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Mobil Sends Song Quest Soaring For Higher Notes

Media Release

10 February 2004

Mobil Sends Song Quest Soaring For Higher Notes

The event that launched the careers of many young New Zealand singers, the Mobil Song Quest, is about to launch into a new and exciting stage of its illustrious 48 year career.

Mobil Oil New Zealand Limited, the founder and organiser of the Song Quest, has announced that the New Zealand International Arts Festival Trust will be taking over the ownership and management of the Song Quest from February 2004.

“The Song Quest is New Zealand’s premier vocal competition and the country’s longest running arts sponsorship. It is an event that has not only stood the test of time but has enormous potential in the future,” says George R. Garner III, Mobil Country Manager.

“We have recognised this potential for some time and have sought to find a reputable new manager of the competition. In the capable hands of the New Zealand International Arts Festival, the Song Quest has the opportunity to be directed by a professional arts organisation that we believe will cement its vital place in the world of performing arts.”

Since its foundation in 1956, the Mobil Song Quest has developed into a serious competition for the classically trained singer and winning the award is recognised and respected around the world and is an entrée to enormous opportunity for young singers.

Over the years the Mobil Song Quest has featured a “who’s who” of New Zealand opera talent and provided a springboard for the careers of many opera singers, including Dame Malvina Major, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Christopher Doig, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Jonathan Lemalu.

Mobil also intends to step down from sponsorship of the event.

“We know the Song Quest is eminently ‘sponsorable’ because it has such a strong profile. However, our community focus has a growing emphasis on environment, health and safety, and education projects,” says Mr Garner.

“While there is some sadness at this decision, we are excited about the event’s future and are proud to have contributed in some small way to the careers of young performers and to the cultural development of New Zealand over so many years. We are confident that the professionalism of the New Zealand International Arts Festival will take the event to new levels and the wider audience it deserves,” says Mr Garner.

Mobil Song Quest winners (23)

2002 Anna Leese
2000 Jared Holt
1998 Jonathan Lemalu
1996 Andrea Creighton
1993 Martin Snell
1991 Teddy Tahu Rhodes
1989 Tracey King
1987 Deirdre Elliott
1985 Robyn Lynch
1983 David Griffiths
1981 Linden Loader
1979 Malcolm Smith
1977 Lyle Kennaway
1974 Christopher Lackner
1972 Christopher Doig
1970 Patricia House
1967 Anne Rasmussen
1965 Kiri Te Kanawa
1963 Malvina Major
1961 Patricia Price
1959 Mary O’Brien
1957 Paul Gilmore
1956 Donald Jack



Dame Kiri Te Kanawa winner 1965
“I am so sorry that I will not be able to attend your function on the 10th of February due to other commitments. I send my very best wishes to you all and hope to hear of the Song Quests ongoing ventures very soon.”

Anna Leese winner 2002
“Winning the Mobil Song Quest was an absolute dream, and a fantastic surprise! To share a place in the history of the Mobil Song Quest with the likes of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Malvina Major and Jonathan Lemalu is motivating as well as awe inspiring. The support that Mobil has given me since winning the Mobil Song Quest has enabled me to pursue my aspirations of being a professional singer. It has given me the opportunity to sing and study in the UK, something that would have proven next to impossible otherwise. Thank you Mobil for your generous support, for which I still feel incredibly lucky to receive.”

Michael Lloyd international conductor 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002
“Mobil has sponsored a competition that as far as I can tell is unique in the world. Unique not only for its longevity, but also for its achievement in promoting and stimulating the art of singing in New Zealand. Those of us lucky enough to know New Zealand and its singers are always amazed at the quality and quantity coming from such a small population base. I venture to suggest that the Mobil Song Quest has played no small part in this, not only for the regular challenge of a national competition over such a long period of time, but also for the generous opportunity it offers the prize-winners for study abroad.

It was a privilege to conduct young singers of the calibre of Jonathan Lemalu, Jared Holt, Ana James and Anna Leese. I can vouch personally for the impact some of the recent prize-winners have had, and are having, on the Royal College of Music and its Britten International Opera School and on musical life here in England. It is indeed wonderful news that the competition is being taken under the wing of the New Zealand International Arts Festival, and I will happily raise a glass (or two) to the future of the Song Quest.”

Jared Holt finalist 1996; 2nd 1998; winner 2000
“Winning the Mobil Song Quest played a key role in my being able to make the leap from New Zealand into the international opera world. In my view, the Song Quest has been an essential component in the success of many of New Zealand's opera singers and it is of great importance that it continues. In supporting the Song Quest for the last 48 years, Mobil have exhibited an exceptional degree of generosity, foresight and commitment to opera in New Zealand. In taking over the Song Quest, the New Zealand International Arts Festival is ensuring that New Zealand will maintain the excellent international profile for opera that it currently holds for many generations to come. I cannot thank Mobil enough for their support in my career and I applaud the New Zealand International Arts Festival. I am sure the Song Quest could not be in better hands.”

Sarah Walker international judge 1996
“After 48 years of such magnificent sponsorship, Mobil will be a hard act to follow! I acknowledge your hugely star studded cast of winners and I count myself to be lucky enough to have heard several stars in the making the year I was a judge. Young singers must not be pushed out into the maelstrom too soon and what impressed me with the Mobil Song Quest was the way it encouraged and supported young singers in their development in a safe way. This simply would not have happened without Mobil’s support. For them - and for all the winners –Thank you.”

Andrea Creighton winner 1996
“For me the Mobil Song Quest was a long held dream. When other little 10 year old girls practiced winning an Academy Award or an Olympic Medal, I did "and the winner of the 1996 Mobil Song Quest is.....Andrea Creighton!!!!" The funny thing was - I had the correct year! I grew up with the belief that the pinnacle of achievement for my chosen career would be the winning of the Mobil Song Quest. The pride and joy I felt that night when my name was read out and to know that my Mum and Dad and singing teacher, Sister Winefride were in the audience, is indescribable. It truly was a dream come true. It is an important part of New Zealand opera history and thankfully, with the New Zealand International Arts Festival, it will continue to be the pinnacle of achievement for many other young NZ opera singers to come.”

Martin Snell winner 1993
“It is 10 years since I had the honour, pleasure and sheer thrill of winning the Mobil Song Quest. That it was, then, and has remained, New Zealand's premier singing competition is testament to the invaluable contribution of Mobil Oil New Zealand. It is without a doubt the goal of every aspiring young New Zealand singer at some stage of their development to test their talents against those of their contemporaries by entering the Mobil Song Quest and also to show tenacity or, perhaps, sheer bloody mindedness. I had four attempts before hitting the jackpot after all!

Mobil can be justifiably proud of the part its played in the successful careers of the leading lights in the New Zealand and international musical firmament, such as Dame Malvina Major and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, to name but a few. At the other end of the musical stave we basses are, like a good bottle of Marlborough wine, however somewhat slower in maturation. The long term benefits of Mobil's commitment will continue to bear fruit. Without the company's assistance I could not in any small part have realised my goal, that of living and working entirely as a professional singer.

I hope that Mobil will continue to bask in the reflected glory of what it has enabled, long after its direct association has ended. Thank you Mobil. Your successor has a hard act to follow. With my best wishes and regards to all the assembled company on this occasion.”


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