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Exhibition Celebrates New Zealand Bluegrass Icons

An exhibition about New Zealand bluegrass pioneers the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band is set to open at Waikato Museum on 8 May.

The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band was formed in the 1960s during a time when bluegrass music was just starting to become popular in New Zealand. Founded in Hamilton by Alan Rhodes and Paul Trenwith, the band became a household name thanks to the hit TV show The Country Touch. After relocating to Australia in 1971 to tour with popular country musician Slim Dusty, the band moved back to New Zealand in 1974, where they continue to produce music to this day.

In 2015 the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band was inducted into New Zealand’s Country Music Hands of Fame and in 2016 Paul Trenwith received the Queen’s Service Medal for his services to country music.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham said this celebratory showcase honours the longevity and legacy of a world-renowned bluegrass band that began in the green grass of the Waikato.

“The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band’s presence in the New Zealand country music scene has been prolific and consistent since the 1960s – and for good reason,” she said. “We are thrilled to be hosting an important exhibition about a legendary band from our part of the country that set the foundation of bluegrass music in Aotearoa.”

Curator Leafa Wilson said the exhibition provides a glimpse into the musical triumphs, friendships and family relationships that defined the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. “Bluegrass is coming home to Hamilton with a wonderfully nostalgic exhibition,” she said. “We’re looking forward to seeing our museum buzzing with bluegrass enthusiasts humming along and foot-tapping to the spirited sounds of the band’s iconic back catalogue as they take a trip down memory lane in our gallery space.”

The free exhibition runs until 29 August, daily from 10am to 5pm.

Waikato Museum is also set to host a special one-off bluegrass jam session led by Paul Trenwith and Southwell School’s Director of Instrumental Music Victoria Trenwith on Saturday 22 May. Visitors are invited to bring their mandolin, banjo, violin, guitar or harmonica for a chance to play with a bluegrass music legend. The session starts at 2pm and entry is free.

Click here for details of all exhibitions at Waikato Museum

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