Cultural Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

DON GIOVANNI REVIEWED (2014): When opera goes clubbing

20 Sep 2014  |  4 min read

It was Mae West who said, “Keep a diary and perhaps some day it will keep you”. This presumes you've had an interesting life, but former Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman assiduously kept diaries so when he wrote his autobiography Stone Alone back in 1990 he had hard facts as well as memories to draw on. Rock people and Stones fans didn't much rate the book because it... > Read more

LEONIE HOLMES PROFILED (2014): An explorer in the landscape of orchestra

10 Sep 2014  |  3 min read

One of the pleasures of being in a university music department is the chance to put faces and personalities to people whose music you might have heard but had no other connection to. At the University of Auckland's School of Music it has been interesting for me to do that in the world of classical music of which I am mostly just an outside observer. For a short... > Read more

Elegy by Leonie Holmes

THE AUCKLAND BOOK (2014): An illustrated guide to the Queen's City

30 Aug 2014  |  2 min read

At the launch of this wittily illustrated book this past week, one of the prime movers behind the project Nigel Beckford spoke of the joy of the collaborative process. At a time when our politics seems so dirty, divisive and confrontational, his comments reminded you that the world is a better place when people pool their talent, work together with a single vision and -- this is important... > Read more

ROBIN KELLY INTERVIEWED (2014): A Wilde ride as they Turn Back Time

11 Aug 2014  |  3 min read

Okay, here's something you could never have anticipated: Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest set in a Fifties gay club with songs by Cher . . . in a Motown style. That triangulation – Wilde, Cher, Motown – doesn't come together that often. And did we mention it's an all-male cast with an all-female five-piece band? Of course it goes without saying that... > Read more

PAINTING BY PIANO (2014): The art music of Henry Wong Doe

7 Aug 2014  |  3 min read  |  1

Rannoch House, on a leafy and secluded street in a central Auckland suburb, houses one of New Zealand's most extraordinary art collections. Open to the public, the house contains works amassed by – there is no better description to convey the vast acquisition – the Rich Lister, arts patron and philanthropist Sir James Wallace. From the turret to the basement of this... > Read more

This Liquid Drift of Light


30 May 2014  |  5 min read  |  2

Although no one is quite sure who first said, “History is written by the winners” (or the variants of that phrase), it's generally considered to be true. And it may well have been for many centuries. But the world and discourse has changed, especially since the last half of last century. In the post-colonial, post-feminist, post-Marxist, post-internet world of... > Read more

Hope for the Hopeless

ROBIN MORRISON REMEMBERED (2014): Life in the lens

9 Apr 2014  |  2 min read  |  1

When Auckland photographer Robin Morrison died in 1993 at the tragically early age of 48, his legacy was already firmly established. The son of a portrait photographer (whose work he admitted he was not even curious about as a child), he fell into his career almost by chance. While working for, or at least hanging around the offices of, the underground magazine International Times in London... > Read more

Blue Robin

MARK RUTLEDGE INTERVIEWED (2014): Large scale rock'n'roll art

3 Feb 2014  |  5 min read

Every month the popular British music magazine Mojo commissions an artist to do the illustration which accompanies their lead review. Among the big names whose work has appeared there have been Barney Bubbles, Bill McConkey, Ian Wright, Savage Pencil . . . And in January this year, the New Zealand artist Mark Rutledge from Auckland had one of his ballpoint-on-kauri works there of... > Read more

Lonely Street

DOUGLAS LILBURN CONSIDERED (2013): Are friends electronic?

10 Jan 2014  |  4 min read

Most musicians with any intellectual integrity or curiosity -- unless they happen to be in Status Quo or ZZ Top -- will change direction or style at some point in their career. Maybe - as in the cases of David Bowie, Miles Davis and a few others -- a number of times. But very few -- not even Bowie when he traded LA and cocaine for Berlin and austerity in the Low/Heroes period -- made such a... > Read more

Cicadas, Oscillators and Treefrogs

DARKSIDE by TOM STOPPARD: The difference between right and wrong, innit?

