Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tour Notes 2 - COTGOS in the rest of NZ

I had good intentions to update this rant every couple of days, but couldn’t get to it before now, due to the vagaries of the NZ tour. Which has all gone brilliantly, and we owe a debt of thanks to our team who worked so tirelessly to get 34 people over the ditch and onstage, and to get buns on pews - see below. (I didn’t realise the magnitude of the undertaking until a few days in...)
After a day off in Auckland, we headed south in our hired coach. We received another standing ovation at the slightly formal WEL Arts Centre at Waikato University, Hamilton, and after the show were treated to an impromptu and hilarious performance by male quartet Glory 4 - thanks, Matt, Mike, Peter and Derek - and thanks to Heather Kerr for all her help.
Then a gig-less day on the coach travelling to Napier, via Rotorua where most members hit the cultural performance at Wahakarewarewa, (and did an impromptu ‘How I Got Over’ at the village) then soaked in the Polynesian Spa.
We had great audience and a wonderful performance the following night in Napier; we invited some disadvantaged sectors of the community to attend for free and were even joined on stage by a member of the audience from the Hophepa community for the encores. Thanks to Fane Flaws for the amp, and to Zahira for on-site organsation. The choir did a spot of partying on at WindSock afterwards where the excellent Tropical Downbeat Orchestra were funking down.
Next day back on the coach to Masterton (with a stopover at Norsewood for everyone to stock up on woolies); we squeezed into the foyer of Arrow FM to do a couple of songs live to air, courtesy of my dopplegänger Michael Wilson, followed by a very well-received gig at the St Lukes Union Church.
Last day of the road trip: coach from Masterton to Wellington, where the weather was beautiful. Worth mentioning because some of us know that a miserable day in Wellington pretty much re-defines ‘miserable’, but we were sensationally lucky with the weather the whole trip. A great performance at St Andrews on the Terrace on the Saturday night (thanks to Elizabeth Crayford for biz and Bill Lake for the amp), and another wonderful gig there on the Sunday afternoon.
By now we’re losing a few members: some like Jo, Lisa, Rohan, Ruth, Carol and Stephen Clarke could only make it this far due to other commitments, and sadly, a death in the family meant Frank had to go home at this point. Plus Marianne has lost her voice, and a few others have colds and are nursing their vocal folds. So for Sunday we rejig the repertoire a bit, and it seems to work, though it's not the excuse I thought it would be to fit some gnarly guitar solos into the act. As it is, I have to explain to a sceptical audience that 'a capella' originally meant 'features distorted Fender Strat'.

South Island

Happily Chris and Mike are able to join us for the South Island, so we’re back to 5 basses (though at full strength we have 9). After a day off in Wellington (and an excellent choir dinner at Ernesto’s), we fly to Nelson on Tuesday. After settling in to our downtown motel, we walk to the Victory Primary School, where we’re warmly welcomed by about 100 kids. We sing a few songs to them and teach them ‘The Storm is Passing over’ in two parts, get into two opposing teams and have a sing-off. That evening we have a sensational gig at the Nelson Cathedral, which is packed with chums from the choirs in the area like Mosaic and the Golden Bay choir. Thanks to Janet Matheson and Dana Rose for biz.
Fly to Christchurch on Wednesday. we stay at the YMCA, just over the road from our venue for the last two nights of the tour, the Great Hall in the Arts Centre. Another good gig that night, (though it was difficult to hear each other onstage, and the front-of-house sound wasn’t as good as other gigs - we fixed that the next night), thanks to Lee Lawrence and the Muse, and all the local choirs (like my friends Lisa Tui and Bright On Vibes, and Helen Charlton and the Global Choir) who spread the word. Dynes sings what is usually a duet with Lisa, ‘Save The Planet’ as a solo with the entire alto section standing in for Lisa in the coda.
The final night - no-one bothered saving their voices any longer (though Marianne is sadly still out of action) and all were supremely focussed and energetic. The high point for me has been Willy singing ‘The Heart of Jesus’, but there have been many wonderful moments: the audiences all loved Karen singing ‘Be Grateful’, Lucy on ‘Reign in Jerusalem’ and Lisa on pretty much everything. And thanks to Al Park of Al’s Bar for the loan of the amp.
The post-tour party starts at Dux de Lux with the COTGOSCARS, with Alison as MC - but you don’t need to know who won Best Buns on Tour, Best High Note, etc etc. What happens over the rainbow stays over the rainbow.


