Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Vegemite Tale!

Jan.s: Jessica, I've known you since you were a young girl; wise and witty beyond your years! Your family is steeped in Opera/Theatre and you've not surprisingly taken to the boards. Tell me what you're up to? Jessica: Since the time when we lived together in that beautiful house in Chatswood much has happened. My path into the theatre world was fairly inevitable. As much as I tried in my youth to persuade myself and my family that I’d be happy collecting the toll on the Harbour Bridge, or becoming an accountant, or a beach bum, the theatre lured me back in. It took until I was 23, after a few years of trying unsuccessfully to get into Australian drama schools and generally wasting time, to make the decision to travel to London and audition for the numerous quality schools over here. This was initiated by my Mother Beverly who was in London at the time and sent me the application packets. I was loathe to leave Australia, after only having made it back there after completing high school in Europe (and having lived in London as a nanny when I was 18 and hating it), but was spurred on by friends and family. So I packed up my belongings and left them at my then boyfriends house and whizzed off to London to begin 2 months of auditions. I was accepted into two schools, one of which was the Drama Centre London…or the Trauma Centre as it is affectionately known. Luckily for me I knew nothing about it when I auditioned or I might have felt more nervous walking up to the old Methodist church in Camden. Actually what I left the audition thinking was – what a bunch of old bastards, I’m glad I probably won’t get in there. Unbelievably, I got the call! I decided to go to the Drama Centre as the other school I was accepted into was in Oxford and I wanted to stay in London. I’m glad I did. It was an intense, wild place and I had a wonderful time learning, acting every day and making great friends who are still part of my work circle. I didn’t agree with everything they taught and sometimes I’d come home seething and angry. Luck would have it that I was living with some brilliant women who would set me straight, or I’d call my Mother, a hugely talented Director, and she would give me advice on how to deal with some of the psychotic personalities you come across in the Arts! After graduating I produced a number of plays at fringe theatres to keep myself and friends in work. Beverly came over and directed ‘The Feigned Courtesans’ a terrific restoration romp by Aphra Behn. Myself and 5 friends crossed dressed like crazy and played multiple characters in a frenzy of pink frills. ‘Marx brothers on acid’ was the description from one critic. I produced ‘The Secret Death of Salvador Dali’ by Stephen Sewell, in which myself and one other actor played a combination of about 28 roles. It was very successful and although strenuous acting, producing and marketing I had a great time. My partner and I have just taken my one woman show ‘My Year Without Sex’ (www.tickletext.com also www.jessicagerger.com ) also directed by Beverly and in which I play about 18 characters, on a tour to the Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festivals. That was a blast and it was very well received. I found my target audience was middle aged women. They would come and scream and hoot all the way through. We plan to put the show on here in London in 2009. I’ve managed to get on the telly, film and other productions here and there playing a range of parts from Lady Macbeth to a cocaine addicted window dresser. The biggest turning point in my life was getting involved with a production called ‘The Vegemite Tales’ (www.thevegemitetales.com) in 2005. Written by a young Aussie woman, Melanie Tait. It tells the story of a household of young people living in London – their trials and tribulations. I played the part of Gemma, an artist who encounters some serious problems living in London. My character had to kiss her flat mate Sam. This happy event lead to falling for my other half, Andrew Robb. Andrew started out acting in the play and took over as producer a couple of years later. He is largely responsible for taking the play and turning it into such a huge success. The play started in a fringe theatre in 2001 and by 2006 he’d taken it to the West End. For the last few years I’ve been his production assistant as well as acting in the show. It is a huge cult hit and great fun to be a part of. We even get spotted when we go back to OZ by people who have seen it. At the moment I’m teaching and directing, Andrew is in a play called the ‘The Ides of March’ by Canberran writer Duncan Levy, and we are working out when, where and how to put on ‘The Vegemite Tales’ and ‘My Year Without Sex’ in 2009. So a life in the arts seems to be sustaining us for now. Lucky! If only we could bring the Australian sun and countryside over here life would be pretty perfect. xxxxx

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Part Two - Hilde Hefte! Egil Kapstad...and not stealing the singers notes!











