Country music at its best

00:03, Jan 20 2014
Michael Ruffell
Michael Ruffell with his mum, Tracy Ruffell

The Blenheim Country Music Club 23rd Gourmet Paradise Country Music Awards were held in Blenheim on Sunday. Reporter Sonia Beal and photographer Scott Hammond were there to catch the action. 

A mother-son duo from Blenheim are keeping their family's country music connections alive after crooning their way into the finals of the annual Blenheim country music awards over the weekend.

The Blenheim Country Music Club 23rd Gourmet Paradise Country Music Awards were held at the Floorpride Civic Theatre on Sunday.

Keinan Ngapo
Senior male gospel: Keinan Ngapo from Tokoroa.

Michael Ruffell and his mum Tracey Ruffell sang their rendition of I Run To You, by American country pop music group Lady Antebellum.

"We try to keep it really upbeat and interact with each other as much as possible," said Mrs Ruffell, who won the overall title for the competition in 1993.

Stage presence was crucial when performing, she said.

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Richard McCallum
Richard McCallum

"You don't necessarily have to be the best singer in the world. Stage performance is how you bring the act together."

Mrs Ruffell's father, the late Bruce Collins, was a former Blenheim country music awards convenor and winner of the South Island entertainer of the year.

Seeing her son play her father's guitar on stage at the awards had been poignant, because Mr Collins had died before Michael was born and also never got to see Mrs Ruffell win the competition in 1993.

Shaun Todd
Shaun Todd from Seddon

She thought the awards would be a good opportunity to farewell Michael, who heads down to Canterbury University this year to study commerce.

"He's been so involved with school, doing the annual combined productions at school and with the Blenheim Musical Theatre, Fella Voce and La Choradia, it just seemed like a good opportunity. "

The duo prepared for the Sunday morning auditions by singing together at home.

Ashleigh Rossiter
Junior country rock: Ashleigh Rossiter from Picton

"Mum organises everything and does the hard yards," she laughed.

"Mum chooses the song and when to practise and Mum puts it all together."

"I just turn up," Michael said.

Brianna Hedley
Brianna Hedley from Gore

The former Marlborough Boys' College student had entered three other senior male sections: open; gospel; country rock.

Convenor John Galloway, of Blenheim, said that for the first time, they opened up the awards to everyone this year, instead of just club members.

This had seen them register 60 entrants from around the country, compared with about 32 last year, and 223 section entries, a 75 per cent increase on 2013.

Danielle Coles
Danielle Coles from Blenheim

"The level and standard of entrants this year is very high because of the increase in numbers," Mr Galloway said.

The Marlborough Express