The Auckland Town Hall is a fantastic venue for ensemble concerts. During high school I received free tickets to NZSO concerts courtesy of some kind of mentoring program (I can’t remember the details now) so I got to see the best NZ had to offer in the way of orchestral performance. Maybe somebody thought I had promise at being an amazing, influential musician (shucks) but I did learn that listening to over one hour of a Mahler symphony bores me witness. It doesn’t matter how good the orchestra is, watching orchestral music is not that interesting unless the percussion players are racing around all over the place.
Once the Town Hall’s renovations were completed in 1997, the Town Hall was also the venue of choice for the Auckland Secondary Band and Orchestra Festival, gleefully called ass-bof by us high schoolers. It’s called the KBB music festival now so I hope KBB payed some big bucks to get the naming rights. I hear from my students that it’s now held at The Holy Trinity Cathedral, which although is a nice venue, I’d have thought it a bit cavernous. Maybe the cost went up, or maybe the teachers didn’t like the students galavanting around the CBD.
I think the last time I was there was for my 2008 graduation.
Who’d have thought that in 2016, I’d get the chance to play in that same venue again. Taking that up a notch, who’d have thought I’d be playing with the West City Concert band who, to be fair, were entirely average at best until about 3 years ago with ‘the changing of the guard’.
So here we were, last Saturday, at one of Auckland’s premier concert venues playing a 3-piece set for our Band Together concert we co-hosted with the Auckland University and Manukau Concert Bands.
It turns out the massive Town Hall organ was restored in 2010 and the musical director of the Manukau Concert Band didn’t want to waste the opportunity of using it. Consequently we had some members of each band combine to perform the Finale of Saint Saëns’ Symphony No. 3. Yeah, the one with the organ.
The concert was a success (it sounded pretty good from where I was sitting but the recording was probably using a mic that didn’t do the ensemble justice) but it was notable for another reason. Two of the students in the Auckland University Concert Band were former students of mine and it was great to see them still playing. One, whom I taught for 8 years from beginner to grade 8 (with distinction), was back for a few weeks after his first semester studies in France; he’d found out that his time home would coincide with the concerts so got involved.
The other student I assumed would drop clarinet after high school but I was glad to see I was wrong. She was stoked to be able to have the opportunity to keep playing ensemble music. The UoA wind band is almost like a social club and doesn’t have anything to do with the UoA school of music. It’s essentially student led and conducted and most of the players don’t study music at the university; it’s a perfect no-pressure environment for all those wanting to continue music during tertiary studies.
Well done to those who had the gumption to put on this concert, it was a nostalgic experience (I even dragged the folks and grandparent to it).