Every month should be Music Month

PhotoNow that the excitement of the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival has simmered down a bit it’s worth taking a bit of a retrospective on New Zealand Music Month (NZMM) and looking at CHARTFEST which was a one-day event held in Christchurch.

Amidst all the workshops, demos and performances programmed to introduce the youth of Christchurch to the New Zealand music scene, sat a panel of three guys with loads of experience (guitarist Graeme Downes from the Verlaines, sound artist Bruce Russell of The Dead C and Flying Nun pioneer Roger Shepherd) having a session discussing it all. They were thrown a few questions along the lines of ‘how’s it been’ and ‘where’s it all going’ for making music in NZ.

In a nutshell, it’s been massive and not especially easy, and it will continue to go that way for those who are serious about making music. That has always been the case ever since Beethoven (and before) to the likes of the Ramones and the Rolling Stones (it wasn’t always easy for them and who remembers when they last wrote a good album anyway..! Ludwig you are excused…and I guess the Ramones are too…how many are left!).

Some things get easier. Graeme reckons that after more than 20 years, he’s a bit faster at writing music now. Technology and its availability can make some things a bit easier too but there is nothing that can replace the unique thing inside you that drives you to make music.

This was echoed by Bruce who talked at length about determination and to ignore the music market and do what you believe in. I have just finished ploughing through his book Left-Handed Blows, and his passion for creativity and being ‘in the moment’ is very clear, although it was a fine line between pleasure and pain trying to get my head around some of those really dense phrases that he loves to use.

Back to the panel …

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String it up @Central Library! Stringophilia

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During one of the last glorious days of autumn on the 15th of May, Cathy Irons and Tomas Hurik treated us to a sublime performance in the Central Library’s first floor red lounge. The richness and warmth of the string sound was reflected in Tomas’s face by the end of an hour programme in such a lovely sun trap.

Both tenured members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra performed a varied repertoire of pieces with something for everyone from Beethoven to Joplin with Alinoni, Stamitz, Bach, Handel-Halvorsen and Prokofiev sprinkled in between. Audience members appreciated the depth of skill and talent on show by turning out in large numbers navigating the maze of obstacles set before them by the building refurbishments to find their way upstairs. Their efforts were rewarded by an outstanding display of talent by two senior members of our city’s orchestra. Rarely do we get to hear members the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra close up and personal in such an intimate setting and this duet pairing of violin and cello was a delicious treat.

Many audience members took the chance to hear classical and rag time music played live in concert with Scot Joplin’s rag The Entertainer from the 1973 movie The Sting being a particular crowd pleaser to those new to concert music. If you missed the concert or want to hear more why not listen to  Cathy Iron’s CD Inspired.

Did you attend any Music Month concerts? What was your favourite Music Month moment?

  • Music resources at Christchurch City Libraries
  • Profiles of Christchurch musicians
  • Taonga Puoro

    CoverRecently the Robert McDougall Art Gallery hosted a show by Brian Flintoff and Richard Nunns. These two men – introduced by none other than the esteemed Sir Tipene O’Regan – have spent the better part of their careers learning about traditional Māori musical instruments and the musical expression of pre-colonial Aotearoa.

    We were treated to a retelling of the creation story complete with sound effects incorporated into beautiful and haunting songs sung by Ariana Tikao. Brian tells a good story. It starts with the separating of Sky Father Rangi – for whom tunes are named after – and Earth Mother Papatuanuku – who provides the heartbeat and rhythm. This is the work of their eldest son Tane, who then filled the new space with sounds, breath of the birds – haumanu, and things from which to make these sounds. This connection with the ‘cosmogony‘ (cor, what a word!) is why they are called singing treasures.

    Richard and Brian have been hanging out for years and their hilarious banter gave some extra personal flavour to the storytelling.

    The instruments themselves were amazing to hear and see. Carved and decorated whales teeth and bones, shells, hardwoods, soft stones, gourds, pounamu and even kelp are then blown, struck or swung to create sounds that mimic those made by nature. My favourite instrument is the ‘hue puruhau’. It is a gourd that when swung in a big circle, emulates the low boom of the male kakapo. Way cool!

    And how about this for a true story… a flute with one hole, the pumotomoto, is played over the fontanelle of a new-born baby’s head to implant songs and information on tribal heritage directly into the child’s subconscious. Now that’s an idea.

    The echo of the marbled art gallery chamber made the sounds and songs come alive. Another thing that really struck me was how eerie some of this was. If I was about to go for a walk in the woods at night, I’d be scared!

    See the library website for more on Maori music: contemporary Maori music, waiata, kapa haka and more information on taoka puoro (traditional Maori music).

    In this Radio NZ programme Richard Nunns plays the instruments and talks about them too.

