CHRISTINE M. KNIGHT

An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

On Writing: Song Bird

‘Song Bird’ is the third novel in the Keimera series and a sequel to ‘Life Song’, but the story stands independently and on its own merit. When read within the context of the series, the reader’s knowledge of the characters in that world is enriched. The reader grows with the characters over the course of the three novels. As I am an Australian author, I use the British spelling system.

To date, I have used a different central motif in each novel to organise the story. I use a motif to weave together the thematic complexities of characterisation and plot. The motif is the palette used to shape my characters and the world that they inhabit, to comment on characters, and to point to the story’s underlying meaning.

Some of the key elements of the motif are the golden road, red shoes, the land of glitter and gloss, the colour green, and the Holy Grail pursued by the protagonist and other key characters. A few of these elements are incorporated into the book’s cover design and into marketing imagery used to launch and promote the novel.

The title ‘Song Bird’ meant that this story focused on Nikki Mills (aka Mavis Mills) and her journey now that she has achieved fame and fortune. The novel’s subtitle is ‘Matters of the Heart’, a key focus in the plot and subplots. The subplots were constrained by their relevance to Nikki’s journey in this stage of her life. I developed them in broad impressionistic strokes. They support and expand upon the major plot and its insights. I also use subplots to change the pace of the storytelling and to shift tone and mood. I’m told the story is fast paced.

In contrast, my other novels focused a lot more on the world and issues in which the protagonist and other characters lived. I developed the subplots in those stories in greater depth as they provided insight into the respective worlds and allowed me to explore the themes from differing perspectives.

The complexity of each novel stems from the paralleling and contrasting of lives, relationships, and the ripple effect that people’s actions have on one another in a community. My novels are character driven stories anchored in the physical and social settings of the times. I use point of view shifts from inner thought to dialogue to the situational arena to explore themes and examine them from several standpoints. I’m intrigued by and interested in the notion of reality versus perception, myth versus real-life, the discoveries that characters make about life, the connections and discordances between people, and the complexities of love.

As part of the writing process for 'Song Bird’, I composed lyrics and music that helped me focus on character relationships and the central theme. ‘Road to True North’ and ‘The Flame’ are two songs that evolved from that process. They were ultimately engineered and produced at Karma Sound Studios in Thailand and are on sale through CD Baby and iTunes. Dagny (London) provided the vocals for 'Road to True North'. Thanapat Yartcharoen (short name: Film) provided the male vocals in 'The Flame' and Jirana Williamson (short name: Funnie) provided the female vocals in that song. 

My publisher also commissioned a song through crowdsourcing for ‘Song Bird’. ‘The Golden Road’ by Justine Camilleri and Chris Gale was chosen from a highly competitive field of entries. The lyrics were the outcome of a number of discussions between Justine Camilleri and me about the imagery that I used in 'Song Bird’ and the plot’s concerns. It is one of two songs used in the book video trailer. The other song is ‘Road to True North’. My song is engineered and produced by Shane Edwards, who also provided all of the instrumental work.

Performer bios

Dagny is a Norwegian singer songwriter who has blossomed from a musical background in Tromsø in the very north of Norway. Interestingly, her promotional brand is song bird of the north. In many ways her music reflects her personality ‐ a folk/pop sound infused with eternal optimism. Dagny is no stranger to big crowds ¬‐ she opened for Sir Elton John, playing to a crowd of over 10,000 people in March 2012. Later that same year she was the exclusive support for Sting at the Impact Arena in Bangkok and in June of 2014 she opened for Bryan Adams at Clam Castle in Austria receiving an amazing reaction from a crowd of over 9,000. In late 2013, Dagny moved to the UK where she has become a firm favourite on the indie folk/pop scene.She is on Facebook.

Justine Camilleri is an Australian born singer/songwriter with a passion for coffee and comfortable shoes. Starting her career in the mid ‘90’s as a singer with MO Award nominees, Sisters Incorporated, Justine was taken under the guiding wings of her mother, Billie Wilde, and the late Sharyn Crystal. Performing regularly on television (Midday with Kerrie-Anne and John Mangos), P & O Cruises, corporate sector events and clubs throughout N.S.W gave Justine the opportunity to grow and develop her own stage presence. A meeting with multi award winner Allan Caswell, best known for ‘On the Inside’ (the theme song for the Australian television series ‘Prisoner’), solidified Justine’s desire to not only write songs but to write them from the heart. In 2009, she formed a rewarding song writing partnership with Melbourne musician Chris Gale. The rocky ‘Golden Road’, a purpose written song for Christine M Knight’s third novel ‘Song Bird’ was given its punch with the help of her brother and drummer, Jason Bryant, and guitarist, Warren O’Neill. She is on Facebook.

Thanapat Yartcharoen (short name: Film) is one of the male singers (the tenor) in the Thai Pop Opera group, Fivera. Fivera can be located on YouTube. Fivera also has a Facebook page. Jirana Williamson (short name: Funnie) is one of the singers in the Thai all girl pop group Karmiix. They don't have any videos as yet but can be located on Facebook. 


