Local Culture: Whanganui Intermediate’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’

WIS Alice 1One of the privileges which my job affords me is the opportunity to build often-lasting relationships with the many children who pass through our programmes, and I was deeply touched when several, whom I have known for a number of years, went out of their way to invite me to their performance of Alice in Wonderland. Continue reading “Local Culture: Whanganui Intermediate’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’”

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Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet

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Recently my Dad gave me a real treat: he took me out to see The Imperial Russian Ballet’s ‘Festival of Russian Ballet’ at the Whanganui Opera House. With the tag-line ‘if you only see one ballet in a lifetime, make it ‘A Festival of Russian Ballet’, they were certainly confident in what they had to offer, and over the course of the three-hour performance they delivered. Continue reading “Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet”

Poems You Should Know: ‘The Maori Jesus’ by James K. Baxter

Mid-twentieth century poet James K. Baxter was a complicated man with a certain prophetic bent. A number of his poems, like this one, challenged contemporary social assumptions. In ‘The Maori Jesus’, the Christ is depicted as a somewhat down-and-out member of New Zealand’s indigenous people who pays a heavy price for living outside comfortable White social norms. For me as a Christian, Baxter captures something in this poem which is too easily forgotten in our ‘nice’ White, middle class religion.

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Excerpt from ‘The Maori Jesus’ on display outside Te Papa museum in Wellington. In my student days I often used to walk past this but it took me years to look up the poem it came from.

Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘The Maori Jesus’ by James K. Baxter”

Local Culture: A Whanganui Opera Homecoming featuring Bianca Andrew and David Kelly

Bianca Andrew.jpgThe more time I spend exploring the cultural offerings of Whanganui the more I realise just how much is out there and just how proud our community is of what we have to offer. That pride was in evidence a couple of weeks ago at a fundraising concert for Bianca Andrew, an alumna of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama who originally hails from Wellington and was, during her undergraduate studies in New Zealand, a well-loved part of Whanganui’s annual Opera Week.

Continue reading “Local Culture: A Whanganui Opera Homecoming featuring Bianca Andrew and David Kelly”

On My Reading List: July 2017

By the time I worked my way through last month’s list I felt like I was drowning in testosterone, so I’ve kept this month’s list short and gentler.

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‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee (1959): is a memoir of the author’s childhood growing up in a village in the English Cotswolds in the years following World War One. These are no misery memoirs but neither does the golden glow of nostalgia entirely obscure the reality of a life in which it was perfectly acceptable for a house to flood every time there was a storm, education to consist of a rudimentary Three R’s delivered as well as they would ever be by the age of 14, and for a child to have eleven siblings, of which four were deceased. And that’s before we’ve even reached the superstition, murder, and suicides. Lee shares his memories with a warmth and humour which is irresistible even when his recollections are decidedly unsettling. Continue reading “On My Reading List: July 2017”

Local Culture: The Palmerston North Choral Society performance of Requiems by Mozart and Fauré

20170708_184032Recently the Significant Other treated me to an evening out in Palmerston North where we attended performances of Mozart’s and Fauré’s requiems. In classical music requiem, or more properly Requiem Mass, is a musical setting of the Catholic religious service offered for the souls of the deceased. Originally performed most often in the context of a funeral, the beauty of the music written for these services is such that requiems are often performed, as they were on this occasion, for their artistic value alone. Continue reading “Local Culture: The Palmerston North Choral Society performance of Requiems by Mozart and Fauré”

Wine Tasting: Ohau Wines

Ohau 2An hour and a half south of Whanganui lies the closest thing to a local winery: Ohau Wines, between Otaki and Levin. On a recent trip south to visit my sister in Wellington I decided to stop in. It was a cold, grey day, but the welcome at the small cellar door was warm and the marketing manager (whose name I regrettably forgot to ask) was passionate and knowledgeable.

I came to know of Ohau Wines when I discovered their Woven Stone range in a local supermarket, but I was amazed by the range of wines they had available – enough that I had to decline to taste many of them to ensure I could continue south safely and legally. Woven Stone (which is good wine) is their low-end, mass-produced supermarket range, and the winery has been doing some interesting things with their direct-sale-only wines. Continue reading “Wine Tasting: Ohau Wines”

Local Culture: Whenua Hou: New Maori Ceramics

20170617_124004The space above the local information centre acts as an extension of the public art gallery, currently located across the road while earthquake-strengthening work is carried out on the original building, constructed in 1919 (earthquake strengthening is a national obsession at the moment due to the devastating effects of two severe earthquakes in the last six years. The local museum is also closed, and the local opera house reopened last year after it was strengthened. But I digress).

Currently on display is a selection of ceramic work by Maori artists. Pottery and ceramics were introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in the 1800s, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that they really caught on among Maori artists, but as this exhibition shows the results have been marvellous. Continue reading “Local Culture: Whenua Hou: New Maori Ceramics”

New Zealand Artist: Rita Angus

Rita Angus, Cass, 1936
Rita Angus, Cass, 1936

Rita Angus (1908-1970) is well-known in New Zealand for her clear, sharp-edged portraits and landscapes, including ‘Cass’, which was voted New Zealand’s favourite painting in a 2006 TV show. Rather than talking about her, I’m just going to show you a few of her paintings. Continue reading “New Zealand Artist: Rita Angus”

New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon (1919-1987) is one of New Zealand’s most prominent artists. He was one of a group of artists who introduced Modernism into New Zealand, and is perhaps best-known for his large-scale works, often in muted, earthy tones or shades of black, white, and grey, which layered text over a background image.

McCahon Urewera Mural 1976
Colin McCahon, Urewera Mural, 1976

Continue reading “New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon”