Sistema Hutt Valley’s Arohanui Strings and related ensembles offer wonderful example

Arohanui Strings – Sistema Hutt Valley

Music by Michael McLean, Mozart, Bartók, Joplin, Warlock, Moe Ruka, Beethoven and trad.

St. Mark’s Church, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, 28 October 2015, 12.15pm

To demonstrate the ethos and value of this programme for primary school children from Taita and Pomare, I quote in full the note on the printed programme from the concert:

“[This] is part of a visionary global movement transforming the lives of children through music.

“Right here in the Hutt Valley, we are building a youth orchestra in a neighborhood where children normally do not have access to private music lessons. Our goal is to help these children become engaged students and citizens, by being part of a music immersion experience (4-5 hours a week) where they learn discipline, leading and following, and peer teaching, in order to create something beautiful. It is our belief that music is a human right, and should be available for all who wish to learn.

“We are able to reach over a hundred children a week thanks to donations… and support from the Hutt City Council, Creative NZ, Infinity Foundation, and Orchestra Wellington…”

The concert began with a quartet of the teachers playing. Although eight names were listed, those in the quartet were not individually identified. Their leader, Alison Eldredge, played violin, and the others from the quartet conducted items later in the concert. A Tango by Michael McLean, an American composer whom Eldredge had met, was lively, with plenty of verve and passion.

The wooden ceiling, high but not too high, in St. Mark’s makes this a good place to hear string music.
Next came Mozart’s well-known ‘Ave Verum’. The introductory remarks did not mention that this was written for voices. Although the players made a beautiful sound, I found it a little too fast for a piece having words in the original. Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances are heard quite often on the radio, but it is years since I heard them performed live. Three were played by the quartet, and delightful they were. The first (‘Jocul cu bâtă’, i.e. ‘Stick Dance’) had Eldredge employing left-hand pizzicato, presumbly depicting the knocking of the sticks. After ‘Brâul’ (Sash Dance) came ‘Buciumeana’ (Dance from Bucsum); its wistful strains made for an enchanting listening experience.
The quartet finished their part of the programme with New Rag by Scott Joplin, a jolly piece by the black American composer, who died in 1917.

Then it was the turn of the Korimako Orchestra, comprising Arohanui’s more experienced players. It was interesting to see the ethnic mix, with Maori and Pacifica children dominating, but also the presence of several pakeha children, amongst others.

The orchestra performed an arrangement of Peter Warlock’s ‘Pavane’ from Capriol Suite. At times they were playing in a bunch of keys, but nevertheless it was a creditable performance from such a band, some of whose members looked to be about 7 years old. This was followed by Canon in D by Telemann – a good performance.

Before the Tui Orchestra, comprising younger, less experienced players joined the Korimakos, Christiaan van der Zee, one of the teachers, encouraged both children and audience to sing ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’, before the instruments played it. Other items followed, and then ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Wouldn’t Beethoven have been surprised! The instruments played the theme in unison, followed by a repetition in parts. This came over very well.

The work being done by teachers and volunteers for Arohanui Strings, supported by financial grants, is wonderful, and with the example of Gustavo Dudamel before them, we can be sure that musicians will emerge from this group – not only musicians, but human beings with enriched lives and greater skills in all phases of their existence.



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