Cellist Elgee Leung rehearses with other members of Marlborough Civic Orchestra ahead of Saturday’s performance. Photo: Simon Clark.

Show will go on

The show will go on for Marlborough Civic Orchestra who will take to the stage on Saturday.

Following Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s announcement on Monday that alert levels would stay the same, the orchestra have been quick to act.

Now numbers will be limited in line with government guidelines at the ASB Theatre on 29 August.

The orchestra have been rehearsing the repertoire for this concert for most of the year after they had to postpone during lockdown.

The orchestra, featuring world renowned cellist Elgee Leung, will be conducted by Anthony Ferner, principle flute for the Christchurch Symphony orchestra.

ASB Theatre spokeswoman says the 7pm show will go ahead.

“The show will definitely be going ahead. Pending last minute arrangements to accommodate restrictions, there may be another afternoon performance.”

Tickets are still available at $35 for adults and $10 for children.

For any queries regarding ticket sales and show arrangements contact the ASB Theatre on 520 8558.

Random Directions film festival organiser Phil McKinnon. Photo: Matt Brown.

Film makers set for silver screen

A new film festival will soon hit Marlborough’s silver screens.

But the awards and certificates have been left on the cutting room floor – this purely local tournament is purely for the love of film.

Random Directions organiser and self-confessed cinephile Phil McKinnon says his festival is all about the movies; there’s no judgement, no pressure, and no politics allowed.

“It’s all about showcasing films and embracing anyone that wants to be involved in film in Marlborough,” he says.

“We want to keep it in the Marlborough community.”

Fifteen filmmakers will be showing off their hard work at Event Cinemas, in Blenheim, at the end of the month.

Phil says the playlist is a “combo” of films created in the first two years of the Random Directions group.

“Covid kind of got us behind,” he says.

“Next year, in September, we’ll show the films from our third year.

“The longest [film] is about 13 minutes. Most are around the four to five-minute mark,” Phil says.

He says a lot of planning and preparation go into films – even short ones.

“You have to rely on your crew.

“It’s always a whole lot of chaos and you have to manage the chaos as well as you can.”

“Movies – it’s what I love. Making them, watching them. Working at a cinema is one of the only jobs I’ve ever wanted to do.

“Now it’s all Netflix. It’s convenient but I miss checking out film covers at the video store.

He hopes the screening will attract new members to the group.

“People can get scared to get involved because they think they’ll have to be on screen.

“But there’s so much going on behind the scenes; sound, post-production, even catering.

“There’s heaps of different aspects.”

Film makers of all ages, from 16 years old to 50 plus will be showcasing their work.

All the proceeds from the short-film screening go toward cinema hire, and Phil says any extra money made he wants to put back into the local filmmaking community.

“We’re also looking at getting into scholarships, to encourage training in Marlborough.”

The “Marlborough-based film festival, Marlborough-made, for Marlburians” screens August 30 at Event Cinemas in Blenheim, from 7.30pm.

Tickets are available on Eventfinda.co.nz and cost $15 plus booking fee.

“Come buy a ticket and support local,” Phil says.

“It’s just Marlborough filmmakers – unless, of course, Taika calls. Then we’d make an exception.”

Former Sony Music Executive Paul Ellis is returning to Marlborough to set the stage for an annual music festival. Photo: Supplied.

The sound of music

From Cyndi Lauper to Sarah McLachlan etc he’s worked with some of the biggest names in music.

Former Sony Music executive, New Zealand Idol and NZ Got Talent judge Paul Ellis is back home in Marlborough.

And he has his sights set on bringing more top music talent to the township of Linkwater- making the Summer Sounds concerts an annual event.

While Paul says he can’t divulge any artist names yet, he can reveal they’ve one of the acts has had had four number 1 albums.

“It’s all under contract”, he says.

Swapping the big city of Auckland for the small rural township, the former Queen Charlotte Sounds man is excited to be back, organising the Summer Sounds gigs.

