A classical music festival will heat up Cuba Street this Wellington winter

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Classical on Cuba returns this winter to Wellington's Cuba Street neighborhood.

Johnny Hendrikus/Supplied

Classical on Cuba returns this winter to Wellington’s Cuba Street neighborhood.

Wellington’s Classical on Cuba music festival returns to the capital this winter with a varied and entertaining new programme.

Exploring classical music in a contemporary world, the festival, now in its third year, will feature 100 shows performed by more than 40 music groups in 20 venues over the weekend of July 22-24.

Each show challenges preconceived notions of what classical music is, pairing favorite venues with some of Wellington’s most accomplished classical musicians, overseen by the artistic direction of acclaimed composer John Psathas.

The heart of the festival is the Classical Crawl program, which features 90 30-minute shows at 20 venues across the Cuba St neighborhood, ranging from cafes to bars and galleries.

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Artistic coordinator Leah Thomas said the festival was an “accessible way to celebrate and support classical music”.

“We want people to experience something new in their familiar and favorite places on Cuba St, while our artists celebrate the diversity and depth of their art form,” she said.

The program includes exciting multidisciplinary collaborations such as Deco Dance, a special collaboration between Australian choreographer Chrissie Parrott working with Wellington's Java Dance Company.

Bohdan Warchomij/Supplied

The program includes exciting multidisciplinary collaborations such as Deco Dance, a special collaboration between Australian choreographer Chrissie Parrott working with Wellington’s Java Dance Company.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will open the festival at the Michael Fowler Centre, with a concert of classic hits, from film themes to the first piano concerto ever recorded in 1909.

The Classical Crawl features everything from the nine-piece flute choir The Flute Squadron, jazz-fusion quartet Little Symphony Sax Quartet, piano duo Duo Enharmonics, Gemini Clarinet Quintet and solo artist Jack Hooker.

Five new songs make up the “New Cuba Street Suite”, a special order in which five local and well-known composers – Lucien Johnson, Salina Fisher, Arjuna Oakes, Umar Zakaria and Jess Deacon – bring the poetry of local authors to life through music.

The festival also features kaupapa Māori ensembles, celebrating indigenous music and classical music. Manawa mixes the spiritual sounds of taonga pūoro with electric bass and Māori drums, guitar and te reo, and local band Ao offers unique and totally improvised performances combining taonga pūoro, koto (from Japan) and violin, and Hiwa which brings the art of kapa haka to the classical program.

Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu/Tainui) from Manawa is set to perform at the festival, blending the spiritual sounds of taonga pūoro with electric bass and Māori drums, guitar and te reo.

Stephen A’Court/Supplied

Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu/Tainui) from Manawa is set to perform at the festival, blending the spiritual sounds of taonga pūoro with electric bass and Māori drums, guitar and te reo.

The Whistledowns, a highly anticipated Bridgerton-style musical evening, features string quartet hits from the popular Netflix show and folk music from the Regency era.

Children and the young at heart can take a musical journey through the zoo with the Wellington Orchestra’s Carnival of the Animals.

Five opera singers compete for the grand prize at the Lexus Song Quest Grand Final Gala, supported by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, on July 23.

  • Tickets start from $10, or $8 when 8 or more tickets are purchased together. Late night sessions start from $15. Tickets: www.classicaloncuba.co.nz

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