It was terrific to see so many of you at our concerts in June and July as we travelled the country on our annual National Tour.
The whole tour felt very special, with such exciting repertoire and great audiences. To begin, we fought off the Featherston frost with a programme of Mozart, Gao Ping, Janacek and Dvorak, then hopped in the minivan for concerts in Wellington, Napier, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Auckland. Performing in great venues like Hamilton’s Gallagher Theatre and (later on the tour) Christchurch’s The Piano adds bloom to our string sounds and encourages us into ever more nuance and expression – a source of satisfaction and delight. Our long weekend in Auckland saw us scoot (Monique!) and sail between Devonport, Waiheke Island, and Parnell, performing in resonant heritage churches and by cosy firesides.
Photo: Stephen Gibbs (St Mary of the Angels, 29 June 2019)
Along the way we also stopped off at Irongate School in Hastings (thanks to Or-che-strate) and Papatoetoe South School (through Tironui Music Trust) to give workshops and concerts for primary students, many of whom hadn’t had the opportunity to experience a string quartet before. We received an incredibly warm welcome from both schools, and it was a privilege to see such talent and passion in the students’ music-making.
Workshop with Tironui students
After winding our way up the North Island, we flew to Dunedin to begin the southern leg of the tour in the atmospheric Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Next, it was off to Christchurch to perform Haydn, Shostakovich, and Ravel. Making our way north, we gave two sold-out concerts at Cloudy Bay Vineyards in Blenheim. The thought of performing two different programmes just four hours apart was a bit daunting, especially after a 5am wake-up call in Christchurch that morning. It was all great fun in the end with such a special atmosphere in the Treehouse at Cloudy Bay. For this concert we set up ‘in the round’ with the audience surrounding us, rotating our stands (and ourselves) at intermission to allow everyone a different view.
Cloudy Bay Treehouse, 13 July 2019
Discovering Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 10, which we’d never performed before, was a highlight. Initially, Gillian began learning the work with a somewhat dubious attitude, which gradually transformed into a high degree of reverence and a real pleasure. While Shostakovich may not have initially been her first choice, finally, after years of efforts at persuasion, she convinced us to play Dvorak’s op.61, which turned out to be another reward of the National Tour. Receiving and learning Gao Ping’s characterful and charming new Prayer Songs was another high point, not to mention our joy in playing Ravel’s delicious quartet. The Frenchman’s rhythmical and evocative work providing the perfect end to our tour in Wellington on Bastille Day.