Supporting long-time friends and Queen Charlotte Tavern owners Mary-Ann Surridge and Jane Tito, Paul has been hitting up his contacts.

He’s also on the lookout for some local support music talent to support on the day.

“I have been away from Marlborough on and off for a long period, but I am keen to hear of any top of the south acts, let me know,” he says.

Paul’s signings include Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, Shona Laing and The Strawpeople.

“The location lends itself to a great place to enjoy a day of music. There’s tons of off-street parking and the opportunity to camp overnight”

“It’s not too big, it’s intimate and you have the incredible vista of the sounds hills as a backdrop,” he says.

Kicking off on Saturday 19 December, the first festival which will herald a mixture of New Zealand music royalty – with names to be revealed soon.

On 16 January 2021, the debut South Island performance of one of the hottest and exciting acts to emerge in NZ in the last 18 months will take to the stage, Paul says.

“As well as the music there will food and beverage stalls. If you want to camp overnight, it’s included in the ticket price.”

As Vice President of A&R for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Paul runs his own PR and music consultancy firm and last year bought OpShop Lead Singer Jason Kerrison to Linkwater.

“As well as the music there will food and beverage stalls. If you want to camp overnight, it’s included in the ticket price, Paul says. “I want people to be able to relax, have fun and enjoy this beautiful slice of paradise.”

Tickets for the R18 events are $55 plus booking fee on Eventfinda.co.nz

“It was important that the tickets weren’t too expensive, we want this to be within reach,” Paul says.

Email Paul Ellis at [email protected] if you know of any local music talent. Tickets on sale today. Go to Eventfinda.co.nz

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon organsiers Chris Shaw and Anna Polson have cancelled next year's event. Photo: Supplied.

Future of famous Marlborough marathon in jeopardy

Money woes have forced organisers behind one of Marlborough’s most famous races to pull the plug, with it’s long term future now uncertain.

The Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon has been cancelled for next year with promoters blaming the Covid-19 crisis for the change of heart.

Entrants will be refunded $30 from the average ticket of $99 as funds have already been spent preparing for this year’s race.

It has been an agonising decision to make, say co-ordinators Chris Shaw and Anna Polson who revealed refunding the entire fee would force the event into bankruptcy.

The pair have event insurance but pandemics are specified in the policy as non-payment events.

“We’ve put a lot of love and dedication into getting the race where it is today, and personally we’re devastated that our efforts have come to this. There have been some emails accusing us of being greedy and that makes me feel personally hurt.

“We’ve tried to be a generous member of the community and set out to give value back to the community. We haven’t just changed overnight.”

“We were hoping the event could take place in May 2021, but that’s not guaranteed by any means with the future of mass gatherings and events being so uncertain. We’re doing a good job at erradicating it [Covid-19] but,looking forward, we couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that we can hold it next year and to start preparing would be irresponsible, Chris says.

The event was originally postponed just days before lockdown officially begun.

All entries were transferred to a rescheduled race in May 2021 but that has now been shelved.

“We can’t be certain that the Vineyard Half planned for May 2021 will be able to go ahead either, so we will soon begin processing refunds to everyone who has entered this year’s event.

“We have agonised over the best process to refund and looked at the range of responses from other events.  We’re uncomfortable with the ‘refund nothing’ model, and ‘refund everything’ would simply bankrupt us; meaning you get nothing, and the Vineyard Half no longer exists,” Chris says.

All merchandise will be completely refunded, and organisers will donate any refunds not taken to race charity Bowel Cancer NZ.

The 14-year-old event has attracted thousands of people to the region and is a crucial way for Bowel Cancer NZ to raise funds.

Chris says he knows the lockdown has had an affect on the whole community.

“This has been an incredibly stressful and difficult time for us.

“We know everyone out there will be affected by this pandemic, so we hope you’ll understand how and why we’ve had to make this difficult decision.”

 

Viticulture cadet Jessica Marston features in a documentary about harvest at Villa Maria. Photo: Supplied.

