millions of marine animalsincluding endangered whales, seals and turtles.

Swallowing plastic remnants from ghost gear leads to malnutrition, digestive blockages and death in these creatures.

In the Pacific Ocean, there is a floating patch of garbage twice the size of France and weighing roughly 88,000 tons. While this enormous area, like our oceans at large, is full of plastic, scientists estimate that 46 percent of the mass of the garbage patch comes from fishing nets alone. And other types of fishing gear account for much of the rest.

So, while many people are stocking up on cloth shopping bags and signing petitions to ban single-use plastic straws to save the oceans, those who fish (or eat fish) need to re-examine their personal choices too. It’s simple: Less fishing means less fishing gear—abandoned or otherwise.

Clearly, fishing is hazardous to the environment. But it’s also horrifically cruel. Commercial fishing kills hundreds of billions of animals worldwide every year—far more than any other industry.

Fish are intelligent, complex animals but, when caught, they are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while conscious.

You can’t eat fish and call yourself an environmentalist.

Desmond Bellamy, PETA Australia special projects co-ordinatorPATH FORWARD ISN’T SHAREDREGARDING John Matthews (Letters 2/8):John thinks the rules of shared paths are the same as roads for walking towards oncoming traffic.

He is right about the road. The road way is shared with vehicles, and so cars and pushbikes must travel on the left and they must have lights at night whilepedestrians must walk on the footpath or on the other side of the road.

One reason for not walking on the left side of roads is walkers have no lights and motorists might crash into you (not injuring the motorist),so the shared paths are similar:they are shared for walkers and cyclists, and the Lake Macquarierecommended speed is 10km/haround walkers.

If a cyclist crashes into a person walking, both will get hurt.It is different from a motorist, whowould not get hurt. The real problem is there should not be shared paths.

They should all be world’s best practice separated walking paths and cycling paths to meet our city’s vision. Direct from Newcastlecouncil’s 2030 vision comes:“Walking, cycling and public transport will be viable options for the majority of our trips”.

It reduces congestion and makes main roads faster, a win-win. Cycling(includingcovered cargo electric assist bikes) isuseful, and mostother excuses of not cycling are solvable. We must bust the transport myths that 99% of people are confused about.

Dan Endicott,IslingtonSHARE YOUR OPINIONEmail [email protected]南京夜网.au or send a text message to 0427 154 176 (include name and suburb). Letters should be fewer than 200 words. Short Takes should be fewer than 50 words. Correspondence may be edited and reproduced in any form.


Mental illness is not restricted to humans

Psychological problems are quite common, in humans and animals. Many people bite their fingernails or skin when they feel stressed or bored. Dogs and other animals also bite themselves when stressed or bored.
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Some cats commonly show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These cats repeat behavioursagain and againwhen only harm will result. For instance, some cats lick themselves so much that they rub their fur off in spots. This behaviour is similar to how some humans create bald spots by pulling out hair after hair on their head.

Many humans ruin their life with repeated use of alcohol or other drugs. Some animals also abuse psychoactive chemicals. Cats get so stoned on catnip that they hallucinate and think they are stalking a prey when there isnone. Dolphins squeeze pufferfish (do not try this at home) to get them to release a neurotoxin that has a pleasing effect. The dolphins then pass the fish to another dolphin, like a human passing a joint.

Humans develop phobias to all sorts of non-dangerous stimuli – elevators, mice, fruit. Animals also develop phobias – of lightning, strangers, heights. Ifananimal has been abused by a man who wears a black hat, black hats may become the phobic item.

Military dogs in war zones sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder.Seeing itsbelovedhandler getshot would be stressful indeed.

Some animals show signs of depression. These signs include not eating and low general activity. Some primates also show depressed facial expressions. Veterinarians often prescribe human anti-depressant drugs for dogs who have behavioral problems. The drugs seem to help, but there are no large studies showing that they are more effective than a placebo.

