Category Archives: Just Having Fun

Beary Oktoberfest

How exciting! Beary size pretzels! 🙂

We have pretzels too! Hee, hee!

🙂

Time for lunch…

And now it’s dessert time!

Must be quiz time 🙂

Where does the world-famous Oktoberfest take place?

  • Berlin
  • Frankfurt
  • Amsterdam
  • Munich

In what year did the first Oktoberfest take place?

  • 1789
  • 1810
  • 1890
  • 1945

What did the first Oktoberfest celebrate?

  • The end of the work of harvesting
  • The marriage of Bavarian Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese
  • The defeat of Napoleon and the end of the French occupation of Germany
  • Bavarian independence from the German Empire

What was the main attraction at the first Oktoberfest celebration?

  • Hot air balloon rides
  • The world’s largest beer keg
  • The country’s first roller coaster
  • A horse race

When does Oktoberfest begin each year?

  • The middle of September
  • The last day of September
  • The first day of October
  • The first Sunday in October

What is the first scheduled event at Oktoberfest each year?

  • The release of 1000 doves
  • The crowning of the Oktoberfest queen
  • The parade of brewers and festival workers
  • The unveiling of a giant, locally baked pretzel

Who is in charge of tapping the festival’s first beer keg each year?

  • The Oktoberfest queen
  • The German chancellor
  • The owner of the Hofbräuhaus
  • The city mayor

Beer is served in a standard-sized mug called a “Maß”. How much beer does it hold?

  • 250 millilitres
  • one half-litre
  • one litre
  • two litres

What is the name of the town square where the Oktoberfest takes place?

  • Alexanderplatz
  • St. Pauli
  • Schlossplatz
  • Theresienwiese

Approximately how many people visit Oktoberfest each year?

  • Between 750,000 and 900,000
  • 2 to 2.1 million
  • Between 6 and 7 million
  • 10 to 12 million

Answers: Munich; 1810; The marriage of Bavarian Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese; A horse race; The middle of September; The parade of brewers and festival workers; The city mayor; One litre; Theresienwiese; Between 6 and 7 million.

Swedish Fika

It turns out October 4 is Cinnamon Bun Day. We learn something new every day!

Swedes love to have Fika and it must always include a cinnamon bun. Last November, little Puffles and Honey had fika every day while in Stockholm 🙂 Vete-Katten was their favourite place!

Cinnamon buns, apple & custard and blueberry & custard buns from Vette-Katten
Princess Cake and Budapest Log at Vette-Katten

The cinnamon bun was created around 1920 and will soon turn one hundred years old. Food that had been rationed during the wartime period was starting to come back – sugar, butter, flour and spices. The cinnamon bun was being sold at cafés, but in the kitchen at home people baked different kinds of buns that were shaped as wreaths or long, flat bread. The baking of cinnamon buns at home started at the beginning of the 1950s. Better economy, cheaper raw materials and better ovens changed the bun from being a luxury to being everyone’s all time favourite.

Cinnamon added flavor to pastries for special occasions as early as during the 16th century in Sweden. For king Gustav Vasa’s wedding, large amounts of sweets, cinnamon and other valuable spices were imported.

Coffee is closely associated with cinnamon buns. Coffee travelled a long way before it came to Sweden. From the coffee houses in Mecca in the 15th century via Persia, Constantinople, Venice in the 17th century and then further north in Europe. Karl XII brought coffee from Turkey. In Stockholm, coffee houses were established in the early 18th century, where the men drank coffee while discussing politics and literature.

Compressed yeast, which appeared mid-19th century, made it possible to bake porous, sweet bread to accompany coffee. Wheat became cheaper and more common. When the iron stove replaced the open fireplace, it became easier to bake smaller cakes such as buns and biscuits. And so the Swedish pastry culture started to develop.

Instead of large dinner parties, coffee parties became the modern way to socialise during the 20th century. Coffee parties reached their peak during the 1950s and were subsequently replaced with the simpler fika. Fika refers to a way of socialising with coffee and cake 🙂

Today little bears are socialising with cake only 🙂

And since someone forgot about Princess Cake Week in September, we had to get some today 🙂

Vette-Katten was a bit far to get cinnamon buns today, so a local bakery made some. They smell like the real thing and they look like the real thing…

And the beary verdict? Not Vette-Katten, but pretty good 🙂

Dig in bearyone!

