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Sonic Tonic In The Heart Of The City

Over 50 students and University of Canterbury music staff, including singer/songwriter LA Mitchell, perform music from the 16th century to today at the university’s second annual Gala Concert at The Piano: Centre for Music & the Arts on 2 August at 7pm.

Talented staff and students will present their original compositions alongside traditional classical music, choral music, and world music.

Taking to the stage in her first year of teaching at the University of Canterbury is internationally renowned singer, pianist and songwriter LA Mitchell (Terrible Sons, Fly My Pretties). Mitchell is a musician who understands the reciprocal nature of teaching.

“The great blessing of being a teacher is meeting new students who in turn inspire you as a creative person and who also imbue passion for what they are learning. It’s a mutually beneficial cycle.”

She’s an artist who understands that the generosity of seasoned performers can provide invaluable opportunities for up-and-comers, having been invited by the legendary Stevie Wonder to support him when he toured New Zealand in 2008.

Mitchell will perform her song, Cover Your Mouth on lead vocals and piano, joined by senior students in a vocal backing ensemble. Mitchell “adores the human voice, unadorned” and this song has been reimagined in this context to highlight the beauty and power of an ensemble of emerging singers.

Percussion as aural cinema

Other new and fresh music on the bill includes Braided Plain Soundwalk by Head of New Music at UC Reuben de Lautour, performed by Senior Lecturer in Percussion, Justin DeHart. This piece also features on DeHart’s recent album release of New Zealand percussion works, Landfall.

De Lautour says, “something I always tell people to do is to feel free to visualise things as they hear the sounds. I think of electro-acoustic music as a kind of aural cinema. Allow yourself to be immersed in the piece and take out of it whatever it speaks to you.”

De Lautour’s work features live processing, something that audiences may not have had the opportunity to witness live before. Using techniques that can’t be created using standard audio tools allows de Lautour to use tools he has created himself over years of making electro acoustic music.

“I’ve got patches I’ve made that you can’t download or buy as a plugin. It’s about bringing your artistic personality to your work and creating tools and techniques that become a part of your own individual musical voice.”

Electric guitar meets string quartet?

One of the final items in the programme is a surprising collaboration of electric guitar and string quartet by University of Canterbury student, Freddie Gash, entitled Hope. This is one of Gash’s first forays into composition using traditional classical instruments and it came from a “hankering for writing something that brought electric guitar and classical strings together”. Gash liked “the concept of juxtaposing instruments that might less commonly be seen together; while there are obvious differences between electric guitar and string quartet, I saw these differences as an advantage for composition, potential for them to be complimentary.”

For Gash, an honours student, the highlight of his time at the university has been “being able to work with students involved with a wide range of musical styles. Collaborating with other music students with all sorts of music has enabled me to expand my musical interests and creative thinking.”

A sonic sampler

The concert is designed to give the community and prospective music students a sampler of the depth and breadth of the university’s School of Music, which boasts a unique focus on developing the individual voices of student musicians, and close collaboration across all facets of the school from performance, composition and technology to engagement with the local music community.

This concert sold out in 2020, delighting an audience starved of live performance after lockdown. With increased support and appreciation of local talent, 2021’s offering promises to be another show-stopper with tickets already flying out the door.

UC Music Gala Concert is on Monday August 2, at 7pm, at The Piano: Centre for Music & the Arts. Tickets are free, but registrations are essential. Don’t miss out, book your free ticket here.

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