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“AWESOME” – Classical Music Appreciation Presentations

November 6, 2020 November 2020 No Comments

The Martinborough Music Festival (MMF) Outreach presentations were made to Martinborough School, Kuranui and Wairarapa Colleges on 19 October. Five string instrument students from the NZ School of Music – Lucas Baker, Hayden Nickel (violins), Lauren Jack (viola), Bethany Angus (cello) and William Taber (double bass) – presented the programme. 

The catch-all “awesome” was translated by Wairarapa College Head of Music, Belinda Carey as meaning “…[an] excellent presentation. The students really enjoyed it and it was a great introduction. The music wasn’t playing down to them, the help in understanding made it accessible. Ngã mihi nui too for your work in bringing this valuable experience to our school”- a tribute to Ed Allen who organised the programme.

Pitching the presentation to the audiences was achieved. The students were given simple explanations of music theory; cadence, minor and major chords, timing, intonation and how all combined into functional harmony to allow the music to tell a story.  Although the total programme, which included Shostakovich and other composers was presented, Martinborough School students enjoyed following Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, written in a happy major key, to tell a story about a visit to a dairy. 

The role of the conductor was covered too. It was surprising that several students did not know that the leader of the orchestra is called a conductor – the best that could be managed was “stick guy”.  Demonstrating his potential for leadership, George Broom of Martinborough School put up his hand to lead the quintet. He was a popular choice judging by the whoops and cheers as he made his way to the “podium”. After a short lesson on conducting, George turned to smile at the audience then raised his baton to begin. Once George realised he was indeed “in control” he had the quintet playing at dirge like paces through to express train speeds much to the delight of the audience. He gave a sweeping bow and acknowledged the players at the end.

The use of music for telling a different story was continued at Kuranui and Wairarapa Colleges. This time, the music used was an excerpt from Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet written in a minor key (in contrast to the Mozart major key) which is good for conveying sadness, darkness and unhappiness. Shostakovich was not happy with Stalin’s fascism and cruelty. To express his feelings in words would have seen him detained and not allowed to compose so he disguised them in this quartet. It is a powerful piece in its ability to convey the despair Shostakovich was experiencing. The quintet played with brilliance; the college students were captivated – not a sound to be heard as they listened intently.

The feedback given to the MMF team indicate that the outreach programmes are much appreciated by the schools. As Ali Welch of Martinborough School said “where else would they hear music like this. It is good for them to be exposed to a range of music”. Deputy Principal Ron Morrissey added “I do get the kids to sing each week but this is great”. 

Winifred Bull

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