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Tuwhare - The Concert (10th Anniversary)
Wellington
9 December, 2016
Ten years ago I saw in Wellington’s Town Hall, spellbound as Graham Brazier sang the words of Hone Tuwhare’s poem, Friend, in a simple, lovely acoustic strum; the perfect song-setting for a story about a get-together over an afternoon pint. Mahinarangi Tocker provided yet another highlight, that sublime voice cutting through the strings and piano of The New Zealand Trio to deliver her version of A Northland Heart-Scape. Ten years on the tribute concert, the 10th Anniversary run-through of the Tuwhare songs becomes not only tribute to Tuwhare but to Brazier and Tocker, there are others from the original cast missing too – some overseas or with other work commitments, so this version of the show recreates the songs and has original narrator Rawiri Paratene once again delivering the conscientiously scripted biographical details; these work not just to set the scene and provide crucial details about the writer of the words now placed in song-settings, it also means the technical crew can make the necessary changes for each song, one minute it’s a jazz pianist, the next a classical trio, singer/songwriters, electronica producers, rock bands, hip-hop MCs, it’s all done seamlessly – not a whine of feedback, not a moment of awkward silence. That each musician can simply plug in and play is due to the hard work of the on-stage crew and the lights and sound people at the back of the venue and so often this doesn’t go mentioned but here it deserves the space of a few lines in a review – at the least – for it really helped to make the evening. The best moment – musically – is the same as the first time I saw this show. Don McGlashan and classical pianist David Guerin reunite to perform Rain. Guerin’s piano evoking the plink-plonk of raindrops, a mournful euphonium line from McGlashan conjuring the mood of loneliness, contemplative and alert – that line, “I can hear you making small holes in the silence/rain” as alive and vital as any lyric in any song ever, lifted perfectly from the page to the stage. It is the most exquisite combination of writing/arranging/performing – McGlashan’s voice and compositional framing as important here as Tuwhare’s finest verse. It was goosebump-inducing the first time, a decade ago. Same deal now. It is the evening’s highlight. But Warren Maxwell does a good job of paying tribute to Brazier with the version of Friend. The reformed Goldenhorse reminds people of a certain power within pop music, and Charlotte Yates working with her trio had been the curtain-raiser to that in a sense. Not one act was bad, every single singer delivered – and what a joy to hear these voices, strong female voices in particular, proud Maori voices – Whirimako Black, Sandy Mill, Mina Ripia (WAI), Kirsten Te Rito, such beautiful singing to help frame these words from one of New Zealand’s greatest poets. Again, as with the first run through a decade ago, it becomes about the depth and breadth of Tuwhare’s work, with just enough of the individual musical personalities peeking in. We have comments on politics, satire, irony, grieving, painfully acute, simple language all at once quizzical and profound. His memory and words were well served once again and the new show had just enough in terms of new voices to make it stand on its own. A triumph.

Archipelago Album Review: Stuff.co.nz
By Nick Ward
31 July, 2013
Charlotte Yates Archipelago
In addition to releasing some fine solo albums and being a member of the wickedly witty When the Cat's Been Spayed, Charlotte Yates has co-ordinated all-star musical tributes to James K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare and Witi Ihimaera.
Had she been born a few decades later, the Kiwi music machine would be all over her talent and hooky semi-acoustic songs like the proverbial rash.
Archipelago sees her paired with producer-musician Gil Eva Craig, who adds extra colour and texture to the confident unguarded emotion that is the hallmark of Yates' work.
Before The Blue Begins, Lighthouse and Dreams Are Like Sand are the kind of solid, moment-in-time love songs she excels at, but she adds electro-pop to the mix in A Heart To Make and Think It Through, and does simple stuff wonderfully in Hold Your Heart, Falling Down and Surely The Sun.
Best tracks: Before The Blue Begins, Dreams Are Like Sand
Reviewed by Nick Ward.
CDs for review supplied by Everyman, Nelson.