the choir team: Nicolle and Stephanie K for publicity, Lucy for itinerary book design, Steve and Sue for lighting and staging, Gary and Chris for sound, Marianne, Karen, Stephanie K, Jo, Gary, Sacha, Tracey and Gary for overseeing individual gigs, Peter Hammond for financial advice, banking and printing, Frank and Trish for financial wrangling on the road, Karen and Patrick for repertoire supervision, Alison for yoga and shiatsu, Stephen Clarke and Rob Maxwell Jones for stepping in to sing bass with us at the last minute, and thanks especially to Marianne whose vision and dedication (and sheer number of hours of work over 5 months) as tour manager - though that label doesn’t adequately convey the the number of tasks involved - ensured a smooth and fun trip for everyone.
And as always thanks to the choir for not only your voices and spirit but for your helpfulness and thoughtfulness and for the fresh ideas and input into the performances. I can’t believe it’s over.
And to all the members who couldn’t make it, we missed you: Alice, Sara, Sarah, Holly, Leanne, Tracey Case, Chris Fung, Andy, Arek, Peter Hammond, Peter Mackie, Russell,

Thanks to ground crews: Wendy, Isha, Sharon, Dave and Louise; Heather and Jenny; Zahira, Joel and Eli; Barbara; Elizabeth, Andrew, Penny, Jessica, Kristyn, Norman; Janet and Dana; Lee, the Muse, Helen, Ali, Dorien and Jocinta and to all the NZ choirs that spread the word: Heaven Bent, Jubilation, One Voice, Sister Shout, Bright On Vibes, Global Choir, Mosaic, Jessica’s choir at Golden Bay.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tour Notes 1 - Cafe of the Gate of Salvation in Auckland

It's a relief, after months of planning, to be on the road with the choir at last. Everyone's in good spirits, glad to have two weeks to think of nothing other than singing and cuisine (cheese-and-onion sandwiches, feijoas) but we do think of the choir members who, for various reasons, are unable to be with us, and thank them for their support.
We started our NZ tour with two highly encouraging gigs in Auckland last weekend. The first was on Saturday night, at the Baptist Tabernacle in upper Queen St, a beautiful columnated edifice with great sound, hospitable staff and an enthusiastic audience which included old chums and collaborators Louise Britzman, Clive Cockburn, Arthur Baysting, Nick Bollinger, Jeni Little, Terry Gardiner and my friends in the Auckland community choir scene: Heaven Bent, Jubilation, One Voice and Sister Shout.
The second gig was at St Pauls in Devonport, another beautiful venue (with the outstandingly helpful pastor Sherri Weinberg) with a similar audience that featured Rick Bryant, Fiona Samuel, Marilyn Waring, Debby Harwood, Barton Price and many more local choir members. If anything it was a more focussed performance, if the standing ovation was anything to go by.
Our soundman for these gigs was Rikki Morris, a former APRA Silver Scroll winner and legend of the New Zealand music scene - we played in the Crocodiles together (with Barton) back in 1981, and it was a pleasure to work with him again. Thanks Rikki.
Everyone seems to think that Willy's version of Our Father in Maori (O Matua) is a standout, I agree - and have to commend all our soloists for really whipping it out. I'm enjoying playing tremolo-heavy guitar on Pray On, I Won't Be Back and Lift Me Up and am loving the choir's sound.
Thanks to Wendy Moore and all who helped - it's great to here and to feel the choir, loosed from their lives back in Sydney, swing into action.