Carmen interests: Archie and Jack MacDonald

NZ Opera’s production of Carmen, Bizet’s tale of love and betrayal, gypsies and bullfighters, opens at the Isaac Theatre Royal this week and amongst the cast is a chorus of ten Christchurch schoolboys.

So what’s it like to be 12 years old and in a professional production of one of the world’s most popular operas? I asked twin brothers Archie and Jack MacDonald about how they got into singing, choirs, and their advice for other youngsters who might want to sing on stage.

How did you both get into singing and performing? Is that something you’ve been doing for a long time?

Archie: Well, we got into our first 2 big choirs [Christchurch Schools Music Festival special choir and the Christchurch Boys’ Choir] in year 5 but we’ve just been in heaps of school choirs and have always loved playing guitar and singing with our big sister, and it’s just sort of been a passion that we’ve always had all of our life.

Is singing something that you’ve always done together?

Jack: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever been in a choir that the other one hasn’t been in. And we busk together too. Either in the Riccarton Bush Market or the Re:Start Mall.

How much practising and rehearsing do you have to do for Carmen?

Archie: There’s quite a lot, particularly in our own time at home. We’ve been given a [music] file just to rehearse and get it all sorted… We’d do some at least every day for the last 2 weeks.

And for Carmen you’re singing in French. Is that a thing that you’ve done before?

Jack: We’ve sung in different languages before but not as much as in Carmen, so it took a few hours just to figure out the pronunciation and write it down in our music, and then there’s the notes and you have to put them all together and that’s hard but we’ve got the adult chorus to help us…  when you’re acting as well, you’ve got to know what you’re singing about so that you can have facial expressions and act how you would if you were saying it in English.

Don Jose and Carmen
Don Jose and Carmen. Image credit: Marty Melville

And what’s it been like being part of an opera production?

Jack: It’s been fun. Last year we were in Evita with Showbiz but this is like another step up. We’ve got different costumes from everyone else and we’re running around [the stage] teasing soldiers, running up stairs and things – it’s been full on but fun.

Is it good to have other kids around (in the children’s chorus)?

Archie: Yeah, it sort of takes a little bit of the pressure off. Definitely a solo act is a bit trickier and a bit harder but everyone’s really supportive and it’s just great, ya know? But it’s a bit more fun with more boys.

It must be very nerve-wracking going in for an audition.

Archie: Yeah, you can never really take that away from an audition. You always want to get in and have heaps of time with whatever you’re auditioning for.

Jack: Yep, just being by yourself in front of someone and singing is quite hard… but then you feel good coming out of it.

So what’s the most fun thing about singing?

Archie: Definitely performances.

Jack: Yeah, performances in front of a crowd.

Is it more fun with an audience? What’s that like?

Archie: When the lights go up you’ll just see a crowd sitting in front of you and you’re just like “I’ve gotta do this. I can’t really muck up.” So yeah, it sort of boosts you a wee bit more and you’re really wanting to work hard.

Jack: Well, you feel nervous but then when you go off the stage and you’re done you’ll feel happy, like after an audition and you’ll think that you’ve done your job well. As long as you give it everything and work hard.

Children's chorus, Carmen
Children’s chorus, NZ Opera production of Carmen. Image credit: Marty Melville

Is music something you’d like to do for a job one day?

Archie: I’ve always thought it would be a lot of fun to be involved in music but I’ve never really seen it as necessarily something to base everything around, as in, have as my job but it would be heaps of fun to just stay involved. I’ve really got a taste for how much fun it really is and I’d love to keep that going for as long as I can, really.

Jack: Yeah, I really like cricket but then getting into a good team as a job, that’s gonna be hard so I have to have something else to work on… I’m sort of still thinking about it.

Do you have any advice for other kids who want to be on the stage performing and singing?

Jack: Give it everything and enjoy it. And just work hard.

Archie: I’d probably say don’t hold back, just go for everything that sounds fun. Never think “there’ll be some people who are better at this role than me”, because it’s great to have an experience of just an audition. It sort of gets you a bit more used to things and less nervous for later on in life. The more you do things, the more you get to enjoy it, the more hobbies you get to have when you’re older. So just really get into it. Take every opportunity. Absolutely anything really. Go for anything and everything you like the sounds of.

Being in choirs seems to have been a big part of it for you.

