Synthony is done and dusted for another year after two massive sold out shows last weekend.
The lineup featured P Digsss (Shapeshifter), Ria Hall, Helen Corry, Omega Levine, sax legend Lewis McCallum, backing singers Cherie Mathieson and Iri Aumatangi, the 90-piece Auckland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Thomas and all hosted on the night by General Lee.
For those who are late to this party, Synthony is one big music, dance, lighting and visual extravaganza in the Auckland Town Hall. Basically, 20 of the biggest dance hits orchestrated and produced on a massive scale. The two shows sold out in a matter of hours.
I’m hugely proud to be a part of the creative team, working closely with Erika Amoore (one of the event creators) to produce the orchestral realisations of these tracks. As an arranger it really is such a treat to be able to work on an entire show of such forces. The scale is huge. Here are some stats on what we produced: 236 pages of conductor’s score, 720 individual orchestra parts, all adding up to 2531 pages of printed music being played on the night.
Here are my favourite pics:
This year every department upped their game and knocked last year’s triumphs out of the park. Musically, the arrangements are bigger and better, the orchestra itself is bigger too… and we unleashed the Town Hall organ! There were 15 brand new tracks, and the 5 repeat tracks from last year were all refreshed.
The response was overwhelming. Orchestras aren’t used to quite that degree of ‘audience interaction’. Here was the view from up in the percussion section…
Reviews were great as well:
Immense thanks to Peter Thomas and the Auckland Symphony Orchestra who did an amazing job bringing this music together… with click track pumping in one ear… deafening audience in the other… with lights in all directions… while beads of sweat gather on the forehead… and yet they still smile and deliver yet another top level musical event for Auckland.
Finally, huge kudos to Erika Amoore and David Elmsly for their incredible vision and direction of this event. It really is quite something, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!
Robin S. - Show Me Love
Inner City - Good Life
The Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar
Robert Miles - Children
Laurent Garnier - Man With The Red Face
Roger Sanchez - Another Chance
Paul van Dyk - For An Angel
ATB - Till I Come
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
Moloko - Sing It Back
Eric Prydz - Pjanoo
Avicii - Levels
Faithless - Insomnia
The Chemical Brothers - Galvanize
Disclosure - Latch
Underworld - Born Slippy
Tiesto - Adagio For Strings
Delerium - Silence
Solitare - You Got The Love
Shapeshifter - Electric Dream
Saturday night is going to be a totally epic night as Synthony kicks off in Auckland. DJ + vocalists + choir + symphony orchestra + an incredible visual feast which I'm not sure the Town Hall has ever seen before.
"Leave your Nan at home, THIS IS NOT AN ORCHESTRA AS YOU KNOW IT or a sit down affair... this an event you will lose your sh*t at."
And yes, the rumours are true, I'll be up the back thrashing the tambourine and caressing the thunder sheet as part of our impressive percussion section.
But, it's been quite a journey leading up to this, and I haven't actually posted much about it, so here's a run down.
July 2016, the journey begins. Peter Thomas calls me and says he’s got a great gig on the horizon. He always does, but this time I knew it was special. He explains the concept and sends me off to watch the Ibiza Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Online, not in person! I watch it. I’m sold. I’m in.
My first real taste of the project was in March when the first two arrangements were done and recorded for the promotional video. Wow, got the feels.
Two arrangements down. Eighteen to go.
For a few years, Peter Thomas and I have pondered doing a project where we could get young secondary school arrangers involved. There is always opportunities for composers, but there are some hugely talented young arrangers looking for experience. We knew this project was perfect, and so we recruited: Tom Lawton, Ki Hoon Sung, Matthew Beardsworth, Sarah Rathbun, Vivien Whyte, Lauren Tantrum, Angeline Xiao and Weihong Yi. Legends. I briefed them and mentored them along the way, sending countless emails of feedback and reassurance.
