We will remember them

Music helps us remember

What can express the sad waste, the horrors, the grim memories of war? Music can touch hearts that grieve, can console where words may struggle to do so. Yet bugle players may dread annual renditions of The Last Post.

When pressure cracks a note

Nervous string players fear wobbly bows. Clarinetists advertise nerves by squeaking. What worse than shaky fingers right under trumpet players’ eyes? Read my Tips to Conquer the Shakes. Imagine the pressure of a solemn occasion, all ears and eyes targeting the lone bugle player. That, and cold, cost perfectionist Sargeant Keith Clark a note at the funeral for assassinated President John F. Kennedy yet that poignant fluff resonated with the nation.

“I missed a note under pressure,” he said. “It’s something you don’t like, but it’s something that can happen to a trumpet player. You never really get over it.”

BBC post informs how The Last Post (first published in the 1790s, one of dozens of bugle calls sounded daily in British Army camps) came to be associated with comrades who died. Arthur Lane was a bugler in the British Army who was captured by Japanese forces and worked on the Burma Railway.
The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace

Music with words

Dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo conflict, The Armed Man is a fitting work to commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War. With poignant text sung by a choir and soprano soloist, it is a seamless blend of ancient and modern.

Brisbane Symphony Orchestra remembers

With BSO, I look forward to performing The Armed Man (a Mass for Peace). This was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum for the millennium.  It draws on many sources, from the Catholic mass to the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and includes a traditional Muslim call to prayer.

Composer Karl Jenkins quotes lines from the Japanese poet Sankichi Toge, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, only to die of leukaemia in 1953.  Its title derives from an ancient French song (“l’homme armé”).

Families shrunk by war

Hear Brisbane Symphony Orchestra players tell poignant stories of how war impacted on their families.
My father’s uncle Edvard Back fought for Finland’s Independence during the 1918 Civil War. His son Rolf took 30 patrols across the Finnish border into Russia, on skis in camouflage white. He loved to sing us Russian songs he learned during that time, but his wife told me he often had nightmares about the Continuation War bloodshed.
My great-uncle Karl Johan Back wrote from Australia on 6 May, 1919:
“There were many things I would have liked to write to you during the war but I feared you would be punished for my sins, so I thought it best to write as little as possible.”

Back-1918-Finland-Civil-War-Australia-postcard-front

Words about music and war

The Cellist of Sarajevo, A haunting novel based on a true story, shows how music can hearten and uplift spirits, even from the carnage, destruction and rubble.
Sunset Ridge: An unusual hero is the war dog Roland, who followed his French twin masters to the front at Saint Omer, Ypres and Verdun, and who rescued many injured soldiers from battlefields.

Read about families divided by war

My 2-part saga of historical biography/memoir tell of my musical journey from shy outback child to professional musician and teacher, interspersed with the discovery of heritage. Available at Amazon,Booktopia, Bookdepository, or www.ruthbonetti.com

Or why not order them in at your local library?

Nurturing Young Musicians

A Moto Perpetuo of Musical Adventures

Queensland Youth Orchestra has for 50 years provided a springboard to propel young instrumentalists onto professional stages across the world. So has it grown that on Saturday 27 October, over 470 performers warm up backstage for their place in the spotlight of the gala Queensland Youth Orchestras Finale Concert. Their enthusiasm and excellence display the inspiring growth of this organisation in a half century.

Let me take you on a journey…from its genesis to the present

Remember the first time you were immersed in orchestral surround sound? My addiction began with Brahms Hungarian Dance in 1966 at Brisbane’s All Hallows school under the baton of John Curro AM, MBE.

Early paths into the world music scene were forged by baton-brandishing “JC”, who fired his young musicians with enthusiasm, drive and vision. His irrefutable “Why not?” would persuade sponsors, politicians and reluctant Executive Boards to support mammoth goals.

Franciscan priest ‘Father Fid’ Fidelis Stinson spread his vision, revving around on an instrument-laden scooter, his robes flapping behind. Father Fid played a pivotal role heading the committee of Queensland Secondary Schools Music Teachers’ Association to form a music festival orchestra of 94 players. Players and their parents demanded more.

Back in those days we rehearsed in various schools, church halls, a West End theatre, a night club the morning after. Sarah Scholz’ book Bravissimo filled memory gaps about 50 years of QYO. She described the essence of QYO as “true adventurers’ spirit, ambition and belief…the capacity to approach a goal of mammoth proportions with imagination and confidence.”