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GLOSSARY SNIPPET

The ARIA AWARDS are the Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards.

ANZAC is an acronym formed from the initial letters of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC spirit refers to the ANZAC legend dating from World War 1. For more information visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_spirit

arvo is Australian slang for afternoon.

Carry on like a pork chop means that ‘someone is behaving in a silly or stupid way. This expression is a shorter version of the longer and more widespread phrase be like a pork chop in a synagogue. This colloquialism has been around since the 1950s. Since pork is forbidden food for Jewish people, to describe something as being like a pork chop in a synagogue means that it is highly inappropriate, embarrassingly out of place, and quite unwelcome. The Australian expression carry on like a pork chop has now shifted the focus from inappropriateness to foolishness’. For more information see http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Pork+Chop

Bump in and out refers to the process of moving a band’s equipment in and off stage and in and out of the performance venue.

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LATEST BLOG POSTS

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    An era, a show and a legendary album

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    John Shortis and Moya Simpson’s playful sense of humour was evident from the moment I entered their Bungendore property. Their next-door neighbour’s gates featured a sign that read 'Ironing done here'. The wall plaque near Shortis and Simpson’s front door read 'Irony done here'.

    Over a steaming mug of coffee, we discussed the inspiration behind their current cabaret show Fifty Years Ago Today.

    Cobargo Folk Festival commissioned the cabaret after Shortis and Simpson’s acclaimed festival performance about Eurovision and the context out of which it evolved.

    John said, ‘That show was really an entertaining look at the history of Europe post World War 2 linked by bad songs.’

    Fifty Years Ago Today
    marks the anniversary of the launch of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in June 1967 in the northern hemisphere.

    Apparently, the album’s release date in Australia was delayed until July 1967 because the British producers did not trust Australian printers to faithfully reproduce the elaborate artwork of the Sgt Peppers album cover. The covers were produced and printed in England and shipped here via the Suez Canal. Regrettably, the six-day Arab Israeli war broke out and so the shipment was detoured around the South African cape. The album was launched in Australia at the end of July.

    The cabaret’s story line positions the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the context of what was happening globally at the time. It also provides fascinating insights into the backstory of the album’s creation, dating back to the early 1960s when the Beatles were mop tops, in the heyday of swinging London.

    John said, ‘You can’t tell the story of the Sgt Peppers album without showing the Beatles’ evolution from catchy pop rock songs to complex artful experiments in music.’

    Sgt Peppers
    is the first Beatles’ album after they gave up touring.  The album marks The Beatles’ arrival as recording artists instead or touring musicians. For instance, ‘Ringo’s drumming is more orchestral in its approach. McCartney’s bass work transitioned from simple bass lines that filled out the pop rock sound to complex, intricate bass countermelodies that actually featured on the Sgt Peppers album rather than being fill.’

    Shortis and Simpson’s Fifty Years Ago Today incorporates humour and poignant stories as well as songs of different tempos and styles from that Beatles’ milestone album as well as songs by other famous musicians from that era.

    I was fascinated to learn that the Beatles’ celebrated producer, George Martin, used his background in producing Peter Sellers’ Indian characters on comedy records to bring together Indian and orchestral musicians to produce George Harrison’s Within You Without You.

    John said, ‘While the lyrics are hippy trippy, the music is quite extraordinary because it follows the traditional rhythms and scales of Indian music.’ 

    Moya said, ‘It was a nightmare to learn!’

    John admits to scoring the music into a computer software program and practicing to it every day for ages so that he could synchronize his keyboard part with the rhythms.

    Another interesting aside is that, in celebration of the link between the Beatles and Peter Sellers, Moya sings the Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers’ hit Goodness Gracious Me in the cabaret as part of the side story to the Sgt Peppers album.

    Fifty Years Ago Today was not designed as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, although people who lived through that era may relish the show as such. It provides insight into a seminal moment in music and world history when world music influenced the Beatles music not only in composition but also in performance.

    As we talked, it struck me that the show was very much like a great meal: lavish, prepared with great care, nutritious and good for the soul, and an experience not easily forgotten. The cabaret utilises the rich harmonies of a large choir, the vocal skills of its musicians, and the rocking talent of a hot backing band. It has appeal for all ages.  I also realised that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album prepared audiences for the emergence of another musical phenomenon, Queen, masters of pomp-rock with its diverse rock styles and intricate vocal harmonies.

    This cabaret should not be missed when the show comes to  your part of the country.

    © Christine M Knight

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    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Acknowledging Indigenous Heritage in the Palerang region

    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Recently, I wrote a blog about the restoration of The Carrington Inn. My article about the inn also appears in the District Bulletin's December issue. The District Bulletin reports on country living in the Palerang region. I feel it would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the importance of Indigenous heritage as a side bar to the Carrington article.

    Heritage places are a visible reminder of Australia’s history and identity. If they are neglected or demolished, then part of our history and identity is lost. When they are protected and restored, they add value and dimension to our community. This applies equally to the heritage represented by the traditional owners of the land. It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous heritage when promoting awareness of colonial heritage as it shows respect for Indigenous culture.