I also got to work on the rest of the show. Transcribing, arranging, and editing the electronic tracks with DJ Erika Amoore (who along with David Elmsly are the two behind the event). Here's a bit about what I was doing (and yes, this was shot before they knew how to spell my name correctly):
The show launches, and... it sells out. Fast. The absolute boost I needed as I was working day and night to complete the arrangements. Everyone starts getting really excited. Erika and I get interviewed on Radio NZ. What a blast. Have a listen:
The tracks mentioned in the interview were Robert Miles by Children, Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim and Silence by Delerium. Want to know what the other tracks are? No, not likely, come to the show.
So early September arrives and I'm done. The 20 orchestra scores and 580 instrumental parts (who's counting?) are proofread and it's all off to the printer.
Massive shout out to Erika, David and Peter who dreamt up this event, brought me onboard and have all been absolutely wonderful to work with. Special thanks to the Auckland Symphony Orchestra for doing an almighty job playing all the notes.
Three rehearsals down, two to go. If you've got a ticket, you're in for a treat. Bring your best dance shoes. Carb load. You know the deal.
Pretty special few days typesetting the glorious Porgy and Bess Overture, arranged by Russ Garcia for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's 1957 album, 'Porgy and Bess'. The access and digitisation of the score was courtesy of his wife, Gina.
Check it out at the Auckland Symphony Orchestra's 'Jazz!' concert, Auckland Town Hall, on July 26th.
Have you got some little scallywags intrigued by music? And perhaps rainbows? You'd better get them along to the APO's latest concert for pre-schoolers, "Rainbow Connection". I've been working away at the arrangements and it's going to be a great show. Here's what this show is about:
The colours of the rainbow are so pretty in the sky! The Little Rainbow is especially lucky, because he can wear all of them at once. But one sad day the colours disappear and the Little Rainbow just cannot find them anywhere. He asks his friends, the Rainbow Sea Creature troupe and four APO musicians, who each have one colour, to come and help him…
These concerts are an entertaining sing-along, dance-along, conduct-along concert for children, 2 years and older, concluding with a walk through the orchestra to see and hear the instruments up close.
New arrangements I've done include:
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat (as a round for voice, audience and orchestra)
- Splish Splash (for voice and orchestra)
- The Rainbow Connection (for glockenspiel, voice and children's choir)
- Sing a Rainbow (for voice and orchestra)
- Over the Rainbow (for voice and orchestra)
- My Heart Will Go On (for french horn and strings)
Other works on the programme include:
- Vaughan Williams' Sea Songs
- Leroy Anderson's Plink, Plank, Plunk
- Brahms' Hungarian Dance No 5
- Saint-Saens' ‘The Swan’ from The Carnival of the Animals
- Sailor’s Hornpipe
Conducted by David Kay and presented by Kevin Keys, with special guest the North Shore Children's Choir.
10am & 11.30am, Saturday 11 April, Auckland Town Hall. $15. Tickets here.
Ahoy there me hearties!
Back in September I had the great pleasure of orchestrating five songs by Captain Festus McBoyle - the star of this weekend's four APO4Kids Christmas concerts.
On Wednesday it all came to life as the APO, conductor David Kay and all of the performers rehearsed and ran the show.
The Festus McBoyle tracks are:
- A Pirate's Life
- Bogey Bogey
- Hoist The Jolly Roger
- Sonia The Snake
- Walk The Plank
I also wrote two new arrangements of some classics to highlight some different instruments in the orchestra:
- O Tannenbaum (for solo bassoon and strings)
- Feliz Navidad (for solo tuba, singers and orchestra)
There are a few others on the programme too. It's sounding fantastic.
Captain Festus McBoyle and his pirate colleagues are stranded in Auckland just before Christmas. They have lots of songs to sing and stories to tell, but do they actually know what Christmas music sounds like? Let’s all dress up as pirates, polish our voices and give them a surprise! These interactive sing-along, dance-along, conduct-along concerts are for children age 2 – 5 and their families. And at the end, go for the famous walk through the orchestra as the musicians play and capture your costume on film with the pirate-themed photobooth provided by Voyager Maritime Museum.
Can life get much more fun than that? Not really, so gather your scallywags smartly, weigh anchor and set sail - I can guarantee there's a joke or two for the adults too.