Jan.s: Your partner, accomplished pianist/composer Egil Kapstad provides a solid and seamless basis for your vocals. His arrangements/orchestrations support the nuances of your voice.  Tell me about the process you both might enter into preceding a recording or occasion, for example the Prague recordings.

Hilde: Egil is a word freak himself and he never writes a music arrangement until he’s read the lyrics. And after he has read it he’s focusing on telling the same story as the singer; both in the arrangement, his own fills etc.

About the Prague-recording: First I had to find the songs, and then the right keys. The key is not only the key I feel is right for my voice, but it’s a question about color.

Every key has its own color and I always have to find the right one for the story I want to tell from the lyrics. When that is done Egil starts to work with the arrangement, instrumentation and orchestration.

He’s not afraid of telling a plain, a complex or a straight ahead love-story so if it’s supposed to be “sweet” he’s not afraid of doing that. He’s also very aware of not stealing the singers’ notes. Like he’s saying: “Singers have one note, a pianist can place several at the same time, so why steal the only one the singer’s got?”

By doing this he’s also lifting the singer, making her/him more interesting because he’s lifting the singer by giving her/him space and leave her/his notes alone and give other colors by the notes he’s picking.

So when I’ve done my piece and he’s written a sketch or an opening we’ll test this out on the piano. I’m singing, he’s playing and explaining - and sometimes we play four-handed piano while I’m singing so we’re able to hear with our own ears that we’re on the right track. And while he was writing I did all the practical things just so we were able to focus on the important things when we arrived in Prague.

We didn’t have much studio time and the record was going to be recorded live at the studio, so everything had to be prepared for it to run smoothly. And it’s so very important to feel ok and being able to focus on good music, wonderful people and ensemble-work so we tried to prepare it well, down to the tiniest thing. ~~~~~~~ To be continued!

Jan.s:  Thanks so much Hilde!

http://www.hildehefte.no/

http://www.egilkapstad.no/

http://www.hildehefte.no/

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My friend, sports masseuse par excellence, Henry Broda has just informed that their clinic can be reached on the following urls: Please visit them in the elegant Dymocks Building in Sydney. They're the best practitioner's on the block...and beyond! http://www.sydneymassagecbd.com.au/ http://www.sydneyacupuncturecbd.com.au/ Stay well! Don't worry! Be happy! jan.s

Part One of an Interview with Hilde Hefte!


I first 'met' Hilde via myspace...

I can't recall just who discovered who but it was a wonderful cyber meeting!

I've always loved the voice of Norwegian Jazz singer, Karin Krog and for many years Karin and I corresponded via snail mail!

To my mind Hilde follows Karin's great legacy of  Norwegian Jazz singers with a  voice of subtle complexity ....beauty, warmth, intimacy, poignancy and fearless irony!

Hilde has graciously allowed me an interview. I continue to learn, she is never predictable, is full of depth, generosity of spirit and self effacing good humour!  

***

Jan.s: Hilde! Your voice and phrasing have an innate and completely at home Jazz sensibility. Tell me about your first jazz influences.  

Hilde: My first influence was being born in to a family that loved music, especially jazz and classical music.
My father played the alto sax and Bb clarinet and his heroes were jazz musicians like Lester Young, Erroll Garner etc. BUT neither my mother nor my father talked badly about other music genres.

When I came home with heavy rock or whatever it was they always listened to it and always tried to find something positive to focus on. I remember I played a really heavy rock song for them – the record was TERRIBLE (can’t remember what it was – guess I’ve pushed this too far back in my head hehe) – but my father said: “Hilde, the bassist it REALLY good”.

My belief is that behaving like this they allowed me to be curious about music, music styles and quality; and at the same time made me feel that when they had something they would love to share with me when it came to music, I felt obligated to listen even though I didn’t always like their records or their songs on the radio.

