Work of young composers and young choreographers performed by top professionals

Leaps and Sounds: music by composers from the NZSO’s Young Originals Todd Corporation Young Composers Award recordings, and dances by young choreographers

Musicboxgirls: music, Matthew Childs; choreography, Paul Mathews
Evocation: Max Wilkinson, Adriana Harper
No Limits: Christina Reid, Qi Huan
4 + 1: Corwin Newall, Dimitri Kleioris
Between Us: Tabea Squire, Loughlan Prior
Dreams of Power: Umar Zakaria, Sam Shapiro
Feral: Robbie Ellis, Jaered Glavin
[Inner]: Alex Taylor, Brendan Bradshaw
wind from Us: Umar Zakaria, Kohei Iwamoto

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich; dancers from the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Michael Fowler Centre

Saturday, 16 June 2012, 4.30pm

A free concert always packs ‘em in, and it was gratifying to see large numbers of children (particularly little girls) who had come along to this performance.

For sundry reasons, my notes about this concert are far from complete, therefore I am extremely grateful to Peter Coates for much of what follows.  His words are in quotation marks below.

What particularly struck me was how competently and fully all the composers used the symphony orchestra.  All nine pieces exhibited integrity, skill, and musical imagination.  There was much brilliant use of percussion instruments, and some unusual brass sounds.  The build-up to loud passages was always achieved with sensitivity and diversity.

The large orchestra was seated below the stage, several rows of seating having been removed.  The conductor therefore had an excellent view of both stage and orchestra.  Every piece was superbly played, the orchestra negotiating the variety of styles and instrumental demands with its accustomed professional ease.

We began with a very competent piece, ‘Musicboxgirls’ in quite a conventional, tonal musical style, which was an excellent vehicle for beautiful dancing from an all-female sextet, with a doll-like stiffness of movement to portray the theme of the title.

Other pieces  were more adventurous harmonically and stylistically. ‘Evocation’ lent itself to a classical style of dance, and put the lie, with its two men and one woman, to the still-prevalent idea that ‘real men don’t dance’ – as did other items on the programme.

“I must admit to being one of those people who likes to see a more theatrical approach to orchestral concerts, although it has to be done well to prevent the orchestra being submerged by the visual element.  I enjoyed the experiment very much, as obviously did the large family audience.  Since the dances were quite short, the programme would have been good material for young people experiencing the orchestra for the first time.

“Some of the orchestral backings were very sophisticated for such young composers.  I particularly like ‘No Limits’, which had a strong rhythmic background that the dancers obviously enjoyed.  It was danced to the ‘Tales of Greece Suite III Mighty Odysseus’ composed by Christina Reid and choreographed by Qi Huan; it certainly had my feet tapping.”  It was fast and rhythmic, with a dreamy middle section.

“Another highlight was the last work, ‘wind from Us’, a lively, comic work centred around four young men who enjoyed a very masculine dance, meeting up with a young classical dancer, Yang Liu, who eventually joined in with the male dancers’ boisterous efforts.  This young dancer had a delightful comic touch that really made the simple story very effective.

“In this case the colourful costuming complemented the story, though this was not  always the case with the other dances.  Comedy of this kind is very enjoyable to see, and its choreographer Kohei Iwamoto is to be congratulated for his efforts.  I also enjoyed the swinging coloured wigs in the dance ‘Feral’, a set of primitive movements that thoroughly complemented the story.

“All in all an excellent night’s entertainment thoroughly enjoyed by the large audience.  The young composers and choreographers are to be congratulated for their efforts.  Congratulations to the NZSO for giving them the opportunity to put on such a professional show.”

Such a varied and interesting marriage of sound and movement should have won many converts for ballet, but especially for contemporary orchestral music.  The composers, choreographers, dancers and orchestra received the applause they all richly deserved.