General Update

A generic travel-related icon.

A generic travel-related icon.

There are a whole lot of things that I should have written about, but haven’t. It’s been a while since an update.

In the last month I’ve moved cities from Dunedin to Auckland. Over my last week down south (10-17 December), I had a whole lot of stuff to finish off: my last Song Sale, recording the tracks for Promise & Promiscuity, recording further vocals of songs with other Song Salers, and producing a live radio broadcast from Albany Street Studios. And of course there was the simple fact that I was leaving Dunedin after my one year as Mozart Fellow, a damn significant time in my life… maybe I should blog about these things when they come to fruition. read more

Read more

#llamadrama

This afternoon, Buz Bryant-Greene gives the première performance of my solo piano piece #llamadrama. That’s right, I’m so social media my composition is a hashtag.

Buz first played my music in May 2009, specifically the Sonatina for clarinet and piano with Anna McGregor. Before long, he followed it with Seven Banana Songs for soprano & piano, Maeve for piano & tape, and a silly little microscore called Drying Music.

However, still by then I had written no substantial solo piano piece for anybody, so Buz applied to Creative New Zealand in August 2010 for funds to commission me for a 10-12 minuter. Six weeks later we were granted success. I even got paid up-front! read more

Read more

The red piano.

Last week I was in Wellington and I had the opportunity to play He Kōrero Pūrākau mo te Awanui o Te Motu, that bright red piano ornately carved by Michael Parekowhai. I had a friend video some of the performances at Te Papa.

Here’s the YouTube playlist. It contains attempted Maori strum in Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi (yes, bajingajink on piano), a singalong on Poi E, a New Zealand music lesson on Pōkarekare Ana, the Split Enz classic Message to My Girl, and Beyoncé’s Single Ladies.

And as a bonus, here’s Trubie-Dylan Smith’s Das kraftwerkische Blenderlied performed at the last Song Sale: read more

Read more

LEN LYE a review

I’m in Auckland until this afternoon. I came up on Wednesday to see my former composition lecturer’s new piece LEN LYE the opera, and to review it for Theatreview. (Actually there are more like four of my old teachers among the core creative team…)

It’s “a major statement of advocacy for the overlooked genius and forward-thinking artistry of Len Lye”. My review’s here. The NBR and the Herald carry shorter write-ups.

Today I meet with Penny Ashton, Thomas Sainsbury and James Wenley about musicals in various stages of development. read more

Read more

The NZSO ain’t getting axed (ditto APO, VWO, CSO & SS)

Yesterday, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage released a discussion paper as part of their New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review.

The above paragraph is a simple, non-controversial, balanced declarative sentence. That’s more than Stuff and TVNZ can say. However, it’s easy for me to take the moral high ground because I’m neither a newspaper chain that needs to drive eyeballs to my website, nor a faux-public broadcaster that has the same commercial imperative.

The NZSO rehearsing for “Leaps & Sounds” at the Michael Fowler Centre.

These two media outlets reported the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the country’s oldest and best funded orchestra, may be “axed” (Stuff) or “scrapped” (TVNZ). Radio New Zealand National didn’t do much better: Checkpoint’s headline was “Culture and Heritage releases report on the NZSO” (yes, and four other orchestras too). Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage Chris Finlayson has since said that disestablishment is “unthinkable”. read more

Read more

Leaps & Sounds

The Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra have just announced Leaps & Sounds, and it’s a bloody great idea.

Since 2005, the NZSO has held an annual Young Composers Award, supported by the Todd Corporation. After a call for scores, the orchestra chooses a dozen or so pieces to be rehearsed and recorded. All the composers come to Wellington and get to work with the orchestra and a conductor, and Radio New Zealand Concert makes a programme of them as well.

For many of the composers, it’s the first time their works are played by a professional orchestra. It’s a chance to learn how to maximise limited rehearsal time – an essential skill in working with orchestras. read more

Read more

Little India

I arrived in Dunedin just over eight hours ago. Chronology of my week:

  • Tue 10: the last time presenting Sound Lounge.
  • Wed 11: my last day at work for Radio New Zealand Concert; after-work drinks.
  • Thu 12: packed up all my belongings in my flat in Wellington; parents flew into town.
  • Fri 13: movers arrived to take half of the belongings in a truck; big karaoke-filled farewell party at The Fringe Bar (with a superbly varied cross-section of Wellingtonians)
  • Sat 14: tetrised the remainder of my belongings into my car; sailed from Wellington to Picton; stayed overnight in Kaikoura.
  • Sun 15: drove from Kaikoura to Dunedin; stopped in Christchurch to walk the perimeter of the Red Zone (more on that later); unpacked my stuff into my new flat.

I have a lawn.

In true awesome Dunedin fashion, my wall-mate (i.e. I’m in 12A, she’s in 12B) helped me unload a car’s worth of stuff, suggested the best Indian restaurant in town (Little India, 308 Moray Pl, for the record) and gave me a brief tiki-tour of the university campus.

After that, I’ve taken the chance to unpack and find a home for many items. It’s not yet perfect, but it’s coming along. Amusingly, the best place to store my musical instruments is in the kitchen. This beat is cookin’. read more

Read more

Sorry, I meant to see your show – the lyrics!

By request, here are the lyrics to my song, commissioned to open the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. I owe a clear debt of gratitude to the superb opening number to this year’s Tony Awards.

I’ve also uploaded the demo I made for the singers:

Sorry, I meant to see your show (demo) by Robbie Ellis

Some lyrics changed in the rehearsal process (and we certainly slowed it down from my speed-demon intentions), but most remained the same. Forgive my falsetto for soprano parts.

“Sorry, I meant to see your show” was performed last night at the Wellington Opera House by MC Emma Kinane and the Shoreline Cab Savs (Carmel McGlone, Bryony Skillington, Jess Robinson, Martyn Wood, Nick Dunbar & Gareth Farr/Lilith La Croix), with me (Robbie Ellis) on piano. read more

Read more

Sorry, I meant to see your show

I, George Nēpia publicity shot

I, George Nēpia - winner of four awards including Production of the Year, and yet another Wellington theatre success story I didn't end up seeing. (Publicity image thiefed from circa.co.nz.)

Last night the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards took place, an annual Wellington institution to recognise awesome. I played continuity music.

I also wrote the opening song called “Sorry, I meant to see your show”, which was performed brilliantly by the Shoreline Cab Savs and MC Emma Kinane. (Edit: Lyrics & demo here.) It’s quite appropriate: out of the nine shows that won awards – the cream of this year’s Wellington theatre crop – I saw only three. At least Nēpia has a return season starting tomorrow (Edit: Thursday) so there’s no excuse there. read more

Read more

Have my job

My desk at Radio New Zealand.

My desk at Radio New Zealand. I promise I'll leave it tidier than this.

I’m leaving Radio New Zealand Concert, finishing up in mid-January. (That said, I’ll stay involved as an external freelance contributor to programmes like Composer of the Week, The Critic’s Chair, Upbeat etc.)

My bosses have advertised my job and you can apply for it. I have reduced the job summary to a haiku:

…strong…working…artists…
…unusual blend…and…desire…
…celebrate…to hear…

That’s all you really need to know. I mean, you can send away for an actual full job description if you like but those things are always so full of HR waffle. Trust me, it’s a good job. read more

Read more