QYO-Lausanne-1972-IFYO-Ruth-Back-BonettiReflecting back on a half-century’s remarkable achievements, John Curro identified performing at the 1972 International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Lausanne, Switzerland as pivotal to future morale and growth: “In 10 days we went from thinking we were no-hopers to knowing exactly we fitted into the international scene. We discovered we weren’t the best orchestra, but by no means were we the worst.”

Conductor Ezra Rachlin urged the Executive to support as he did:

“A MAJOR CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT with enormous potential for future development to the lasting benefit of their country, their state, their city and its orchestra…”

Some needed convincing an overseas tour was a feasible dream. Living through vision in action, this inspiring experience broadened my horizons and increased confidence.

Indelible memories include:

• Fundraising frenzies. Manoeuvres to launch an orchestral caravan into the air and onto buses.

• Performing wind quintets in an Alitalia cockpit acoustic, rewarded with champagne. Alitalia Manager wrote that the captain was especially grateful for this impromptu recital.

Alitalia cockpit recital QYO tour to Italy and Switzerland 1972

Alitalia cockpit recital QYO tour to Italy and Switzerland 1972

• A constant flux of celli, tuba and their owners across the plane. Frazzled crew resorted to feeding us to keep us in our seats.

• A mass of jacaranda clad bodies slumped in Rome airport, sweating hotter than back home. (Why isn’t Europe cold? I packed the wrong clothes.)

 

• Gobsmacked by a first sight of the Colosseum! That American joke: “I’ll take two in case one breaks on the way home.”

• Touring ancient catacombs, lit by wavering tiny lamps.

• Shuffling in Italian phrase books to find pithy words to dodge Romeos and shysters.

CIAO, ROMA

• A flight to Geneva then bus to Lausanne amid green hills and earthy fresh aromas.

• A Babel hub of languages in the conference dining hall. We made short work of lettuce salads. Hunger pangs mid-morning after breakfast coffee and croissants. We were bussed out for a “real” breakfast of runny eggs the day of the performance.

• Angst as our big performance neared. Would we be good enough? Insecurity flared into blind funk from the top down. Orchestral manager Michael Byrne nudged me to “say something” to a glum Maestro.

• Onstage, Michael was applauded after setting up the four soloists’ chairs. I panicked, fearing my Mozart Sinfonia Concertante colleagues had gone on ahead of me.Ruth-Back-Bonetti-clarinet-teens

(Lightbulb “aha!”: A genesis of my books Confident Music Performance and Don’t Freak Out–Speak Out.)

• Relief: resounding applause from audience and critics. We could enjoy our second concert in the courtyard of Rolle Chateau; a lake cruise to Chillon Chateau; a dramatic lakeside 1812 Overture.

• Some visited the Alps. Those chosen to perform Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique in the International Festival Orchestra rehearsed under Walter Susskind. Playing just one movement (the Eb clarinet witch solo), I went down-town shopping and misjudged a return bus. To ominous chords that precede this solo I ran to my seat just on cue, looking and sounding ultra-witch.

• The dubious episode of QYO clothes at the top of a flagpole. Three players spent the night in jail for climbing up to souvenir flags. Swiss police didn’t see the joke.

AVANTI Back to 10 Heady Days in Italy

• Exploring Milan Cathedral while dodging ogling Italian gentry “practising” their English. Bargaining in Florence flea market; vistas of the Duomo seen through Henry Moore sculptures in the Forte di Belvedere gardens.

• We lived it up–and down. Before our performance in Salo’s piazza of the fourteenth-century cathedral our five-course feast was lubricated with molto vino. Euphoria and accelerated tempi. “Stand up if you can” Il Maestro grunted at the final cadence of Tchaikovsky 5thSymphony. Did misunderstanding over the tab see us in tents near Monza for our next few days?

• Thousands-strong audiences loved our performances at Bergamo, Pitti Palace in Florence, Sforza Castle in Milan, culminating with a memorable final performance in an exquisite theatre in Siena. We emerged to the Palio horse race through the city square, its electric atmosphere of flag waving and medieval costumes.

•A blurred flight home; will write up the diary after Singapore…after exams…

Though one of the youngest orchestras to perform at Lausanne, we Queenslanders returned home boosted by international reputation, appreciated both as musicians and ambassadors.QYO-1972-Lausanne-tour-Ruth-Back-Bonetti

• “When and how can I return?” Why not? I did. For seven years.

In the early decades of QYO, the players’ enthusiasm compensated for lack of experience.

