Good week for a concert
The week kicks off with a Jazz Festival, the school’s second. They want to make it an annual experience for the public and the students – who get to brush shoulders with world-renowned jazz artists. The two days of competitions and shows, many including high school students as well as the universities’ musicians, are complemented by performances from saxophonists Bernie Maupin, who’s known for his recordings with Miles Davis, and Dickie Oatts, an accompanist to everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to James Taylor. The two jazz greats will help judge competitions as well as perform Friday night in JazzJazzJazz with the NZSM Big Band, under Rodger Fox’s direction, and the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra. Maupin will also headline a combo of the school’s faculty on Saturday at The Grand.
The other side of the performance curriculum isn’t letting jazz hog the spotlight. To celebrate Claude Debussy’s 150th birthday on August 22, the NZSM Orchestra is performing Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra, a piece never performed during the composer’s lifetime. The second half of the night will be filled by Mahler’s First Symphony.
“I don’t think any other tertiary school orchestra in New Zealand would take that on,” says the school’s Stephen Gibbs. “We hope to send them out at the end of three or four years with a really broad experience. To say they’ve played a Mahler symphony sets them up for a professional career.”
So does the experience of playing in Wellington Town Hall. “We perform four symphonic concerts a year and we try to make sure one is in the Town Hall because the acoustics are amazing. It’s considered one of the best aural environments in New Zealand,” says Gibbs. About 90 percent of the school’s events are held on the two campuses, in Kelburn and Mt Cook, but performing at more public venues is part of the learning experience for the students.
Rounding out the music-filled week is the New Zealand String Quartet in a concert expressing the performer’s perspective on Beethoven’s late string quartets. The quartet’s musicians are long term Artists in Residence at the school, teaching, hosting open rehearsals, and master classes. “There’s very little that happens in Wellington that isn’t connected to the school,” Gibbs says with a bit of wonder in his voice.
Jazz Festival Improvisation Competition, NZSM Concert Hall, 7:30pm, August 16.
High School jazz band and combos comp, St James Theatre, 9am-5:30pm, August 17-18.
JazzJazzJazz, St James Theatre, 8pm, August 17.
Bennie Maupin, The Grand, 8pm, August 18.
Debussy-Mahler, Wellington Town Hall, 7:30pm, August 22.
Inside Beethoven, Ilott Theatre, 5:15, August 24.