Last week I had the pleasure of conducting the premiere of my new work, Rakiura, at the Auckland Town Hall and then at the Bruce Mason Centre. It was tremendously well received and I am thrilled. I initially posted about this project here, when we were asking for help via Kickstarter to bring the project to life. Well, we got there, and in early October I got to work.
With the music following a movie of images I had a task getting my head into the story, so I printed out the book and spread it out on my floor and it all started to come together.
Here's the programme note:
“Rakiura" is a story of life on Stewart Island, Rakiura, a remote island at the southern end of New Zealand. The piece was commissioned to accompany a photographic album and exhibition by Keri Moyle and follows the album’s five distinct sections. Warm strings pay tribute to the beauty of the scenery, woodwinds evoke the magnificent birdlife, foreboding brass builds apprehension as humans arrive and make their mark on the land, and then as humans withdraw the land flourishes once again with its harsh yet tranquil beauty.
The guest conductor and my good friend, David Kay, kindly gave me the opportunity to conduct the work (photo above). It was wonderful to put it together with the musicians and they really did a great job performing it.
A big thank you to everyone who supported the project and to those who came to one of the concerts and gave such a positive response.
My exquisite wife Wendy and I walked the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island over New Year. It was absolutely amazing - the scenery and wildlife was breathtaking. A highlight was when a Stewart Island Brown Kiwi (Tokoeka) walked across the track in front of us in the middle of the afternoon - it was beyond amazing. I stored these memories away and didn't expect much would come of them...
Soon after, in February, I got an email from Keri at Signs of Life Photography with an idea... a very cool idea. She spent three weeks as a photographer for the Department of Conservation on Stewart Island taking photos! The best of these have developed into a stunning album called Rakiura: Seeds in the Sand and to release it Keri is combining this beautiful photography with a Kiwi composer (that's me) and a real-life, full-size symphony orchestra. How? By commissioning a brand new piece to be performed by the Auckland Symphony Orchestra as part of their October 26th (Auckland Town Hall) and November 2nd (Bruce Mason Centre) concerts which are also the two launch events for the album. Peter Thomas is at the helm of the concerts and was pivotal in getting me involved with the project.
Check out the video here:
What I really love about this book is that it isn't just photography - there is a story that binds everything together. Keri says:
"It’s a story of the tenacity of life, of design and purpose, of the importance of perspective, and of pain and decay. But over and over, again and again, it’s a story of hope. We see the processes of repentance and repair in the conservation activities, and finally from the land itself, from the life that is inherent within it, we see renewal."
So, a great story and a great project. BUT, we need your help! There is a lot of money involved with producing this high-end product, commissioning a new piece and of course working with a symphony orchestra.
VISIT HERE to read the entire story and to see how you can help our Kickstarter campaign so that the final costs can be met so this fantastic project can come to life.
Thank you in advance, you are all wonderful!
All aboard. Magic carpets are passing now!
Ah yes, the lines for every Polkadots song still resonate in my head. In fact throughout the concert both my wife and I knew every word. I guess we had heard it hundreds of times at home as I worked on the arrangements.
Last Saturday was the first of the Polkadots "Magic Carpet" shows. It really was something quite special. While I've written a lot of arrangements - never a whole show for a pro orchestra with singing, dancing and narration.
I went to the rehearsal the day before the show hit the stage and only had a few minor tweaks to make before relaxing and enjoying the musicians put it together. They hired super-pro drummer Ron Samson, so he held it all together nicely and provided a great energy.
Then came concert day - two back-to-back performances at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday 29th March. It was great to see the hall packed and so many young people having a great, great time! In fact, the APO musicians on stage looked as though they enjoy themselves too.
In a few weeks' time the show hits:
- Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna - 23 April, 10am and 11:30am
- Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau - 24 April, 10am
Make sure you gather your little people, get along and enjoy!
Thanks to the Auckland Philharmonia, David Kay (conductor) and Robert Dill (director) for making this amazing show such a success. Stay tuned for similar shows...