The meteoric rise of professionalism, finesse and standard humbles early alumni who felt privileged to play in the fledgling orchestra. This nevertheless trail blazed across the national scene. Back in the days when Sydney Youth Orchestra was just starting, when other cities managed tiny efforts, John Curro burst open the cultural cringe with a Queensland orchestra that defied condescension.

My own teaching methods owe much to John’s vision and challenges. Especially that he stretched players and students to the edges of their seats. Could we achieve? Somehow we did.

John was moist–eyed when I presented him with my book Sounds and Souls; How music teachers change lives(as we know they do!) and read his dedication:

For two beacons [with clarinet teacher David Shephard] who lit my voyage into music, teaching and indeed, life: John Curro, for opportunities, vision and the challenge of “Why not?”’

We may think our appreciation of teachers and mentors but do we express it? A sentence of thanks, a card or a tribute can uplift teachers who did not realise the impact of words they long forget speaking.

How many others has John challenged outside their comfort zone to reach new heights? In Midnight Sun to Southern Cross I wrote how John spurred me to my pinnacle:Covers-1WEB

While at university, John Curro, conductor of Queensland Youth Orchestra, sees that I need a challenge. The Copland concerto is virtuosic but also allows me to express the instrument’s singing tone and lyricism. There are altissimo register and jazzy syncopated rhythms to conquer. And John knows that I will enjoy exploiting its introvert and extrovert qualities.

‘Why not?’

‘Because the next round performance is two weeks away and I have not learned, let alone played, the Copland.’

‘There’s nothing to lose. You can fall back on Weber. Just do it.’

How I practise. Never have I worked so. I climb a technical Mount Everest; slay dragons of my weaknesses; my rhythmic vagaries are drilled into precision, altissimo register runs conquered. Day and night for a month I live, work, sleep and finally surmount the Copland Concerto. My performance with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra is already a triumph; there is no apprehension about winning—I did so already. This is my moment, charged with electricity. I shine, ecstatic. 

This glorious moment will never be repeated. My feet barely touch the ground as I walk through the City Hall foyer after. 

Thank you, John, for spurring me to excel, for your insight and inspiration. QYO changed my life.  Many thousands more, professional musicians across Australia and internationally, and inspirational teachers, might echo my words from Sounds and Souls:soundsandsoulsmedium

For many students, music lessons [rehearsals]are a source of rejuvenation in the desert patches of their lives. They can express pent–up emotions in a range of sounds. Those who have to live with critical parents or in dysfunctional homes look forward to interaction with a positive, creative and listening adult. 

Many will look back, decades later, and remember the words you spoke, the times you listened, and how your lessons changed their lives. 

You help them blossom in arid times. Your excellent work is valued! 

Bravo!

Wheels turn. Generations join the momentum. Many of the 7,000 Alumni see their own children and grandchildren dance to John Curro’s Pied Piper call of “Why not?” From Hameln in Germany in 1980 (when QYO was host orchestra for the International Festival of Youth Orchestras) to China, Japan, USA–indeed, the globe–they typify the unofficial QYO mantra of “Moto Perpetuo”.

How many future talents will warm to that stirring question, that vision?

Thank you, John for your legacy, life-changing influence and inspiration.

Ruth Back Bonetti

Principal Clarinet, 1966­–1972

http://www.ruthbonetti.com

Conquer the Tyranny of Distance

We enjoy travel to distant places for conferences and another presentations, right? (But in chilly winter weather, even the airport might feel an effort, after packing leads, adapters and remote–and clothes for anticipated weather.) Exciting presentations next month take me back to my roots. And I relish the prospect of reaching wider audiences through webinars.

Present from the comfort of your home or office

So why didn’t I explore webinars sooner? Thank you to my savvy co-presenter Bev Ryan for prompting these. Our first foray is Monday 10.30am. Or listen later at a lime that suits.
Info and registration

Ruth Bonetti-Webinar-16 JuneWrite or tell it now–before memories are lost

Writers of life stories sift truths from myths and reveal the black sheep and white – and those in the middle. They open closet doors to skeletons and shine light in dark places. What more precious gift to future generations than to write a family history or memoir? Do it now, before stories and insights are lost to the world.

 

Tribute to a fellow memoir writer

Last week Dr Pamela Davenport launched her memoir Searchlights, Slate Pencils and Searchlights: A Child’s War 1939–1954
As she taught me both Ancient and Modern History long ago, I knew it would be riveting to read. Her lessons opened my eyes, mind and imagination to a wider world. It was an honour to express some of the impact she made on my life, as historian, researcher, and teacher.
(Often we THINK our gratitude; let’s also EXPRESS it to those who inspired us.)