    Feverish fretting in the key of D

    CD coverI’m supposed to be feverishly fretting about the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, but I’ve found myself a little distracted by fretting of a different kind. Guitar frets, to be precise.

    James Wilkinson is a guitarist and composer who has been on the Canterbury scene for a while now. We’ve just posted Nicole Reddington’s short interview with him on the library website. We add new musician profiles each year when music month rolls around.

    You might remember him from Rua, or Hampster, or The Two Jimmies. I remember him playing solo at the Harbourlight with his fingers flying and the frets melting as he riffed off in one direction, then another, then another.

    And thanks to the Naxos Music Library, I can listen to those wonderful guitar sounds whenever I feel the need. Two of his albums are included:

    If you want to listen, you’ll need your library card and PIN, but be warned – next time he’s playing live, you’ll probably want to go and see him.

    Helen Webby – New Zealand Music Month

    Helen Webby in performanceA full-sized harp is a thing to behold . Its size dwarves the human player and (get this ‘air guitarists’) the expanse of its strings requires the player to manoeuvre to reach the lower notes. Its profile is like the prow of an elegant sailing ship. But what exquisite sounds it can produce!

    In the hands of the highly talented and internationally acclaimed Helen Webby it is truly enchanting and magical. Last night Fendalton Library hosted the first of Helen’s recitals for Christchurch City Libraries New Zealand Music Month line up of entertainment.

    Her choice of programme ranged widely from a movement from the famous Harp Concerto by Handel, to Fields of Gold by Sting, a few Irish Hornpipes, Jigs and Reels and a couple of pieces she commissioned from New Zealand composers Rachel Clement and Helen Bowater.

    Perhaps the most famous and familiar piece, the brief solo for harp from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, was mesmerising. Helen mentioned that hearing this piece on her parents’ record player at the age of 11 inspired her to learn to play the harp. Since then she has gone on to play for the Christchurch Symphony and NZSO, played in chamber music ensembles here and in Europe and has a very successful solo career.

    On thanking her for yet again being a part of the Libraries’ Music Month entertainment she said that libraries were one of her favourite places to perform. This certainly comes out in the warmth with which she talks to her audience both during the recital and afterwards.  She performs again in our libraries during May and if you have kids to bring along it will put smiles on their dials!

    Naxos Music Library: your soundtrack to Music Month

    Naxos logoAre you a music lover looking to seek solace as we drift into winter? Welcome to Naxos Music Library – the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. This enables you to  listen to a fantastic range of music on your home computer or in any of our libraries.

    Figures At A Glance!
    Disc Count: 41,568
    Track Count: 595,690

    Naxos Music Library includes the complete Naxos, Marco Polo and Da Capo catalogues of over 266,000 tracks, including Classical, Historical recordings, Jazz, world, folk, relaxation and Chinese music. Select works by composer, artist, period, year of composition, instrument or genre. Many of the recordings have comprehensive liner notes you can study while listening to the music. Other resources include opera synopses and libretti, composer and artist biographies. Five hundred CDs are added every month.

    While the primary focus is on the standard classical repertoire, Naxos has a solid range of jazz classics, some blues, rock and contemporary jazz and an extensive range of world music. A bit of exploring reveals an eclectic mix – Douglas Lilburn, the Nixons, Bullfrogs, Pete Seeger, and the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Naxos also has a special section for children’s music with a charming introduction to classical music and instruments. A good way to get in early to convince them that “Rap” isn’t the only music out there!

    Access this from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our libraries.

    Musica Balkanica a Music Month treat

    Musica Balkanica logoMusica Balkanica are looking forward to treating you to a the variety of  uplifting and rhythmical songs from the Balkans from sacred music to folk songs in a variety of languages. There will be  some magnificent harmonies and a different slice of culture from this dedicated local choir.

    The Society, formed in February 2004,  includes members from around the Balkan region, as well as Kiwis. When we think of Balkan music we think of accordions and gypsy music, Musica Balkanica exposes us to much more. This dedicated group sings many challenging traditional works of spiritual and cultural significance in various local Baltic languages. Their repertoire includes both sacred songs from the Christian Orthodox Liturgy and Old Slavonic and folk songs from the Balkans region sung a cappella.

    A cappella in the modern sense is vocal music without instrumental accompaniment, we often associate it with barbershop, doo wop but it is so much more. The historical meaning of the name a cappella is Italian for “in the manner of the church”. Performing as part of New Zealand Music Month Musica Balkanica’s  aim is to broaden Kiwis exposure to Balkan music and its significance.

    To further explore the joys of Balkan music:

    During May Christchurch City Libraries brings you a variety of musical performances for  New Zealand  Music Month.

    How are you celebrating New Zealand Music Month?