You know, jazz and classical music is a question about depth so you have to grow into that depth and that was what they did without me knowing it.

But my first big crush was Oscar Peterson. This happened when I watched Oscar Peterson’s TV Show for the first time when I was about 10.

I sat there and fell in love immediately and wanted to marry him. I don’t know what it was, I was 10, but he “spoke” to me and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

And I started taking piano lessons, something that made me fall in love in the world of sounds from the “chords” of Debussy f.ex.

The same sounds you can hear in all modern jazz music. I almost never listened to singers when I grew up. (Even though I’ve now got some huuuuuge favourites.)

I was always eager on learning the way musicians phrased, where in the bars they started playing, when they stopped, how they played the phrase, what notes they picked up in a chord and more….

But even though I listened to instrumentalists the most I’ve always been a “word-freak”. So storytelling is the main thing for using words when one’s singing in my opinion.

When I sing I have to find my story and tell it. It doesn’t help wearing a fine dress, make up and high heals, telling everybody how sexy you are if you don’t want to tell your audience something – and then one will be “dead” as an artist after reached the age of 25 hehe.

At the same time – if one is focusing on the lyrics and the story, one will pause the music differently and the music is always in the pauses, where you catch air, breathe or just keep your mouth shot. This is my opinion – and one doesn’t have to agree with me, but I always find that the most interesting jazz singers is the singers that don’t speak until they have to, and when they do they want to tell me something. If a singer don’t take breaks and catch air I get nervous and start to breath for them.  

Jan.s: Thank you Hilde, for sharing so much with us. I can't wait for the next installment!
  
http://www.hildehefte.no/
http://www.karinkrog.no/
Photo (c) Hilde Hefte
Janice Slater November 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hilde Hefte! A force to be reckoned with!

Hilde is a cool Norwegian jazz artist with warmth and humour! Please visit Hilde's site, not only to hear her beautiful voice but discover the incredible array of artists that she also supports via her various sites. www.hildehefte.no Hilde and her partner, Egil Kapstad, together have created the most wonderful CD's. Here's one of that you will love created in 2007. Hilde Hefte and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra To learn more about Egil and his incredible musical background, as a composer, and accompanist please visit his site: http://www.egilkapstad.no/ Wishing you happy listening. jan.s

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wonderful healers! Wonderful friends!

Here is a photo I took a few months back of two of my favourite people on the planet, Henry Broda and Nabih Moussa. Both are dedicated alternative healers who have played a major role in my journey of recovery from breast cancer. As you can see they like nothing better than a good coffee!
Please visit their clinic: http://www.1forhealth.com.au/ Much good cheer to all. jan.s

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I've just had the great pleasure of giving a workshop on Performance Techniques for seven young singers at the Waratah School of Music, Katoomba, NSW. The gracious hosts, Tracey and Phil Campbell, have created an elegant setting conducive for in depth workshops. The added bonus of having their dog Teddy on board and Tracey's especially yummy home baked cookies made it an wonderful day for all. I found all of the participants truly inspiring . Thank you. Please take a look at their fantastic school http://waratahschoolofmusic.com/Home.html A Summer School is also on it's way. Much good cheer to all. jan.s

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Clouds moving!

I love taking photos of clouds in the mountains....they remind me of the wisdom in the meditation practises I've been given...thoughts like clouds - moving - don't attach to them! Ah! See how they dissolve and fly!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Great US jazz artists

Spring has arrived in the Blueys in the land of oz and with it countless Cherry Blossoms! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - in the meantime so little time to write this blog but now that I'm here I'd like to introduce you to some wonderful and gifted friends of mine on the other side of the world. They are the two K's from place names with M's...hmmmmm!? Wonder what that means? Please visit their sites and listen to their great music. One of them is in Michigan and the other in Maryland and I've met neither face to face but we've become great cyber pals and both are truly inspiring jazz artists. Here's the url of my friend and vocalist the cool cool K Anderson Matthews with the sultry tones: Her voice is gorgeous and I'm trying to tempt K (Kathleen) to record a number of my songs..and also songs I've co-written with Kirk Kadish. http://www.myspace.com/kandersonmatthews The other is Kirk Kadish a kool kat indeed: Kirk and I are also completing a CD...info soon to follow! www.myspace.com/tradewinds They both, to my mind and ears, express so eloquently the creative spirit of American jazz, free and easy and full of energy and open heartedness! Cheers jan.s

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thawing out!