Imagine the thrill on my first visit to Rome when my bus turned a corner to– the Colosseum. Little wonder I lived seven years in Europe!

So vivid were Pamela’s lessons, that we felt to the marrow the sheer desecration of the Dark Ages.

Aleppo in Syria warns that Western civilisation teeters on the brink of similar decline. Will the Classical education that enriched my own Dark Ages of childhood and adolescence still be available to future generations?

What Pamela taught me

Pamela taught me to look below the surface of events; to wonder at the personalities and motivations of those involved.
(Not surprising that she and I share writing of memoir.)

Modern history intrigued me to understand world events and to envision my forebears’ roles in them. What drove them to emigrate?
(Australians are a nation of emigrants. We all grow from roots elsewhere.)
Letters told of settler battles and sucesses. I imagine how family back home grieved their loss, while accepting they left for a brighter future.

What history taught me

In this centenary of WW1 battles and armistice, how did families divided at either end of the globe view history from opposing prisms?
In 1918, people with foreign accents risked internment as “aliens” so my grandfather and his brother made lavish displays of patriotism.
Back home, their Finnish brother welcomed arms and training from the German “Huns” to help save Finland from Russian overlords.

Whether we write our stories or record aural history
“Telling Life Stories” is my first session in my birthplace, Hughenden, Western Queensland on July 3.

head west after presenting for Music Teachers Association in Townsville at the Alan Lane Memorial Weekend

There’s that memory-memorial–memoir link. For Alan Lane taught shy young Ruth Theory of Music. As she wrote in her memoir…

Back to my outback roots

What a metamorphosis has been my own journey from shy “bush” child to one who now enjoys communicating in public. From hillbilly music to Mozart. Schooling was through correspondence lessons– a far cry from the present School of Distance Education. Last year at Mt Isa Eisteddfodwe adjudicated young musicians over the airwaves!

Journeys-Finland-snow-to Outback-dust crop

On our sheep station outside Hughenden I played recorder to the poddy lambs.  Read how I surmounted technical challenges and culture shock in Sounds and Souls and also in the second part of my memoir Midnight Sun to Southern Cross. There I paid tribute to Dr Davenport and also my English teacher Mrs Bridgwood.
On July 3 I’ll present two sessions as guest of Hughenden Flinders Library:

  • Telling Life Stories
  • Journeys–from Finland snow to Outback dust

 

These link my own circles around the globe with those of inspiring forebears.

Off your beaten track?

Catch my WEBINAR  Writing Life Stories  on Monday June 18 at 10.30am.

Nature, Nurture–or neither?

In both Sounds and Souls and Midnight Sun, I explored the culture shock of an outback childhood. But…
Life’s journeys can take us to horizons way beyond our expectations.

In later decades I evolved from that shy ‘bush’ child who hid in the toilet block rather than face fearsome peers. I became an adult who welcomes platforms to reach out with words and music. When I now help people to confident performance of their words and music, I can say ‘The person you are now is
not who you will be in a decade or two or five. If I can conquer such shyness and fears, even welcome public performance, so can you.’
The outback child would run a mile at the prospect of speaking in public. Now she enjoys such opportunities.

How did that evolve? Midnight Sun to Southern Cross tells the story…And those of my inspiring forebears.

Time to write YOUR book?

Tributes to teachers

Why does Finland’s education system shine on the world stage? Many reasons: yes, kids are encouraged to play, indoors and outdoors, whatever the temperature. And a major factor is that teachers are well-paid, highly trained–and valued. 

Let’s express our value for exceptional teachers who changed our lives. I’m grateful to those who saw potential in me that I could not envision. Who encouraged, nurtured and inspired me onto my paths as teacher, musician, author and historian. 

A few words of thanks can mean so much!

Often we THINK our gratitude. How much more valued if we EXPRESS it!
Even better with a dedication.soundsandsoulsmedium

In  Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives (as they do!) I wrote:

For two beacons who lit my voyage into music, teaching and indeed, life:
John Curro, for opportunities, vision and the challenge of ‘Why not?’
David Shephard, who listened, encouraged, and whose sounds warmed my soul.

As did pianist Anna Goldsworthy

Her book Piano Lessons describes a decade’s relationship between student and piano teacher Eleonora Sivan. It is honest and often moving.

