New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at a British theatrical audience. Mostly re-packaging Weekly Review and later, Pictorial Parade content for receptive UK eyes, it also generated a small amount of original content. The series covered items showcasing NZ to a British market and as such has some interest as a post-war representation of New Zealand's burgeoning sense of national identity, from peg-legged Kiwis and children feeding eels, to the discovery of moa bones, to pianist Richard Farrell.
Hosted by Jason Gunn, McDonalds Young Entertainers was a popular late 90s talent quest for teenagers. A house troupe of singers and dancers (Super Troopers, a Kiwi take on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club) helped the contestants prepare for the judges, and opened and closed each show. Judges included King Kapisi, Tina Cross and Stacey Morrison. Young performers who featured included Ainslie Allen, Hayley Westenra, Sticky TV/C4 host Drew Neemia, actor Michelle Ang (Neighbours, Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462) and concert pianist John Chen.
Mercury Lane was a story-driven arts show that generally included a cluster of short documentaries, poetry and musical performances in each hour-long episode. This episode of the Greenstone-produced arts series features Sam Hunt interviewing acclaimed New Zealand poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. Campbell discusses his early childhood in the Cook Islands as the child of a Pākehā father and Polynesian mother, and reads a selection of poems. The programme ends with Auckland pianist Tamas Vesmas playing a Debussy prelude at the Auckland Art Gallery.
This Steve La Hood-directed documentary provides a candid, behind-the-scenes portrait of an orchestral musician's life, following the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for 13 days on a nationwide tour. Included is footage of rehearsals, travel, and concert performances. There's a glimpse of some internal politics, and insight into how the musicians relax. Holding the baton is conductor Nicholas Braithwaite; guest pianist on tour is Peter Donohoe. Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio feature prominently.
On Camera interviewer Judith Fyfe encounters American jazz bandleader William ‘Count’ Basie (1904 - 1984) on a 1971 NZ tour, 35 years after founding his legendary band. The Count Basie Orchestra defined the big band era, scoring multiple Grammys and backing Holiday, Crosby, Sinatra, King Cole, Bennett and Fitzgerald. In this interview the former silent movie pianist smokes, smiles and seems simultaneously laid-back and a tad testy, as he talks touring and early days, side-steps personal questions and laughs about rain impeding his gee-gees gambling habit in NZ.
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.
Coup D'Etat was launched by two members of theatre troupe Red Mole (Jan Preston and Neil Hannan), who were soon joined by guitarist Harry Lyon (on a break from Hello Sailor). They are best remembered for Preston's single 'No Music on my Radio' and Lyon's hit 'Doctor I Like Your Medicine' (a NZ Music Awards Single of the Year). After one album they disbanded in 1982. Preston composed soundtracks and reinvented herself as a boogie-woogie pianist; Lyon returned to Hello Sailor; Hannan founded label SDL Music.
The Great Maiden's Blush hinges on two people from very different backgrounds: a girl-racer in prison for manslaughter (Hope and Wire's Miriama McDowell), who plans to adopt out her baby, and a failed classical pianist (Renee Lyons) whose own baby is due for a risky operation. Each must confront their own secrets in order to move forward. Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader's acclaimed third movie continues an interest in character-rich stories where "big themes play out in modest circumstances". It won awards for McDowell and Best Self-Funded Film at the 2017 NZ Film Awards.
Opening with an image of Orpheus floating on the water, this inspired doco climaxes with a contender for NZ's most eyeopening montage yet. Loaded with examples of the infinite ways the human voice can make music, the film sees host Julian Waring introducing choirs, opera, balladeers and protest singers. Along the way Michael Heath recreates a performance by Florence Foster Jenkins, a worryingly close cousin of Asian-New Zealand songbird Wing. The mash-up finale uses 2000 photographs to summarise two decades of music, in a scene that must have blown minds in the suburbs.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the multi-talented Dave Fraser brought his multiple musical talents to score everything from features and National Film Unit documentaries to television dramas and commercials. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-215042-F (Detail)