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Unique choir with a fresh take on street music

Unique choir with a fresh take on street music

New Zealand's first street choir will stage its first public concert this Saturday, August 5, to celebrate two years since it started providing good music, company and food for some of Auckland's most vulnerable street community.

The Auckland Street Choir meets every Tuesday evening near K Rd, where many of the city’s homeless and marginalised people gather. Musician Rohan McMahon came up with the idea of a choir with a difference. Under his guidance and expertise as a choir director, it’s evolved into a close-knit group of about 25 regulars: people from all walks of life who get together to enjoy a wide range of music, including soul, reggae and waiata. A unique attribute is the choir’s open door policy, where everyone is made welcome.

“We want to bring joy, harmony and connection to the streets of Auckland,” says Rohan McMahon. “It’s a community activity where people can put aside their worries, have fun, and support each other.”

McMahon, a singer, guitarist, and management consultant, has been involved in many musical ventures - choirs, a capella groups, bands and opera. About three years ago he was looking for something new to do musically, and he also noticed the increase in homeless people around the Auckland CBD.

“A choir for this community seemed like a new idea that would be fun and also helpful in a community sense,” he says. “Choirs build community connections and improve people's mental and physical health. Steadily the choir members are getting better and better, and we are taking on more challenging material. This is in no small part thanks to Lifewise, who support our manaaikitanga each week.

“It’s brought together a unique bunch of people who enjoy each other's company and learning songs from different musical traditions. For example, I'm a pakeha Australian, so learning waiata has been great. I really like the feeling that we've created something new which is making a real contribution to the community, while having a lot of fun in the process.”

The choir’s assistant director, Rawiri Ngatai, says teaching the choir waiata has been challenging but worthwhile.

“I wanted to strengthen the kaupapa Maori, and I really enjoy how diverse the group is. Now we are whanau - we’ve come a long way in two years, and the next two years will be even more exciting.”

After performing a number of gigs, including Marariki celebrations in the CBD and busking on K Road, the Auckland Street Choir will hold its first concert, Street Harmony, at the Freeman’s Bay Community Hall, 4.30pm-6pm on Saturday, August 5. Fittingly, the event will be a fundraiser for Lifewise and the Auckland City Mission, who provide essential services for Auckland’s homeless and marginalised people.

Special guest choirs Vox Pop and Volcanic City Voices will join Auckland Street Choir for Street Harmony, a winter festival with a difference.

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