Archive for November 2018

MUSIC THE FOOD OF LOVE: Musicians and medicos Judy and Stan Chen at lunch with Scott Bevan. Picture: Simone De PeakFROM the moment he read her name badge, Stanley Chen’s heart sang. It was at a large gathering of musical medicosin 1993, and Stanley saw the young woman standing there. She was just what he had been looking for.
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Judy Kermode. North Fitzroy. Cello.

Perfect. He really needed a cellist for his ensemble. And as luck would have it, he lived just near her in Melbourne.

“We had every single instrument, but no bass player, no bass instrument,” he recounts as we sit in Hamilton’s Fortunate Son cafe. “I was desperate to find a cello player somewhere.

“So my opening line to her was, ‘Hi, my name’s Stan. Fancy playing some chamber music?’. Which is the worst pick up line of all time!”

She initially wasn’t that excited by the invitation.

“They weren’t very striking,” Judy says bluntly of her first impressions of this guy.

“Well, we’re being totally candid here!,” laughs Stanley, with nothing but a glass of water to comfort him.

“Because we basically met very briefly at this three-day event,” explains Judy, “and there were so many other people … ”

“Plus I’m a woodwind player,” offers Stanley. “String players don’t associate with woodwind players.”

“You don’t really talk to them,” concedes Judy. “But I remembered he was quite nice and I was happy to go and play chamber music.”

And they’ve been playing together ever since, on stage and in life. Both Stanley and Judy Chen have been not just feeding souls with music but helping bodies heal, with their careers as doctors.

DOCTOR DUET: Judy and Stan Chen talk of their love of medicine and music. Picture: Simone De Peak

AS the daughter of a surgeon and a nurse, Judy Kermode was born into medicine. She grew up in Perth but has connections to the earliest days of Newcastle. Aforebearon her father’s side was John Tucker, a convict who was the first government storekeeper in the settlement.

Music was prominent in Judy Kermode’schildhood. She learnt piano from about the age of six, progressing through the grades until she sat for the Associate in Music, Australia exam. She also learnt the cello, and from the age of 12 played in amateur orchestras.

Yet at the end of high school, she enrolled to study medicine.Music was to remain a hobby – and a passion.

“I was very glad I didn’t do music, because I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed life so much as a music teacher,” she muses. By her own assessment, Judy was “never professional standard” as a musician.

Once she finished her degree, Judy Kermodeworked in Perth before heading to Britain for a couple of years. She worked in a large hospital in London, tolerating the jibes about being a colonial and absorbing lessons in anaesthetics.She returned to Perth and trained as an anaesthetist.

“When the flurry of getting the patients to sleep was over and the surgery had started, often there was time to sit and chat,” Judy recalls. “And these anaesthetists were really nice people. They were grounded, they had a life outside. They had a sense of humour.”

Yet Judyalso loved the role of the anaesthetist, and still does.

“You can do so much for a patient at a really critical time of their journey in hospital,” she says. “You have to see them beforehand, you have to make them aware of what’s going to happen, you have to try and reassure them, you have to tell them what the risks are of their anaesthetic, what you’re going to do, you try to make their passage through that short time as pleasant for them as possible, you try to make them comfortable afterwards.

“It’s extremely satisfying to do that. Not many people have a job where you really are just helping people all the time. I know that sounds saccharine. But you are!”

Medicine took Judy Kermode to Melbourne, to specialise as apaediatric anaesthetist. But music led her to Stan. Or, as we’ve learnt,Stanto her.

WORK AND PLEASURE: Musical medicos Judy and Stan Chen, with Ian Wright (left).

AS STANLEYChen tells it, he had been conceived in Phnom Penh, born in Hong Kong in 1957 and migrated to Australia from Saigon in 1965. His father was a bank manager, and the family moved around the Asian cities. Yet it was the escalation of the Vietnam War that brought the family to Sydney.

