Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh have gifted $2 million to help build Wellington’s new National Music Centre.
Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) announced the “generous” gift on Monday, saying it would help to fit out the state-of-the-art recording studios in the basement of the Town Hall.
It’s the latest development in the collaboration between Wellington City Council, VUW and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s work to create a musical hub near Civic Square which will include teaching spaces and performance spaces as well as recording studios.
Sir Peter and Dame Fran said they are thrilled to be able to contribute to the refit and welcome the opportunity to support local talent.
“This amazing new facility has far more significance than just being an old building that’s been converted into a recording studio.”
The music for The Hobbit was recorded in the Town Hall with assistance from NZSO, and Sir Peter said the Abbey Road audio engineers described the space as being one of “the best acoustics spaces they had encountered.
“When the Town Hall was built, microphones and tape recorders didn’t exist—they hadn’t been invented. It was built to be a live performance venue with the sound of every voice and instrument bouncing perfectly from wall to wall.”
Plus, the Town Hall holds more significance than just great acoustics, said Sir Peter.
“Let’s not forget ... it’s where The Beatles performed in 1964, and that alone makes it sacred.”
Housed in the refurbished basement of the Town Hall, the recording studios will provide a complete in-house package of recording and mixing capability which will rival some of the best in the world.
NZSO chief executive Peter Biggs says Sir Peter and Dame Fran’s generosity will ultimately benefit all New Zealanders.
“While the recording suite is significant for the NZSO, it will also help raise the profile of Aotearoa New Zealand as a one-stop shop for filmmaking talent, whether it’s acting and directing, visual effects or film scoring.”
Chair of the national music centre fundraising campaign, Dame Kerry Prendergast, thanked the donors for their generous support.
“I’m thrilled to be moving forward in the next steps of revitalising our beloved Town Hall.”
Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau said the move was “a really generous gesture by two people who’ve already done so much for Wellington.
“We are all looking forward to the completion of the Town Hall upgrade and the opening of the state-of-the-art recording facilities – thank you so much to Peter and Fran.”
Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.