Over the last few weeks I have been orchestrating and arranging the music of the Polkadots and writing some new material for their show, Magic Carpet Ride, with the Auckland Philharmonia in March. There are eight pieces in total for my contribution, each varies greatly in style from Caribbean, salsa, lullaby, Maori, ballad, storytelling, blues, and more - making it loads of fun to bring to life with the orchestra.
After transcribing each track into a piano/vocal reduction the fun began - unleashing the orchestra! Being a show for little people, the songs are often short, bold and simply structured so the challenge is to keep this while bringing in the massive presence of the orchestra, giving them some moments of their own, and giving the players material to get their teeth into.
I am in the closing days now, which is mainly just final touches to the orchestrations and part preparation to be done. Home straight!
I'm really looking forward to seeing the project come together and I hope to be at the rehearsals to see the magic carpet take off and the fine work of my friends Robert Dill (director) and David Kay (conductor).
MAGIC CARPET RIDE (event link here)
- Saturday 29th March 2014
- 10am and 11.30am
- Auckland Town Hall
- Adults/Senior: $15
- Child/Student: $15
Over the last few weeks my Christmas arrangements have been popping up all over the place. The concert I'm most looking forward to is...
AUCKLAND SYMPHONY CHRISTMAS CONCERT
Tonight the Auckland Symphony Orchestra give their hugely popular and FREE Christmas concert at the Auckland Town Hall. The 90-strong orchestra team up with the Choir from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, along with combined Auckland church choirs, in this annual Christmas Celebration under the direction of Peter Thomas.
Each year I orchestrate a selection of the stunning choral arrangements by Niu Syddall and they also include some of my own arrangements.
This year they are:
- "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day"
- "Hark the Herald"
- "Silent Night"
- "The First Noel"
- "Who Would Imagine A King?"
The orchestra is also performing my arrangement of Snoopy's Christmas in their Sunday concert in Milford.
Last night's dress rehearsal sounding mightily impressive so get there if you can. Click here to find all of the details, be early, it fills up fast.
AUCKLAND PHILHARMONIA APO4KIDS XMAS
It was great to see my arrangements of "Little Drummer Boy", "Snoopy's Christmas" and my new "Frosty the Snowman" for solo bass trombone and orchestra got outings at the hugely popular APO4Kids Xmas concerts recently. They performed them at Massey High School on the 24th November and two concerts at the Auckland Town Hall on the 30th.
"Frosty" seemed a particular favourite, thanks to Tim Sutton on bass trombone for his superb efforts, and to my good friend, conductor David Kay.
ARRANGEMENTS TO SWEDEN AND THE UK
This year I shipped a number of Christmas arrangements off around the world. By shipped, of course, I mean whizzing PDF through cyberspace. They were to Stockholm in Sweden:
- "Joy to the World"
- "Drummer Boy"
- "When You Wish Upon a Star" (I agree, not entirely Christmas)
And to the UK:
- "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"
- "Lullaby for Christmas Eve"
- "When You Wish Upon A Star"
CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR SOLO VIOLIN
Each year my violin students get a book of Christmas Carols to play leading up to Christmas. There are thirteen in total, they are easy, bowed and jolly good fun, so feel free to download the PDF below. If you want them for another instrument, let me know and I'm sure my arm could be twisted.
Download it here and have a very Merry Christmas!
I was very happy to get a twitter message from the NZSO National Youth Orchestra earlier in the week offering me free tickets to last night's concert if I would tweet from it through the night. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity. I'm guessing they chose me as a composer - there was a new New Zealand work on the programme - and they also asked pianist Jason Bae - I'm sure to give insight on piano soloist Lara Melda.
You may be wondering, I wasn't allowed to tweet during the actual concert just before, during the interval and afterwards.
Here are some of my tweets:
Sam LOGAN - that's my kind of music! To the point. Plenty of @John_Psathas influence in there too. Stunning energy. @NZSONYO
— Ryan Youens (@ryanyouens) August 31, 2013
— Ryan Youens (@ryanyouens) August 31, 2013
Why am I telling you this? Firstly, because it's a great idea and good on the NZSO. Secondly, I want to go to more concerts so go on, give me some free tickets and I'll tweet live.