Film first for vintage

A fly-on-the wall film giving viewers a behind the scenes look at vintage is set to make its screen debut.

Villa Maria has teamed up with an American filmmaker to create a feature length documentary, set to be released as the region gears up for its busiest time of year.

Titled Vintage, the movie followed staff from the Fairhall-based winery throughout vintage last year.

First timer Jessica Marston says she not only had her first harvest to cope with but a camera crew to contend with too.

“I didn’t want to do anything wrong; make a wrong move with harvest and I was more worried about that,” she says

The viticulturist, who graduated from Washington State University, says she was fortunate with her first harvest.

“I think I got quite lucky. Previous harvests sound like they were quite rough weather-wise. We also have a cool crew of people.”

Originally from Auckland, Jessica who graduated with a degree in viticulture and oenology has made Blenheim her home.

When she first heard about filmmaker Colin West’s concept for the film, she was keen to be included.

‘I like to talk,” she says.

The film also follows chief winemaker Nick Picone, viticulturist Stuart Dudley, chief viticulturist and Ollie Powrie.

It reveals how the team cope with unforeseen challenges, vastly varying climates, frost-filled early mornings and 24-hour-days.

Nick says it is the first time the vintage process has been captured on film

“For the first time ever in New Zealand, a winery is capturing the vintage process, peeking behind the curtain of the all-consuming harvest period known as vintage.

“You’ll see the passion and hard work that goes into every bottle.”

Director and producer Colin West says the film tells a uniquely Kiwi story.

“It captures the incredible highs and heart-breaking lows of making world class wine in New Zealand.”

“We hoped that everything would go well but we didn’t really know how vintage was going to unfold.  It’s so different from one year to the next,” He says.

Vintage will show on free-to-air television in a partnership with Three on Saturday 15 February at 10:30 PM.

Wine Station manager Michelle Osgood is looking for food truck chefs. Photo: Matt Brown.

An appetite for food truck comp

A Blenheim business owner is looking for food truck chefs to pit their wits and cooking talents against others.

The Wine Station in Blenheim will host an inaugural battle of food trucks in a bid to find the best food truck in the Top of the South.

Station manager Michelle Osgood says the event will also take advantage of 2020’s ‘extra Saturday’, falling on February 29.

She has been mulling over the ‘The Food Truck Off; Battle of the Whangamoas’ for around six months.

“We have had a lot of food truck events in the last two years, since we have been open, and we just wanted something that would sort of bring some different people to town,” she says.

“We also just wanted to get people together and have a street event, and that was the only way to do it.”

Open to food trucks based in Marlborough and Nelson, Michelle is hoping to attract around 20 to 30 operators.

A trophy is being made and donated by Havelock copper artist Tony Matthews, and attendees will be invited to vote for their favourite food truck.

“The idea is that maybe it will become a four-yearly event,” Michelle says.

It is also hoped that the event will attract more people to the region.

“I sort of envision that the food trucks will also get their followers to come along; the more of your own followers you have got, the more votes you’re going to get.”

Entry to the event will cost $10, with funds raised going to the Blenheim Rotary Club.

Running from 12pm and 7pm, it is hoped the event will appeal to both lunch and dinner time crowds, Michelle says.

“It’s really cool. I’m pretty excited, and I’m overwhelmed at how excited other people are,” Michelle says.

“It’s an extra Saturday that no one knew they had.”

Those interested in entering The Food Truck Off could contact Michelle directly via The Wine Station’s Facebook page, or via email; [email protected]

Vita Vaka and Nicole Pereira. Photo: Matt Brown.

Pacific theater debut

A dynamic duo hopes to start a new appreciation for Pasifika culture in the community.

The region’s first ever Pacific theatre is set to make its debut in Blenheim this weekend.

Written and directed by 30-year-old kiwi-born Tongan Vita Vaka, and producer and partner Nicole Pereira, Mafana highlights issues faced by Pacific youth in New Zealand.