Archipelago Album Review: NZ Herald
By Graham Reid
Thursday Jun 13, 2013

Charlotte Yates Archipelago
For over a decade Wellington's Yates put her energy into setting words by James K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare and Witi Ihimaera to music by all-star casts, but managed only two albums of her own, the last being the somewhat spare Beggar's Choice five years ago.
Here, however, across 12 originals, she invites in strings, flute and piano, embraces electronic touches from multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Gil Eva Craig, and has guests Jeff Henderson (sax), Darren Mathiassen (from Shapeshifter, on percussion), Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation, double bass) and Greg Johnson (trumpet).
Craig brings light electro-funk (Think It Through) and the remix of Yates' Mad off Tuwhare. All this adds musical texture and colour to her understated, crafted songs which invite the word "sophisticated" on the gently swinging, beautifully arranged Falling Down and pastoral folk of Surely the Sun, but which also gets tough-minded (Stains on Your Heart).
This is thoughtfully adult (Before the Blue Begins is about after the kids are in bed, the ballad Hold Your Heart is about loving support when life gets rocky), the arrangements are sympathetic to the poetic lyrics, and Yates' melodic voice is mature and assured.
Archipelago rewards repeat-play.
Stars: 4/5 Verdict: Long overdue and step-up album from a capital talent.

Ihimaera
Reviewed by Jacqui Stanford for www.gaynz.com


One of the nation's most celebrated gay authors has joined the hallowed names of two writing greats with collections of music inspired by their words. Ihimaera follows previous incarnations based on the words of James K Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, the latter which featured a hauntingly beautiful track from the late Mahinarangi Tocker: A Northland Heart-scape, which she once performed live in a room with the great Tuwhare himself before they both passed on.
This shows the importance of such collaborations, where distinctly New Zealand artists fling the words of our masters out of their pages and, celebrating and preserving them in our earlobes.
Rather than using pure poetry like the two Tuwhare and Baxter collections, the songs in Ihimaera feature lyrics which the novelist penned based on the themes of some of his novels.
APRA Maioha Award-winner Ruia Aperahama opens the proceedings with a gentle reggae take on The Song of Te Kooti, which will bring immediate pleasure for anyone who likes to chill out in the backyard with their head bobbing. LA Mitchell then swoops in with her honey-soaked voice on floating chill-out track Our Mother Is The Earth, before it's back to reggae with an infusion with hip hop from King Kapisi in Whale Rider.
Suddenly the album melts into My Heart Beats Strongly from Ariana Tikao, then features something of a mini-comeback from the seemingly long-lost Teremoana Rapley in the form of Dream Swimmer.
SJD then jumps in with his majestic ability to create ethereal magic with Our Watch Now and Lucid3 singer Victoria Girling-Butcher aka "Lupin" presents pure pretty pop in Standing Upright Here, before a touch of the alternative again from Pluto spin-off The Twinks who take a kind of wide-eyed, dreamy cowboy approach in Bar of Darting Glances.
It is Warren Maxwell's blues-infused Don't Call Me Sir which is a treat of this album. It's a brazen, balls-out, sexy guitar track. What more could you want?
Director of the series Charlotte Yates next adds the many flavours of her almost-edible voice and the heart of this project is clearly beating in Kingfisher Come Home, leaving the listener perfectly in the zone for the frighteningly fun Us Together from Unitone HiFi and tradition-infused closing track Star Waka from Horomona Horo and Nga Tae.
Not only is it a Kiwi through-and-through sometimes poppy and often dreamy recognition of Ihimaera's work, the collaboration also showcases some of New Zealand's more interesting musicians whose work deserves the chance to be heard. A nice addition to the CD stack next to your bookshelf.
You can win a copy of Ihimaera on GayNZ.com's competition page.


Peter Mechen, Middle C, Nov 9 , 2009
Charlotte Yates returned after the interval with two more songs from the "Beggar's Choice" CD, performing these with the engaging informality that one would perhaps encounter in a club or a bar. Described as a "gentle pop" number, the first song delineates a fruitless search somewhere in Spain for a flamenco club, while the following "Blood Red Moon" in classic ballad style, described the effect of the previous year's lunar eclipse - a stirring number , delivered with great panache and whimsy, of all of her performances, the one I responded to the most readily and pleasurably.


