Mid-Year Concerts

30 June and 1 July, Old Mill and Karamu High School

While bars are jumping and theatres humming, I spent this Friday and Saturday at a talent-a-thon of a slightly fresher, greener hue. The Napier Music Academy first, then the Hawke’s Bay Orchestral Society, with the Training, Youth and Community Orchestras all doing a turn. Together the two ‘gigs’ delivered a generous helping of culture and tidings of a bright future for performing arts talent in Hawke’s Bay. Here is a nursery for future jazz maestros, rock gods, chamber music stars.

Napier Music Academy is Hawke’s Bay’s very own School of Rock. With 200 students, the Academy has been going for about a year and is run and staffed by professional, working musos. There’s the familiar suite of music lessons with the addition of singer-songwriting and band mentoring. Having children (from about 5 to 18) rub shoulders and share ideas with musicians who are gigging and actively involved in the industry means they learn their craft but also some of what it takes to make music their career. Collaborative working, being part of a team, knuckling down and helping out…long rehearsals, late nights.

This late night – when you’re eight, 8 is late – happens at the Old Mill. It’s a fitting venue and the talent that has played this room still echoes in the air. The two sets, each with six or seven performers, leans heavily on contemporary hits and classic rock standards. From a group of littlies from a local country school through to the local heroes of the recent Smokefree Rock Quest, the diversity in terms of age and stage is broad. But there is a progression here; an obvious journey. What they have been given by the Academy is a series of building blocks. First, the bravery to get up on the stage. Next, the power to bring their voice and their instrument out of their inner sanctum and gift it to the audience. Then, the skill of mastery over the perfect blend of expertise and passion that makes ‘A Show’. A couple of the students were particularly skilled, a rendition of Sweet Child of Mine brought tears, and Nikita Turner-Low will be one of Hawke’s Bay’s finest…watch this space. But no matter the instrument, or the age, or the level of natural talent, what each of them has is a desire to be involved in music, to put in the hours of practice, to rock up and do their thing. The seeds are sown in evenings like this, and from here great things will grow.

The following morning brings the polar opposite in terms of place and people but with as much talent, warmth and commitment. The HB Orchestral Society is now in its 70th year and has three orchestras under its umbrella: a training orchestra of about 50, a youth orchestra of about 40 and a fledgling community orchestra of 16 with room and aspirations to grow. This morning’s performance includes classic orchestral pieces some 300 years old. But under the baton of Charlotte Van Asch and Susan Melville – recently recognised with a Hastings District Council Civic Award – the classics are shined up and the bright pieces made relevant, refreshing and fun for the young players. It’s an entertaining and dynamic concert with light hearted moments, hornpipes and marches, through to a soaring medley of Handel works. The highlight was Apache with all players from across the orchestras playing together.

Whether it’s this 80+ ensemble or the solo performer under the spotlight at the Old Mill Hawke’s Bay’s cultural scene is made richer through the firm foundation of up-and-comers. By taking on this range of experiences they are ensuring they have what they need to create a sustainable arts community, for themselves and for us, well into the future.


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