Summertime, and the living is easy …

Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker… or so it seemed for a lazy hour at South Library last Saturday. The sun streamed in through tall windows and it was easy to forget that winter is just around the corner as local duo Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker treated book browsers and music lovers to the gentle sound of fingerpicking, slide and blues guitar.

It was great to see people hunting for books while tapping their feet to the rhythm of the blues. And one elderly couple was spotted jiving in a stately fashion as the Cannonball Rag twinkled over the non-fiction shelves.

I’d like to think that one or two young people were inspired to pick up a copy of Guitar for Beginners by Minna Lacey or to grab The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues by Giles Oakley. I borrowed a CD called Ragtime Memories and I’m almost sure I saw that elderly couple leaving with a copy of Peggy Spencer’s The Joy Of Dancing tucked under an arm.

Hugh and Jon are playing at New Brighton Library at 2pm tomorrow and at Shirley Library at 2pm Wednesday, 25 May. Head on down, grab a sofa and enjoy a slice of summer.

Live, local music cheers gloomy Saturday

Carmel Courtney at Lyttelton LibraryIt was perfect – serenaded by the soulful, conversational music of Carmel Courtney in the warm while the rain drummed on the roof. With a mix of her own compositions and a few covers, last Saturday’s performance was polished yet personal; Courtney’s first since the quake. At times mellow and expressive, sometimes fiery, but with just the right leavening dash of fun, Courtney’s voice kept her audience engaged and captured many more new arrivals as they popped in to find something of interest.

We couldn’t have asked for  better.

Waiata for NZ Music Month

PhotoThis was so much fun! Adrenalin, but not the earthquake variety. And the best way to learn a little Te Reo Māori.

To celebrate NZ Music Month 2011, The Christchurch City Council waiata group – Ngā Manu Tioriori  – entertained customers and colleagues on a tour around libraries.

You can listen to waiata at home, just check out some CDs and enjoy. Learn about traditional Māori music on our website or enjoy a book about the history of Māori music.

Falling in love with music again

CoverFor a while there, I couldn’t listen to any music. Dance-worthy pop songs jarred with my sombre state; rock songs were too loud, too confrontational; and acoustic folk brought up emotions I wanted to avoid.

Then a musician friend of mine, Michal Williams, created a blog. Each week she posts a new song, processing what has happened to Christchurch through music. Listening to her sing and play has reconnected me with my love of music.

Now I have music playing where ever I go; there’s a soundtrack accompanying everything I do. After losing my iPod and CD collection to the quake, the library’s physical and virtual music collections have become a lifeline for me.

Among the musical stylings I’m listening to post-quake are an assortment of New Zealand musicians, including:

What New Zealand music has helped you get through, put a smile on your face, or given you goosebumps (in a good way)?

Memories are made of this

London Street demolitionsWe’ve all got our favourite memories of the music venues of our youth, some of which will now sadly remain just a memory, forever. My favourite venues both reside in Lyttelton.

The Harbourlight, now deceased, has always exerted a particular charm for me, perhaps because of its similarity to those smoky jazz venues seen so often in American films. It had a bit of Casablanca about it, a sense of being one of those places on the wrong side of town. Down at heel, off beat, comfortable, relaxed and small enough to create an intimate connection between audience and performer, it was a place to let your hair down and really enter into the spirit of the music. Like many others, my greatest hope is that it can rebuilt and that special atmosphere re-created.

The Wunderbar, which was reopened just recently, is a treasure in its own right. It’s crazy décor of kiwi kitsch must surely be unique. It’s sometimes also slightly wild collection of performers, makes it the most truly eccentric venue I have ever encountered. Like the Harbourlight it has an atmosphere all of its own, one conducive to just having a darn good time. Long may it live.

What are your favourite Christchurch venues and do you know what has happened to them?

Sunday sessions a great start to New Zealand Music Month

New Zealand Music Month launchThe first day of New Zealand Music Month in Christchurch delivered atmosphere in spades. The Eastern’s  gig in Heathcote was at the unpromising venue of St Mary’s Church Hall. When I got there however, I found chairs set up in a lovely sheltered garden and The Eastern playing their own brand of  folky alt-country music on the deck. The audience of about 70 arrived on foot, with children on scooters and bikes, the sun shone, the roses bloomed, and the children danced on the grass or lay on blankets and ate their picnic food. It was the perfect way to spend a fine autumn afternoon.

The evening launch at New Brighton Library began while the audience was still arriving. The eerie sound of Silencio’s original music filled the room, inspiring looks of curiosity and wonder. The musicians were spread around the room playing everything from hollow tubes to kitchen sinks, suspended from the ceiling (sounds awful I know, but it was amazing).

Once the capacity crowd was settled, Marlon Williams of (Unfaithful Ways) entertained with some country numbers. Williams, who was also a guest with The Eastern, has a particularly true voice, which develops a special distinction when harmonising with others and his collaborations with Lawrence Arabia were outstanding.

The big star of the night was Lawrence Arabia , formerly of the Brunettes, who delivered his eccentric, twenty-first century twist on sixties music with aplomb. His stunning guitar playing took the music to a new level. The audience obviously knew a lot of his music already and received him with enthusiasm.

There’s more fun to be had over the next few weeks – check out the events on the library website