Imagine if someone wrote about their experiences of learning with you…

I look forward to co-presenting with Anna Goldsworthy 29 June–1July.

Townsville MTAQ Alan Lane Memorial Weekend

My topics will be:

  • How to prepare for a confident performance
  • Excel in Exams, Recitals and Auditions
  • Masterclass
  • Performance at the cocktail concert.

Nature, Nurture–or neither?

In Sounds and Souls I pose and answer questions of how I would teach child Ruth, with her various technical, rhythmic and foundational insecurities. Nonplussed in theory lessons with Alan Lane:

I had suffered cultural and social shock when catapulted into a large city high school, Somerville House. When baffled, I couldn’t find the words to ask for any explanation. I sat mute when my theory teacher wrote ant–track marks on manuscript paper. I was mystified by chords called IIc–V–I or V–VI.My painful fog matched his chain–smoking haze. I was too tongue–tied to ask for clarification. 

Back to my outback roots – to present in Hughenden July 3

What a metamorphosis has been my own journey from Slim Dusty to Mozart! Schooling was through correspondence lessons– a far cry from the present School of Distance Education. Last year at Mt Isa Eisteddfod we adjudicated young musicians over the airwaves!

On our sheep station outside Hughenden I played recorder to the poddy lambs.  How did I surmount technical challenges and culture shock?  I discuss this in Sounds and Souls and also in the second part of my memoir Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.
On July 3 I’ll present two sessions as guest of Hughenden Flinders Library:

  • Writing Life Stories
  • Journeys–from Finland snow to Outback dust

These link my own circles around the globe with those of inspiring forebears.

Off your beaten track?

Catch my WEBINAR  Writing Life Stories  on June 16 at 10.30am.Ruth Bonetti-Webinar-16 June

Nature, Nurture–or neither?

In both Sounds and Souls and Midnight Sun, I explored the culture shock of an outback childhood. Apart from a grandmother’s musical family, Classical music was foreign territory. But…
Life’s journeys can take us way beyond our expectations.

The impact and inspiration of two teachers shone rays of light into my own culture-shocked adolescent life. Dr Pamela Davenport and Gill Bridgwood recognised potentials in an insecure, shy outback girl catapulted from a dusty flat horizon into a big city school.

They took me under their wings; Mrs Bridgwood slipped to me the sort of books that evangelical Christians burned, like Catcher in the Rye.

Seated at my desk I read poetry and play characters with relish. But when I  was given a lead part in the school play, I froze. Eagle eyes pierced me!

I was relegated to the back of the Greek chorus.

In later decades I evolved from that shy ‘bush’ child who hid in the toilet block rather than face fearsome peers. I became an adult who welcomes platforms to reach out with words and music. When I now help people to confident performance of their words and music, I can say ‘The person you are now is not who you will be in a decade or two or five. If I can conquer such shyness and fears, even welcome public performance, so can you.’

The outback child would run a mile at the prospect of speaking in public. Now she enjoys such opportunities.

How did that evolve? Midnight Sun to Southern Cross tells the story…

April marks ANZAAC centenary – and other battles

April 1918–a celebration of the ANZAAC centenary.

Now let’s pay tribute to fights for freedom elsewhere in the world. Like Finland.

My father’s uncle Edvard Back Edvard_soldier_crop_NHfought in Finland’s Civil War of 1918, including the crucial April weeks-long siege of Tampere. This battle was a turning point in the Civil War, decimating the Reds and killing many Whites. Red Guards had controlled the south, industrial towns like Helsinki and Tampere. They battled to safeguard Russian trains carrying shipments of weapons.

Germans saved the Finns by smuggling in weapons on the ship Equity to sheltered bays in Ostrobothnia and training the Jäger troops.

During those crucial wars that led to Finland’s freedom, how did his brothers at the other side of the world view the Finland-Russia-German struggle?

Opposing sides

To Australians the “Huns” were enemies.
From safe haven in Australia, Edvard’s brothers Wilhelm Anders (my Grandad) and Karl Johan (“KJ”)  Back found themselves on opposing sides.

News of the war filtered through, doubtless heavily censored. How did the family reconcile differing allegiances? Blood thirst was rife on both side…The Back brothers came to the right country. They emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army–a possible five years. Of all nations, Australia was the only country to hold a referendum—twice—that allowed men to choose to fight rather than accept conscription.

(from Burn My Letters: Tyranny to refuge)

Australian Displays of Patriotism

My grandfather W.A.Back made conspicuous donations to the war effort, second only to the mayor’s. WA raised money by driving people in his new automobile to farewell soldiers—for a fee. For “aliens” were regarded with suspicion, likely to be sent to internment camps.

