In 2015 celebrated Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček and his twin brother and designer Otto adapted award-winning film The Piano into a full-length ballet. With her second big screen documentary, Crossing Rachmaninoff director Rebecca Tansley followed the pair as they arrive in New Zealand, and begin expanding their original production for a 2018 season with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Bubeníček faces difficult artistic decisions as he and Māori Advisor Moss Te Ururangi Patterson try to find common ground while deepening the ballet's Māori elements and themes.
In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.
This episode of the Sticky Pictures’ arts show covers a 13 July 2008 concert that combined the musical talents of the Little Bushman with composer John Psathas and the Auckland Philharmonia. Trinity Roots alumnus Warren Maxwell is the frontman for Little Bushman and is a behind-the-scenes guide as they prepare their trademark psychedelic blues for Psathas (Olympics 2004 opening ceremony score composer) to wrangle for orchestral collaboration. Philharmonia met harmonica in one-off gig at Auckland Town Hall. The doco was directed by Mark Albiston.
Veteran broadcaster Bill McCarthy was the popular face of TV news and sport in the 1970s. Starting as a sports anchor, he later moved to primetime news-reading, and then became a producer on the classical music series Opus, as well as one-off big event television such as the 1987 Rugby World Cup and Telethon. In later years, McCarthy has produced host broadcasts for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and become involved with Christian broadcaster Shine TV.
Flying Nun band The Verlaines were formed by singer/guitarist Graeme Downes in 1981. In the band’s early years Downes was studying classical music at Otago University, and his songwriting features shifting tempos, eclectic instruments, and mentions of Nietzsche and French poet Paul Verlaine. These days Downes has a PhD and lectures at Otago. As with many Flying Nun bands of the era, The Verlaines won international recognition for their work, including Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus covering their classic 1983 single ‘Death and the Maiden’. In 2012 the band released their tenth album Untimely Meditations.
The late 60s saw globetrotting filmmaker Tony Williams shoot and edit two films for Iranian director Mahmoud Khosrowshahi. Here Williams chronicles an east meets west festival held in the Iranian city of Shiraz. Williams’ love affair with music and montage helps lend pace and life to a film whose sonic interests range from Iranian lutes and Indian oboes to American Cathy Berberian, who is busy turning comic strips into song. A glimpse of cosmopolitan Iran prior to the Iranian Revolution, it includes a rare interview with New Yorker classical music critic Andrew Porter.
In March and April 2001 slippers met gumboots when The Royal New Zealand Ballet went on a five-week long heartland tour. The ballerinas performed in community theatres and halls in places like Twizel, Putaruru, Taihape, and Alexandra. This Gibson Group TV One documentary chronicles the challenges – injuries, fatigue, motel life, provincial performance diets (junk food, baking), dodgy stages and wiring, romance on the road – and receptive locals. The programme includes work from local choreographers to famous ballets, with music from classical to Head Like a Hole.
In the early 80s the New Zealand ski industry was burgeoning. This 1983 National Film Unit production promotes the Southern Alps as a ski tourism destination — “the most exciting alpine area south of the equator”. The promo accentuates southern difference (“no trees to get in your way”), as the film tours from Ben Ohau and Tasman Glacier descents, to offseason international downhill racers at Mt Hutt, and après ski attractions. The skiing is paired with orchestral music, a classical-sport combo that director Arthur Everard also memorably used in rugby film Score.
Palmerston North-born Grayson Gilmour is a classically trained pianist who released his first solo recording at age 16. After moving to Wellington he became a founding member of electro indie-rockers So So Modern. While touring the world with them he has continued to release solo material that is less abrasive and veers more towards pop classicism with its multi-tracked harmonies and swirling arrangements. In 2010 he became the first new artist on the relaunched Flying Nun label with the release of his fifth solo album No Constellation.
In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.