The June interview: changing perceptions of chamber music
3 June 2014
Chamber Music New Zealand has been working with professional musicians, community musician Julian Raphael and young disabled people since 2011 to present workshops and “relaxed” performances. Jessica Lightfoot talks about the organisation’s accessibility programme.
Q. Tell us about the programme and how it has developed.
A. I started attending Arts Access Aotearoa’s Arts For All Wellington Network forums in 2011 soon after I joined Chamber Music New Zealand. The forums got me thinking about the things we could do to increase access to music and change perceptions about chamber music.
Then we received a Creative New Zealand/Arts Access Aotearoa grant to do a project involving workshops and a performance with young disabled people. The result was a concert in the Wellington Town Hall in 2012 with the Enso String Quartet, Kimi Ora School and other students participating from around Wellington. That experience opened us up to a lot of ideas and thinking around other ways to present chamber music performances –that it doesn’t always have to be a traditional concert format.
The TSB Showplace in New Plymouth approached us after this and were keen to run a similar event. With their support and funding from the IHC Foundation, we presented a second performance with the trombone quartet BonaNZa and students from the Taranaki region last year.
Our third project was in May this year with the New Zealand String Quartet at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House. This time, the audience expanded to include more adults and kindergarten children. More than 170 people attended the performance with between 70 or 80 students performing – singing and playing percussion – with the New Zealand String Quartet and clarinettist James Campbell.
In all three projects, Julian Raphael has led the workshops and performances. He goes into the schools before the performances and runs workshops over two weeks to teach the music to the students. Julian’s the key to the success of the projects. He really believes in the programme, and in everyone being able to enjoy music as both performers and audience members.
Q. What are the benefits for Chamber Music New Zealand?
A. I think the big thing has been changing people’s perceptions that chamber music is elite and that, in fact, it can be enjoyed by lots of different people. So for Chamber Music New Zealand, it’s enabled us to open ourselves up to a group of people who maybe don’t know about us.
It’s also given us more profile in the community and shows we’re an accessible organisation interested in engaging with different communities.
For the musicians who have been involved, it’s a professional development opportunity to work with Julian and think about other ways to present chamber music and reach a bigger audience.
Although it’s me driving the programme, I’ve had a lot of support from my colleagues here. It’s been an interesting learning curve for me. Schools are so grateful for the opportunity and the feedback has been fantastic.
Building the programme from an idea to a fully fledged accessibility programme has given me a lot of confidence to continue this work in the future. It’s involved things like funding applications, reporting, strategy documents, event management and lots of communication.
Q. Where to for the programme now?
A. Well, it’s a great feeling that we can do this. Not just once but three times – with more to come. With the possibility in the future of more secure funding, we do have lots of ideas for the rest of this year and beyond. Our next project is an audio described performance with two pianists and two percussionists called Rhythm and Resonance. It’s on in Wellington on 26 August.
We’re also hoping to do our first South Island workshop and relaxed performance later this year.
Jessica Lightfoot is Operations Co-ordinator at Chamber Music New Zealand, the largest presenter touring top-quality chamber music concerts around the country.