At primary school, Stanstudied the recorder and stuck with it. He also went to piano lessons, but “I sent several teachers completely spare, because of my attitude or lack thereof. And I really regret that, because music is so central now, but I recognise I lack that core basic training.”

What tipped Stan Chen into a love of classical music was one wet weekend when he was a teenager, listening tohis mother’s record collection. Asthe stylus danced across the grooves, the music was etched into his soul. The piece that hooked him was Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1.

“I can still remember it, the tingles, ‘Wow, this is just amazing’,” he says.

But tingles don’t pay the bills. Just like Judy, Stanpursued medicine. He did surgical training in Newcastle for three years. He was in the midst of an operationat Wallsend hospital when the earthquake shook the city in 1989.

“We thought a mine had exploded underneath the hospital,” he recalls, before recounting how theyshieldedthe patient, whose abdomen was open, from fallingceiling plaster. The surgical team successfully finished the operation.

While in Newcastle, Stan and a muso-medico friend formed a baroquemusic group. Stan was playing the recorder but realised he was barely heard.

“I got sick of that and thought I’d find a real instrument, one that could hold its own and make a proper noise,” he says. Stan Chen chose the oboe.

When the ensemble scored a gig at a winery atJerrys Plains, Stan decided the group needed to be more assertive. He renamed the chamber orchestra The Barbarians.

“We wanted to break away from that nice, genteel mode and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to come at you, and come at you hard,” Stan explains. “We took our name and inspiration from the Barbarians Rugby Club.”

Stan, who played rugby as a younger bloke, says he modelled the musical group on the team’s approach –bring in outsiders, minimal practice, stare a big challenge in the face, and launch into it.

“It’s been our credo to go, ‘Alright, it’s a bit difficult this bit of music. Who cares? Let’s give it a go. Into it! Give it a go!’. Some say we ruck and maul.”

The group’s name has raised a few eyebrows and prompted concert program writers to devise alternatives more befitting a chamber orchestra, lest it scare the patrons. But the name has also attracteda different type of patron. Once, when The Barbarians’ name was plastered on a poster promotinga hospital benefit concert, a bunch of punks and heavy rockers turned up.

“So the name does get us into a spot of bother at times,” Stan laughs.

Judy and Stan Chen talk about their medical careers and musical passions. Picture: Simone De Peak

When Stan’s career led him to Melbourne for a couple of years, the Barbarians kept musically rucking and mauling. Indeed, when Stan met Judy, the group came to Melbourne for a tour –“and to check out the new Barbarian.”

“But hey, she plays the piano, she plays cello, what more could you want?,” he says.“Oh, and she makes the best rehearsal cakes.”

Judy and Stanleymarried and moved to Newcastle in late 1995. Through the course of two children –Emily, who is studying medicine in Sydney, and Christopher, who is doing his HSC – The Barbarians remain part of the Chens’lives.Stan, an upper abdominal surgeon, and Judy believemusic make them better doctors.

“Particularly in surgery, one of the areas that can be a little bit ragged is creativity and individual expression,” Stan explains. “Music is an outlet for that. I go back to work feeling energised and enthusiastic.”

“It’s really a fantastic part of your life if you can play music, because you leave your work cares totally behind you when you sit down and read music and play music,” Judy adds.

Portrait of an anaesthetist, cellist, pianist, mother and proud Barbarian: Judy Chen. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Barbarians are rehearsingfor a concert, “Mozart Does Prague”, on November 18 at Newcastle Museum. Well, kind of rehearsing. These are busy people. But music will always play a major rolefor this couple.

“We couldn’t live without it really,” says Stan.

“We might not always be able to play,” counters Judy. “When we’re in our 90s, you mightn’t be able to blow an oboe anymore.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Stan smiles. “Pick up something else!”