Archie: [Christchurch Boys’ Choir] has taken us from having not too many musical opportunities to just singing with so many amazing groups and heaps of cool opportunities coming up.

Jack: It was only Boys’ Choir that was in Evita. We sang at the Crusaders vs Lions game (we sang Conquest of Paradise) and now Carmen. And they’re after boys to audition for Sister Act. Whenever we’re backstage we’re always singing and stuff because we’ve all got decent voices we can pick out a harmony while we’re sitting there… I really recommend the Boys Choir as a really top thing that will get you into heaps of things like this, end of year concerts, concerts in between, or maybe one thing a year like performances with Showbiz.

Archie: (about end of year Battle of the Bands at intermediate school) It was pretty cool because with the Boys’ Choir we’ve got audiences much bigger than a school of 500 people and we’re a bit more confident with that sort of thing. If we weren’t in the choir or involved with any productions or anything that’d sort of be massive and our hearts would be pounding. It would be crazy, you know, really nervous. It’s quite cool just to know, we were very confident going into that and it’s because we’ve just sung in front of so many people…

Archie and Jack will perform in the children’s chorus as part of NZ Opera’s production of Carmen, Isaac Theatre Royal on 13, 15, 18, 20 & 22 July.

Find out more

Carmen (highlights) streaming music Cover of Kickstart Music 3 : 9-11 Yrs : Music Activites Made Simple Cover of Is singing for you?

Wednesday 19 July – Leighs Construction CSO Presents: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra brings together music and mystery these school holidays with Leighs Construction CSO Presents: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead, in association with Eliot Sinclair.

https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/leighs-construction-cso-presents-the-composer-is-dead/christchurch

Kids (and adults) love the Lemony Snicket books A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the new TV series starring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is getting even more people hooked. The musical murder mystery The Composer is Dead full of that distinctive Snicket wit and black comedy, and it also introduces kids to the instruments in an orchestra:

The composer is dead? Who killed him? The clever Inspector interviews and interrogates each section of the orchestra. What were the violins doing? Where were the woodwinds? And why does the brass section sound particularly brassy tonight?

Christchurch thespian Michael Bayly narrates the tale, and David Kay conducts the orchestra.

David Kay conducting the orchestra

Music featured includes John Williams’ Suite from Harry Potter, Ravel’s Bolero and Ginastera’s Malambo, and a brand new work Schismata by Christchurch composer Hamish Oliver.

Thanks to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra for information on this event. They also bring wonderful classical music into libraries for kids, with the free monthly Music Trails through the library. The next session is a woodwind ensemble at Shirley Library, Wednesday 2 August, 10.30am.

More Lemony Snicket

Find Lemony Snicket books in our collection, including the book of The composer is dead.

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School Holiday Survival

The school holidays are fast approaching and I have to keep my children entertained for two weeks, oh please help me!! I have actually come up with a plan, so I thought I would share it in case you need help too.

  1. KidsFest – thank goodness someone thought of the parents! I will book children into lots of fun activities and sweet talk their Grandparents into taking them.
  2. Send them outside to play in the freezing cold so I will have heaps of washing to do because it is so muddy (You should see them after football – the mud club).
  3. Put them in front of screens. I know it sounds bad, but hear me out on this one. No playing pointless games with some random character wandering around eating pizza (I think that is what my children were playing). I will set them up with educational activities from the library eResources for kids, they may even enjoy it too!
  4. Give them something to read or listen to – but with a difference. eBook or eAudiobook, or even eMagazine. My kids have just discovered eAudiobooks and love them. It is brilliant – they are so quiet, especially in the back of the car where they would usually fight. OverDrive and Borrowbox have a great selection and it was super easy to download to an iPod shuffe.

Fun with Farts – Old MacDonald heard a fart

Miss Manners would probably be spinning in her grave*, but seriously, I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard as when I read Old MacDonald Heard a Fart! I took it home the other night, to read it to the Beecrafty family, but it seems not everyone enjoys a fart book as much as I do! Maybe I shouldn’t have read it at the dinner table, because of course it prompted a raucous fart-noise competition between myself and the Young Lad, and Mr K left the room in disgust. But if you’ve got kids who appreciate a bit of scatological humour, this picture book is a must!