    Before European settlement, Indigenous people represented an unbroken culture that was inextricably linked to the land and history of the continent. That relationship and life as Indigenous people knew it changed drastically as a consequence of Dr Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume's exploration of the region in 1820.

    By the end of 1821, Europeans had settled the region. The provision of a mail service in 1837 formally made the settlement a town while the arrival of train services in 1885 resulted in the town becoming the hub of the region. Cobb and Co coaches transported travellers to far flung settlements. 

    During this period and into the twentieth century, Indigenous people experienced a history of exclusion, denial, and were silenced. Many Indigenous people many died as a result of white settlement (disease and conflict). Indigenous heritage is in the land, in sacred places, lore and values. By contrast, colonial heritage is in buildings and property and its laws.

    To better appreciate the impact of the European arrival in Australia and related issues, click on  The Dispossessed.

     

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    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    The Restoration of the Carrington Inn, Bungendore

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Late October, I met Innkeeper, Richard Graham in the motel carpark of The Carrington Inn a few weeks after it had reopened.

    Originally known as The Lord Carrington Hotel, the property was built between 1884-85. It was named after the newly appointed governor of NSW. When the governor retired, the inn became The Carrington Hotel.

    In the 20th century, descendants of the Winters sold the property to Toni Dale who reverted the property to its original function from a domestic residence. It later changed hands until Richard bought it eight years ago.

    As we walked through the half acre of man-made gardens' entrance to the Wintergarden complex, I was struck by their intrinsic naturalness and the patterns of dappled light. Richard said they are ‘one of the largest publicly accessible private gardens in the region.’ He credits the illusion of a much larger space to the use of meandering sinuous paths.

    There are three distinct themed locations within the Wintergarden complex: The Tom Wills Tavern, The Empire Hall and Salons – fine dining, and Myee’s Tearoom. Myee is pronounced my. The tavern’s namesake and a local, Tom Wills was a leading Australian cricketer from 1856 and is said to be the founder of Australian Rules football. Heavy drinking was apparently part of the sport's culture at that time and purportedly played a role in his tragic death in 1880.


     

    Maria Myee Gallagher, 1889-1967, was the granddaughter of the original owner, William Daniel Winter. ‘An educated woman of many talents, Maria Myee never married and lived in the hotel throughout her life.’ She was a skilled pianist and taught the piano as well as the sewing arts and painting to locals. She was also well-known for her charitable work in the town.

    The interview and tour began in Myee’s tearoom. Its décor, like the rest of the complex, ‘pays deference to the 19th century colonial Victorian nature of the Carrington Inn.’ An airy and serene space, the tearoom’s authentic hand-painted stencilled wallpaper, pale green wainscoting, slate floor, furnishings, and hanging baskets suggest a Victorian garden conservatory.

    When I asked about the ideas underpinning the renovation process, Richard explained the choice before him. Restore the inn to look like the property as it had been in 1885 or restore it to reflect the Victorian era from 1885 but have modern restaurant equipment. For commercial reasons, he opted for the latter.

    After much research, Richard and his team distilled the Victorian period to a single restoration intention: ‘allow modern-day patrons to appreciate the aspirational nature of the Victorian era’ and witness a different lifestyle.

    The aspirational mood of the period is clearly visible in the style of ceilings in the tavern and the Empire Hall and Salons. The tavern’s patterned copper ceiling is reminiscent of Tudor ceilings and represents the revival of British styles during the Victorian era. The decorative tin ceiling in one of the salons is another popular architectural element from that period as are the subtly lit, rounded vaulted plaster ceilings in the Empire Hall.


     

    The Victorian theme is evident in the use of decoratively etched glass mirrors, beautiful period-styled drapery, luxurious furnishings, dining settings, and décor accents. Thirty-three hand-painted artwork reproductions tell the colonial story, including artwork by Tom Roberts. In the tradition of the time, a picture of Queen Victoria dominates the Empire Hall.

    The attention to authentic detail is also seen in the use of deeply embossed wall covering (Lincrusta) in  the Empire Hall. Lincrusta was invented in Britain in 1877 by the same man who invented linoleum floor covering some years before.

     

     Having visited many famous historic sites, I found The Carrington Inn as striking as places like Chatsworth House and Hampton Court in UK. Of course, The Carrington's pristine interior décor  and the inn are much smaller in scale than those other historic UK properties.

    As Richard told the stories behind each room’s décor, I realised that he is more than the owner and operator of an enterprise that happens to exist in a heritage property. He is keenly aware of his custodial role in restoring, documenting, and protecting heritage.

    As I left that afternoon, I realised that heritage places not only add dimension to the character of a community and its diversity but to its unique features of streetscapes as well.

     

    Left to right: Mark Summers, General Manager; Edwina Fitzgerald, Accommodation Manager; Me, Innkeeper; Merili Pihlamäe, Venues Manager; and Andrew Stansbie, Executive Chef.

     

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