6 Dec 2013  |  2 min read

Among the more crazy things which some serious stoners believed -- and they believe most things -- was that if you cue up Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album with the film The Wizard of Oz there are some weird parallels of music and image which might lead you to think . . . The question to be asked about this is simple: Who first did that? (Follow-up question: Why?) The useful... > Read more

SOUTHSIDE ARTS FESTIVAL (2013): We fly in the face of fashion

16 Oct 2013  |  2 min read

The annual Southside Arts Festival shines the spotlight on the arts, culture and communities of South Auckland where the population is predominantly Polynesian and Maori. This year's festival which runs from tomorrow (October 17) to November 3 takes place in various venues and features everything from hip-hop and graffiti to  art exhibitions, dance and design, drama and  "the... > Read more

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, REVIEWED (2013): The power and the passion

11 Oct 2013  |  2 min read

Although in later life Richard Wagner may have overstated the importance of The Flying Dutchman – first staged in 1841 – in the long arc of his career, there is no doubt it represented something of a breakthrough for him after the more traditional Rienzi. Wagner's shift from overt drama to internal narrative and psychological turmoil certainly gives The Flying Dutchman a... > Read more

THE NEW SOUNDS OF AOTEAROA: The finalists for the Maioha Awards at the 2013 Apra Silver Scroll

9 Oct 2013  |  4 min read

New Zealand's annual APRA Silver Scroll awards, held this year at Vector Arena in Auckland on Tuesday October 15, acknowledge the strength and diversity of New Zealand songwriters, but also include the Sounz award for contemporary classical works (the finalists, with musical examples are here) and the Maioha award for Maori songwriters. The finalists for the 2013 APRA Maioha Award are . . .... > Read more

THAT SOUNZ DIFFERENT: The APRA nominees for the 2013 Sounz Contemporary Award

7 Oct 2013  |  1 min read

In recent years the annual APRA Silver Scroll award night for songwriters has expanded into acknowledging New Zealand finest contemporary classical compositions, and to acknowldge these composers we include their work here. “SOUNZ is thrilled that APRA provides this opportunity to recognise recent New Zealand compositions and highlight their outstanding levels of creativity and... > Read more

STAGE DESIGNER ZOE ATKINSON INTERVIEWED (2013): Getting to grips with Wagner's Flying Dutchman

16 Sep 2013  |  5 min read  |  1

Australian set and costume designer Zoe Atkinson explodes with laughter, mock horror and a frisson of fear when I tell her she has just given me my headline. “No, you can't say that,” she shrieks. We'd been talking about how her seven-year old son hadn't been able to see her very adult previous production of Richard Strauss' Elektra for the West Australian Opera... > Read more

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN: Wagner, economy size

13 Sep 2013  |  4 min read

Some years ago when I interviewed Paul Simon, I brought up a topic I knew he'd be uncomfortable with. His Broadway play The Capeman. The show – which had cost US$11 million by some estimates – was savaged by critics, the public stayed away and the thing folded after just 68 performances. It was by no means the biggest flop on Broadway –- Kelly in '65 lasted just... > Read more

Act II: Ach mochtest du-wie aus der ferne

RIENZI IN ROME: The man, the madness and the music

8 Sep 2013  |  5 min read

Rome hadn't seen anything like him before, this strutting little fanatic who was so gifted with words he could move a crowd to mass action. A born propagandist, he was often invited into the homes of the wealthy for their amusement as they listened to him rant over the dinner table. But when he finally took complete power---without a hand raised against him---he ruled with ruthless... > Read more

RAVI SHANKAR INTERVIEWED (1998): In the house of the master

18 Aug 2013  |  19 min read  |  1

The apology couldn’t be more profuse. Three times Sukanya Shankar giggles self-consciously and says, “It's my fault,” each time following it with a litany of “sorry, sorry”. She had forgotten to tell her husband of this appointment, she says, and now he is teaching in the music room of their secluded home in the hills of Encinitas in balmy southern... > Read more

CHARLES DICKENS' LONDON TODAY (2012): Lowered expectations

4 Aug 2013  |  4 min read

The end of the back garden at Charles Dickens' birthplace (right) in Portsmouth was shaved off in the Seventies for the M275 which aims north to the A3 for London. A shame – although Dickens, a “navy brat” in current parlance, only lived here for five months – but perhaps emblematic. By coincidence, the cul-de-sac in front of Dickens' first home -- then... > Read more

BILL SEVESI (2013): The sound of the Pacific

25 Jul 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

The wonderful Bill Sevesi is 90 as I write, and he has two compilation CDs out, each from a different record company. And each compiler -- working with Bill -- had plenty of music to choose from so there is no overlap . . . and room for quite a few more collections from this genius of lap steel guitar. Bill Sevesi has been featured at Elsewhere previously (notably in this profile) so... > Read more

Sleep Walk