Grandad and other family sent loads of provisions to save Finns and other Europeans from famine.

His office was strewn with sacks of flour and sugar, transferred into kilo–size calico bags. He employed a woman full time and grandchildren were enlisted as a Lilliputian army to pack and stack.

What if the shipments were pilfered, he was asked. ‘Thieves have to live too,’ W.A. replied.

KJ Back and Orchid

His pacifist dissenter brother Karl Johan protested his patriotism by writing and self-publis

hing books including The Royal Toast.
Locals suspected that KJ spied for the Germans, for he tended his bananas on the ridge by lantern light.

But what is night to a Finn?

 

[Excerpt from Award-winning Burn My Letters available at our webstore.]

The centenary of Finnish freedom from Russian oppression was celebrated on 6 December 2017. But the struggle continued…

Rolf, Edvard’s son, took 30 patrols over the border into Russia, on skis in camouflage white, during the 1940s Continuation War. Read his self-deprecating but inspiring stories in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.

He SO typified that amazing Finnish spirit of sisu!

The laugh’s on me!

How dates got ahead of me

False Truths propagate too easily. So I wrote last email, citing dates that authors and historians replicate. Let me confess up to my own case study. I printed the date for my breakfast presentation as 6 February instead of 13 February.

Wrong WEEK.

Time management goals

A 2018 resolution is to run seven minutes early for appointments. More doable than 10 minutes.) I made a good start… Seven DAYS ahead of my presentation. There I was, preparing early, so there will be less rush to polish. So I can…

Speak out with a confident voice
Your voice is your identity: How to make it music to your listeners’ ears

Here’s the blurb:
Our first Brisbane International Womens Breakfast for 2018 features award-winning author, international presenter and performance coach Ruth Bonetti. Words and music are her passion, and in this interactive presentation, Ruth will share doable techniques to help you become confident on your feet:

  • Learn easy tips to enhance your natural voice
  • Project with ease, clarity, and poise
  • Pre-presentation warm-up for resonance, modulation and confidence

Ruth has presented in Scandinavia, the USA, UK and across Australia and New Zealand. Her techniques for confident presentation are encapsulated in her book Speak Out – Don’t Freak Outand her recent heritage memoir Burn My Letters was shortlisted and won the Omega Writers CALEB nonfiction prize. Ruth is available for one-on-one coaching and training (www.ruthbonetti.com)ruth-caleb-winner2

Tuesday 13 February 2018 | 7.00am for 7.15am to 9.00am Bookings essential.

Moreton Room, Ground Floor, United Service Club Queensland
183 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane (Parking)

Covers-1WEBWrong YEAR!

On 17 January 1903, my grandfather Wilhelm Anders (“WA”) Back disembarked from SS Ophir in Sydney.  Aged 16, he grasped the opportunities his new land offered. So young! So enterprising.

Check sources like Shipping Records!

Ophir docked 16 January 1903! I was mortified to realise my books cited an incorrect date, 1902! But on his Application for Certificate of Naturalization Wilhelm Anders Back himself wrote “17 January 1902“. Good one, Grandad! His niece quoted this date in her memoir so it went into my books. I’ll add an Errata.WA-Back-Naturalisation-Application-1908

Such pitfalls historians face, to sift truths from myths!

Fact check, all we who speak or write.
Past, present and future.

 

Eclipse January


What a month to start 2018! Bonding with two smiling little grandsons and their parents over Australia Day BBQ. We played music together; a son arranged songs for all our family’s instruments. I wondered what songs and heritage stories one might hear from those who became Aussies at Citizenship Ceremonies. 

Songs and stories of our nation

Australia is a meld of diverse nationalities, cultures, languages, histories. First Australians sing Songlines as they walk, connecting to Dreaming Stories of the land they cross. Indigenous leaders Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine are better able than myself to comment about the 26 January focus on Sydney Cove. Port Jackson, not Port Hedland as reported by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert. Motto: FACT CHECK!

Pearson suggests a positive solution. “The observance of Australia Day could commence on January 25 — the eve of the proclamation of British sovereignty over the east coast of the continent — and continue into January 26. This would straddle two sovereignties: the sovereignty of the First Nations that possessed this continent since time immemorial, and the crown’s sovereignty that commenced when the British flag was raised at Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788.”

