As an escape from any urban existence, North Canterbury is perfect. Not only spectacularly beautiful, it boasts pure mountain air and hot pools; forest or alpine walks and mountain-biking. That high-adrenaline sports happen here is obvious when driving the last stretch over the precipitous Hanmer bridge.
Home to a great gourmet and shopping scene, the alpine village of Hanmer Springs has long been foodie and fashion heaven, plus an outdoor adventure base.
Long-standing resident Grum Frith was “cycling solo around the world” in recent years when an idea emerged. Hanmer Springs had potential not only as a sporting playground-cum-holiday rest cure. It was also an ideal getaway-venue for cultural pursuits. Accordingly, a music and arts trust was formed.
Over the past 18 months things have gained momentum. Musicians and artists have begun to visit and perform here. Workshops in song-writing, singing, drama, photography, upholstery, sculpture, dance and film have been planned.
Music and Arts Hanmer Springs Trust community facilitator, Grum, says parts of the old Queen Mary Hospital have been sanctioned for use for specific events. For instance, last Labour weekend local artists held an exhibition in the hospital’s Soldier’s Block.
On 11 August, an internationally acclaimed violinist will offer a performance and masterclass in the village. Next, a pre-Christmas play is proposed by local thespians. See details of upcoming events at
Bic Runga is one of Canterbury’s most successful exports and, although she hasn’t gone far – just the other end of the country – Christchurch is where her heart is.
Bic released her debut album Drive in August 1997 to popular acclaim; an album that is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most iconic. It secured the New Zealand Music Award for Album of the Year in 1998, after going seven times platinum.
But that was only the beginning for this prodigious talent who has been hitting the right note for more than 20 years, collecting some of the country’s biggest musical accolades.
Metropol caught up with Bic – its Chinese checked vowel making pronunciation closer to Bec – about her musical passion and living in the moment.
Where did your musical passion come from and how was that nurtured?
I’m the youngest in my family and I remember on rainy days my big sisters would say “ok, let’s all write some songs!” I was five when I wrote my first song. It was called Snow Flake. It’s quite a good thing to get little kids to do before they think that they can’t.
You come from such a musical family, are your children musical?
My children are really musical and my 10 year old son just announced that he wants to be a musician! Most parents would shudder at the thought of this, but for me it was a relief; at least I know what to do with him now!
How has your song writing evolved throughout your career?
I had a good run between the ages of 18 and 27, I wrote a lot and I didn’t doubt myself. Then I got the fear! Now that I’ve had a family and I’m in what you might call the middle years, I feel experienced and more excited to do things however I want to, without rules.
What do you consider to be some of your most defining career highlights?
Getting a lifetime achievement award a couple of years ago, living and working in London as a musician and having Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin come to a couple of my shows! That was funny, I thought I could retire after that.
How do you juggle the demands of work and family?
With great difficulty! I try to be positive; sometimes when you’re exhausted that’s all there is! And learning new skills keeps me happy. I’m learning to engineer and mix music more – technical stuff that I never got too involved in before suddenly interests me, so everything is new again.
Where do you draw your inspiration from and who are some of your favourite artists?
I’m looking to older women as inspiration these days – Alice Coltrane, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono. To commit to being an artist for the long haul is really exciting to me.
How does it feel to be hailed as an icon of the New Zealand music scene?
I don’t think about it too much, especially not these days. I think it’s good to look forward and not look back too much. Don’t they say the secret to happiness is a short memory? I think it’s good to live in the present and have things to look forward to.
Why did you make the decision to become involved with the Māia Health Foundation?
Working with the people at Maia has been such a pleasure. Musicians get so much air time and sometimes my interviews seem like I’m repeating myself so it’s good to have something else to rep, something else to advocate for. I’ve never been an ambassador for a charity before and it feels good to be involved in this one in my hometown.
Do you get the opportunity to get back to Christchurch very often? What are some of your favourite things to do or places to go in Christchurch?
The Arts Centre was my stomping ground in high school so I always feel happy and nostalgic when I’m in that part of town. And Lyttelton and Governors Bay are still special places for me. I went to Cashmere high and a lot of my friends came on a bus from over the hill; it was a cool place to hang out growing up as a teenager.
What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
I’m writing, recording and engineering as well, I’m having the time of my life! There’s no pressure and it’s super fun.
Last month, Christchurch was witness to one of the best musicians of the 1980s. The legend himself, Lionel Richie.
Songwriter, actor, singer and record producer, he has been gracing our televisions of late with his role as an American Idol judge. With such hits as Endless Love, All Night Long, Stuck on You, Say You Say Me and, of course, the heart-wrenching Hello, the hits from his years with the Commodores and many, many more, his ability to bring a stand up and dance moment at his concerts is never in question.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with him the night before the concert for a chat. “It’s Lionel Richie!” I said as I approached.
“Have been all my life,” he said in the beautiful gravelly voice of a seasoned pro.
How do you find New Zealand audiences?
“It’s a great country and I always enjoy coming here. You are all so friendly!”
It’s such a privilege to meet you, I grew up with your music in the 1980s and Hello is such a beautiful song
“You know what? I grew up with that music too! When I first started, people would say ‘what a sexy man’. When I got into my late 20s early 30s, people would say, ‘what a handsome man’. Now all I get is… ‘You look good for your age!’
“I was out in a bar in New Orleans and I saw this attractive woman looking across at me and I started looking at her, she looked at me and I was giving her ‘the look’ when she came over to me and said in this French accent ‘Yoouu are Lion-Nell Reechiiee?’ And I said ‘Yeeeesss, I am Lion-Nell Reechiiee’.
