Festival for the mind and heart

WHIRIMAKO BLACK: Her performance will give you goosebumps
WHIRIMAKO BLACK: Her performance will give you goosebumps

Collaboration is key to this year's Nelson Winter Music Festival, with a fusion of New Zealand guitarists and singers in the mix and Nelson string quartet La Vida pairing with The Adults.

Warren Maxwell, Mark Vanilau and Louis Baker will make their debut as a vocal trio with a fusion of harmonies reminiscent of American band Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Nelson School of Music manager and festival director Frances McElhinney says Maxwell, Vanilau and Baker are brilliant guitarists and beautiful vocalists.

The Adults, itself already a collaboration of leading New Zealand musicians including Shihad's Jon Toogood, is coming to Nelson fresh off the back of a concert with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

"They're very excited about playing with La Vida," says Mrs McElhinney.

New Zealand soul diva Whirimako Black returns to the stage with a gala performance, accompanied by guitarist Ian Harrison, bassist Richard Pickard, pianist Darren Pickering, drummer Riki Gooch and Justin Hohua on taonga puoro – or traditional Maori instruments – and backing vocals.

Mrs McElhinney says Black, who has performed in the Nelson School of Music before, is "just beautiful".

"You can imagine her in the auditorium. You get goosebumps."

Next on her list is The Thomas Oliver Band from Wellington, set to provide an injection of rock and "outstanding" musicianship.

"I brought them down for a festival a couple of years ago. It must have been 2009 for one of our opening parties. I knew they were fantastic and it was a good way to introduce them to an audience."

Mrs McElhinney says their debut album Baby I'll Play, which received rave reviews on its release last year, was "very cool".

Their instruments include a lap slide guitar, double bass and baritone saxophone.

"You can't pigeonhole them," she says.

Ten poets will perform some of their original works during a "poetry slam" competition at the Nelson School of Music. Mrs McElhinney says each poet will get three minutes for a "full on" spoken word performance.

The judges will look at the manner and enthusiasm of their performances as well as the content or the style of their pieces.

"It's very exciting. Energetic would be a good way to describe it."

The event will be hosted by Mark Raffills, himself a finalist in New Zealand's inaugural poetry slam last year.

NZ Trio completes Mrs McElhinney's best-of-the-fest list, with a multimedia component accompanying one of its three pieces.

Violinist Justine Cormack, cellist Ashley Brown and pianist Sarah Watkins will provide the soundtrack to an animated film with black humour called Kingdom, created by Wellington man David Downes.

"I just gasped when I saw it ... all the way through.

"It's very clever. NZ Trio are exceptional.

"They had great success in the New Zealand International Arts Festival this year.

"They're Auckland based, so it's great to get them down our way."

  • The Nelson Winter Music Festival opens on July 6 and runs until July 22. Get tickets and check out the full programme at nelsonwinterfestival.co.nz.