Concert Review: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at Auckland Town Hall

By William Dart

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Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conductor Hamish McKeich. Photo / Supplied
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conductor Hamish McKeich. Photo / Supplied

Tuesday's Amped concert, enthusiastically received by a bumper audience, was very much a celebration of what Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra stands for - reaching out to the diverse communities of our Super City.

Lisa Crawley opened proceedings with her trio, dispensing pop charm, nicely tuned and turned.

Close Your Eyes enlisted a trio of trombones and perhaps some in the audience even appreciated that her final song had been sculpted out of Sinding's Rustle of Spring.

The evening also marked John Psathas' two fruitful years as the orchestra's resident composer. Premiered back in the first year of the millennium, Omnifenix is a key Psathas work.

It roared into magnificent life, conducted by Hamish McKeich, with Nathan Haines as soloist. Sometimes improvising with no more than the directives to "intensify" and have a "major freak-out", he stamped his signature on a score, already played by Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman.

Particularly memorable was an extended lament of a solo, during one of the concerto's more reflective sections, set against the quiet glisten of harmonic decay.

Cadenzas were shattering in their no-holds-barred virtuosity. David Jones was especially heart-stopping on his drum kit, summoning up whirls and eddies of energy by all means possible.

Pounamu, Psathas's new collaboration with Warren Maxwell, proved more problematic.

It started promisingly. Maxwell is a charismatic performer and, as with the songs he writes for his own group, Little Bushman, he favours the expansive.

Psathas coloured in the opening song with discretion as Maxwell sang of "chipping away at the stupidity stone".

While all the numbers were clearly close to the singer's heart, banal harmonies and prosaic lyrics took their toll. Psathas' contribution, stylish when pizzicato strings and oboe suggested a dalliance with pop baroque, seemed no more than professional arrangements.

After the interval, a set by Nathan Haines and his Dream band was simply too long. The sound mix was not flattering, and Haines' strained vocals were easily overshadowed by his sleek instrumentals.

Joel Haines' laconic guitar and Alan Brown's witty Vocoder turn were decided assets, although surprise guests King Kapisi and Teremoana Rapley added little to the party apart from some soulful spicing.

- NZ Herald

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