Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanks O Lord for thy daily food
Thanks to Thee for making us good
Thanks for thy shelter and keeping us fed
Thanks for thy drink and wholesome bread
Thanks for the seasons that come and go
Thanks for the flowers that bloom and grow
Thanks for the friends who help us in need
Thanks for the trials which make us succeed
Thanks for the children so dear and sweet
Thanks for the love which makes us complete
Thanks for the eyes in letting us see
Thanks for the mind in setting us free
Thanks for the music that touches our heart
Thanks for the muses that inspire our art
Thanks for the visions that reveal our goal
Thanks for the lessons that strengthen our soul
Thanks for the sleep that gives us the rest
Thanks for the sage who unfolds the Quest
Thanks for the sun so luminous and bright
Thanks for thy guidance and inner light
Thanks for the stars that sparkle and shine
Thanks for the peace that is thine and mine
Thanks for the kindness which you give
Thanks for thy Grace by which we live.

  • Peter Y. Chou
Worcester, 11-22-1979

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Quartet finally made it down to Australia after all these years. And down under it is: a roughly 14+ hour direct flight from LA to Sydney. The longest flight I've ever been on. Then, after a 4 hour layover there - customs, bite to eat, espresso, and back massage at a airport establishment called "Samsara" - then it was another 4 hour flight to Perth. So all in all, a 24 hour journey.

But it was worth it. What a wonderful place. The land, sky, sea, and its inhabitants radiate a beautiful earthiness and ease I've not encountered anywhere else. Shattered my old and jaded impressions imbedded in my boyhood psyche by Monty Python's "Bruce" and "Australian Philosophers" sketches and the "Paul Hogan Show".

We came for two performances of Rodrigo's "Concerto Andaluz" with the WASO (Western Australia Symphony Orchestra) in Perth, followed directly with three performances of the same concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. For Sydney, we also added a suite from Falla's "El Amor Brujo" arranged for 4 guitars and orchestra, which works quite well.

The concert hall in Perth has an absolutely amazing resonance to the acoustics. Both evenings saw sold out crowds in the 1,731 seat venue.

           taken with the panoramic setting on my iPhone, so some jagged edges...

The weather was a bit rainy toward the end of our stay, but generally sunny with a refreshing  strong breeze from the water.

Food and drink were equally as good. Since this blog was ORIGINALLY intended to highlight coffee, good places were found there. Woogi Espresso on St. George's Terrace had top notch espresso, with edibles such as handmade sandwiches, assorted sweet treats and the like. A very small place inside a corridor bridging St. George's Terrace and the Mercure Hotel, this place had lots of character. Sorry, I have no photos. You'll have to trust me.

I tried several shots around town, but the most outstanding establishment had to be Bench Espresso on Hay Street. They pull excellent shots here, and use a single origin bean. I generally find single origin espressos too high in acid and high-note fruitiness; too bright generally for my palette (like two places I frequent in LA, Intelligentsia and Handsome - talented baristas and great pulls, just too bright on the tongue for me). But, although the espresso at Bench was bright in flavor, it had a real depth to it as well. I would go back.

Bench Espresso in Perth - again, jagged panorama shot

a ristretto double shot, with great crema, from Bench.

Cafes and espresso joints were all over the place. And, since the competition is high, the quality is overall very, very good from one to the other. Here is a sign I saw outside one of them, summing up a philosophy of this coffee-dotted landscape.

Only saw one Starbucks while there. Yippee!!

Eats. We wanted to hit a place with great local cuisine in Perth. A place where the local residents ate. And since Perth is one of the most expensive places to buy food and drink I have ever visited (average cost of a hamburger and fries with drink: $27 USD), we wanted a place with reasonable prices working musicians could afford. We were directed by several folks to Billy Lee's. Cantonese food, and open late. This was a great recommendation. Simple and small, it had more tables and chairs outside than in.
                                                                      Bill and Matt at Billy Lee's in Perth

Being that Australia is a land mass smack between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it's culinary culture draws from a variety of Pan-Asian sources. Local critters can be had as well, and I believe Bill had a crocodile burger and Matt tried some kangaroo. I stuck to veggies and fruit primarily.

                                      A wide selection of edible critter jerkies at the Perth airport. Emu? Hmmm...


We are playing with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. Yes, that's the one. Never was there a building so iconic as this, and so majestic. Breathtaking would be a good word. I had always thought it symbolized sails, or something to do with boats, being that it's the Sydney harbor. But today I heard a story from a local musician that the architect cut up an orange, placed the wedges on the ground, and basically said "voilá"! Not sure what to believe.

taken from the ferry boat to Manley Beach

                           Us after a popular morning radio show appearance at the ABC studio lobby in Sydney

                                                                            Yours truly at Manley Beach

                                                                      Advertisement outside the SOH

With more updates to come, let me finish this entry with some shots of what I think is the best espresso place I've tried (thus far) in Sydney. Workshop Espresso on George Street. Great blend (not single origin), great crema, and an artful pull skillfully done.


The quartet met today with esteemed Australian composer Philip Houghton. It was a real honor to finally meet him. Among many, many other notable works, his best-known work for guitar quartet is by far "Opals". Philip is a natural synesthete, meaning he vividly associates sounds with colors, colors with sound. This is known as "synesthesia". The work Opals immediately came to him when he first saw a particular black opal, which he holds in this photo. He said something today that struck me profoundly: "Music is slowed-down light".

                               LAGQ with Philip Houghton outside Sir Stamford hotel, Sydney