Wilhelm Anders Back aged 16 in 1903

Wilhelm Anders Back aged 16 in 1903A nation of emigrants

Let’s focus instead on those who disembarked there in subsequent centuries.
•    What propelled them to emigrate?
•    Many sought refuge from oppression–as did migrant-made-good Grandad. He avoided conscription into the Russian army.

On 17 January 1903, 115 years ago, my Grandad Wilhelm Anders (“WA”) Back disembarked from SS Ophir in Sydney. He was reunited with his brother Karl Johan later that month. Aged 16, he grasped the opportunities his new land offered. So young, enterprising. But WAIT.

Check sources! Shipping records.

Ophir docked on 16 January 1903.

Ouch. I was mortified to realise my books cited an incorrect date. But on his Application for Certificate of Naturalization Wilhelm Anders Back himself wrote 17 January 1902. His niece quoted this date in her memoir so I supposed it valid. An Errata will rectify.WA-Back-Ophir-shipping-record-1903

The pitfalls historians face, to sift truths from myths!

Fact check, all we who speak or write.

Anders-Sanna-Back-family-Munsala-Finland-1890-NH

Relatives note that their own children –and mine–resemble young Grandad. In the first photo ca.1890 he’s front left. Ten years later, at back left, he’s keen to take on the world.

Anders-Back-Family-Munsala-Finland_1900 LR
Read his saga

Since living and working in foreign countries, I sympathise with the communication stumbles emigrants face. My recent books focus on the getting of language, citing challenges Grandad and his brother Karl Johan faced to learn English. During seven years in Europe, I knew that to speak risked blunders. I must overcome inhibition and shyness. In Midnight Sun to Southern Cross, I share my journeys of discovery–of heritage, of self and of voice.
(Excerpts at KJ’s Facebook book page; @BurnMyLetters and my own Author page.)
See book reviews Goodreads.com Information and autographed copies  eBook 

 

My topic as guest speaker for this 13 February breakfast:

Speak out with a confident voice

Your voice is your identity: How to make it music to your listeners’ ears

Our first BIBW breakfast for 2018 features award-winning author, international presenter and performance coach Ruth Bonetti. Words and music are her passion, and in this interactive presentation, Ruth will share doable techniques to help you become confident on your feet:

• Learn easy tips to enhance your natural voice

• Project with ease, clarity, and poise

• Pre-presentation warm-up for resonance, modulation and confidence

Ruth has presented in Scandinavia, the USA, UK and across Australia and New Zealand. Her techniques for confident presentation are encapsulated in her book Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out, and her recent heritage memoir Burn My Letters was shortlisted and won the Omega Writers CALEB nonfiction prize.

Ruth is available for one-on-one coaching and training (www.ruthbonetti.com)

Tuesday 13 February 2018 | 7.00am for 7.15am to 9.00am

Moreton Room, Ground Floor, United Service Club Queensland
183 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane

RSVP bibwomen@gmail.com 

Email Ruth to enquire about training and coaching.

A Child’s Christmas in New South Wales

As Christmas nears, are your childhood memories happy or bitter sweet? Fruity-rich but dark as a Dylan Thomas poem? After the arid outback of NW Queensland, I loved holidays in northern New South Wales.

Our holiday near Byron Bay draws to an end after the family Christmas dinner at the redbrick riverside house at Brunswick Heads. Uncle KJ is present, shaven and dressed in his Sunday best. I am too concerned with my own rumbling tummy to notice him. I am ten years old, a sixth child of eight.Ruth-Bonetti-koala-child

Being small fry, I am relegated to a coffee table overflow at the celebration with uncles, aunts and cousins. My nostrils flare as plates laden with turkey, ham and vegetables pass along the tables—then halt. Granddad pronounces the blessing. Over the rattle of cutlery I chirp several times before they hear, ‘Where’s mine?’ Mum scrabbles another plateful together.

TwoCovers

Excerpt from Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

BUY NOW for Christmas gifts and we will fast post!

Now, as an adult, I visit the redbrick house by the Brunswick River, marvel at the changes, and value opportunities for family to share special times together.

CHRISTMAS BOOK SPECIALS

from our webstore until 25 December! 5-star reviews on Goodreads

Download an eBook now at Booktopia. Info: http://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

This year I’ll invite others less fortunate to share our bounty.

And may enough ham and turkey reach your end of the table!

Blessings for a happy Christmas!

Independence Centenary of Finnish heroism!

Finland–and Finns globally–celebrate today, 6 December! My Grandad’s brother Edvard fought in the Civil War, and his son Rolf in the 1940s to win freedom from Russian overlords. 

