Not a single seat in the Royal Wanganui Opera House was filled for Brass Whanganui's second Sound Canvas show on Saturday night which, on any other night, would surely have been a disaster for a local performance.
In this case, however, a near sold-out audience took their places on the stage with the band itself, after perusing works by local artists Dan Mills and Scott Anthony de Lautour in the foyer and being treated to a hilarious safety briefing, where Jonathon Greenwell's every word was accompanied by Hamish Jellyman's trombone.
It was clear from then on that this wouldn't be your average brass band show.
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Beginning with an interpretation of Queen's Innuendo, the band glided through genres, tempos and moods, with soloists popping up on each side of the audience and the band lowering their instruments to sing. Local artworks (from Artists Open Studios participants such as Max McGrail, Catherine MacDonald, Katherine Claypole and Michelle Colson) were projected onto a large screen next to the band and all the while an eerily-lit driftwood dinosaur sculpture by Jack Marsden-Mayer kept an eye on proceedings from a corner.
Free from the constraints of a traditional brass band setup, Brass Whanganui leader Bruce Jellyman guided his troops through a 90-minute performance that was innovative at every turn. The gentle funk of A Rose between Two Thornes gave way to haunting interpretations of Te Aroha by Maisey Rika and The Pohutukawa Stand by Peter Meechan, and during Jelly Roll Morton's Black Bottom Stomp, a beaming Jellyman even afforded himself a brief dance as the band played on in the middle of the audience.
While the band made it look as easy as buttoning up their dress shirts, it was clear that the show had been thoroughly rehearsed and meticulously planned, with the 12 musical numbers, projected artworks and readings of poetry and lyrics creating one continual piece of art.
Pakaitore, a poem by Airini Beautrais, drew smiles and nods of approval from the band members, and the "quardle oodle ardle" of Denis Glover's poem The Magpies was also a highlight of the spoken word segments.
Hamish Jellyman, son of Bruce, provided a significant amount of original music to the show, and it was his Street Jam that provided an unexpected end to an already unexpected evening.
As the doors to the foyer swung open, the band broke into a heavy groove and disappeared out of view. After clapping politely for a moment, the audience followed along after them and the band, lining each side of the Opera House carpark, played them off into the night.
Overall, Sound Canvas was a brilliant and innovative hour and a half, and one can only hope that it will return again next year. If the smiles on the faces of band and audience alike are anything to go by, then it will definitely will.