The Wildflowers Behind the Adorable Florables

Little bears are on a mission to Kings Park to find the wildflowers behind the Adorable Florables.

The vibrant floral costumes and dazzling personalities of the popular Adorable Florables have been on display in Kings Park every September since 2007. Through the flamboyant costumes and make-up, the Adorable Florables transform themselves into real-life representations of WA native species.

Little bears with Thinnid Wasp, Granny Bonnet, Kangaroo Paw, Silver Princess, Golden Wattle and Eva Everlasting

Before a WA native species is chosen to join the mischievous larger-than-life wildflower characters, each with a personality to match their bloom, quite a bit of research is done. The proposed character has to be distinctively West Australian and easily recognisable to the public, and its personality traits of the wildflower character have to reflect the real-life adaptations and characteristics of the native plant. A detailed character brief is created for each performer, so the actor can apply appropriate verbal and non-verbal techniques to the flower’s personality.

The Australian Everlasting is recognised as a symbol of the Kings Park Festival held in Perth each spring. Hundreds of thousands of people gather at the Festival every year to see the spectacle of more than 30,000 Everlastings in full bloom.

Pink Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea)
Eva Everlasting

The pink everlasting daisy is a pretty, pink delicate flower with a sweet scent, so the character of Eva Everlasting is also sweet and slightly preening in personality, with a gentle, happy voice, light and floaty body gestures and a pretty pink costume.

The gift of winter rain to Western Australia’s harsh desert fringe brings a carpet of colourful and showy everlastings to life in early spring. Similar natural displays of floral colour, on a large scale, can be seen only in California and South Africa.

Pink Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea)

The Red and Green Kangaroo Paw was proclaimed the floral emblem of Western Australia on 9 November 1960. It is one twelve species of the genus Anigozanthos which is restricted to the south-west of Western Australia.

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii)
The majestic Red and Green Kangaroo Paw surrounded by Adorable Florables

The majestic Red and Green Kangaroo Paw is an international ambassador of Australian flora and as such the character walks around with the dignity required by the role. Fresh and dried cut flowers are exported across the world with western Europe and Japan being the largest markets.

The Kangaroo Paw is a favourite with nectar feeding birds which often feed from the spectacular flowers. In its natural habitat Red and Green Kangaroo Paw flowers between August and October.

Little bears liked the pink Kangaroo Paw 🙂 It’s beary size!

Anigozanthos Pure Pink Kangaroo Paw

The Golden Wattle is the floral emblem of Australia. Although wattles, and in particular the golden wattle, have been the informal floral emblem of Australia for many years (for instance, it represented Australia on the Coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953), it was not until Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 that the golden wattle was formally adopted as the floral emblem of Australia. In 1992, 1 September was formally declared National Wattle Day.

The Australian Coat of Arms includes a wreath of wattle; but it does not accurately represent a golden wattle. Similarly, the green and gold colours used by Australian international sporting teams were inspired by the colours of wattles in general, rather than the golden wattle specifically.

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha)
Golden Wattle

The Golden Wattle is a shrub or small tree about 4 to 8 metres tall. After the seedling stage, true leaves are absent, their function being performed by phyllodes which are modified flattened leaf stalks lacking leaf blades. The leathery phyllodes are 6 to 20 cm long, broadly lance or sickle-shaped and bright green in colour. In spring large fluffy golden-yellow flower-heads with up to eighty minute sweetly scented flowers provide a vivid contrast with the foliage. While flowering can take place from July to November (late winter to early summer), flowering peaks over July and August. Each inflorescence is a ball-like structure that is covered by 40 to 100 small flowers that have five tiny petals (pentamerous) and long erect stamens, which give the flower head a fluffy appearance. The dark brown mature fruit, 7 to 12 cm long, splits along one side to release the seeds.

Orange Wattle or WA Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna)
Orange Wattle or WA Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna)

The Golden Wattle requires cross-pollination between plants to set seed. Birds facilitate this. Nectaries are located on phyllodes; those near open flowers become active, producing nectar that birds feed upon just before or during flowering. While feeding, birds brush against the flower heads and dislodge pollen and often visit multiple trees.

Several species of honeyeater have been observed foraging, including the Western Spinebill.

