Tears and laughter added to the special occasion as Hawke's Bay international opera singer Phillip Rhodes returned to rapturous home-territory applause, at a winery concert last night raising funds for a youth project in Flaxmere.

The U-Turn Italian Style concert was held at Mission Estate Winery in Taradale and was a black-tie affair, attended by about 150 people.

There was also an auction which included a book signed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and tickets to the September 6 rugby test between the All Blacks and Argentina in Napier.

Rhodes performed with Hawke's Bay musical success-story and mezzo-soprano Anna Pierard, in support of the U-Turn Trust and Te Aranga Marae.


The organisations benefiting from the night are close to the heart of the trust's ambassador, Hastings city councillor Henare O'Keefe and his wife Pam, who are foster parents to Rhodes.

Last night Mr O'Keefe was himself at the microphone, pledging eternal commitment to the aroha involved in bringing up children, telling the audience: "The mandate for tonight is luuuurve."

He said "Phillip" had come from a background that would "make Jake the Muss look like a pussycat".

Before the concert it had been a two-year stint abroad for the 34-year-old singer, honing his singing skills on the stages of Europe.

Rhodes said he was doing the concert for "Mum and Dad".