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Arts Festival pulls off military coup

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Arts Festival pulls off military coup

Members of New Zealand’s only professional brass band, The New Zealand Army Band, will be taking part in the New Zealand International Arts Festival. Seventeen members of the New Zealand Army Band will be appearing live on stage at Wellington’s Downstage Theatre for performances of King and Country by Dave Armstrong.

“We are absolutely delighted to have members of one of the very best bands in the country provide the music for our Wellington season,’ said producer Caroline Armstrong. “This is an international festival so it is a real coup to work with a band of international quality. It is also an honour to have a direct connection with the New Zealand Army in a show about ordinary New Zealand soldiers during World War I.”

King and Country tells the story of five soldiers and a nurse during World War I. Most of the music is from New Zealand - tunes that were written at home and sung during the war.

“It’s fantastic having a brass band on stage in the show,” says writer and musical director Dave Armstrong, “as most of the music of World War I was written for brass band. When the troops left home or returned on the ships, or when the soldiers attended various church services during the war, their singing was nearly always accompanied by a brass band.”

Captain Leanne Smith, musical director of the New Zealand Army Band, says she is honoured that the Army Band is to play again at the Festival. The Army Band performed at the massively successful Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a highlight of the 2000 New Zealand International Arts Festival, in free events at the 2004 Festival and have performed extensively in New Zealand and around the world, including the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. In keeping with the time period of the production, the band will be wearing traditional khaki uniforms, rather than their brighter red and black evening dress.

Directed by Conrad Newport and featuring Nick Dunbar, Craig Geenty, Jason Hood, Dena Kennedy, Jamie McCaskill and Rob Mokaraka, King and Country plays at Downstage Theatre, Wellington from February 24 – March 1.

And will the members of the Army Band, famous for their excellent marching, be strutting their stuff in the confines of Downstage Theatre? “That’s meant to be a big secret,” says Dave Armstrong, “but I can guarantee a surprise or two for the audience in the show.”

King and Country will also be performed in the regions with local brass bands. The Masterton District Brass Band will perform as part of King and Country at the Masterton Town Hall in Wairarapa on Saturday 4 March. In Paraparaumu on 6 March King and Country will be performed with Trust Porirua City Brass at Southwards Theatre.

In a New Zealand first, King and Country was co-commissioned by seven festivals: New Zealand International Arts Festival, Christchurch Arts Festival, Lake Taupo Arts Festival, Nelson Arts Festival, Taranaki Arts Festival, Tauranga Arts Festival and the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour. In each place this poignant, evocative and unique show was performed, a local brass band was recruited to take part in the production.

King and Country, sponsored by the Lion Foundation and supported by Creative New Zealand, offers the chance for audiences to make a personal connection with this highly significant part of our nation’s history.

Praise for King and Country:
“This innovative combination of home-grown Kiwi reminiscing and local musical expertise…reached both mind and heart.” The Press, Christchurch

“This performance captured the emotions without being in the least banal or sentimental. A fantastic production.” The Nelson Mail

Performance dates: Fri 24 Feb – Wed 1 Mar, 7.30pm, Sat 25 Feb, 1.30pm, Downstage Theatre, Wellington
Fri 3 Mar, 7.30pm, Sat 4 Mar, 4pm, Masterton Town Hall, Wairarapa
Mon 6 Mar, 7pm, Southwards Theatre, Paraparaumu, Kapiti

ENDS

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