Male Western Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus superciliosus)
Female Western Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus superciliosus)
Little bears with the Adorable Florables in 2014 – The Western Spinebill, second from left, is holding Honey

The Western Spinebill occurs only in south-western Australia, mainly in the area north to Eneabba and east to Israelite Bay. It has a distinctive long, slender, down-curved bill. The male has an olive-grey crown with a white eye-brow and a black facial mask which is bordered below with a white stripe. The throat and upper breast are rufous, extending over the back of the neck as a collar; the lower breast has a white and a black band. The rest of the upperbody is olive-grey and the rest of underbody is cream. The female is duller, largely olive-grey above and cream below, with a diffuse pale eyebrow and a diffuse rufous collar, but lacks the black-and-white markings of the male.

Nectar is the main food of the Western Spinebill, obtained by probing flowers with its long, narrow beak. The species also takes insects, mostly caught while sallying in the air, or occasionally by pecking them from the surfaces of plants. Apart from the Golden Wattle, The Western Spinebill also feeds on Banksia, Grevillea, Adenanthos and featherflowers.

Eucalypts are another defining feature of Australia. To the uninitiated, most eucalypt species tend to look the same, and that can be excused, there are more than 700 species of eucalyptus and most are native to Australia. Apparently there are good features and clear characteristics to use in identification, mostly to do with leaf morphology. Unlike many flowers, the gum blossom doesn’t consist of petals. The colourful bloom is provided by the stamens, which attract pollinators such as insects or nectar-feeding birds. The petals are fused into the operculum, or cap (except in Angophora). While many gum blossoms are white, they come in a kaleidoscope of other colours, including sulphur, orange, vermilion, red, lime, purple and pink! Here is a link to an illustrated guide to some of the gum blossoms.

The Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia) is a mallee (woody plant that is multistemmed from ground level and seldom taller than 10 meters) of the Eucalyptus genus that is endemic to Western Australia. The name “silver” refers to the white powder that covers the branches, flower buds and fruit.

Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia subsp magna)
Silver Princess

The Silver Princess is an elegant and brilliant ornamental tree. It is a graceful, weeping tree with powdery blue-green foliage, a fascinating bark and unique pink or red flowers with yellow anthers. Flower buds hang on the tree for months and then flower from May through to September, soon followed by fruit (the gumnuts). The pendular, bell-shaped, silver coloured gumnuts extend the beauty and appeal of this very special tree through the summer.

Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia subsp magna)
Silver Princess gumnuts

Silver Princess is iconic West Australian flora, very sweet, loves herself and thinks everyone else loves her too!

There are 173 Banksia species, and all but one occur naturally only in Australia. South western Australia contains the greatest diversity of banksias, with 60 species recorded. There are no species which are common to eastern and western Australia except Tropical Banksia (Banksia dentata). The Scarlet Banksia occurs close to the south coast of Western Australia.

Scarlet Banksia (Banksia coccinea)
Little bears with the Adorable Florables in 2013 (before clothes and before Jay!) – Thynnid Wasp, Banksia, Queen of Sheba Orchid and Silver Princess

The Scarlet Banksia is widely considered one of the most attractive Banksia species.

The flower heads are made up of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs. The colour of the flower heads usually ranges from yellow to red. Many species flower over autumn and winter. The fruits of banksias (called follicles) are hard and woody and are often grouped together to resemble cones (which they are not, true cones are produced only by conifers).

A Western Spinebill resting on Scarlet Banksia (Banksia coccinea)

There are 283 known species of cycad (tree) worldwide with 76 species in Australia, seven species in Western Australia. The Zamia cycad is endemic to Western Australia. This plant is slow growing and the trunk of older plants can be up to one metre high, but are more often trunkless.

Zamia (Macrozamia fraseri)

One of the fascinating things about Cycads is the way they reproduce. They’re dioecious, which means that male (pollen) and female (seed) cones are born on separate plants. Once fertilised, the female cone of the Zamia cycad produces vibrant red seeds which are poisonous to humans, as Dutch explorers found to their cost when they first set foot on Perth soil in 1697.

Female cone of the Macrozamia fraseri
Zamia (Macrozamia fraseri) – male plant
Little bears with the Adorable Florables in 2014 – The Zamia Cycad Warrior, in the middle, is holding Puffles

Cycads are a great substitute for palms, where you want a good crown without the height of the trunk. In fact they’re often mistaken for palms or tree ferns.