Edvard Back soldier 2_NH

How Finnish “sisu” won freedom

This typical Finnish tenacity has been described as digging through a cement wall with a spoon, but you keep going. Since exploring my heritage I feel awed by the Finns’ tenacity to wrest freedom from Russian overlords, in true David vs. Goliath fashion.

Hero Edvard (at right) off to the Civil War

Russians invaded again in 1939

My father’s cousin Rolf Back enlisted in 1942 to fight in the crack unit, the Jaegars—on skis! He went on thirty patrols over the Soviet lines into Russian territory, wearing a white camouflage cape. (More of his unique stories next blog.)

CELEBRATION SPECIALS

Read their heroic stories (Special Independence Centenary prices!) Visit http://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

Download an eBook now at Booktopia. (Did I say Amazon last blog? Working to fix a glitch in that system.)

Opposing sides

Victory owed much to Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim’s deployment of Jaeger regiments trained in Germany and armed with German weapons. During those crucial wars that led to Finland’s freedom (Civil War, Winter War and Continuation War) how did brothers at the other side of the world view the Finland-Russia-German struggle?

Edvard’s brothers Karl Johan Back and Wilhelm Anders Back viewed “The Hun” as their foe. They emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army. In their land of refuge, Australians rejected conscription in two referenda.

Australian Displays of Patriotism

My grandfather W.A.Back made conspicuous donations to the war effort, second only to the mayor’s. WA raised money by driving people in his new automobile to farewell soldiers—for a fee. He and other family sent loads of provisions to aid Finns and other Europeans .

The pacifist dissenter brother Karl Johan protested his patriotism by writing two books A Consolidated History of Australia and The Royal Toast.
Locals suspected that KJ spied for the Germans, for he tended his bananas on the ridge by lantern light. But what is night to a Finn?
[Excerpt from Award-winning Burn My Letters available at our webstore.]

Jaeger soldier Rolf Back 

The sequel Midnight Sun to Southern Cross shares a family view of Finland’s history, more personal memoir and heritage discoveries. 5-star reviews at Goodreads.com and Amazon.

Download now at Booktopia.

Let’s celebrate with the Finns on 6 December!

Writers journey into print

Most authors traverse potholes on their paths to print.

Publishers rejected big name authors like J. K. Rowling, John le Carré, C.S. Lewis  (800 rejections) and now may regret their decisions. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication. Many self-published and were later “discovered” by big publishers. There’s an idea…

Self-Publish or Perish?

Encouragement is sweet!Burn-My-Letters-Caleb-prize-Omega-Writers

At Omega Writers‘ Sydney Conference Awards Night, Burn My Letters was announced winner of the CALEB Nonfiction prize. 

Its hero, Karl Johan Back, knew REJECTION. CENSORSHIP.

In 1899, the year “KJ” fled Finland, the Russian regime Board of Censors shut down four newspapers, and seven in 1900.

Why did Russian police track him to Suez?KJ Back and Orchid Hint: he described his writing as “pen-fighting.”

KJ self-published two books from his safe haven overlooking Byron Bay. In 1920, he tried to present a Morocco-bound copy of The Royal Toast to the visiting Prince of  Wales, hoping for patronage.

 PR Photo and Reviews

KJ mailed copies to newspapers. Some reviews were kind, others tepid or cutting:

“It should rank as one of the curiosities of Australian literature.”

“Twenty years ago Mr Back could not speak a word of English but now he is a fluent speaker and has absorbed the ideas and ideals of Australia.”

One noted that KJ was no Tennyson and advised against printing further books. Ouch!

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KJ plays the Facebook PR game!

His Facebook page channels through his great-niece author, Ruth. OK, he died in 1962–that’s magical realism!

CHRISTMAS BOOK SPECIALS

from our webstore until 25 December!

5-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Download eBooks there.

Celebrate Finland’s Independence

On 6 December, Finland celebrates its Centenary of Independence from Russian overlords. KJ’s brother Edvard fought in the Civil War, and nephew Rolf in the 1040s Continuation War, on ski patrols over the border into Russia (read more in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross). Perhaps KJ’s earlier “pen fighting” contributed in some way?

Christmas Book Flood

In Iceland, books are exchanged as Christmas Eve presents, to be read through the night while eating chocolates. This tradition is part of a season called Jolabokarflod or Christmas Book Flood.

That’s a great idea for a blessed Christmas and rejuvenating rest.