Rare treat: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra assistant concert master and virtuoso violinist Yuka Eguchi and world-acclaimed organist Kemp English


The past’s set to meet the present in Arrowtown next Friday, in more ways than one.

World-acclaimed organist Kemp English and his partner, virtuoso violinist and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra assistant concert master Yuka Eguchi, will join the Central Otago Regional Choir’s concert series, starting at the Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall.

And, as an added bonus, the first half of the choir’s programme will feature the New Zealand premiere of four of British composer Will Todd’s works.

Choir member and pianist Alison Frude says Todd was due to come to last year’s World Symposium on Choral Music, planned to be held in Auckland, which was ‘‘a big coup, anyway’’.

Covid, obviously, put paid to that.

Meantime the choir’s conductor, Richard Madden QSM, of Dunedin, had already heard some of his music, thanks to his son, tenor Nick Madden, who’d performed quite a bit of it in the UK with the Tenebrae Choir.

Nick, incidentally, was one of the quartet singers at the Duke of Edinburgh’s recent funeral.

Frude says Todd’s work’s similar, in a way, to pieces by Ola Gjeilo, a United States-based Norwegian composer which the choir’s previously performed, and the audience ‘‘loved’’.

‘‘It was modern, but it was very accessible and just beautiful, and that’s what Will Todd’s music is like as well.

‘‘It’s quite jazz-influenced — it’s not so much in the rhythm, not the ones we’re doing … but the chords are very jazzy and there are beautiful discords.

‘‘We’re loving it.’’

Balancing the modern first half will be the historic second.

That’ll be devoted to Joseph Haydn’s music, including Little Organ Mass, with its famous virtuosic Benedictus for organ and soprano (Sally Davies).

Frude says also on the programme is the ever-popular The Heavens are Telling, from The Creation, and Insanae et vanae curae, which she describes as ‘‘quite dramatic and quite stunning’’.

‘‘It’s good stuff.

‘‘We’ve got the past meeting the present — it’s very much now and the past as well, it’s really exciting.’’

The cherry on the top, though, is the appearances of English and Eguchi, who’ll both play solo.

Eguchi, Frude says, is ‘‘probably the most outstanding violinist I’ve ever heard, she’s just extraordinary’’.

And, while the programme itself is a mix of old and new, Frude laughs the past meeting the present also applies to the choir itself.

While some are ‘‘a little longer in the tooth’’, two other soloists will be up-and-coming Dunedin violinists Victoria Williamson, an Otago Uni student, and St Hilda’s Collegiate student Skylar Murray.

‘‘They’re both amazing and they’re going to be playing some fantastic stuff,’’ Frude says.

‘‘We are so lucky.’’

Eguchi’s also leading the seven-strong string ensemble and accompanying the 36-member choir, of which six hail from the Whakatipu.

Frude says they’re ‘‘loving’’ being at the Athenaeum Hall.

‘‘The acoustics are great and the parking is good — it’s all pluses really.’’

The Central Otago Regional Choir May 2021 Concert Series, Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall, Friday, May 7, 7.30pm. Tickets, $25 (school students free), from Queenstown’s Life Pharmacy Wilkinson’s, Frankton’s Unichem Summerfields Pharmacy, and Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum