Ghosts and Angels

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Graeme Murphy, Iva Davies & Max Lambert (photo @Greg Barrett)

Berlin is full of ghostsGraeme observed to his musical collaborators on his return from Europe at the beginning of September 1995. Composer/singer Iva Davies has been to Berlin many times when on tour with Icehouse. The closest pianist/composer Max Lambert has been was the cancelled tour of 42nd Street to the Staatsoper.

For the three of them the title of the work came quickly. What began as an idea for an album of selected songs treated with a unique instrumentation, swiftly became the basis for Craeme Murphy’s second new full length work this year. When Graeme asked him what it was about and what was the title, Iva recalls – “Max and I mulled through what we had, then looked at each other and said – Berlin”. Graeme said “I love it.”

Iva Davie’s impressions of Berlin come from a number of fleeting visits while on tour with his band “but I never had a day free to go through Checkpoint Charlie. Nor did I gel the opportunity to go over to the East German ride of the wall. The rest of the band did but I was doing interviews al the time. I think probably the strongest impression of Berlin is the wall itself and I wrote a song about that some time ago. Someone actually sent me a piece of the wall, a bit of brick. I also carry a strong impression of the Brandenburg Gate.

It’s a central gateway. All the victory marches happened through this gate and it later it became the focal point of the wall, so that a few years ago the image the world saw of the wall being broken down was of the gate and of the four horse chariot on top of it. The chariot driver is actually an angel. It’s seen everything. Now- after its latest restoration there’s a massive debate going on about whether the iron cross should be refitted or the laurel wreath. They can’t agree on what should be fitted. So the figure of the angel is standing there with nothing in its hand. People superimpose on it whatever ideas they have. For me – I see it as a sort of victim. There are so many ideas involved with it that it virtually becomes a debate between art and politics, and then it becomes a debate between peace and war.

Max Lambert was due to go to East Berlin with the Australian production of 42nd Street. But the tour was cancelled because of the wall coming down, plus the producer of 42nd Street have the rights to present the show in East Germany and there was going to be a long process of litigation to discover who in fact had the rights in a united Germany production. “But I’ve got the tour jacket.”

Graeme Murphy’s comment about ghosts struck a chord with Max for whom ghosts and angels aren’t very far apart. And if flying is one of the chief attributes of angels then Max fells some affinity with them. “As a child I used to think I could fly and I think I used to astral travel. As a primary school child I remember standing in the playground at school convinced that I could fly and I knew exactly how to do it. The only reason I didn’t do it was that it would have been embarrassing and I would have been singled out if I actually did a few lap of the playground. So I didn’t. But I do remember astral traveling – having to keep in mind the powerlines and having to be careful not to run into them. I knew where there were and I definitely had a view of my suburb from above. It was a wonderful thing and I did know that I could actually do it and it was just a choice thing that I didn’t actually fly over it. I know people who do it a lot and love it, but I haven’t done it for twenty years or so.

Written by GILLIAN WAITE in 1995 (from original program)