There’s just so much to love about this book. As you probably already guessed from the title, it’s an irreverent, noisy version of the farmyard classic. It has lovely, vibrant, and expressive illustrations, with lots of little details and things to spy. I had to giggle at the Elvis rooster and the Jurassic Pork poster on the stable wall. The Ziggy Stardust unicorn in a Dalí landscape is really something, too.

But best of all has to be the instructions on how to create (verbally, I promise!) each fart sound. The Young Lad and I had great fun contorting our lips into the correct formations to make all the gross noises. Although he was quick to demonstrate his own favourite technique – I didn’t know what an accomplished fart noise creator he was. The next night, he was most indignant when I said I couldn’t read it again as I had taken the book back to work!

The story of this story is also quite something. Debut author Olaf Falafel tweeted that he needed a publisher for his new book, and before two weeks were up, he had a book deal! Isn’t that twitterising a whole lot better than covfefe?

So to paraphrase Olaf Falafel (that can’t be his real name, can it?) If you have a child, know a child, are a child, or act like a child** you should definitely go to a library and borrow Old McDonald Heard a Fart!

But wait, there’s more! Remember that book deal I told you about? It’s a three book deal, so there’s more like that on the way.

Cover of In One End and Out the OtherAnd there’s even more! I just couldn’t resist putting together a list of Poop and Parp related books

*If Miss Manners was dead, which she’s not.

**I’m guessing I fit the last category as well as the first!

Old MacDonald heard a fart
by Olaf Falafel
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008242794

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults – 2017 finalists announced

The finalists for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have been announced.

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Pam Jones, convenor of judges for the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Image via New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

“Characters burst off the pages, delighting us at every turn,” say the judges of this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. They have selected 35 finalists for the 2017 awards, out of 152 submissions.

“This year’s shortlist reminds us that books are powerful vehicles for helping children make sense of their world and gain a better understanding of themselves and others. At times the vividly descriptive writing was brutal and heart-breaking, providing moving portrayals of life through the eyes of children and teenagers. All finalist titles are convincing in their realism, skilfully laced with honour and honesty throughout,” says convenor of judges Pam Jones. Many of the books submitted dealt with serious issues. “War featured highly, alongside other topical themes like teenage pregnancy, surveillance, abuse, homelessness, racial tensions and bullying. Coming-of-age stories and characters that are living with extended family members highlighted the meaning of family and love,” Pam Jones says.

The awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Council on behalf of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust. The final award winners will be announced 14th August 2017.

A special Kia Ora to Canterbury finalists:

  • Gavin Bishop – illustrator, Helper and Helper – Junior Fiction
  • Jenny Cooper (Amberley), Gladys Goes to War – Illustration
  • Simon Pollard, The Genius of Bugs – Non-Fiction
  • Tania Roxborogh, My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point – Junior Fiction

Finalists

Picture Book Award

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Junior Fiction (Esther Glen Award)

The Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction finalists will capture the imagination of every young reader, either immersing them in another world or reality, giving them a problem or mystery to solve or causing a laugh-out-loud response to witty conversations. “We’re pleased to see these books feature an equal mix of strong male and female characters from different races, ethnicities and backgrounds,” say the judges.

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Young Adult Fiction (Copyright Licensing NZ Award)

The judges enjoyed delving into the world of teenagers via the books entered for the Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction. “We immersed ourselves in the issues that plague young people—family, school pressures, relationship woes, sexuality and the looming adult world. Authors are not afraid to explore dark themes, but also to inject humour when it’s needed.”

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Picture Book Award

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Non-Fiction (Elsie Locke Award)

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Te Reo Māori (Te Kura Pounamu Award)

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Illustration (Russell Clark Award)

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  • Fuzzy Doodle illustrated by Donovan Bixley, written by Melinda Szymanik, published by Scholastic NZ
  • Gladys Goes to War illustrated by Jenny Cooper, written by Glyn Harper, published by Penguin Random House (Puffin)
  • If I Was a Banana illustrated by Kieran Rynhart, written by Alexandra Tylee, published by Gecko Press
  • Snark illustrated and written by David Elliot (after Lewis Carroll), published by Otago University Press
  • The Day the Costumes Stuck illustrated and written by Toby Morris, published by Beatnik Publishing

Best First Book Award

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More information:

