Rotorua's Lakeside concert has become one of the big events of the Rotorua summer. Ahead of next Saturday's 20th show Rebecca Malcolm catches up with the man behind it, Ian Edward, and looks at how far the event has come.

JUST A week out from the 20th Lakeside, Ian Edward is already in planning mode for next year's event. Mr Edward says it's not coming up with the ideas that's the issue-it's narrowing them down.

"I could sit down and plan out the next 10 shows. There are just so many possibilities. The only determinant is, do the public like what we do?"

For the 20th, though, he says it is all about a return to the roots-bringing back the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and some of the event's original performers.

"I like to think of Lakeside as a musical journey."

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He says while this year has an orchestra, instead of being a classical concert it is a case of showcasing the "classic" songs.

"There's something for everyone, that's the key message."

For Mr Edward, it's all about sticking to the mission statement of the trust- "to bring together the best of Maori, classical and contemporary entertainment in a concert format, free and accessible to every citizen of the region".

Lakeside concert from 2012. Photo/File
Lakeside concert from 2012. Photo/File

It's down to that reason the trust has shied away from going back to the same format as the spectacularly successful "A Knight withaDame" concert, which saw Sir Howard Morrison team up with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in front of a 40,000-plus crowd at Rotorua's International Stadium in 2000.

The concert, which was planned to mark the Millennium, was a phenomenal success with the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust buying 25,000 tickets to give away to ratepayers for free.

As Mr Edward tells the story, the queues were some of the longest Rotorua had ever see -people were fainting in line waiting to secure their tickets and the interest was so great the trust had to purchase thousands more tickets to meet demand. With such success, Mr Edward says they have contemplated moving the concert for the 20th anniversary but decided to stay true to the successful formula they'd developed.

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"'A Knight with a Dame' was unique. I like the way it will stay unique forever. It was extraordinary. Everything about it was extraordinary."

It's that same reasoning that has seen them steer clear of international acts. A plan to bring Sir Cliff Richard to the show didn't go as planned. They were approached by an international management firm for a proposed five-year contract featuring an international artist each year. In the end, it didn't eventuate for several reasons. Mr Edward says it comes back to the mission statement- free and inclusive.

He still believes there is the opportunity for something like that but not under the way the trust works. "I believe the opportunity is there, but under a different funding model."

Mr Edward said the free, inclusive model worked well-evidenced by the crowds of tens of thousands who turned out each year. While there are no concrete figures, most years it has attracted between 25,000 to 30,000 people and is eagerly anticipated by locals. Mr Edward says he has never been in any doubt that the Lakeside concept works.

"Based on history it was going to work, the fact that Te Arawa have been great hosts for 150 years."

 Ian Edward.
Ian Edward.

With almost 20 of the concerts under his belt, Mr Edward says it is impossible to pick a favourite.

"They have all been a favourite. I marvel at the success but it is planned success."

He says the concerts have had standout moments-there was one in 2009 which saw the coming together of all sorts of different musical elements over 10 minutes, culminating in an Eagles performance.

"It was a stunning finish."

Another came when he was sitting back watching The Feelers perform onstage.

"I was sitting there thinking, 'This is truly international'." Then there was the "wonderful moment" in the first concert when, after bringing forward the start time because of a storm warning, the heavy rain stopped as soon as Sir Howard Morrison took to the stage to perform. A couple of years later he did a number where from stage left came a ballerina, and stage right a Maori boy dressed in the full kapa haka outfit with the two meeting in the middle.

"It was spine-tingling, the two cultures meeting each other."

The pair danced around each other to I Believe I Can Fly before the young warrior carried off the ballerina. It's a moment that has stuck in his mind.

So, too, have the wise words of Bishop Bennett from the first concert who really encompassed the whole notion that it should be inclusive. "He said, 'together is best'." It's those words that Mr Edward has tried to live by, be it through his work in health, education or his role on the concert trust.

Run entirely by volunteers-the makeup of the trust will see its first major changes this year when three trustees step down. Mr Edward doesn't put too much thought into just how many hours he's poured into the event.

"It's my golf. The family are really good, they know this is what I do." He says they also make a point of grabbing him sometime during each concert for a dance, to make sure he enjoys the moment. Despite the hours it takes, Mr Edward says he wouldn't have it any other way.

"What right have I, as a pharmacist, to be doing this? There must be lots who could do this."

History of Lakeside:
1997: First Lakeside Concert featuring Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and winners of Lockwood Aria with Sir Howard Morrison, Patricia Bayne, Tim Beveridge, Ngati Rangiwewehi Cultural Group, Shaun Dixon, Rachel Doig.

1998: Spirits will Soar headlined by the Howard Morrison Quartet with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra under the conductor Peter Scholes of Rotorua.

1999: Spirits Will Soar featuring Dame Malvina Major's first performance at Lakeside and Frankie Stevens.

2000: Special Millennium concert A Knight With a Dame featuring Sir Howard Morrison and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at Rotorua International Stadium with ticket sales for the first time.

2001: ENZSO A Celebration of the Music of Splits ENZ.

2002: Malvina - Dame Malvina Major with Sir Howard Morrison.

2003: Best of the Best with Suzanne Lynch, John Rowles, Ray Columbus, Gray Bartlett, Eddie Low, the Howard Morrison Quartet and others.

2004: Headlined Vegas, the show featured Frankie Stevens, Midge Marsden and Tim Beveridge among others.

2005: Encore! Great moments in music. The star of the show was Lakeside favourite Sir Howard Morrison. Other entertainers included Jackie Clarke, Tom Sharplin and the Yandall Sisters

2006: A Touch of Class mixing some traditional Lakeside favourites like Dame Malvina Major and Sir Howard Morrison with new performers like Elizabeth Marvelly and Rosita Vai.

2007: Heart & Soul with performers such as blues legend Midge Marsden, hip-hopper Che Fu and the female foursome The Lady Killers.

2008: Make Mine Music included Russell Harrison, Chris Powley, Olivia Drake and a special appearance by The Drifters.

2009: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet was the 13th annual concert that traced the joint Scottish and Maori background. Performers included Nga Uri O Te Whanoa, Margaret Keys, Annie Crummer, Gray Bartlett, Chet O'Connell, Suzanne Prentice, Russell Harrison, Chris Powley, Simon Green, Sharon Emerali, Ursula Boon, Autozamm, Patea Maori Club and Fearless.

2010: Hollywood Goes to Vegas brought the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to Rotovegas with Howard Morrison Jnr, Stan Walker, Jason Kerrison, Tina Cross, Tim Beveridge and Ben Makisi.

2011: Made in New Zealand with Shane Cortese, Jackie Clarke, Elizabeth Marvelly and Drew Neemia

2012: When Love Comes to Town with performers like Frankie Stevens, Ray Woolf, Turanga Merito and Taisha.

2013: Lakeside 2013 was Come Together a celebration of the music of the Beatles. Tina Cross, Michael Murphy, Elisha Hulton, Seth Haapu

2014: The Bald, The Blind and The Beautiful featuring Frankie Stevens, Elizabeth Marvelly, John Rowles, Jackie Clarke and, Moses and Amitai from Sol3 Mio.

2015: The Night Fantastic with Jason Kerrison, Annie Crummer, Tina Cross, Pene Pati and more.