Trampoline gymnasts to represent Hunter on the world stage Bulgaria bound: Shaun Swadling, Brett Austine and Blake Rutherford watch Jessica Pickering in the air. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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Bulgaria bound: Shaun Swadling, Brett Austine and Blake Rutherford watch Jessica Pickering in the air. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Bulgaria bound: Shaun Swadling, Brett Austine and Blake Rutherford watch Jessica Pickering in the air. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Bulgaria bound: Shaun Swadling, Brett Austine and Blake Rutherford watch Jessica Pickering in the air. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TweetFacebook Up, up and away!HUNTER athletes are taking their dreams of success sky high, by preparing to soar up to eight metres into the air during the Trampoline Gymnastics WorldChampionshipsin Bulgaria.

National coach for Gymnastics Australia’s trampoline team and Belmont High physical education teacher Brett Austine left the country on Mondaywith Marks Point Public teacher Shaun Swadling and Blake Rutherford.

Mr Swadling and Mr Rutherford will participate in a four day training camp before competition begins on November 9.

Bulgaria bound: Shaun Swadling, Brett Austine and Blake Rutherford watch Jessica Pickering in the air. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Belmont High year 10 student, Jessica Pickering, will leave next week to compete in the under 17’s section of the World Age Group Competition, also to be held in Bulgaria.

“I consider trampolining to be one of the toughest sports you could enter,” Mr Austine said.

“What you do once in diving you’ve got to do 10 times in a row without a break in trampolining.

“These athletes are training six days a week and are either full time students or working to chase their dreams and have an international career.”

Mr Swadling and Mr Rutherford will each perform two routines in the qualifying rounds, in the hope of making it through to the semi finals and the top eight for the final.

“They will be marked on time aflight, how accurately they keep to the middle of the trampoline, degree of difficulty and execution,” he said.

“They will have 60 seconds to start the first rotation and will then get 10 contacts with the mat and have to show 10 different skills.”

Jessica will also perform two routines in the qualifying round in the hoping of making it straight through to the final.

“All of her 10 moves are at least a double somersault with a half twist.”

Adelaide United are one of Melbourne Victory’s biggest rivals, but Victory boss Kevin Muscat will be forgiven this week for looking over the border at them for some inspiration.
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His side’s failure to beat Central Coast Mariners on Sunday night – Victory were lucky to escape from Gosford with a point – means last season’s grand finalists have made their worst start to an A-League campaign.

Muscat’s side is winless in four games and has drawn twice, giving it a miserly two points from a possible 12.

Already Victory are in danger of falling too far off pace-setting Melbourne City and defending champions Sydney.

City have 12 points, with four wins from four matches. Sydney have 10 points.

That’s where Adelaide United come in. In season 2015-16 Adelaide failed to win until December, nine rounds into the season. Yet by the end of that campaign the Reds had topped the table, hosted the grand final and wore their first champions crown.

Adelaide had taken three points out of a possible 24 and had a goal difference of minus 10 before they scraped a 1-0 win over Perth Glory on December 6, 2015.

After that they went on an extraordinary run where they lost only once more, won 13 other games and finished a point clear at the top ahead of Western Sydney.

That said, Muscat and the Victory faithful will be wanting something to happen quickly.

So far Victory have looked stodgy through the midfield and lacking in purpose going forward.

Had it not been for two inspirational actions from Dutch import Leroy George their season would have looked far worse.

His free kick to set up Besart Berisha’s opening header in Adelaide in a 2-2 draw was a perfect example of how to deliver a threatening set-piece, while his free kick from distance on Sunday night against the Mariners rescued a point for the visitors.

Muscat will point to the opening two games – home defeats by a single goal to Sydney and Melbourne City – and argue that his side was unlucky not to get something out of either fixture.

But things will get tougher for the Melbourne Cup eve fixture against Western Sydney, as Victory will be without some of their key players through suspension and international call-ups.

Kosta Barbarouses will be away with New Zealand for their World Cup play-off against Peru, while James Troisi will be absent with the Socceroos as they try to see off Honduras, their final obstacle to a place in Russia 2018.

