Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

10/03/2017 - 10/03/2017

Production Details

NZSO and the Modern Māori Quartet join forces for mesmerising music 

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Modern Māori Quartet are about to venture into new musical territory, which will enthral and delight audiences throughout the country.

For its Summer Pops tour the NZSO has teamed up with the award-winning foursome, known for their fresh take on the music and magic of Māori showbands. 

The dream pairing of the NZSO and the quartet will feature new arrangements in English and Te Reo Māori of showband classics and pop hits. It includes the rousing Haere Mai, Pakanga and Aroha medleys, singalong favourite Ten Guitars and 70s R&B hit Float On. 

The quartet have also written new original songs which will be performed with arrangements by seven New Zealand composers.

The quartet’s James Tito, Maaka Pohatu, Matariki Whatarau and Francis Kora have been eager to work with the NZSO for the past few years.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some awesome people thus far,” says Tito. “None of us expected to be approached by the NZSO, so we are all pretty chuffed and rearing to share the aroha. Pretty flash too, might I add.”

“One of the things I am excited for the most is working alongside some of Aotearoa’s best musicians and players. The NZSO are masters at what they do musically – people who have dedicated their lives to perfecting what they do. I am just as excited for that as I am nervous. As a quartet, this will be a new level in our development and journey so I can’t wait to seize the opportunity with my brothers beside me.”

NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich will lead the orchestra on the 12-date tour, from Whangarei to Invercargill.

“Combining two quite distinct musical genres, the NZSO and the Modern Māori Quartet, presents exciting challenges and something that I’m looking forward to sharing all over the country,” says McKeich.

“Incorporating the quartet’s wit and singing with all the colour of an orchestra should provide a great vehicle for making some magic happen on stage. Will we succeed? Come and find out!”

The quartet has also been impressed with the arrangements to their original songs by composers Chris Gendall, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, Anonymouz, Claire Cowan, Mark Dennison, Robbie Ellis and frequent NZSO collaborator Gareth Farr.

“The process so far has been smooth and amazing,” says Tito. “These super talented composers have arranged our original songs beyond expectation and I can’t wait to tour around the country sharing our songs with the best orchestra this country has to offer.”

Summer Pops with the Modern Māori Quartet 

NAPIER | Municipal Theatre | Thursday 23 February | 7pm

AUCKLAND | Town Hall | Friday 24 February | 7.30pm

WHANGAREI | Forum North | Saturday 25 February | 7pm

INVERCARGILL | Civic Theatre | Wednesday 1 March | 7.30pm

DUNEDIN | Town Hall | Thursday 2 March | 7pm

CHRISTCHURCH | Horncastle Arena | Friday 3 March | 7pm

NEW PLYMOUTH | TSB Showplace | Wednesday 8 March | 7.30pm

PALMERSTON NORTH | Regent on Broadway | Thursday 9 March | 7.30pm

WELLINGTON | Michael Fowler Centre | Friday 10 March | 6.30pm

TAURANGA | Baycourt Theatre | Wednesday 15 March | 7.30pm

ROTORUA | Civic Theatre | Thursday 16 March 7.30pm

GISBORNE War Memorial Theatre | Friday 17 March | 7pm

The Modern Māori Quartet
MATU NGAROPO – Music Director/Dramaturge 

Theatre , Musical , Comedy ,

A great party to be at

Review by Patrick Davies 11th Mar 2017

What a way to celebrate the Wellington weather. While the rest of the country gets downpours we are doused in a gloriously humid day. The poster for this event promises the fun of the sun once the 5 o’clock suits are swopped for shorts, bare feet and a cheeky grin (“’cos we nipped away from work early”), and that’s what we get.

The NZSO Summer Pops is a grand tradition and was my first meeting with the orchestra under the baton of Ron Goodwin with the ever present S.S. Earnslaw Theme. Our finest have a history of collaborating with artists – who can forget the wonderful Eddie Rayner (Split Enz) ENZSO project of 1995? So how extraordinary for the Modern Māori Quartet – self-confessed good looking, suave blokes – to get to perform with them.

