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Largest gathering of blind musicians

Largest gathering of blind musicians

On 2 December, the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind's buildings in Parnell will host the biggest gathering of blind musicians this country has ever seen.

It has never been done before and is the first time that so many blind and sight-impaired performers have been together in one place at one time.

Festival spokesperson, Chris Orr, says that the idea behind the festival grew out of a reunion weekend for old boys and old girls who had attended the historic Parnell blind institution and school.

"When we saw who would be attending, we realised that we had a strong contingent of talented and experienced musicians and performers with a range of musical styles. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to harness this creative energy and put together a music festival.

"It is an occasion for people to see and listen to the country's best blind performers demonstrating skills learned initially at the Foundation. It will also give younger musicians a chance to mix and mingle with older, more experienced musicians - a chance to interact together, share experiences and play together."

There are 18 acts altogether ranging from classical singing, folk music, jazz and Celtic through to rap, hip/hop, rock & roll and pop. Festival MC is Chris Orr. The festival programme is broken into two separate sessions - one running from 2pm to 5pm and the next beginning at 7pm.

In the afternoon session the entertainers performing are;
 Homai Student Contribution to Music Festival (Auckland) - Students from the Homai National School for the Blind and Vision Impaired will kick off the programme at 2pm.
 The Tuiloma Family (Auckland) led by Olita Tuiloma, who is studying music at the University of Auckland, will entertain with a session of hip/hop and rap music.
 Caitlin Smith (Auckland), winner of this year's Blind Achievers' Award in Performing Arts is a well-known jazz vocalist, voice teacher and free-lance music journalist who will be singing solo.
 Justin Glynn (Auckland) a classical singer will be performing solo. He is a tenor in the Dorian Choir, Orlando Singers and the Auckland Bach Cantata Society.
 Lottie Trevarthen (Auckland) is a jazz pianist and singer.
 Richard Hore (Christchurch) is an electronic organist.

After a two-hour meal break, the evening session's entertainers are;
 Julian Lee, a Kiwi returning from Sydney, is an internationally known jazz pianist and former arranger for Capitol Records (including Pat Boon television series from the 1960s) and numerous Australasian ensembles. Julian plays regularly at jazz nightclubs and featured on the NZ radio show, Musical Chairs at 1.30pm on Saturday 25 November.
 Eddie Low another Kiwi returning from Sydney, is a professional performer with 40 years of experience. He plays rock, cabaret and country and is currently touring with the Roy Orbison Tribute around NZ.
 Stephen Bennett (Wellington), is a cocktail bar pianist who plays jazz and gospel and has a degree in music.
 Ken Smith (Auckland) is a versatile jazz musician who plays multiple instruments (flute, trumpet, and hosepipe) and has toured extensively in NZ and overseas.
 Jann Rutherford, yet another Kiwi returning from Sydney, is an accomplished jazz pianist who has won several awards and recorded three CDs, one as solo pianist which was in the top five nominations for Australian CD of the year in 1998. She trained as a classical pianist.
 Kylee Maloney (Whitby, Wellington) is a well-known Celtic singer who has produced one CD.
 Mark Laurent (Auckland) is a singer, songwriter, guitarist who has put out eleven records over the past 18 years. He is the son of the late Lyall Laurent and he writes and performs contemporary music.
 Shaun Johnson (Wellington) has played piano extensively in hotels around NZ for many years. Currently he is the musical director and resident pianist at the James Cook Hotel in Wellington.
 Mark Wilson, is a jazz pianist from Queenstown who has produced one CD.
 Josie Kurei (Auckland) plays keyboards and sings contemporary and country music.
 John and Nicholas Stevens (Auckland) perform contemporary music. John plays the guitar and sings and Nicholas plays keyboard and sings.
 The Radars (Auckland) are a pub band who has been performing for 40 years. Their current membership is Feau Halatau, Ray Lemmon, Neville Tura and Andrew Taylor. Singer Eleanor Wicks (Auckland) will accompany them, on keyboards.

The music festival will be recorded to capture some of the best blind New Zealand talent of today for the Foundation archives.

Only 150 tickets are available to attend the Blind Musicians Festival at the Recreation Centre, Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, Parnell. Tickets are $20 each (plus an additional $10 if you want the BBQ dinner). A cash bar will be operating from 5pm through to 11pm. Tickets are selling fast, so if you are interested in purchasing a ticket, please contact Chris Orr, Community Education Advisor on Ph: (09) 355-6883.


For further information, please contact Catherine Hennessy, Communications Co-ordinator, RNZFB Ph: (09) 355-6884 or 021-687-426.

The Foundation has a proud tradition of music-making stemming from its history of school and hostels on the Parnell Site. The boys brass band and girls choir toured during the 1930s 1940s and as recently as 1950 to raise funds for the Foundation. Numerous individuals have made their careers as performers and until about 1960 the Foundation trained piano tuners.

Music making continued when students shifted from the Parnell site to Homai College in 1964. Music making today is not as strong at Homai as it once was because of mainstreaming and the reduced opportunities for students to gather together, learn from teachers experienced in instructing blind students and share the pleasure of group and individual performance with peers of a like kind.


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