Berisha is still suspended, having picked up a two-game ban for putting his hands on a match official in Adelaide.

The only silver lining is that Mark Milligan will be allowed to play in the November 6 match in Melbourne even though the Socceroos captain is suspended from the first leg of the tie against Honduras, which will be played in Central America on November 10.

Victory’s main problem, as Muscat identified in the wake of Sunday’s draw, is that that they are not imposing themselves on games enough.

The lack of continuity in the forward third, with Troisi, Milligan and Barbarouses on international duty, has meant Victory are not playing with the attacking cohesion they had in previous seasons.

“We started off very sloppy in possession of the ball, going backwards, taking the easy option instead of going forwards,” Muscat said after the Mariners draw.

“We have to be honest with ourselves. There are two reasons why you do that … you are not confident in yourself to pass the ball forward or the people in front of you are not moving.

“Our quality when it counted was just a little bit lacking, it was off.”

He is taking solace from the fact that Victory have at least picked up two points on the road in their last two games but knows that there should be a lot more to come from this squad.

It’s too early to talk of a crisis, as the Adelaide example of a few years ago shows. Poor starts can be overcome.

But Victory need to get their skates on if they want to be a significant player this season, or City and Sydney may well be too far ahead for Victory to entertain thoughts of a top two position.

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Beersheba: On the plains to the south-east of Be’er Sheba, a young boy’s donkey stands stubbornly in a field, as its rider whacks at its flanks.
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Behind him in a gully, a flock of camels wanders up the banks of a stream.

And in the distance, dust flies up in the wake of a horseman, galloping across the Negev desert, a tiny echo of a turning point in history.

One hundred years ago, this was the scene of an astonishing moment in the ANZAC story. It sits sandwiched between the coming-of-age tragedy of Gallipoli, and the grinding horror of the Western Front, and many only dimly remember the heroics of Beersheba, possibly the last great cavalry charge, probably Australia’s first great military victory.

Hamish Gibbons, lieutenant colonel in the New Zealand army, looks down at the plains and tries to picture how it was.

“The actual charge was quite an audacious plan,” he says. “It was not what the enemy would have thought anyone would have tried, not how the war had been fought.

“I can only imagine what would have been playing on the minds of the troops.”

The 800 light horsemen, 6km south-east of Beersheba, had ridden their Australian ‘Waler’ horses through the desert night to get into position for the charge. They would have been tired and dehydrated, and then faced a long wait for their do-or-die moment.

Their Anzac allies cleared the way, taking a Turkish machine gun emplacement on a hill that could have picked them off as they charged (this vital New Zealand contribution to Australia’s proud moment is often underplayed).

And then, mid-afternoon, they formed up and charged, first at a trot, then finally at a gallop as the Beersheba defenders woke too late to the threat, then melted away within hours in the face of the ferocious attack.

Through the machine gun fire and artillery to victory.

“It was very brave, very audacious, and ultimately successful,” says Lt-Col Gibbons. “Unlike the Western Front, they could fight the sort of battle that they wanted to fight.”

Historian Jonathan King is part of a recreation of that charge, a group of 100 men and women who wanted to honour the Anzacs by walking in their footsteps – or hoofprints.

“The whole point is to bring history to life,” said King, whose great-grandfather was among the soldiers in the original assault on the town.

“This great cavalry charge at Beersheba 100 years ago turned the tide of the war in Palestine, but very few Australians know about it. This was one of the greatest moments in Australian history and it should be a celebrated cornerstone of our culture and national identity.”

The victory also created the conditions for the foundation of the modern state of Israel – which the locals have not forgotten, King said.

King and his comrades have donned the full World War One uniform – “which I might say is really hot”, right down to the slouch hats with the emu plumes, and found local horses to play the part of the old Australian ones. They have followed the whole three-day track of the original regiment, which patiently circled the town to attack from the less-defended south.

