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Review: Manawatu MayDay Concert 2008


14th Manawatu MayDay Concert (Celebrating ‘International Worker’s Day)

Regent on Broadway, Saturday 3 May 2008

Reviewed by Christin Watson

An eery silence reigned during Michael Houstoun’s beautiful playing of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ right up to when this patron of the Regent stood and bowed, then the heavens opened to thunderous applause, which brought Houstoun back for a second bow. His presence was the jewel in the crown for this almost full house who gladly paid up their gold coin donation at the door and then waited patiently with great expectations through to “NZ’s premier concert pianist’s” appearance which came dramatically as the lights dimmed after the interval

There was a wealth of variety to hold the audiences attention till then. The stunning banners were the backdrop to this excellent union inspired show that kept going at a fast pace. From John Maynard’s solo opening trumpeting of the ‘Internationale’ and later the ‘Red Flag’ to the 3 piece band, ‘Not The Day Job’s’ original tunes plus their new singalong version of ‘Which side are you on?’, to the ‘Gillie Callum’ known as the Sword Dance from the Manawatu Scottish Societies champion Highland Dancers, who then followed up in the second half with an captivating rendition of the occupational fling the ‘Sailors Hornpipe’

The Martin sisters two contemporary dances to ‘free Burma’ under an evoking DVD, and then the very captivating ‘Bread and Roses’, followed by John Thornley’s presentation of the almost unknown writer of ‘Te Harinui’, The late Willow Macky, brought the crowd to life as they sang along to her recording of ‘Manawatu’

The MayDay Cup for the most outstanding overall performance (as a professional musician, Houstoun was not eligible) went to the Michelle Robinson Dancers with two items of great difference. An eight strong energetic group jived to T Rex’s, ‘Children of the Revolution’, and then Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s highly emotional song, ‘Don’t Give Up’ in the face of job layoffs, was acted out very evocatively by Haley Bowater and Stephen Sayer

The Brazen Hussies gave their usual rousing political commentary as they harmonised for fair over free trade, and also teased the audience with their own view of Parliament, in ‘Bastards in the House’

But this night belonged to Houstoun. These new fans have experienced an entry point into revolutionary classical music that they will want more of. There is some talk that Houstoun has ordered the music of Frederick Rzewski’s ‘the People United Will Never Be Defeated’ ( a set of piano variations) for which MayDay concert organiser, Dion Martin, can only hope will bring on MayDay, MayDay, Houstoun, part two.

If the organisers of MayDay Concert can keep up this standard, then they will have no problem attracting the same large and delighted crowd over future years


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