Gill and Helene look back on one of our largest ever national tours. Presented by Arts on Tour NZ, a wonderful organisation supporting access to the arts, we visited 18 small Aotearoa communities during the month of May who are often skipped by classical music tours.
Arts on Tour is an iconic NZ organisation that has been providing access to the performing arts to small communities all over New Zealand for almost 30 years. They tour music of all kinds, theatre shows, puppet shows, you name it! They provide a van, artists drive themselves, locals set up the venues - it’s quality arts on a shoestring and brings so much pleasure to so many. The last time the NZSQ toured for them was in 1997, so it was about time we did that again. Unfortunately it coincided with Arts on Tour being declined for Creative NZ funding, so we had to rethink the budgeting side of the equation. But since the dates were all in place, we decided we absolutely had to go anyway, especially since COVID had limited audiences’ access to live arts in the past three years.
The experience exceeded our expectations - most of the 18 concerts were sold out, and the vibe was fantastic - from Reefton to Tarras to Onekaka to Paeroa, audiences responded enthusiastically to our varied programmes which ranged from Mozart/ Haydn/ Schubert/ Mendelssohn/ Shostakovich/ Smetana to 21st century New Zealand music. We also had fascinating chats with audience members, many of whom had never heard a string quartet before and found very interesting parallels with theatre or sports, or referenced their life experiences as reflected in the music. Some centres had uninhibitedly vocal audience members who gave very direct verbal reactions straight after hearing a movement - often sighs or “wow”, but most memorably: “Well, that’s somethin' else!” after hearing Bergamasca by Lyell Cresswell. (Lyell would have LOVED that!) Aside from the music we were also super lucky with the weather and loved seeing so much of the country in its autumnal glory. The instruments got to enjoy some walks in the bush (Lake Matheson, for instance) and in the middle we celebrated Gill’s birthday at the Riverstone Cafe north of Oamaru.
- Helene Pohl, First Violin
One aspect that impressed us all a great deal was the importance of community involvement in presenting Arts on Tour. In most places, friendly volunteers were helping in various roles, front of house, selling tickets, heating the venue (a whole day in advance in Tarras!) making cups of tea and providing suppers (two laden tables in Balcain), manning the bar, operating the lighting etc. One could see so much pride in their local venue and with putting on a good show. It always seemed seamless and convivial. A great model.
- Gillian Ansell, Viola
To find out what Arts on Tour are touring next, head to their website: aotnz.co.nz