How many people get to be part of the audience in the recording of a live album? Some of us did last Wednesday night when we attended a concert "on stage" at the Royal Wanganui Opera House.
Elizabeth de Vegt is a Whanganui singer / songwriter / musician / tutor of considerable talent, and she has taken 15 poems by Airini Beautrais, from her book 'Flow', set them to music and now, with the help of some accomplished local musicians, recorded them on to an album, due to be released in March.
After meeting and mingling in the refreshments room beside the Opera House stage, buying programmes for the performance and Airini Beautrais books from a stall set up by Lesley and Rochelle from Paige's Book Gallery, the audience filed on to the stage where everything was set, ready for for the recording session. Instruments, including the resident grand piano, with microphones, fold-back speakers, wires and leads, cluttered centre-stage. Chairs, lots of chairs, encircled the business, some raised on to "rostra" for a higher view. The audience took whatever seat they fancied, secured their programmes and books and waited for proceedings to start.
The evening was introduced with good humour by Carla Donson, Women's Network manager and La Fiesta co-ordinator. The event will also become part of the La Fiesta programme with a performance scheduled for March 5 at St Peter's Church in Koromiko Rd.
"None of this would be happening without the extraordinary achievements and discipline and talent of Airini Beautrais," she said, beginning a list of acknowledgements. The audience applauded — which would be good practice for later on — and Carla presented Airini with a bunch of flowers picked from Carla's own garden. The acknowledgement was not just for Flow and the words to accompany the music, but for her ongoing support of the project.
Others recognised for their roles were Piet de Vegt; Cecelia Kumeroa and Sacha Keating; Gina Guigou and her catering team; Creative Communities Whanganui and Whanganui District Council; Nigel Mauchline (audio production); the Royal Whanganui Opera House events team; with a special thanks to Te Awa Tupua, the Whanganui River, the subject of Flow.
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Carla then introduced the band: Lizzie de Vegt (vocals, piano, guitar), Elise Goodge (taonga puoro and vocals), Brad McMillan (drums), Andrew Wetherall (lead guitar), and Hamish Jellyman (bass, synth bass and vocals).
Carla withdrew and the concert began with 'Surveyor's Grave' and 'Falling Branch', both solo piano pieces with Lizzie's vocals.
From the third track the rest of the band came in, with extra vocals and Elise's carefully judged use of taonga puoro or traditional Maori instruments. She had them all laid out on a table for easy, quiet access and each was able to enhance certain passages of Lizzie's compositions, adding emotion, bird song or drama in measured quantities.
The 15 tracks in total were examples of strong, melodic composition, rich harmonies and a wealth of variety in style, tone and use of talent.
When it came to the track 'Port Bowen', Elise said, "In the process of writing this music, Lizzie inadvertently created a new musical genre. We're calling it 'danty' — it's sea shanty meets dub."
The audience came from many parts of the community but came together in appreciation of the evening's performance.
This was the third day the band and recording engineers spent in the Opera House preparing the album.