In fine voice: Members of the Southern Soul choir who'll perform their first concert tonight


An Arrowtown concert tonight will be something ‘‘quite different’’, an organiser says.

The Southern Soul choir will be performing to a sold-out crowd at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall, after the show — originally set for August — was postponed due to Covid.

‘‘It’s not something you hear all the time,’’ choir member Margaret O’Hanlon says.

‘‘If you’ve never gone to an acoustic concert — where it’s simply people singing with a piano, or whatever — then you’re probably unfamiliar with how moving that kind of rawness is.’’

Southern Soul, founded by singing and vocal teacher Natasha Wilson and pianist Liz Green, is a collection of the Whakatipu’s most talented vocalists singing a range of genres including soul, gospel and R&B.

‘‘[We’re] just like-minded people who like to sing a variety of different types of music,’’ O’Hanlon says.

It wasn’t until 2020’s lockdown when the group released a Zoom-style singing video attracting over 10,000 views that they decided to ‘‘take ourselves more seriously’’.

From there, they performed at the ReNew Art Festival and Cancer Society ball, practising together once a week in the evening.

The group reflects the multi-culturalism of Queenstown with singers from Indonesia, the UK and O’Hanlon herself, a New York native.

‘‘I think with Southern Soul, the level of expertise of our members, at present, is extraordinary,’’ she says.

That expertise includes harpist and singer Katie Bridges, who O’Hanlon says is ‘‘a big star in Hong Kong’’.

‘‘We’re doing a Celtic piece with her featuring the harp and singing.

‘‘I can’t think of a time where we’ve had so many people who are so capable and knowledgeable and experienced.’’

The concert will also feature guests — the Wakatipu Women’s Choir and The Japanese Choir who will bring a traditional Japanese string instument called a sanshin.

A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to the Japanese Family Centre.

O’Hanlon says tonight, the audience will be seated in the middle of the hall, with choir members singing around them — what she calls ‘‘choral in round’’.

They’ll also move around so the audience are hearing different voices throughout the night.

‘‘I’m very excited about the concert because I think that we finally have a chance to get some momentum going in the vocal sphere.’’

She says the audience will recognise a mix of songs, including John Legend’s All of Me, Lorde’s Royals and the choir’s ‘‘signature song’’, Rise Up, by Andra Day.

Under current Covid restrictions, the concert’s limited to 100 people, and those seats have already been filled — much to O’Hanlon’s surprise.

‘‘I was expecting 20 people to show up, maybe 30, and if we’re really lucky 40 … and that’s counting people’s parents.

‘‘The community is reacting in a way that I didn’t expect … as a professional musician and artist, I cringe at the idea that people will come to events just because they think that they should, I would like them to come because they want to, and because they are going to experience something fantastic, and that’s starting to happen.’’

Despite the concert being sold out, O’Hanlon encourages people to try their luck, mentioning if there are spare seats available, they will try to squeeze people in.

‘You Will Be Found’, Southern Soul with special guests The Japanese Choir and the Wakatipu Women’s Choir, tonight, 7.30pm, Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall