Paekakariki’s ‘Classics for Christchurch’ with the Kapiti Orchestra

A reflective musical event in support of the Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund

Music by Albinoni, Mozart, Fauré, Barber, Michelle Scullion, Lilburn, Poulenc, Haydn and John Dankworth; poems by Apirana Taylor, waiata sung by Hinemoana Baker

Kapiti Concert Orchestra led by Douglas Beilman, Mary Gow (piano), Moira Hurst (clarinet), Erica Challis and Kirsten Sharman (horns), Janet Holborow (flute, piano), Kate Lineham (soprano), World of Flutes, conducted by Michael Joel; presenter, Lee Hatherly

Paekakariki Memorial Hall

Sunday, 13 March 2011, 2pm

A well-filled Memorial Hall proved both the level of interest in music in the community, and its willingness to support such a worthy cause. There must have been around 100 people present.

The orchestra, led by Douglas Beilman, a member of the New Zealand String Quartet, had a good sound, and its level of accuracy and versatility, based, I understand, on one rehearsal, was most commendable. Janet Holborow and the others involved in quickly organising this concert are to be thanked for their work in getting together such a diverse and enjoyable programme.

It was pleasing to see numbers of children present, and their level of attention and behaviour was excellent, aside from rather a lot of chair-scraping towards the end of what proved to be a long concert. Many were sitting on the stage (the performers were at the other end of the hall) from where they could see well.

It may have been decided that the number of separate items and the nature of the concert, made it desirable to have a compère, but this undoubtedly contributed to the great length: two hours and 40 minutes, which is rather long for adults who are seasoned concert-goers, let alone for children. A late start, due to people dribbling in late, did not help. The printed programme contained adequate information, so the talking could have been abbreviated.

However, this was an appreciative audience, as the standing ovation at the end proved, and the breadth of music performed was wide. The wooden floor and walls (up to window height) made for a bright sound.

Albinoni’s Adagio suffered from a little untidiness in rhythm, but on the whole was smooth and euphonious. Douglas Beilman’s solos in this item were strong, and superbly played.

Continuing the theme of reflective music, the next item was the Adagio from Mozart’s piano concerto in A, K.488, played by the orchestra with Mary Gow as a sympathetic, restrained and highly competent soloist. While the orchestra was a bit insecure in places, especially in the woodwind, this didn’t apply to the marvellously flexible clarinet playing. The ensemble was good, and the mood was conveyed well.

Apirana Taylor read some of his poems, and played the putorino (?) most evocatively. His loud utterances of ‘Mauri ora’ were most appropriate to the occasion, while his striking short poems were mainly in a delightful combination of te reo and English.

The slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A, K.622 was quite sublime. The bright sound suited Mozart, though of course the instruments in his day were quieter. This was very fine music and very fine playing from both the orchestra, and especially from soloist Moira Hurst. While the orchestra played extremely well for a small, mainly amateur group, the playing of the soloist would have stood up in any company. I found it very moving.

Next was Fauré’s Dolly Suite, for piano duet. The pianists were Mary Gow and Janet Holborow. The lively ‘Kitty Valse’ and ‘Berceuse’ gave a welcome lighter touch between more sombre works.

Following this, a poem was read by Lee Hatherly. It was written by Pam Vickers, a Sumner resident, on her experiences during and after the earthquake. It surely expressed what many residents of Christchurch must have been feeling, and probably still are.

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is somewhat of a cliché for this sort of occasion, and did not show the orchestra at its best, intonation-wise. Because the work is slow and so well-known, it demands to be played more expertly.

After the interval, following a few words from MP Kris Faafoi, the World of Flutes played pieces by Michelle Scullion. The first, ‘For Ike in memory of Snoo’ was for five players, including a bass flute. It was an enchanting piece, especially for the juxtaposition of bass flute and sopranino recorder. Next we heard ‘Arabian Reverie’ for two alto flutes. I found this rather dull at first, but it developed into being quite a lively piece. The third piece was entitled ‘A crumpled town to return’, written for four flutes (including bass and alto) as a tribute to Christchurch, a city Scullion said in her introduction that she knows well.

Hinemoana Baker sang a waiata by Hana O’Regan, then the well-known lullaby, ‘Hine e hine’. She used an interesting contrast in styles and tones. The first was sung in a traditional Maori style, from the throat, barely using the breath, whereas the second was in a more European manner, singing on the breath. Both were telling, in their very different ways.

The piano returned, with Mary Gow playing first a charming, simple prelude by Douglas Lilburn, then a Novelette by Poulenc – an interesting and satisfying piece, and a Nocturne by the same composer. The harmonies in this were more conventional than I expected from Poulenc. Both pieces were somewhat improvisatory in nature; the nocturne was certainly reflective.

Haydn’s Double Horn Concerto is seldom heard; the Romance from that work featured two consummate soloists, though the orchestra was not at its best.

Moira Hurst played again, with Kate Lineham this time. John Dankworth’s ‘Thieving Boy’ was rather too low in the voice for Kate Lineham (she’s not Cleo Laine), and thus she did not project enough to prevent the clarinet being too loud and bright as an accompaniment. In between the two programmed items, Shona Holborow read the poem ‘Death and the Nightingale. An Estonian folksong (sung in English) was in a higher register, and suited Lineham’s voice much better.

The final item was another Mozart Adagio, this time from his Flute Concerto in G major. The solo flute was played by Janet Holborow. It was a very peaceful and reflective piece to end the concert with, featuring not only beautiful flute playing, but lovely muted violins.

Altogether, this was a fine musical experience, and should have raised a substantial sum for the relief of those badly affected by the earthquake in Christchurch.