Vita says the show uses a variety of Pacific performing arts to get the show’s message across.

Performers rehearsing for this weekends debut show. Photo: Matt Brown.
Performers rehearsing for this weekends debut show. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’re telling the story through dance and music but also acting as well.”

Twelve young Pasifika actors from the boys’ and girls’ colleges as well as the wider community will perform in the show.

“Mafana – what it means is heart warmth – something that is heart-warming or uplifting,” Vita says.

“With Pacific people, they get excited or this emotional feeling that they get when they see something expressed further than they can.”

“I’m hoping that with this show it can ignite and start the Mafana within people to pursue and fulfil their destiny.

“If you’re trying to achieve your goals or dreams, it’s not an easy thing to do,” he says.

“Having the Mafana ignite them will help carry them through beyond their fear, beyond something that you can articulate.”

Along with directing, writing and performing, Vita composed the final song, the Mafana Anthem, for the play.

“The other music is from Pacific artists or using musical instruments that we do in the Pacific,” he says.

Vita secured funding for the show through Creative New Zealand’s Moana grant and additional funding has come from various local organisations.

“[The grant] was all about using heritage arts for communities to experience and explore who they are and their Pacific cultural identity through the arts,” Nicole says.

“When we were writing for funding, we had to rationalise why money should go into a project like this with a small Pacific community and a small Pacific audience.

“In the bigger areas, [Pacific Islanders are] a majority group so this stuff is really well developed and supported.

“This is a way to ignite that cultural identity and be really proud of it,” she says.

Mafana actors Monu Moli and Joshua Leota. Photo: Matt Brown.
Mafana actors Monu Moli and Joshua Leota. Photo: Matt Brown.

17-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College student Joshua Leota plays the lead character, Simon, a Kiwi-born half-Tongan half-Samoan.

“[Simon] is kind of out of touch with his culture so he disregards it,” Joshua says.

“Through the play, he is taught the island ways.”

Joshua says he relates personally with the character.

“I’m Tongan-Samoan as well, I wouldn’t say I’m the most in touch with my culture, so this is a learning experience for me.”

Vita hopes Marlborough’s first Pacific theatre will ignite a passion in the community for more performing arts.

“My dream and my hope is that I can instil this in someone else and they carry on, that releases me to create more projects,” Vita says.

See Mafana at the Marlborough Boys’ College 7pm, Saturday 7 September.

Tickets are available online at http://bit.ly/mafanashow and cost $15 for adults and $7 for children.

The Blenheim and Districts Highland Pipe Band are putting on their first ceilidh in 15 years. Photo: Supplied.

Haggis on hand for special ceilidh

A homemade haggis will help lend a taste of Scotland to a special fundraising effort.

The Blenheim and Districts Highland Pipe Band will hold their first ceilidh in 15 years at the end of the month.

And a traditional haggis made by Scotsman John Nichol will take pride of place for the Address to the Haggis.

Organisers hope the Scottish social event will raise enough money for the band to perform at two key championships in New Zealand later this year and early next year.

Pipe Major Simon Kubala says the celebration of Scottish music and dancing will also feature some traditional customs.

As well as the haggis ceremony, traditional dancing and music from the pipe band there will be country dancing and dinner.

There are some great silent auction items up for grabs too, he says.

“It’ll be a lot of fun; the relaxed atmosphere, the tradition of getting a group of people, some who won’t know each other, up dancing and getting along like a family.

“Pipe band used to be more about older members but that’s not the case now. We have a six-and-seven-year olds sign up to learn to play,” he says.

Simon says the community have been very supportive with several businesses donating prizes for the auction.

A free trial flight through Marlborough Aero Club is one of the prizes.

The 20-strong club hope to travel to the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships in Invercargill in March and the Hororata Highland Games in November.

“It’ll be great to open piping up to people a bit, it used to be a bit closed off but that’s certainly not the case now,” says Simon.