“She then handed me her mobile and said, ‘I’m friends with your daughter Nicole, she wants to say hi’. That’s when I got an earful from my daughter about hitting on her friends. I’m OLD now!”
How do you find the audiences respond to your music these days?
“Nothing’s changed except for the fact when I started off everyone said that if I kissed a girl at the front of the stage, the audience would go nuts – so I started doing that. Obviously now it’s a lot harder to lean that far down, so I don’t do that anymore. I’m OLD. I’m really looking forward to the Christchurch audience. You’re going to have a fun time tomorrow night.”
And he was so, so right. Those fortunate enough to be at Horncastle Arena were subjected to hit after boogie-down hit. The energy that this 68-year-old can conjure up on stage would make any teenage musician envious. Reminding us just how prolific and how relevant he was during the decade of music that was the 80s, back when he had us all singing We are the World, which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson. Music royalty was visiting Christchurch.
“As always, Lionel put on an amazing show, we love hosting him at Horncastle Arena,” Turlough Carolan from Vbase says.
“It’s also great to see such a varied range of events visiting the city over the coming months, from the incredible Dynamo (20-21 July) to the sublime Queens of the Stone Age (25 August), yet again, Vbase will be bringing many more great acts to Christchurch.”
Marvellous to have caught up with a living legend here, such a down to earth man with a beautiful voice for singing and conversation. A moment all those who saw him in concert will remember for a long time. He had us all, Dancing on the Ceiling.
They’re young, vivacious and vocal virtuosos. Meet Amelia Ryman, Kimberley Wood, Matthew Harris and Harry Meehan, the faces of Oriana. This premier ensemble is rocking retrospective songs like nobody else – think sixteenth/seventeenth century retrospective!
The name Oriana is a nod to Queen Elizabeth I. “Oriana was a kind of nickname for her; it was slipped into many poems and compositions at the time,” explains Dublin born Harry. “And we do that, too,” adds Amelia, brainchild and founder of Oriana, “At the end of each performance, we sing ‘Long Live Fair Oriana!’”
Their debut concert was Christmas 2017 at Avebury House, while 2018 has seen Oriana sing the Easter Vigil at St Michael and All Angels, and a lunchtime concert at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral on 18 April. Coming up are 2pm concerts at Knox Church, 10 June, and The Piano, 19 August.
Kimberley says that Oriana’s choral pieces and madrigals are filling a gap in the market; Harry nods in agreement. “Auckland and Wellington have these groups but Christchurch, post-quakes, had nothing; now we can provide that high standard, quality music.”
Amelia says the friendship they have outside of performing is important. “Our connection with each other makes for a good connection with our audiences.”
Oriana also does private functions. “Corporate events, engagements, weddings, birthdays, whatever’s wanted, we’ll do it,” Matthew says. “And we happily do modern, and can go unscripted,” he adds, with a not quite cherubic smile.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or find Oriana on Facebook.
If you are a self-confessed music nut that loves great coffee, quality eats and reckons the only way to listen to an album is with a record on a turntable, then you owe it to yourself to visit Vinyl Café.
Located at 24B Essex Street, Phillipstown, Vinyl Café is the front of house café extension of The Coffee Workshop, famous for its comprehensive range of blends and the fact customers can have their coffee roasted while they wait.
Vinyl Café, as the name suggests, is a Mecca for music lovers. Upon arrival you notice Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan’s faces on the outside wall above the entrance way. Inside, a feature wall made entirely of album covers, from Kenny Rogers to Huey Lewis and the News, immediately grabs your attention. Vintage furniture and stereo, complete with functioning record player, completes the ensemble nicely.
Along with quality coffee, tea and other hot and cold drinks, a great selection of savoury and sweet items are made fresh each day to bring ‘satisfaction’ to your culinary cravings. Most popular by far would be Vinyl Café’s toasted sandwiches, offering a wide range of flavours to suit every taste.
March is a musical month at Lansdown, with its festival tradition of presenting opera as entertainment and enjoyment. Short-winded and mesmerising, this is ‘narropera’ – narrated opera presented in word and song for 85 minutes.
Enjoy Mozart’s magical Don Giovanni, on 11 and 17 March; revel in Weber’s wonderful romantic opera Der Freischütz (The Devil’s Marksman), on 25 and 31 March.
Narropera’s success lies in beauty and brevity, clarity and passion. Its surroundings are altogether impressive: ‘Lansdown’ is one of the oldest and most cherished properties in Canterbury, situated between Halswell and Tai Tapu, just 11 kilometres from Cathedral Square.
A fairytale atmosphere of exotic Victorian trees, majestic architecture and a performing room of great elegance and size awaits the visitor. Enter another world and enjoy listening to the beautiful German soprano voice of Dorothee Jansen, to the fine musicianship of the Narropera Trio and to the dramatic narratives of Haydn Rawstron.
Leave Lansdown with a much deeper knowledge of these two operatic masterpieces. And, as a curtain-raiser to the narropera season of performances, the fifth Lansdown Summer festival presents a glorious evening of Schubert songs – The Fashion Journal Songs – also with narratives, this Saturday evening, 3 March. All performances are from 8pm to 9.30pm. Tickets from $42.
You’ll find the venue at The Golden Room, Lansdown House, 132 Old Tai Tapu Road, parking in substantial grounds. Details (bookings, artists’ biographies, location map) at www.lansdownsummer.com or c/o The Box Office, Court Theatre 03-963 0870. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the performance, gates open at 6.30pm.