Beggar's Choice
Charlotte Yates has been releasing solo albums since 1991, collecting critical acclaim and awards along the way, as well as having her lyrics collated into a book, 1999's One Lady Driver. The new self-produced album is a collection of acoustic-based songs recorded at both Trident Sounds Studios and Semaphore Sound with assistance from Darren Mathiassen (Rhombus, Hollie Smith) and bassist Rob Winch. Beggar's Choice finds Yates in fine form. Her voice is mellow and melodic, bringing to mind singers like Natalie Merchant and Aimee Man, while the songwriting is sophisticated and elegant, with sincere lyrics that are not overwrought confessionals. Yates' songs roll along with catchy melodies and rhythms - the shuffling beats of the wry Black Water have a somewhat country feel to them, while Gifthorse has a more rock oriented beat. The spare nature of Given Up, however, proves that less is more, and the welcome addition of Mad recorded for the 2005 Tuwhare album only adds to the wealth of material. Yates' writing has fine solid musicianship with an honest production that enhances, not overwhelms the music, and Beggar's Choice is a wonderful example of how good songs should be treated.
NZ Musician, Aug-Sep 2008


Beggar's Choice
From solo projects to band work, from crossover theatre work with Baxter and Tuwhare (shows celebrating two of our finest poets) to rocking out as part of a blues-pop trio in a downtown bar, the Wellington-based singer-songwriter is tireless. Beggar's Choice is a baker's dozen reminiscent of Dead Fish Beach and should appeal to fans of her sound and to those who have enjoyed the post-80s work of Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt. Yates' fine voice and astute pop songwriting are more than ably backed up by her intuitive guitar work.
North and South, August 2008


Photographer Sunniva Zoete-West

Tue, 20 March 2007, 10:19 AM
Tuwhare journeys to Auckland
Tuwhare - reviewed by Jacqui Stanford.
The performers had reason to be particularly nervous ahead of the AK07 Festival show of Tuwhare, a musical tribute to the life of the much-loved New Zealand poet.
The poet himself made rare trip from his remote home in South Otago's rugged Kaka Point to see the tribute to his life and writing, news of which only reached them hours before the show. He was unable to attend the show's premiere in Wellington last year due to ill health. You could sense the tension at the knowledge he was in the room as each of the 12 artists performed, with his presence giving the show a renewed sense of importance.
The now 84-year-old's presence was also appreciated by the crowd. He was given a standing ovation from across the Civic Theatre as he wobbled his way to his seat, while many in the balcony craned forward hoping to catch a now rare glimpse of the aging New Zealand treasure.
As narrator Rawiri Paratene outlined in his commentary, glimpses of Hone Tuwhare were once far from rare. From readings and signings, to his stint as a local councillor to representing his fellow workers as a union leader and walking with Dame Whina Cooper in the 1975 land march, Hone Tuwhare has been a visible part of New Zealand history. And his writing is one of the nation's brightest treasures.
In Tuwhare his words are lent to some of the country's musical gems. His great loves, his great losses and heartaches, his humour and passion for justice were snatched and flung passionately across the theatre.
From Whirimako Black's hauntingly beautiful tones, to the honey-dripping voice of Dallas Tamaira and the rasps of Graham Brazier, each piece was beautiful. Even the offering from Te Kupu of Upper Hutt Posse fame, although his rap was a little offbeat and a somewhat off beat, he got a laugh and cheer from the crowd with his anti-America rhyme at the close.
Don McGlashan's take on perhaps Hone Tuwhares most famous poem Rain was dripping with beauty, with the piano keys almost transforming into raindrops, while Goldenhorse gave a punchy take to politically charged-poem O Africa.
Mahinarangi Tocker gave the most passionate performances. The emotion in her piece A Northland Heart-Scape reached every wall of the grand theatre. She also sang Strawpeople's take on the poem Covetous and led an impromptu waiata as the performers gathered on stage at the end, which brought tears to the eyes of the shows writer-director Charlotte Yates and many in the audience.
Yates deserves plaudits for honouring the work of a living treasure. With many of New Zealand's greatest already passed on, at least Tuwhare was able to see the appreciation and love many hold for him and his work. Her show premiered at the Wellington International Festival of the Arts in 2006 before coming to AK07 this year and hopefully its journey will continue. Paratene for one would like to see Tuwhare's life hit the big screen, yes it is the stuff of movies", he concluded. "And who do you think would be cast as the lead?" And to Tuwhare, in the audience "What do you reckon uncle!?"
Quite simply, Tuwhare the show is much like Tuwhare's poetry - inspired. And something which should be sampled by all New Zealanders.

