Faithful rejoice at the altar of jazz

Rain forced venue shift

Last updated 13:00 02/01/2014
JAZZED UP: Miho Wada performs with her orchestra at the Woollaston Jazz and Blues Festival at Old St Johns Church.

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Yesterday's thunderclouds over Nelson had a silver lining for organisers of what was meant to be jazz and blues in Fairfield Park: the emergence of a new jazz venue which met the approval of musicians and audiences.

The Classic Hits Jazz & Blues in Fairfield Park, which marked the start of the week-long Woollaston Jazz & Blues Festival, was yet another challenge for organisers, when they had less than 24 hours to shift the large public concert indoors to Old St John's Church in Hardy St.

It was only several days ago they were left without the Nelson School of Music when it was closed immediately because of its seismic risk, which forced a rapid change in the festival programme.

Yesterday, people ate picnics in the pews while world class musicians played jazz at the altar. More musicians got the crowds stomping and clapping in the hall behind the church, connected by food and coffee stalls in a central public area through which several hundred people moved throughout the afternoon.

Former Nairobi Trio violonist Richard Adams, now teamed with virtuoso guitarist Nigel Gavin in the duo Adams and Gavin, said the venue was "brilliant".

"This should be jazz central next year. It's a really nice stage to play on and the sound is great.

"I think this is better than playing in the park," Adams said.

Saxophone and flute player Justine Snelgrove of Celtic/blues/folk duo Radius began the performance by saying the venue was so nice, "who cares if the sun is not shining - this is a pretty cool building".

The other half of Radius duo Harry Harrison said the atmosphere and sound in the church was particularly good.

"We didn't have to worry about getting wet but it was a tough call for Liam."

Festival director Liam Ryan, who has co-ordinated the event with his wife Mandy Ryan, said acoustically and aesthetically the church was "just a beautiful place to play".

"It's been a bit of a silver lining really, and a reminder that we need venues like this.

"It's made me re-think how to do the whole festival. That's my take on it - somewhere that provides a premium jazz experience such as that at North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands," Ryan said.

Compere Murray Leaning said the venue was "just cool" and the overflow hall was a great chill-out area for the crowd listening to the extra musicians. .

Anna Marsland who is visiting from Sydney said they found themselves at Old St John's after being rained out of the Tahunanui art and craft fair earlier in the day, and making their way to Fairfield Park to find the jazz concert had then been moved.

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"It was fabulous," she said after hearing Radius perform in the church.

"I think the venue worked well."

Helen Sargent of Auckland said she missed the ambience of jazz being in the park, but in the church it was "all about the music".

Sharon Macquet of Nelson, who has been to several jazz festival events at Fairfield, felt the alternative worked well.

"I'm really impressed with the church. It's just gorgeous."

A full programme of jazz and blues runs this week throughout the Nelson region. Further details visit

- Nelson


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