Crowd of 2500 enjoy concert

Aussie girl captures country singer's heart

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 11:05 17/12/2012

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Blenheim's best known country musician announced his plan to pursue his music career in Australia at the Christmas in the Park concert last night.

About 2500 people were at Pollard Park in Blenheim to see Matthew McNeilly and a stellar lineup of Marlborough talent perform at the annual concert organised by the Blenheim Ministers' Association.

The Marlborough District Brass Band and TEMPO set the pace of the evening with some well known Christmas carols, despite the northwesterly gusts blowing their music sheets away.

Marlborough Boys' College barbershop group Fella Voce looked dapper dressed in black suits and thrilled their fans with smooth rendition of Oh Shenandoah. They were later joined by Marlborough Girls' College 2012 head girl Olivia Sheat, who has been accepted into the New Zealand Youth Choir, for a special performance enthusiastically supported by the crowd.

But it took feature act McNeilly and the Big Iron Country Band to get the crowd tapping their toes with their rocking covers including Good Hearted Woman and Blue Tide.

McNeilly's Australian girlfriend, Amelia Richards, joined in for a few numbers and they gave the crowd a taste of what they hope to continue together as a country duo act in Sydney. "Sorry to steal him away," Richards said.

Blenheim couple John and Audrey Saunders and their best friend, Marie Warnack, set up their table and chairs early to get a good view of the performance.

"We come every year to see the people and hear the music," said Mr Saunders. "It's a happy time of year and it's great to see everyone enjoying themselves."

As the sun went down, the wind dropped and the crowd started getting into the festive spirit. A group of about 20 children went to the front and gave an impromptu performance of Away in a Manger with MCs and organisers Tom Hatch and Kate Sinclair.

Mrs Sinclair said the organising committee was pleased with the beautiful weather and strong community support.

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- The Marlborough Express

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