Ancestors of the cycad existed 250 million years ago, before the age of the dinosaurs. It’s tough sharply pointed and leathery fronds protected the plant from grazing dinosaurs. Often these plants bear the blackened marks of a fire on their trunks – a testament to their hardy nature. A warrior plant indeed!

The Granny Bonnet is a short lived plant that is very common after bushfires, but usually quickly overwhelmed by hot dry weather or taller vegetation, leaving only odd plants in later years to germinate in open locations. They are a very pretty small plant with large (around 2 cm) brightly coloured flowers, which stand erect on long stems (5-30cm). The shape of the flower gives it the common name of Granny Bonnets, but it is also known as Lamb Poison and may contain poisonous toxins in order to discourage grazing animals.

Granny Bonnets (Isotropis cuneifolia)
Granny Bonnet

Granny Bonnets are distinguished from other Isotropis species by their long tapering cuneate leaves and the single flower on a long stem. As the plant grows it sets new flowers, so the flowering period can run for several months usually beginning in July and continuing until November, or the start of hot weather.

Granny Bonnets (Isotropis cuneifolia)

The veins on the back of the flower are very striking – it must be one of the very few plants which have evolved to have flowers which look even better (to humans) from the back than the front.

Granny Bonnets (Isotropis cuneifolia)

She is regarded as royalty, her hideouts are closely-guarded secrets and in August each year, her fans roam far and wide in the hope of catching a glimpse of her. It’s usually a two week window from the day that it flowers. She’s the elusive Queen of Sheba orchid.

There are three regional sub species of the orchid: thelymitra pulcherrima, thelymitra variegate and thelymitra speciosa, all occurring in Western Australia. They are distinguished mainly by flower colour and distribution, but there is considerable variation on colour in all three species. In the wild, sites are shrouded in secrecy to protect the Queen, and other native orchids, from being trampled or stolen. However, habitat clearing and degradation, from slashing, herbicide use and fire, are bigger threats to orchid populations than theft.

Queen of Sheba (Thelymitra variegata)

The orchid, which is characterised by its spiral leaves, takes between seven and ten years to flower. The Queen of Sheba grows leaf by leaf, year by year, and needs the perfect conditions to fully form, a lucky combination of perfect timing, perfect soil and perfect pollination. All orchids start their first years as small protocorms, basically a leaf attached to a very small tuber. Each summer they go dormant, to a tuber, then each year they grow back again, putting up little curly leaves. After seven to ten years, they might put up a flower spike. Hopefully, one day soon they will be in display in Kings Park.

They are known as “Sun Orchids” because the colourful flowers of most Thelymitra species only open fully on warm, sunny days. The rest of the time they stay closed. This encourages pollinators to visit in large numbers during one event, increasing the likelihood of depositing pollen from a neighbouring Queen of Sheba.

Queen of Sheba Orchid (Thelymtra speciosa)
Queen of Sheba
Little bears with the Adorable Florables in 2013 (before clothes and before Jay!) – Thynnid Wasp, Banksia, Queen of Sheba Orchid and Silver Princess

Orchids are more intricate in terms of their interaction with their ecosystem than any other plants. They have relationships with below-ground fungi, to get nutrients and to germinate. Above-ground they form relationships with their pollinators. The Thynnid Wasp!

Most orchids are pollinated in the traditional way; they produce attractive flowers to advertise the presence of nectar, and when insects visit to drink the offering, they brush up against the pollen and transfer it.

About 30 per cent of orchids produce stunning flowers but then don’t go to the trouble of producing nectar, so visiting insects complete the pollination job without any reward. A few have taken the level of deception to an extreme, employing sophisticated sexual trickery – and Australian orchids are the queens of seduction.

About 250 species in some 10 genera of orchids are deceiving male insects – mostly wasps – into believing that they’ve found an elusive female. Hammer orchids, spider orchids, flying duck orchids and elbow orchids all use the same devious approach.

Most Australian orchids that hoodwink hapless males in this way are pollinated by a group of wasps known as thynnines. The female wasps are dumpy, flightless creatures that spend much of their adult lives underground, laying eggs on beetle larvae in the soil. The males are fast-flying and large, with a wingspan of up to 5cm. Many thynnine wasps are black, but others are spectacularly coloured, with combinations of black, yellow, red and orange markings.

