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Speech: Hasler - Opening Auckland Hall

5.30PM, FRIDAY 30 JULY 1999

Mr Don Turkington, Chairman Board of Advisors, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra; members of the Board, members of the orchestra and distinguished guests, good evening.

Thank you Victor Double for those words of welcome and thank you to the members of the orchestra and Maestro Miguel Harth-Bedoya for the breath-taking performance of the third movement of Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony.

I am delighted to be here at one of the first functions in my new role as Minister for Culture and Heritage, and also because I have the pleasurable task of formally opening the refurbished Philharmonia Hall.

As many of you will be aware, on Wednesday I announced the details of the new Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The Ministry will ensure a more coordinated approach to cultural and heritage objectives and see greater promotion and protection os our distinctive national identity. Culture is not a secondary matter.

Ultimately culture is the way we understand ourselves. A society that fails to understand itself will be unable to act coherently on any problems facing it. The future of New Zealand society depends on how we will understand ourselves, and our cultural agenda will underpin that self-understanding.

If culture is the way we understand ourselves, art is the way we articulate that understanding in the form of drama and television, film and poetry, literature and music.

How fortunate we are in Auckland to have our music bought to us by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, one of only two fully professional orchestras in New Zealand.

The Auckland Philharmonia has developed a reputation for innovative programming and activities presenting a staggering 50 to 60 of its own concerts each year as well as special events such as the Last Night of the Proms and Live Cinema.

I know many Aucklanders appreciate the spectacular outdoor concerts performed each summer in the Auckland Domain and the many concerts featuring visiting artists such as our own Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, as well as Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Nigel Kennedy.

I am pleased to note the orchestra receives funding from Creative New Zealand, Auckland City and other local bodies, as well as sponsorship from companies and private individuals.

The orchestra is going from strength to strength and this is reflected by the appointment of its first musical director in its 18 and-a-half year history. Miguel Harth-Bedoya, will take up a four-year tenure as musical director from 1 January next year.

I understand Maestro Miguel Harth-Bedoya is currently with the Eugene Symphony and was recently promoted to Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic after being artistic director with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lima and the New Opera Company of Peru.

Tonight is a celebration and an acknowledgment of all the hard work that has gone into refurbishing this building over the past four months.

I understand the renovation of Philharmonia Hall was made possible through substantial grants from the ASB Charitable Trust and the Lotteries Grants Board; sponsors and friends of the orchestra, in particular Haydn & Rollett Construction; and the dozens of other companies and individuals who have all given generously of their time and support.

Philharmonia Hall began life in the mid-1930s as the Princess Cinema. In 1975 the Symphonia Trust purchased the building as a rehearsal venue for the Symphonia of Auckland.

In 1980 the Auckland Orchestral Trust (the governing body of the newly formed Auckland Regional Orchestra) took it over. Since then it has remained in the Trust's possession as the rehearsal hall for the orchestra; in June 1987 the orchestra was renamed the Auckland Philharmonia.

This rehearsal hall is one of Auckland's historic landmarks. What a delightful and invigorating place to make music.

I understand orchestra members were elated when, for the first time they saw inside the renovated hall. The orchestra has just begun rehearsing here and are rightly enthusiastic about the hall's new features including improved lighting, extra space and air conditioning.

I now officially declare these refurbished rooms. Congratulations to you all.

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