Hymns to ring out in historic Wainuiomata church

Wainuiomata musician James Davis is bringing  together music and people in one of the oldest wooden buildings in the ...
PHOTO:ELEANOR WENMAN/STUFF

Wainuiomata musician James Davis is bringing together music and people in one of the oldest wooden buildings in the Wellington region.

One Lower Hutt musician is hoping to see a historic church packed to the rafters with the sounds of hymns filling the air.

Wainuiomata Pioneer Church has been nestled on  its site on Coast Rd for the last 151 years. Musician James Davis feels that history every time he steps through the doors.

"There's a lot of rich history - the people who built the church are buried on the same grounds."

Wainuiomata Pioneer Church Coast Rd, Wainuiomata.
Simon Edwards

Wainuiomata Pioneer Church Coast Rd, Wainuiomata.

This weekend, Davis will be putting on a concert to celebrate the hymns sung in the church more than a century ago.

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"Those songs were the top 20s of their day," he said.

Davis has made a study of old hymns, digging into the composers and their life histories. John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace, was a slave trader before he changed his tune, seeing the way people were treated "like animals".

A particular favourite of Davis', Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour, was written by Fanny Jane Crosby. Born in 1820, the songwriter was blind from birth but became one of the most prolific gospel songwriters in history. Over her lifetime, she reportedly wrote more than 8000 hymns.

"These hymns came out of their anguish and what they were going through in their own lives," Davis said. "The concert is about these hymns."

This isn't the first time the Wainuiomata resident has performed a concert in the church. In 2015, he was travelling over Arthur's Pass when he said he started thinking about hymns he, and other people, would know.

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He believed the songs would resonate with people living through difficult times today.

"I just thought the way things are going [for some people] I thought they would be very relevant to sing,"

He was familiar with the church and the work done to restore it in 2012 and wanted to use it as a space for music and people to come together.

As well as hymns, he planned on playing a few more modern tracks and some of his ownh original pieces.

* Davis will be performing for free at the Wainuiomata Pioneer Church, 24 Coast Rd, Wainuiomata on September 16 from 7pm to 8pm.

 - Stuff

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