An integral part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is the HELL Reading Challenge, now in its fourth year. It has been hugely successful in getting kids reading and enjoying the pleasure of stories (and pizza). Kids can pick up their reading challenge cards at Christchurch City Libraries (open until December 2017).

hell-reading-challenge-table-talker-2017-2

Meet a finalist…

ThegeniusofBugs

Come see bug genius Simon Pollard at South Library during KidsFest
Do you like bugs? They may be small, they may be creepy, but bugs have super-sized powers! Join Simon Pollard, author of the wicked new book The Genius of Bugs, as he takes you into the world of the everyday and the extraordinary, the grotesque and the mysterious, with bug tales, facts and figures that showcase insect ingenuity and reveal astounding bug behaviour. Be entertained and amazed and bring your best bug questions. Ages 7-13.

When: Tuesday, 11 July, 10.30-11.30am
Venue: South Library, Colombo St
Price: FREE
Organised by WORD Christchurch

School holidays! Holiday programmes, events, and activities – April 2017

Find out what’s on this school holidays for Christchurch children. Check out the holiday programmes and activities at our libraries and learning centres, and shows and performances for kids.

Library and Learning Centre holiday programmes and activities

Our libraries and learning centres offer a variety of accessible, safe and affordable activities for children during their school holidays. Programmes and activities are aimed at children between the ages of five and 15 years:

Activities include Maker Space, Minecraft, LEGO mindstorms robotics, disguises, treasure hunts, invisible ink messages, code breaking, and sewing. Some sessions require booking.

Eye Spy April

Christchurch holiday programmes and workshops

The following organisations are running holiday programmes or workshops for kids or teens in the April 2017 holidays:

Search CINCH, our Community Information Christchurch database, for more Canterbury holiday programmes.

Find an OSCAR programme (Out of School Care and Recreation) and view this map of OSCAR programmes in Christchurch.

Shows, movies, and performances

Kid friendly movies on in the holidays include Beauty and the beast, Smurfs: The Lost Village, The LEGO Batman movie and The Boss Baby.

Things to do, and places to go in Christchurch

Margaret Mahy Playground - new slide and towers

Most of these venues are free but some have a entry fee. There is more information on their websites.

For more events and activities, search Be There and Eventfinda.

The HELL Pizza Reading Challenge

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust have teamed up again with HELL Pizza to encourage school-age children to read more. Their reading programme is now in its fourth year, and it runs through schools and libraries nationwide. Christchurch City Libraries is again offering this reading challenge reward system.

What is the HELL Reading Challenge?

The HELL Pizza Reading Challenge rewards New Zealand children for reading books in an incentivised reading programme that’s simple: Read for Pizza!

hell-reading-challenge-poster-2017

Children complete a ‘pizza wheel’ by reading seven books, and then go to any HELL Pizza store and redeem it for a free 333 HELL Pizza… It’s that easy! Every child/student must read 7 books to fill up their wheel to be able to receive their free pizza.

There is no limit on the number of wheels a child can fill up between March and December, provided they are stamped and authenticated by a librarian.

Pop into your local library to pick up a reading wheel. Get a slice of reading done and start getting your pizza wheel clicked. Then top off your reading with a pizza!

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Rules

  • The HELL Reading Challenge is open to students in Years 1-8.
  • Each wheel is good for one 333 kids’ pizza from any HELL store nationwide.
  • Each wheel must be clicked off and signed by library staff from your library and stamped with our official library stamp. Each pizza wheel features detailed rules and regulations, as well as a serial number that will be traced back to your library.
  • Pizza must be picked up in-store only IN PERSON. One pizza per visit per child.
  • Wheels are non-transferable for money.
  • Come into any HELL store to redeem your voucher any time before Sunday 3 December 2017. The child/student must redeem their free pizza in person and before the expiry date.
  • HELL Stores have the right to refuse this offer in cases of suspected fraud, or when presented with unsigned and unstamped wheels.

Find out more about the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Explore our kid’s page for some great reading ideas.

About the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults are a unique celebration of the contribution New Zealand’s children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage.

Awards in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are made in six categories: Young Adult Fiction, Junior Fiction (the Esther Glen Award), Non-Fiction (the Elsie Locke Award), Picture Book, Illustration (the Russell Clark Award) and Te Kura Pounamu Award (for books entirely written in te reo Māori).

