26 Jun 2020

NZ Symphony Orchestra return-to-live gala sells out

11:16 am on 26 June 2020

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will play to a full house of more than 2,000 people tonight, in what's thought to be the first live orchestra performance to a full concert hall since the pandemic began.

Simon O’Neill, Maisey Rika, Horomona Horo and Eliza Boom

Simon O'Neill, Maisey Rika, Horomona Horo and Eliza Boom are to perfom in the sold out NZSO gala concert tonight. Photo: NZSO

The free performance at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre Ngu Kīoro... Harikoa Ake - celebrating togetherness, is a programme designed to celebrate the efforts of New Zealanders in helping eliminate Covid-19. It will be livestreamed, and broadcast live [on RNZ Concert https://www.rnz.co.nz/concert].

Laurence Kubiak, chair of the NZSO board, says it's a "wonderfully varied and enjoyable programme".

"This evening's programme has so many different things in it. So we have some music like Der Rosenkavalier, that's from the great classical tradition, we have Pōkarekare Ana, we have some opera, we have pieces written 150 years ago, we've got pieces written the day before yesterday.

"It's wonderful to be playing live again and to be collaborating with such wonderful soloists."

During the national lockdown for Covid-19 the orchestra had to think fast to reinvent itself for a world without live performances.

"We've been playing throughout the lockdown period, but we've been doing it on the internet, this is our first foray into the outer... since Covid, Kubiak said.

"We've had incredible reach on the internet streamed performances - many many multiples of what we would get in a concert hall. So it's actually been a very good learning experience for the orchestra to go through, and we certainly want to continue to do that."

But the excitement of a full concert hall is hard to beat.

"Live music is a completely different experience to listening to something streamed - or a CD if you're old-fashioned, in your own home. There's a buzz about those events, there's a real sense of occasion and atmosphere," he said.

"[Tonight] I think everybody's going to have the sort of experience you can only hear when a 90-piece orchestra plays live to an appreciative audience."

The orchestra is discussing what could be involved in a return to touring, but no plans have been made yet, he said.

"We do want to go back on the road because the NZSO is largely a touring orchestra, we try and fill this wonderful country of ours with music."

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