'Best concert' packs in appreciative crowd

00:37, Feb 15 2013

A packed audience has celebrated the inauguration of Nelson's newest music venue Hardy St with rave reviews.

Nelson Mail reviewer Janet Whittington said French pianist Claire Rouault's concert at Old St John's was one of the best concerts she had ever seen.

Rouault's partner, J F Robert, who organised last night's concert, said the former church was packed with more than 400 people.

"We had to add spare chairs, and even sit people near the organ," he said.

St John's Methodist Church was owned by the Nelson Methodist community for about 150 years.

Ali and Eelco Boswijk bought it last year.


Mr Boswijk is co-owner of local church-turned-pub, The Free House.

His grandfather, Alec McDowell, was a minister in the church from 1957 to 1964.

Mr Robert hired a near-new Steinway grand piano from Wellington for the concert.

This was after he was unable to get his hands on one here.

He said Mr Boswijk's mother told him she had never seen so many people in the building.

Mr Robert had to insure the Steinway concert grand, hired from Positively Wellington Venues, for a value of $255,000.

It arrived on a truck, after crossing Cook Strait on a ferry.

Rouault, 25, was selected to study at the National Superior Music Conservatory of Paris, France's top music school, at the age of 15.

She and Mr Robert moved to New Zealand a year ago.

They share their time between Nelson and Marahau.