nz notes: a welsh perspective

Kia ora!– Cyfarchion! My name is Peryn Clement-Evans and I am Artistic Director, CEO and principal clarinettist of Ensemble Cymru, a charity based in Bangor, north Wales in the UK. I am writing to you as I come to an end of a month- long sabbatical hosted by Chamber Music New Zealand. It has been fantastic to learn from the great work CMNZ does for communities across New Zealand, a country with a similar profile to Wales.

I arrived in time to go straight into a relaxed CMNZ classical session at the The Third Eye Brewery in Wellington. This session featured emerging jazz ensembles, it being Wellington Jazz Festival week. The combination of great beer, lovely vibe to the event and at last meeting Jack Hobbs, CMNZ’s Artistic Manager, it couldn’t have been a better start.

The offer of a cuppa (or ‘Panad’ in Wales) is universal. Through this I was able to prise many of the team of CMNZ away from their busy schedules to share their experience with me of marketing, communication, finances, fundraising, artistic planning and management at CMNZ (each of the team has their own preferred coffee shop so an added bonus was a guided tour of excellent Wellington coffee!) The last year has been a time of change for CMNZ and many of the team are relatively new to their roles. It was great to sense in the energy, new ideas and a shared passion for the organisation’s mission as it approaches its 70th anniversary.

The next stage of my learning was visiting Whanganui. There, I met with a well-known flute player and local champion of chamber music in her locality, Ingrid Culliford. Ingrid was honoured for her work in 2018 with a Member of NZ Order of Merit. I also met with cellist Annie Hunt (recently returned to New Zealand from North East Wales) and Richard Ellsworth of Whanganui Collegiate School. I learnt a lot about their work and their lives as teachers and performers providing opportunities in music for children and young people in a rural area of New Zealand. It was very interesting to meet also with Whanganui- based Education Consultant and former primary school teacher, Jo Lewis. She was able to share the perspective of working in lower decile schools and the challenges faced by teachers and their communities in providing opportunities in music for their pupils.

Back in Wellington, I was lucky to be present at a Conference organised by Creative New Zealand to hear a presentation by four young Kiwis – Sonny Ngatai, Chevron Hassett, Justice Hetaraka, and Paige Sullivan. The presentation was called Weaving the voices of rangatahi through the arts in Aotearoa. They shared with the delegates when, in their experience, young people are disempowered. They made a compelling case for how arts organisations might better work with young people. They argued for addressing the particular needs of those with less opportunity than others to realise their ambitions and aspirations in the arts. It left me with food for thought and reflecting how my organisation Ensemble Cymru can empower young people in Wales to help us reimagine a future chamber music that is truly for all in Wales.

After 3 weeks, I feel I have only scratched the surface of CMNZ. The scale and breadth of its activities and the range of partnerships it has is remarkable. It has been a joy to see it providing a platform for emerging jazz ensembles at Third Eye Brewery and Wellington Jazz Festival; sparking a lifetime passion for chamber music among 400 teenage chamber music ensembles through its competition; and connecting audiences with the work of NZ performers and composers through the Donizetti Trio performance at Lower Hutt.

New Zealand has much that feels familiar to us in Wales, relatively small population, big neighbours, mountains and great rugby teams to name a few. The presence of a minority language and culture integral is something Wales shares with New Zealand (approximately 20% of the population in Wales speak Welsh.) It has been wonderful to hear, albeit only fleetingly due to lack of time, the work of composers and performers from different traditions particularly where composers and performers are reaching out to musical traditions other than their own. There is certainly something entrancing about the natural sounds of the kōauau and the pūtōrino, which I will take with me.

Diolch o galon | Kia ora rawa atu | Thank you

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