The event will be held at the Blenheim Bowling Club on Weld Street on Saturday 31 August.  Doors open at 6.30pm.

Tickets are $20, with under 18-year-olds paying $5 and may be available from the door on the night.

Bayview Seafood in Picton, Challenge Station in Blenheim and Alden Lodge on Wellington Street in Picton are also selling tickets.

Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.

Nathan Haines makes triumphant return

A year and a half ago, chart-topping Kiwi jazz musician Nathan Haines was weeks into a months-long fight against throat cancer, a battle that would at times rob him of his voice, his energy and his plans for the future.

Post-treatment, the ambitious young man who left New Zealand in his teens and put out the first of 10 solo albums at age 22 is re-releasing an album and going on tour.

“This time is very special. I have reassembled the band I put together 25 years ago,” he says.

The album, Shift Left, marked the beginnings of a career that has taken Haines all over the world. It was also hugely influential in the New Zealand music landscape.

“I had no idea back then the influence that it would have.”

When he started there was no blueprint for the sort of music he was creating, so Haines started from scratch.

“There are some things about the album that I might not do now but I was 22,” he says. “But there is some fantastic musicianship on it.”

But all that legacy threatened to come crashing down when he was diagnosed with cancer. Haines didn’t know if he would even be able to talk let alone play again.

Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.
Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.

He managed to teach his other throat muscles to do the work. He swore off alcohol and coffee and negotiated ongoing radiation therapy.

“That was the most difficult part of the whole thing. I’m still dealing with the side effects daily,” he says.

But Haines thinks that he is now playing as good as he ever has.

He will also have some good company. The musicians who helped him on that first album are also coming out to accompany him on tour.

“It’s going to be a milestone,” Nathan says. “It’s been a journey, but I feel incredibly blessed to be here to do what I’m good at. I have an incredible passion and love for music.”

Nathan Haines plays at the Trafalgar Centre on August 17. Tickets through ticketdirect.co.nz

The Marlborough Weekly has a double pass to give away. Email [email protected] with your name and contact details by 14 August to be entered into the draw.

Marlborough Singers, from left, Elaine Harmer, Ros Henry, Marie Dietrich, Bett Munn and, on the piano, Margaret Hastings. Photo: Matt Brown.

Choir’s key to success

Members of one of Marlborough’s oldest choirs hope to find help to pay the people they rely on to keep them in key.

The Marlborough Singers have been entertaining audiences across the region for almost 60 years.

And ahead of their latest concert on 28 July, they are appealing for possible sponsors to step forward and recognise the effort put in by their pianist and conductor.

Singer Margaret Hastings says while most concertgoers are grey-haired, the music they sing transcends age.

Margaret, who has been singing with the choir for close to 40 years, says their popular “lighter variety” concerts appeal to all.

“Like most people who sing, we sing because we love doing it,” she says.

“You always feel better when you’ve been singing.”

Their concert, the Best of Broadway, features music from popular shows such as Broadway, Les Misérables, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

But while the singers take centre stage, the group would like to see other members recognised for all their efforts.

“We’ve seen lots of conductors come and go, pianists come and go and singers come and go.

“Of course, everybody just sort of did there thing and volunteered.

“If we want a good quality production, we need a good quality conductor and we need to pay for them.

We’re also on the hunt, looking for sponsors to help us with this.

The conductor and pianist put in a lot of hours of practice and study and time, and they deserve a payment for their effort,” she says.

Margaret says the choir’s love of singing keep them focused.

“Like most people who sing, we sing because we love doing it. If you’re a bit down, there’s nothing like singing to cheer you up,” she says.

The community choir are taught by Blenheim-man Robert Tucker who sings with the New Zealand Opera Company.

He also teaches in Wellington and divides his time between the two regions.

“He’s very particular and we’re having to really come up to the mark for him.

We’re wanting it to the best we can be because it reflects on him,” Margaret says.

The concert will be at the Wesley Centre on Sunday afternoon at 4pm.

Tickets are $15 and available at the door.