Do you think only humans intentionally kill themselves? Think again. Highly stressed dolphins anddogs have been observed drowning themselves. Some dogs starve themselves to death after their human dies.

I like to tell people about animal psychological disorders to make the point that humans with disorders are not weak willed or lackingin character. Psychological disorders typically result from a combination of biological and social influences. We and our animal friends do not choose to have a psychological disorder any more than we choose to have kidney disease.

On the bright side, humans and animals seem content most of the time. You might say that we areusually ashappyas a lark.

Life Line: 13 11 14John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences,University of New England.


I don’t want another NRL rebuild: Norman

Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman has been linked with a move to the Gold Coast.Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman admits coach Brad Arthur has given his blessing over a potential release from the final year of his contract to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
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But it won’t be at another rebuilding NRL club.

Norman is widely believed to have been shopped around by the Eels following a horror season, where the club have lost 11 of 15 games to sit outright last on the table.

A move at the end of the season now appears inevitable following a recent discussion with Arthur.

“It doesn’t need to be said what we’ve spoken about. We’re fine. We’ve still got a very good relationship,” Norman said on Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday.

“He said, ‘Look after Corey Norman’. So there you go. We’ve had a discussion and he said, ‘Do what’s best for you’.”

Norman’s comments come after revelations this week he recently met with Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan about going back to his home state.

Whether a deal can be struck remains to be seen, with Norman insisting that playing finals football would be a major factor in his decision to sign.

“I feel like when I come to Parramatta, it was a rebuilding club, (and) I wouldn’t want to go to another rebuilding club,” Norman said.

“I’m 28 next year. That’s pretty old in football terms.

“I definitely wouldn’t go to a rebuilding club. But a club that’s stable, is going to have good seasons, and play in the finals.”

A move to the Titans would pair him with Ashley Taylor in the halves, possibly forcing youngster AJ Brimson to fullback.

Coincidentally, Norman has a chance to put on a show in front of his potential future club when the Eels host the Titans on Saturday.

“I’ll go about my business as usual, play my part for the team and try and get the boys over the line. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Titans or whoever it is,” he said.

“I’m going to go into the game the same.”


Joyce’s message for Turnbull, Shorten

Barnaby Joyce says the government should properly explain to voters why businesses need tax relief.Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says the government must learn how to sell tax relief for the banks and big-earning CEO “bastards” or face the consequences in Queensland.
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Mr Joyce says the level of voter support in the state for One Nation at last weekend’s Longman by-election shows the coalition, and Labor, don’t know how to talk to Queenslanders.

“The Longman by-election was a big wake-up call – 16 per cent voted for a lady on a cruise in the Irish Sea,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in The Courier-Mail on Thursday.

“This is because Pauline Hanson is defined as Queensland, and the Labor and Liberal leaders are not.”

He cited several examples of the Turnbull government’s failure to connect with voters on key policies.

“People don’t like big banks and they think big businesses rip us off. They don’t like big power companies that have their foot on their throats. They don’t like big government – a machine that doesn’t care,” he wrote.

“Don’t tell them big businesses are all good and misunderstood. Don’t say a CEO earning 100 times their wage needs help.

“Just say, the reality is some of these people are bastards, but there are a lot of countries hungry for those bastards to go there, and to take their money with them.”

He said political leaders must understand that “people struggling to pay their power bills don’t care about the Paris (climate change) Agreement; they don’t care about your urbane southern guilt in not complying with it”.

And he said voters needed a better explanation about why Australia was giving financial support to its island neighbours, while Aussie farmers were going without and battling drought.

“There’s a good reason for that, but you need to sit down with the constituency and explain. (If we don’t help our island neighbours, China will, and you will be surrounded by a new Chinese empire. Alternatively, you can’t let kids starve to death no matter where they live.)”

The column comes a day after Mr Joyce told Sky News the Coalition would lose the next federal election unless it changed its ways.