A few weeks back late late snow in the Blueys...and only a sprinkle of it to tell the tale! Now Spring has arrived and we're all shaking out the rugs and getting the washing on the line as our mother's before us! Ah the seasons and their great renewal. Welcome to all her visit my blog and whatever the season I send you good tidings. jan.s

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today is a beautiful Blue Mountain's day and I'm listening to Joni Mitchell and also Pattin Griffith. Here's another little collage I did one cold rainy Blueys day awhile back. I first began making them when I lived in London in the early 70's. I had little money and had to invent Christmas gifts and I began creating collages for gifts! Wishing all a beautiful day! Thanks for visiting bentenlaughing! jan.s

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On yet another cold old wintery and rainy Blueys day I just found this beautiful blog via my friend Linda Sarah's gorgeous site...oh the warmth one human being can bring to another. http://oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com/ I hope you enjoy this site too!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Free Your Voice"

Janice Slater - "Free Your Voice" - voice workshop for Teenagers/Young Adults Sat 23rd August 4-6pm (Max 8 in a class) "Have fun and learn to use your voice in a supportive environment. Explore freeing the natural voice through breathing, play; and working creatively with text while building self-confidence. The workshop is suitable for teenagers/young adults studying English and/or drama. Chosen text is “Romeo and Juliet”. “Voice can be many things. It can be shouting, singing, whispering, humming, and laughing! Your voice is your way of saying things – the energy you bring to communicate! You don’t have to discover it, you already have it! Our voice responds to play, to movement; and thought and feeling – its fuel is the body moving, and the imagination!” Janice Slater Janice has worked with film director Gillian Armstrong, the Sydney Theatre Company and Cate Blanchett; she is a vocal coach/sound designer and script editor having worked as a dramaturge on numerous theatre productions; and as a script assessor for ‘The Australian National Playwrights Association’; as well as ‘Playworks,’ and ABC Radio Drama and TV. http://www.seegergallery.com/

Adam Warnock. A great Blueys singer/songwriter!

For years now I've been saying helloe to a lovely local, his wife and to begin with their young son at a cafe where I have my morning coffee. Well since those early helloes, they've left the Blueys and returned and with them brought another young son into the world. Even though Adam mentioned he was a musician we've never gone beyong the helloes...until recently when I asked to hear more of his music and he handed me two demos worth of songs! Wow! Adam Warnock is both an incredibly gifted musician and singer/songwriter. Take a listen! http://adamwarnock.com/ http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=790768

Timeless


When I first met Julianne, she was living in the Megalong Valley, west of the Blue Mountains. She was composing the most haunting music on an old upright and sharing her abode with a cat called Kiku and taking care of her akido teacher's horse in the adjoining paddock. We talked about music and I asked Julianne who inspired her and she mentioned Peter Gabriel. Julianne said that if ever she wanted to be on a label it was his! Well, after a long and dedicated musical/personal journey (fifteen years I believe!) all to her credit, she's done it...a self funded, self penned and exquisite work of art from Julianne.

'Timeless' is now available on Womad online: http://womadshop.com/detail/456

Julianne, not unlike the indigenous people of this land (Australia) has a deep love of country. The above photo was taken of Julianne returning to one of her beloved places in the Megalong Valley on her most recent holiday.