When a female thynnine is ready to mate, she crawls out of the ground and releases a pheromone to attract males. There aren’t many females around at any one time, so when one does come up, the males descend upon her in this massive scramble of wrestling wasps. The same happens with an orchid. A lone wasp picks up on an exciting scent. Instantly he zigzags, following the pheromone trail until he glimpses his target, 30cm away. Its allure is overwhelming. He flies straight at it and grasps it. But five other males have picked up the same scent, and they push and shove each other, competing to mate. With an orchid!

Once an orchid has lured a pollinator close, the colour of the petals and ultraviolet spots can make the flower hard to resist. When a male lands on the flower, its shape ensures he grips it in the right position to make contact with the pollen. Some orchids make absolutely certain the wasp does the job. The main lip of the flower of a hammer orchid is an insect-shaped blob hinged partway along. When the wasp grabs the flower, the momentum flips him upside down and whacks him into the pollen. Must be hillarious to watch! 🙂

Thynnid Wasp
Thynnid Wasp

Life is short . . . let’s start with dessert

Cherry dessert, in Paris!

In March this year, ground zero for the patisserie world opened in Paris – Cédric Grolet’s new pastry boutique, around the corner from Le Meurice, the historic hotel where Grolet is the award-winning head pastry chef at the Michelin two-star restaurant.

Cédric Grolet was chosen as the Pâtissier of the Year 2015 by Le Chef Magazine, the Best Pastry Chef 2016 by Relais Desserts Excellence Awards, and the winner of Les Grandes Tables du Monde’s Best Restaurant Pastry Chef in 2017 (renowned French pastry legend Pierre Hermé was one of the judges).

A uniformed doorman admits customers, one by one, into the narrow, laboratory-like sanctum. There is no display case. Instead, as in a fine jewellery store, the goods are stored on trays under the counter, from whence the white-coated staff produce each order. You have to arrive early, because when they sell out, they close.

The grapefruit, which looks exactly like a ripe grapefruit, is presented in a box worthy of the jewellery stores on nearby Place Vendôme.

Grapefruit

Grolet’s desserts these days have a fruity appearance, a molten-like ganache filling and the taste of fresh fruits is enriched by a hint of vanilla. As they are not overly sweet, the dessert doesn’t leave one overwhelmed even after finishing an entire piece. Which is great, since we will have so much more than just one piece! Upon the first bite, the vivid fruity notes explode in one’s mouth, yet the filling is light enough that it quickly disappears in the mouth.

We might even diversify from cherries 🙂

Although, check out these cherry creations…

Clearly we’ll have to join the Parisians in their pastry obsession! Next June sounds like a good time, not only are cherries in season 🙂 but the pastry show is on again, June 14-17. We’re even willing to deal with the more than 25,000 visitors who attended over the three days this year. They are fellow pastry addicts!

And doesn’t Le Dalí restaurant at Le Meurice look just like a little bear’s playground? 🙂 I wonder if they have a seven course dessert option on the menu…

The stunning interiors of Restaurant Le Dalí at Le Meurice

Isabelle even has her cup ready!

Fun fact: the French phrase for guilty pleasure (péché mignon) directly translates as “cute sin” 🙂

Musical Elevenses

Yummy! Cake!

Fresh from their appearance at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival 🙂

On stage at Town Hall for the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival

Puffles and Jay are serenading their beary friends 🙂

The guitar holds an intriguing place within classical music. For many, it’s an instrument capable of great tonal beauty and high drama, with a repertoire steeped in both soulful pathos and graceful elegance. But it’s the very repertoire that, while a guitarist’s greatest gift, has also led to the instrument being marginalised by the mainstream. In many cases, certainly until recently, great guitar composers didn’t tend to write for other instruments – and the great composers of the rest of the repertoire didn’t tend to write for guitar.

During the five centuries of the classical guitar’s existence, the instrument has completely changed in physical dimensions, shape, stringing and tuning.

While a guitarist of the Renaissance may have played their way through delightful court music on a tiny instrument designed for strumming, by the time the 20th century rolled around the guitar had increased drastically in size and totally changed construction.

The Renaissance (c.1500-c.1650)

The Renaissance guitar is different from the modern instrument in almost every way. It was much smaller, to the point where it’s more like a large ukulele than anything else.

