Autumn is always a visual symphony in the Southern Lakes — now a professional Polish-born classical pianist is about to treat our ears as well as our eyes.

Kinga Krupa, a Queenstown resident for five years, is teaming up this Sunday with the Central Otago Regional Orchestra (CORO) for ‘Autumn Romance’, and taking on Beethoven’s much-loved Piano Concerto No.3.

The orchestra will also play Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.3’s Alla tedesca movement and the Sleeping Beauty Waltz.

Krupa: “Having an orchestra play in Queenstown gives a rare opportunity for people to enjoy seeing and hearing so many instruments at once.

‘‘I personally love hearing how different instruments’ melodies dialogue, argue and support each other in each piece of music.’’

Krupa was born in a medieval town in the Polish mountains and says music was always in her environment.

‘‘My whole family are musicians so when I was 6 years old my parents asked me not ‘would you like to play an instrument?’ but ‘what instrument would you like to play?’

‘‘And I said ‘piano’.

‘‘I’d been tinkling on our piano at home since I was a baby, so to go to a music school was a natural course of things for me.

‘‘On the piano, you can play multiple sounds at once — unlike, let’s say, the flute, or to some extent the violin or cello.

“Since I was a small kid, I remember loving different blends of notes.’’

The story of how she ended up in Queenstown is fascinating.

Post-communist Poland was a very fear-driven time and Krupa buried herself in her music, practising up to six hours a day during the week, even longer on weekends.

At just 20 she started piano studies at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music and gained an honours degree in performance and teaching.

Krupa performed around Europe, but she says it was not enjoyable because of the very stressful academy atmosphere.

Then fate played a hand.

Krupa went to Spain for a gap year, and there met her partner, Ben Cullen.

After a year living in Dublin, they decided to move somewhere more outdoorsy with less traffic and hit on Queenstown.

‘‘He really loves the outdoors and wanted to live in a place where you have access to all these beautiful mountain trails.

‘‘We both grew up in the mountains, he in Ireland, me in Poland, so Queenstown felt like home to us.’’

Which is all very fortunate for the culture vultures in our community, who’ll get to marvel at the pianist when she joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3.

‘‘Ashley Hopkins, the CORO conductor, and I really like the Beethoven 3rd, so we wanted to present it to the audience.

‘‘This was our core idea, and then Ashley matched it with Tchaikovsky and Grieg played by the orchestra only, without me.

‘‘This combination makes a really great blend of styles, from classical to romantic.’’

After performing in Alexandra today, the orchestra and Krupa will take to the Queenstown Memorial Centre tomorrow.

The orchestra traditionally plays concerts every spring and autumn, comprising about 40 members who live in Central Otago and the
Whakatipu, who meet every week for a few months before their concerts to practise.

Krupa: ‘‘I appreciate their effort, as we all know how hard it is to get people to commit to driving from different parts of Otago to get

It may seem incongruous an honours piano student finds her self living in such a remote part of the world, not hugely known for its arts and culture, but Krupa says she does her best to bring high-quality classical music to the area by playing concerts, and co-organising festivals and concerts.

She also promotes other artists coming to town through her online ‘Classical Music Concerts in Whakatipu’ newsletter, and teaches piano.

‘‘Teaching is a big part of my mission.

‘‘I see how learning the piano helps the students grow not only their skills as future musicians, but also gives them confidence, performance skills and opens them to the cultural heritage of western music.’’

And she loves the community of Queenstown.

‘‘I’ve been lucky to meet so many beautiful families and make so many friends through music.’’

As for career high points, Krupa says the whole journey of being able to play piano and share it with people is a continuous highlight.

Practically she also cites gaining a Master of Musical Arts with distinction at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington as a significant moment.

‘‘I absolutely love learning new things.

‘‘What makes my brain fire up is more learning.

‘‘In the last few years, I also further explored the topic of music performance anxiety and I’m excited to give a presentation at the national conference of the Institute of Registered Music Teachers NZ in a couple of weeks in Wellington.’’

Central Otago Regional Orchestra’s ‘Autumn Romance’, tomorrow, 2pm, Queenstown Memorial Centre, tickets $25, Summerfield’s Pharmacy, Frankton, Lakes District Museum, Arrowtown, or via; kids free

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