Five finalists are selected for each category, and from these a category winner is selected. All awards carry prize money of $7,500. In addition, the judges may decide to award a best first book prize of $2,000 to a previously unpublished author or illustrator. The overall prize, the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award, carries a prize of $7,500. The awards are judged by a panel of five. Te Kura Pounamu is judged by a separate panel of judges. A shortlist is announced in June each year, and the awards event is held in August of the same year.

At the same time, a major nationwide Reading Challenge, sponsored by HELL Pizza, encourages children to read.

Boss Baby – based on a book

CoverBefore Boss Baby the movie there was … Boss Baby the book!

The film Boss Baby (2017) is loosely based on the 2010 book by author and illustrator Marla Frazee. Many a parent has thought that their little ones seem to rule the roost … sometimes they are downright tyrannical with a temper tantrum or two. Boss Baby is a delightful metaphor. Here, parents are the overworked staff of Boss Baby, put upon by his demands. Coincidentally topical, Boss Baby may remind you of a certain world leader making headlines for similar behaviour.

The Boss Baby (2010)
From the moment he arrives, it is obvious that the new baby is boss and he gets whatever he wants, from drinks made-to-order around the clock to his executive (play) gym. He makes demands. Many, many demands. And he was quite particular. If things weren’t to his immediate satisfaction, he had a fit. He didn’t say a single word that made any sense at all but that didn’t stop him. He was born leader.

CoverThe Bossier Baby (2016)
Boss Baby used to be in charge of his family, but that was before he got an even bossier baby sister. She demoted him and made herself CEO and set about restructuring the organisation (aka the family). She had a full-time social media team and a private limo (cue pram envy). Boss Baby was sidelined until they started working cooperatively to rule their workers (aka parents).

The voice of Boss Baby in the film is actor Alec Baldwin who has been doing impersonations of American president Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

Find Alec Baldwin’s work in our collection.

Science Alive Under 5 Fest – Hands-on science fun for kids

Science Alive’s annual Under 5 Fest gives kids under the age of 5 (and their parents and caregivers and educators) a heap of hands-on science fun. It’s on from Tuesday 21 to Sunday 26 March, 9.30am to 4.30pm at Table Tennis Canterbury stadium, 294 Blenheim Road, Riccarton. Library staff will be there from 11am to 12pm daily, doing a 20 to 30 minute Storytimes / Wā Kōrero at 11am, sharing stories, rhymes, music and play.

Science Alive Under 5 Festival

The Science Alive team say there will be some cool new exhibits as well as old favourites. Entry is $6 for all ages, except under 2s get in for free. Make sure you bring some coins, there’s a balloon creator and face-painter on site. If you are there and want to share your pics and vids, use the hashtag #U5FEST

Visit the Science Alive website to find out all you need to know about parking, food (and coffee) etc. You can also subscribe to the Under 5 Fest Facebook event to get the latest info.

Science Alive Under 5

Science Alive at libraries

For older kids, Science Alive also offer Science Snippets, an after school science programme at five libraries across Christchurch.

Science resources for kids

Last year we interviewed Geni McCallum of Science Alive! about the Under 5 fest and kids and science: “Science is about doing”.

Libraries have plenty of science-themed fun for kids:

(Images in this post supplied by Science Alive)

Cool stuff from the selectors: Children’s books

Egg9780062408730

This masterful and stylistically original picture book introduces young children to four eggs. One is blue, one is pink, one is yellow, and one is green. Three of the eggs hatch, revealing three baby birds who fly away. But the green egg does not hatch. Why not? When the three birds return to investigate, they re in for a big surprise! What will happen next?

Other Wordly

A lovely wee book of illustrated strange words from around the world such as : “Komorebi” from Japan which means the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees, or from English “Bibliothecary” meaning one who collects, maintains, or cares for books. I also like “Cwtch” which is Welsh for a hug or a cuddle but is also used for the space under the stairs.

Sniffer & Tinni9781454918707

Best friends who live in Norway. Sniffer is a wild fox and Tinni is a German Shepherd. In this simple non-fiction book, stunning photographs show how they spend their time together.

Illuminature9781847808868

Three images of different animal habitats on one page. Using the viewing lens you will see the daytime animals, the environment or the night animals jump out from the page. It also contains a species guide for each animal you discover.