Each of the fourth, third, and second strings was paired, in the same fashion as each of the string pairs on a modern twelve-string guitar. These pairs and the single string on the Renaissance guitar are known as “courses”. Although there were plenty of different tunings — this early in the guitar’s life, there was no standardization — one of the more popular ones was G/G-C/C-E/E-A.

Though it was quite similar to a lute, not everyone was a fan. Sometime in the 1550s, one anonymous critic wrote, “We used to play the lute more than the guitar, but for 12 or 15 years now, everyone has been guitaring, and the lute is nearly forgotten in favor of heaven knows what kind of music on the guitar, which is much easier than that for the lute.”

Another dig appeared in a dictionary from the time, written by Sebastián de Covarrubias Oroszco in 1611: “But now the guitar is no more than a cowbell, so easy to play, especially when strummed, that there is nary a stable boy who is not a guitar player.”

The instrument tended to be used in ensembles, or as an accompanying instrument for a singer, more than in solo works, but there’s still some lovely unaccompanied repertoire for it. French guitarist, composer, and music publisher Adrian Le Roy’s collection of sheet music is some that has survived fully intact:

Adrain Le Roy’s Second livre de guiterre, 1555

The Baroque (c.1650-c.1750)

Sometime in the early 17th century, someone had the bright idea of adding an extra low string to the guitar.

Now a five-course instrument, the Baroque guitar was a fashionable item in France thanks to King Louis XIV’s fondness for it. It’s also thanks to him that composers Francesco Corbetta and Robert de Visée had jobs, since both of them were employed as court guitarists. Unfortunately their music doesn’t get played particularly often on the modern guitar, mainly because of the huge timbral differences from Baroque instruments to modern.

Gaspar Sanz was the most important Spanish guitar composer of the time, and music from his three-book Instrucción de Música sobre la Guitarra Española actually does get played. A fair few of the pieces are based on dances, and the “big hit” is “Canarios,” based on a dance from the Canary Islands.

Speaking of Baroque guitars, here’s a fun fact for the history lovers: There are only five Stradivarius guitars in the world, and only one is in playable condition. Only restored a few years ago, it’s literally invaluable.

Classical (c.1750-c.1830)

Early Romantic guitar (ca.1830, Paris) by Jean-Nicolas Grobert

In the late 1700s, guitars started to be strung with single strings instead of paired courses. Naturally, there are heaps of theories as to why, but one of the most convincing is also the most prosaic — six single strings are much cheaper than doubled strings. Generally, the instrument at this time was still fairly small and didn’t have a raised fingerboard, instead having the higher frets inlaid straight into the wood.

Today’s parlour guitars have much the same size and shape.

The guitar died off a little in the main chunk of the classical period (Mozart never had anything to do with the guitar, for instance), but the early 19th century saw another explosion of interest thanks to the two big names: Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani, both of whom are sure to appear on any classical guitar “best of”.

Sor was a bit obsessive about correct compositional rules in his pieces (his method book spends dozens of pages carefully analysing hand positions, let alone actually playing anything), but his pieces are gorgeous nonetheless.

Giuliani was popular enough to inspire one of the very first guitar magazines, called The Giulianiad. He also gets bonus points for being one of the very first to stick the guitar in front of an orchestra, and his Guitar Concerto, Op. 30 still gets played regularly today.

Romantic (c.1830-c.1890)

Sadly, the guitar really couldn’t keep up with the lush, chromatic musical style of the time, and, for the most part, the guitar was dead in the water at this point. There were a few composers who stuck with the instrument, however. The works of Johann Kaspar Mertz (aka Caspar Joseph Mertz) works are heavily inspired by the popular piano works of the time.

Child prodigy Giulio Regondi, whose music was only rediscovered in the 1980s, was also writing in a fairly similar style.

The end of the 19th century was, without a doubt, one of the most important times in the development of the guitar. Luthier Antonio de Torres collaborated with composer Francisco Tárrega to completely redefine the instrument, and their changes represent the classical guitar today. Physically larger than previous instruments, it’s the quintessential classical guitar sound.

Modern (c.1890-2000)

Andrés Segovia

The biggest classical guitarist of the early 20th century was easily Andrés Segovia (1893-1987). Born in Andalusia, Andrés Segovia is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He made a name for himself as a teenager after developing his own guitar technique that involved plucking with both fingernails and fingertips.

