Opononi 2008

Well, yesterday I got back from the 2008 Opononi Summer School. Wow. What a week. I was conducting and it was my third year there. It started off being one of the hottest weeks up there, after conducting each piece it felt like (and looked like) I had just run a marathon. But thankfully it cooled off a little as the week got on.

The first two days were basically just playing through ALOT of music. I think we had about 25 pieces out, covering classical, jazz, musicals, movies and so on. The group this year had such a great sound. No weak links in the flutes or clarinets, had three percussionists who were all VERY good, and a full bass section of two tubas, euphonium, four string basses, four trombones and two baritone saxes.

Scattered throughout the week of course were many talks, warmups and activities. One very successful activity was in groups performing the same short tune it in four different styles. VERY amusing, I shall put these videos up on YouTube soon. Also, it was great to let people have a turn at conducting. They could chose from three pieces, and then run it or rehearse it for a few minutes. They all did pretty good. lol In fact, one of the young girls gave the percussionists a good telling off for not keeping in time. SUPERB!!

Days three and four were a little more focused on the collection of pieces that would make the final concert. Some of the pieces were Bernstein's Candide Overture, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Bizet's Carmen Suite, Eric Coates' Dambusters March and a large 13 minute Charlie Chaplin suite. Some of the other pieces included suites from Cats and Fiddler on the Roof, John Williams Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and some lighter numbers including Mamma Mia, The Flintstones and Big Band Classics.

It was an interesting week compared to normal, as everything and everyone was so relaxed. At some rehearsals, everyone seemed to be there 30 minutes beforehand, and yes, including the first morning when everyone was there ready to play at 5.30am for the 6am rehearsal. Another morning it was going to be a hot afternoon, so an extra long rehearsal meant more time in the afternoon to spend at the beach or reading in the sun ... mmmm yes.

The pre-concert dinner was almost a non event. The gas cookers kindly stopped working 25 minutes before dinner was due. So the cars were packed up with the food and headed down to the local Copthorne hotel who very kindly cooked it in their facilities. Thank goodness. We had dessert first and when dinner arrived there was a very relieved bunch of hungry teenagers ... in fact, everybody.

Well we made it to the concert, and what a concert it was. We performed 15 works, had two items and it all went so well. The cooler evening, shorter program than usual and fantastic standard of the players spouted comments from many saying it was the most enjoyable concert in years. The night ended with a mad scramble of returning music, getting others' cellphone numbers and photos. Most went home, but some stayed for a final "Pooh" story and night at the Marae.

2009 brings the 25th year of Opononi and many fantastic ideas are floating around of how to celebrate. You shall have to stay tuned to find out exactly what those celebrations will be.

Some photos:

I HAD to put one of these classic shots up!

Me working them hard.


The walk home.

Liz, Abbie and I.

Ray giving a quick talk before the concert.