To inspire and nurture a love of music and involvement in music to all aspects of the community.” Christchurch School of Music Vision
In the world of musical entertainment most of us are passive spectators these days.
The parlour piano and Sunday night singalongs are faded history. The acoustic guitar and the banjo, like the ukelele, are largely consigned to the dustbin of history, though musical digerati can sing and play along with the Beatles via the latest audibly enhanced and synthesized example of Karaoke’s evolution.
Good fun but not quite the same-and certainly not nearly as satisfying- as making your own music via Kiwioke and an acoustic guitar or ten.
I went recently been to the New Zealand Premiere of Leonard and the Lottery Ticket, a wonderful new musical by former Christchurch music teacher Mark Walton, back temporarily from across the Tasman. I also took up a public invitation to join the choir for a one–off performance and, after a one hour’s rehearsal immediately before the performance, I had the exhilarating experience of singing along with a choir of 500 in the Christchurch Town Hall.
Leonard, a worried man in the tradition of the Kingston Trio, has just been made redundant–a victim of the global economic downturn- when he wins the lottery. Despite what his new found wealth can buy, as illustrated by the crasser Lotto and Big Wednesday ads, Leonard feels empty, sadder and alone with his new riches until he reconnects with the transforming power of music and the fellow feeling of a band, which he is instrumental in equipping.
At 2pm on the day of the premiere there was a public rehearsal for anyone who wanted to sing. There was only time to run through each song two or three times. At 3pm, as the lights went down, the narrator Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, walked to the microphone, and the fabulous Christchurch Youth Orchestra conducted by the reassuring Brian Buggy, started to play whilst the choir took a deep breath and prepared to raise the roof.
When the show finished at 3.45 everyone had had a wonderful afternoon of musical fun and discovery. No matter that the size of the crowd outnumbered the audience, which included our young grandchildren.
It was great fun and very satisfying to be conducted by a real conductor who managed to weld and meld genuine choristers, who had had a copy of the music before hand and a CD, and the rest of us who started from cold and from scratch. Yet with little live rehearsal, to my untutored ear it turned out very well.
Viewing the DVD made by CTV may change my opinion but the audience was certainly enthusiastic and a 45 minute punchy production was a great way to introduce kids to orchestral music and a good storyline with a point. All this was free, though there was a gold coin collection in aid of Canteen, the teenage cancer support network, to which donations can still be given.*
Mark Walton taught music at Cashmere High School in 1974-5 and Bob Parker, now working seven days a week as mayor, (and currently also a lead player in a different inner city musical mystery tour), was a pupil there the decade earlier, before embarking on a broadcasting career. Both overlapped with my stint on the CHS staff and it was great to join them and the others in this feel good musical experience.
Meanwhile, in Mark Walton’s adopted Lucky Country, which has awarded him the Order of Australia for his services to music, a fellow Australian who won a $A2 (NZ$2.48) million Lotto prize, avoided claiming his winnings for seven months until last month while he prepared himself mentally if not musically.*
The 48-year-old small businessman discovered his win on January 13, the morning after the draw, but he had been storing the ticket in a tin since then, which, for some when money’s tight, would really take the biscuit .
“There was something about claiming that much money that I wasn’t ready for, I had to get my head around it. I just wanted to prepare myself mentally before I put my hands on it.” he said.
The winner, who did not want to be identified, said just having the ticket was comforting. At least, unlike Leonard, he gave himself time to adjust.
I wonder if, like him, he’ll take up music seven days a week and join the band? “Music, music, music, music makes you feel just great.”
Meanwhile, across the Cultural Precinct from the Town Hall to the Christchurch Arts Centre, the proposed site of the less harmonious Music Conservatorium proposed by the University of Canterbury (different from the Christchurch Music School), the wheel is still in spin.
That is, unless the City Council and the University are just going through the consulting motions. They are Talking Millions.
Download the words and recorded versions of Leonard and the Lottery Ticket and sing along.
CanTeen The NZ organisation supporting young people living with cancer.