A key influence on future generations of players, he transformed perceptions of the guitar and brought it into huge concert venues around the world, receiving commissions from composers. Some of these composers are Heitor Villa-Lobos (best known for the Five Preludes), Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (best known for the Guitar Concerto No. 1, Op. 99), and Federico Moreno Torroba (best known for the three-movement Sonatine). In 1929 Villa-Lobos dedicated his 12 Etudes to the guitarist. Ever the showman, Segovia played to rapt audiences, from his landmark Paris concert of 1924 right up until his death in his 90s.

His idiosyncratic style and overtly romantic approach to playing won over legions of fans and helped secure his legendary status.

Julian Bream
John Williams

In the mid-20th century, Julian Bream and John Williams became household names.

Bream’s duo collaborations with John Williams — which produced a pair of brilliant studio recordings, Together (1971) and Together Again (1974) — remain favorites of many fans of each of those great artists; indeed, those discs remain on the all-time bestseller list for classical guitar recordings.

What is really interesting is their totally different approaches to playing the instrument.

Bream’s performances are wild and passionate, with frequent odd movements and grimaces as he plays. Bream was key in modernising the instrument, and his love of more hard-edged composers sent the classical guitar into new and uncharted territory (Bream’s 20th Century Guitar album is a must-own). By far the most significant work he inspired was Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, Op. 70, a dark and complex reflection on a lute piece from the 1500s.

John Williams, on the other hand, is known for his perfect control when performing. Perhaps slightly more musically conservative than Bream, he’s explored a massive variety of guitar music ranging from Venezuelan traditional music to collaborations with jazz guitarist John Etheridge. On the solo side, he’s been instrumental in promoting the music of the early 20th century Paraguayan composer Agustín Barrios.

The latter half of the 20th century saw a huge upswing of interest in classical guitar, to the point where it’d be impossible to list all of the terrific new players and pieces. Still, players started exploring more music from around the world, such the music of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer and Russian composer Nikita Koshkin.

Craig Ogden at the inaugural Perth International Classical Guitar Festival

The Australia-born guitarist Craig Ogden was tipped in 1995 by BBC Music Magazine as a ‘worthy successor to Julian Bream’ when he released a disc of works that Bream himself had performed, including Tippett’s The Blue Guitar and pieces by Britten, Walton and Lennox Berkeley.

Craig Ogden is also beary friendly! 🙂

On stage at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival – Puffles, Jay, Craig Ogden and Don Candy
Craig Ogden and his former student Don Candy at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival

Craig studied guitar from the age of seven and percussion from the age of 13. Born in Perth, Australia, he received a music degree from the University of Western Australia. To pursue his ambition of making a career out of music, in 1990 he went to the UK to study – where he stayed, forging a reputation as an outstanding artist.

In December 2004, he was honoured by the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester with a Fellowship in recognition of his achievements. He is the youngest instrumentalist to have received this award from the RNCM. Currently, Craig is Head of Guitar at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Visiting Lecturer at London’s Royal College of Music, Adjunct Fellow of the University of Western Australia, Associate Artist of The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Curator of Craig Ogden’s Big Guitar Weekend at The Bridgewater Hall and Director of the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival.

Craig still has time to be one of the UK’s most recorded guitarists and to appear regularly as soloist and chamber musician.

Craig Ogden and Paul Tanner at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival
Craig Ogden and the UWA Chamber Orchestra perform the Australian premiere of Andy Scott’s Guitar Concerto at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival

Brazilian guitarist Josinaldo Costa also balances teaching with regular concert performances. His research in performance practice of the 18th and 19th centuries has a focus in the adaptation of the music of J.S. Bach to the classical guitar. He is artistic co-director of the Sydney Bach Society. His playing is exquisite!

Josinaldo Costa at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival
Puffles and Jay on stage with Josinaldo Costa at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival

A CD with Josinaldo Costa… Dedicated to Puffles and Jay!

They will soon be on the list of the best classical guitarists! 🙂

Then we’ll all go out to see them in concert!

Preparing for Halloween

We’ll need cake… and spooky cocktails… and cake… and spooky decorations… and cake…

We’ll have a vampire party!

These cakes are perfect for Halloween! Mmm…

‘Silk’ with cherry cremeux from Choux Patisserie and ‘Choco Cherry’ with cherry gel from Chu Bakery
‘Choco Cherry’ with cherry gel from Chu Bakery and ‘Silk’ with cherry cremeux from Choux Patisserie