“It is different now – we are coming in from the desert, so there hasn’t been a lot of development in a century,” says King. “But there’s the huge city of Be’er Sheva in the background.

“You’ve got to close your eyes, and in your mind just try and visualise what it would have been like.”

“We ignore the buildings and think that we’re doing what they would have loved us to do, the troopers, especially the 31 killed.”

The re-creation hasn’t been smooth sailing. The Israeli horses are frisky, and their riders not exactly battle-hardened. The 3-day journey through the desert has taken a toll.

On Tuesday afternoon, their moment will come, as part of a day of commemoration attended by the prime ministers of Australia and Israel.

“We are like the WW1 troopers thirsty, covered in dust, saddle sore and tired,” says King.

“But the morale is very high, we are all conscious that we are bringing history to life and honouring the troopers who made history with that great charge

“To me personally it will be spine-chilling.”

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Jordan Thompson has backed Canberra to host a Davis Cup fixture in a move that would see his Australian teammate Nick Kyrgios play at home for the first time.
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The Canberra International No. 1 seed said there was no reason the capital should be denied international tennis next year.

Australia will begin their Davis Cup campaign by hosting Germany in February and Tennis ACT boss Kim Kachel has said he would “definitely” make a play at hosting the fixture.

Thompson has enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 after defeating top-10 veteran David Ferrer and then world No.1 Andy Murray the week before Wimbledon, while also becoming an Olympian.

The 23-year-old played in all four grand slams and won his first ATP doubles title alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Brisbane International.

Thompson begins his Canberra International campaign against Andrew Harris on Tuesday and the world No. 75 said he wanted to return to the capital wearing green and gold next year.

“Nick is from here and our leading player, there’s no reason why we can’t have it [Davis Cup] here, it’s a great club and I’m sure we could make the centre court bigger,” Thompson said.

Thompson could have sent Australia to its first Davis Cup final in 14 years but fell in the fifth and deciding rubber against Belgium veteran Steve Darcis last month.

“That stung quite a bit and took a little bit to get over, but I didn’t play a tournament for two weeks after so it didn’t really effect me on court,” Thompson said.

“Confidence levels are up on last year though, I’ve had some good wins beating quality some opponents this season and had a few Davis Cup wins as well.

“You really get that extra belief in your game representing your country and playing against the world’s best players, I lost a tough one but hopefully it’ll make me better for next time.”

Australia’s Jordan Thompson has backed Canberra to host a Davis Cup tie. Photo: AP

Thompson rose to a career-high world No. 63 this year and said time in the weights room was behind his breakout season.

“I’m getting bigger and stronger from working harder in the gym and running around the track trying to get fit and also just growing into my body,” Thompson said.

“I’m 23 now so I think I’m probably done filling out but that’s helped me get stronger this year and serve bigger and hit bigger, I’ve just gotten quicker and fitter.

“A few weeks ago in Shanghai I qualified for my first [ATP] Masters, so I’m feeling pretty good and playing more tour events this year, it’s nice to be playing at that level more often.”

Thompson arrived in Canberra as the top seed for the second straight year but said he’s expecting a tough week in the capital with his Australian teammate John Millman in the draw.

“Life has changed a fair bit this year … but this tournament is pretty close to home [Sydney] and I’ll never deny the opportunity to play in my own country, I love playing in Australia,” Thompson said.

“I try not to think about being top seed because seedings and rankings are just a number, I’ve still got to get out there and win, you can’t let a number effect you.

“Tennis is so strong these days and has so much depth that there are no easy tournaments and there are plenty of good players in this draw, it’s going to be a tough week.”

Canberra export Alison Bai will begin her campaign in the women’s first round on Tuesday, while ACT teenagers Annerly Poulos and Lisa Mays were knocked out in the qualifiers.

Play at the Lyneham Tennis Centre begins each day at 10am, entry is free.

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