The Piano Launch function March 2015
Four Seasons at The Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts
A taste of what could be on offer from June 2016 ……
It is 7pm on a chilly mid-week winter’s evening. A sou’west howls outside the West Wing windows, its presence unheeded inside thanks to the noise-limiting, heat-retaining properties of the building’s double-glazing. On the ground floor, in the larger of the two performance spaces a ballet troupe practices pirouettes on the sprung floor preparatory to its demonstration recital at the weekend in the auditorium. Next door, an ‘all-comers’ kapa haka group practice a peruperu for presentation at next month’s Pacific Cultures concert. Across the hall, the chairman of an art appreciation society declares its Annual General Meeting opened, while in the foyer, the book launch of a collected edition of short stories by Canterbury authors draws to a close. On the stage of the auditorium, a visiting chamber music group warms up prior to a recital of Haydn Quartets, while backstage in the recording control room a sound technician balances microphones for the live recording that will ensue. Upstairs in the West Wing, a drama teacher and two music teachers give last-minute lessons preparatory to examinations the following day down the hallway.
It is noon on a crisp spring day. The easterly is brisk but the outdoor performance arena is well sheltered and filled with sun. Workers from nearby businesses nibble on their lunches while enjoying the sounds of a folk music trio limbering up for their 1pm concert. They know that there is always a presentation here on Thursdays, weather permitting and that even if it is raining, the presentation will be transferred to the larger of the two performing spaces inside the West Wing. Meanwhile, in the foyer of “The Piano” an exhibitor puts the final touches on a display of Banks Peninsula Art preparatory to an auction the coming weekend on behalf of a non-for-profit trust. Inside the auditorium a children’s choir practices in anticipation of their performance in tonight’s kids choir’s competition adjudicated by a visiting conductor, who will also take a combined master-class of children’s choirs from 2pm. In the sound booth, the organiser of the competition speaks live to air online with an interviewer from Radio New Zealand in Wellington. Backstage, the stage manager for a local musical theatre company unpacks props through the loading bay into the storeroom in preparation for the weekend’s upcoming staged extravaganza.
It is 5pm on a beautiful summer’s evening. An audience in the foyer back-lit by the late rays of sunshine is sipping Canterbury wine, nibbling Cajun-themed petits fours and relaxing to the sound of a local singer riffing on Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. Students stop to listen on their way out from their weekly lessons intrigued and inspired. At 8 pm , an all-stars big band comprising the best of local musicians will open a concert featuring appearances from one of New Zealand’s finest saxophonists down from Auckland, and an international touring singer from New Orleans. In the smaller of the two West Wing performing spaces, an actor is reciting poetry by Frederico Garcia Lorca in honour of ‘Spanish week’ in the city. Later, after dark, the audience will repair to the outdoor performing arena for flamenco guitar by candlelight, and a taste of Spanish dancing al fresco. Two arts administrators, working late on a forthcoming ‘golden-oldies’ festival programme take a break and sway to sounds of a fandango from a first floor balcony.
It is mid afternoon on a sultry autumn afternoon. The crisp leaves of deciduous trees scurry in from Armagh Street and add the perfect counterpoint to the school samba band busking in the breeze in the outdoor performing arena. In the foyer, a Gaelic folk trio complete the final sound-check for tonight’s ceilidh, scheduled to begin once the annual Irish dancing finals have concluded in the auditorium. There are sounds of little feet and happy chatter in the corridor as one group of pre-schoolers departs a class and another enters, each child raring to go with caregiver in tow. Above their heads, but unheard thanks to the superior floor-to-floor soundproofing a local string quartet rehearse for their forthcoming lunchtime concert. Meanwhile in the library, a pianist has discovered a florid set of variations on Londonderry Air (complete with fingerings by one of New Zealand’s former leading concert pianists) and is excitedly rippling through them in one of the studios available for casual hire. In the larger of the two recital rooms yodelling can be heard. This marks the start of a rehearsal of A Sound of Music to be staged in the coming months at the adjacent Theatre Royal.