Friday, July 25, 2008

With regard to copyright, if you have any interest in using my images or text on this site please feel free to contact me. All work on this site unless otherwise credited is by me and is protected by copyright.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'Awakened State'

Helloe Dear Friends, Please visit my friend Bruno Libert's site to listen to the tracks we've done for the soon to be released CD 'Awakened State'... http://www.brunolibert.be/cms/h_universe_awakend.php I hope you enjoy it. jan.s

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Julianne Spicer's Beautiful Artwork


I've finally managed to find out how to link to my friend, ex singing student, musical collaborater and incredibly gifted singer/songwriter Julianne's artblog! Much love to all. jan.s

http://sunrisearts.blogspot.com/

I took this piccie of Julianne about a year back when she was visiting oz! What fun!

By the way here is Julianne's website:

http://www.julianne.net/
Here's a little collage I made yonks back called Leaf Mould! I hope you like it.
jan.s

Please visit the Hunger Site

I've been visiting this site for some time and I'd love to encourage you to do so! Just click below!
The Hunger Site
Countless blessings for countless beings for countless aeons! A trillion thanks. jan.s

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Images online

Oh I almost forgot! I now have artwork online at http://bentensmiling.imagekind.com/ Just click onto an image at it will take you directly to the site where you can see other artwork I've created. Prints, canvases and cards are for sale. I hope you enjoy them! Much love jan.s

Welcome to all visiting bentenlaughing. Here is a photo of two of my favourite Blue Mountain's people. Writer, Julie Milligan and singer/songwriter Robyne Dunn.

By the way Robyne's not only one of my all time favourite singer/songwriters but a few months ago I asked Robyne if I could represent a number of her songs. She graciously said 'Yes!'

Samples of songs from Robyne's 'Songs from the Belfry' can be heard on the url below and her CD purchased there also.

If you are a singer looking for great new songs to add to your recording repertoire please feel free to contact me here on bentenlaughing with any enquires regarding Robyne's songs.

www.inertia-music.com/artist/Robyne%2BDunn




Wednesday, July 9, 2008


This is one of the cakes I drew for Seeger Gallery!
A wee bit of fancy indeedy!
I hope you enjoy it! Soon they will be for sale online!

http://www.seegergallery.com/

On a cold old wintery Blue Mountains day as I listen to the formidable guitar playing of fellow Ozzie, Brian Holloway, I send warm wishes to all who may visit these pages.

May all be peaceful, loving and gracious in your world. jan.s

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I live in the clouds!

Helloe to Everyone! This was what I discovered one morning! I live in the clouds and it's extraordinary! Friends of mine wake up to this view often as their house looks out at the escarpment. This is the Blue Mountains in Australia. How fortunate we are to be able to view this ancient landscape - millions of years old. Wishing you all and I hope to show you more photos soon. jan.s

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vihara Celelbrations


Here are some photos from the celebrations at The Vihara Temple in the Blue Mountains for the Buddhas Birthday. This is my friend, sculptor Phil Hay and me outside the Stoopa. jan.s

Friday, May 9, 2008

Buddha's Birthday

Today I'm celelbrating the Buddha's Birthday at The Vihara, the first Buddhist Temple built in Australia. The Venerable Kovida, our kind and inspirational resident Sri Lankan monk will lead the celebrations. I'll post some piccies soon! Enjoy the day. jan.s

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Display!


Welcome to the first blog of bentenlaughing! Benten can be seen in the photograph playing the biwa. She is one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. Currently I'm excited about some ink/watercolour paintings I've recently completed of little cakes! Yes petits fours to compliment the full display of wonderous art by French/Ozzie artist Kristine McCarroll's exhibition 'Sensuelle et sans Suite, Forever' opening at Seeger Gallery Saturday 17th May. To view Kritistine's work please visit the url below:

Go to http://www.seegergallery.com/

As a practitoner of Tibetan Buddhism my petits fours act as a visual offering to all beings. May all beings find the food that nourishes not only the senses but that which assists in recognition of the nature of mind ! 'May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings attain enlightenment'. As my great and kind Tibetan teacher would paraphrase 'Don't worry! Be Happy'. jan.s