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Opportunity To Create Something Special For Christchurch

Opportunity To Create Something Special For Christchurch, Says UC Music Researcher

November 9, 2012

The way is open for Christchurch to create something special for its music scene, a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher said today.

UC masters student Andrew Moore said while researching the impact on music in the city by the earthquakes, he found people were hungry for music.

``Proposals have been put forward for a performing arts precinct, in the central city, that would bring all the major musical organisations together.

``The desire for music is one thing that has remained constant in these changing times and people are able to hold onto it. Music expresses emotions, and enables us to cope in all sorts of adversities. In a sense it is our safety valve.’’

Moore will present his thesis research at UC’s postgraduate showcase event on campus on November 14. He has been researching the classical music scene.

``My project is not so much about what music we have lost. It is more about the difficulties that musical organisations have encountered as the result of the earthquakes.

``Chief among these is the fact that all our performance venues have either been or will probably be demolished, such as the Town Hall complex, including the James Hay Theatre, both cathedrals, the Maurice Till Auditorium at what was the Music Centre in Barbadoes Street, the old stone Provincial Chambers, much of the Arts Centre, especially the Great Hall, and many inner city churches that were used as concert venues.

``The Isaac Theatre Royal, which was used for Opera and Ballet performances, is repairable but the work is unlikely to be completed before late 2014.

``There is now no venue in Christchurch that has the space and the acoustic qualities suitable for a Symphony Orchestra concert, or even for a choral concert using large vocal forces. Organisations such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra or the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) have to make do with the CBS Arena, a building that was intended as an indoor sports arena. The acoustics there are not sympathetic to music, nevertheless it is the only large venue available.’’

The performing arts centres at Burnside High School (the Aurora Centre) and at Middleton Grange School, in Upper Riccarton, are regularly used by smaller organisations, such as the Christchurch Youth Orchestra, the NZ Secondary Students Orchestra, the Christchurch School of Music, and Chamber Music New Zealand and even by a Christchurch ballet company. Those venues are almost fully-booked for 2013.

Many musical organisations, especially the CSO and the Christchurch School of Music lost their rehearsal rooms and were unable to access their music libraries. Some of the music scores have been recovered, but a considerable amount has been lost. Instruments too have been damaged. A Steinway grand piano and other instruments that had been at the Music Centre have been damaged beyond repair. There is scarcely a working pipe organ in Christchurch.

Southern Opera had a production of Tosca scheduled for late September-October 2010. This had to be abandoned. All the scenery, props and costumes are still in storage in a rented container. Christchurch has not had any opera since, although New Zealand Opera have scheduled a season of Don Giovanni in Christchurch for August 2013. This will be a logistical nightmare as the only venue large enough, the CBS Arena, does not have any of the facilities necessary for such a production.

Moore said the expense involved will be enormous, but it is a measure of the commitment by the New Zealand Opera to the people of Christchurch that they are prepared to do it.

``Likewise the Royal New Zealand Ballet was to have brought its production of Tutus on Tour to Christchurch in March 2011, just two weeks after the February earthquake, as part of its South Island tour. The tour went ahead, but Christchurch was excluded from the circuit.

``The Royal NZ Ballet will be returning to Christchurch with a production of Giselle at the CBS Arena, next week. To enable this ballet to be staged here, the company will have to bring all their equipment with them and will need to construct a proscenium arch theatre within the arena so that all the off stage activity will not be visible from the front of house. The expense will again be enormous, but it is a chance for RNZ Ballet to demonstrate its support for Christchurch.’’


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