Tuwhare CD Review
In 2000 Charlotte Yates directed the successful "Baxter" project, which saw contemporary New Zealand musicians putting song to the words of James K. Baxter. Now, commissioned by Toi Maori Aotearoa, she does the same thing with acclaimed poet and author Hone Tuwhare. With a new cast of artists (save Mahinarangi Tocker and Yates herself) including Don McGlashen (The Front Lawn, Muttonbirds), Te Kupu (Dean Hapata of Upper Hutt Posse), Strawpeople, WAI, Goldenhorse, Graham Brazier and more, Tuwhare's words are transformed into at times astounding lyrics for songs that cover different styles, from rock to electronica, Traditional Maori to Hip-hop and everything in between. It's probably not in the spirit of such a compilation to pick out highlights, but needless to say Dallas Tamaira (aka Fat Freddys Drop's Joe Dukie) never disappoints, and Goldenhorse make "O' Africa" sound like it would be right at home on their recent album. There are also some surprises from artists I wasn't so familiar with; Whirimako Black's voice can almost bring tears to your eyes, while Yates turns Tuwhare's words into an effortless pop vocal hook in the almost Fur Patrol sounding "Mad". Te Kupu's "Speak to me, brother" shows how Tuwhare gets an often-poignant message across by using humour (something Te Kupu is familiar with himself); "Dominate? That's a big word, brother." I think if Hone Tuwhare had come along thirty years later, he could've been a talented MC. Like "Baxter" this album is a fantastic document of not only New Zealand music but also New Zealand art and culture. NZ music month should be more about albums like this.
smokecds.com
20 May, 2005

CD Review: by Julie Jacobson
plainsong by Charlotte Yates (Jayrem)
"Great Music - clear, sharp and perfectly formed"
Yates does this to me every time. A decade ago, it was her signature Red Letter. A week ago, it was Looked Like You.
There I am happily going about my business when I flick on the radio and wham - there's this brilliant song and I'm singing along. Real loud.
plainsong was written during the Wellingtonian's time as 2002 Artist-in Residence at Christchurch Arts Centre.
Sounds all very Bill Manhire. But we're not talking esoteric or difficult or I'm-too-clever-by-half-ha-ha-here.
This is just great music - clear, sharp and perfectly formed - with Yates and her guitar going for broke.
Typically, the subject matter is personal be it bitter, bliss or snarl, but there's some sneaky political stuff going on as well which shoots Yates even higher in my star takes.
All credit too to the backing line-up which includes local restaurateur and sometime Warratah Alan Norman on accordion and the fabulous neo-classic Janet Holborow on cello.
Talk about creative Capital ...
Contact July 10, 2003

Review: Nick Bollinger
The Sampler, National Radio, 24 May 2003

plainsong by Charlotte Yates

Charlotte Yates has a fistful of different musical identities, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. She was the conceptual brain behind the acclaimed Baxter album and stage show, and a third of the absurd When the Cat's Been Spayed. But alongside these high profile projects, she's been quietly building up a catalogue that makes one of this country's most committed and consistent singer-songwriters, and she's just released her fourth solo album.
The title of this disc is plainsong, but the songs are anything but plain. In fact, Yates has gone to some lengths to keep things musically interesting and varied, and she slips easily from a riff-based rocker like that opening track (Joan of Arc), to a country waltz complete with accordion from the Warratahs' Alan Norman. (The Ruins of Love)
Or perhaps your tastes lean more towards reggae, in which case you'll appreciate where this track is coming from. (The Things I Said)
But whatever the groove, Yates's subject matter seldom swerves from that staple of the singer-songwriter's menu, the love song. And though Yates is capable of writing the odd ode to romantic bliss, she's inevitably at her most poignant when love goes wrong. (Throwaway).
plainsong is predominantly personal but Yates ventures into the world of politics for the album's final track. Titled They Never Listen, it's not quite a protest song but it does offer a wry view of the world's leaders, and perhaps puts its finger on why you never see politicians dancing.

 

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