Maaka Pohatu, Francis Kora, Matariki Whatarau and James Tito have an extensive and wide range of accomplishments to their names since graduating from Toi Whakaari. This Māori Ratpack have a great deal of fun onstage and their friendship with each other and with us is just as voluminous as their musical talent under the assured direction of original member Matutaera Ngaropo.

Each gets their moment in the sun and also combine with clear precision for some masterful close harmony singing. Dressed formally they stand out not only for their talent – easily matching the orchestra – but also their wide grins and large hearts.

The programme is structured to the narrative of “the flashest garage party New Zealand has ever seen.” As usual, on entry the orchestra is slowly gathering themselves and practicing little bits here and there, and it’s like they’re waiting for the party to kick off. Indeed there’s a great joke about whether the orchestra is manuhiri or whanau when it comes to food that exemplifies the ease and fun the orchestra are also clearly having. Time and again you’ll see members of the orchestra clapping at the end of the boys’ songs.

This programme is skilled in many ways. Not only does it present the heart of the Māori garage party, but with this mainly white audience, it gently introduces many to something they may not have been present at before. Yes, we’ve all had parties and sing-a-longs but a garage party is something else. The tone is set early on by the witty voice over re photos (“Please take loads as we’re handsome and the publicity is good”); and continued as people are invited to take pics during the show, after in the foyer; and “If you want to go to the toilet or bar then go”). While addressing the usual ‘ritual’ of the orchestral performance, it recontextualises and eases any tension about how this evening is going to go down. There is also a glossary in the programme for non Te Reo speakers.

So we are taken from the chairs being set up to the kai being ready; from sneaky seconds to doing the dishes; from the ever present guitar to one for the road. During the show we move effortlessly from one song to the other via banter that reveals our guys in interesting ways. Regardless of the fancy threads there’s the ribbing that can become serious as at any party. Characteristics revealed in ‘Float On’ are put to the test and our mates’ souls and truths come out. You can almost see the beer bottles in these guys hands as they needle and forgive. These are close brothers and are joined at the hip.

Each section features three or four songs that probably lean more towards 50s doo-wop rather than the lounge feel of the Rat Pack. In the early half of the programme there is a serious problem with the sound mixing – anytime the brass come in, at the climax of a song, we lose clarity of the harmonies of the MMQ. Thankfully this seems to be addressed in the second half.

It’s hard to pick favourites… but I will. The opening a cappella ‘He Rā Anō’ is breathtakingly respectful and the strength of voice and arrangement in ‘Come to Me’ is Vegas worthy. The Aroha Medly is where I get really excited and the first time I feel that the NZSO, under the baton of Hamish McKeich, isn’t just one of the world’s most expensive backing bands. With each singer taking on a different song for themselves – the resulting mash is fun, excellent and well executed.

Robbie Ellis’ arrangement of the eternal ‘Ten Guitars’ has a lot of people singing and manages to create a range of timbres. Gareth Farr’s arrangement of Robert Ruha’s ‘Pūngāwerewere’ is magical, finely balanced from all performers and provides a fitting end.

The audience have had a great time and there’s always time for one more song, (well, three actually), so there is thunderous applause until the chaps come back on. The third (uncredited) encore number is the stand-out for the entire evening. There’s an electric current that pervades the air and the stillness of breath that the sublime can bring. It is an heroic number beautifully wrought. Coming from simplicity to complexity, the arrangement weaves carefully around the vocals and the balance between both is exactly right as the number comes to an incredible climax of singing strings, broad bold brass and the boys blasting pure final notes as if they were the principal pipes the most magnificent organ. This brought tears to my eyes.

This is a great party to be at, everyone leaves with the biggest smiles. When it comes to a fantastic evening for family, whanau and friends – the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Modern Māori Quartet deliver abundance.  


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