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Have you heard the one about the mathematician, the psychiatrist, the electrician, the dressmakers and the ...? No, probably not. The thing is, there’s hardly anyone in New Zealand folk music who makes their living at it, so everyone has a ‘day job’. And you can know people for years without knowing ‘what they do’. When a dozen of them pool their diverse talents to produce a show out of thin air you can end up with a rare gem. “The (Titirangi) Folk Club was asked to contribute a show for last

year’s Festival of Music,” says Tricia Lee, “and Tony Smyth had the brainwave to follow a shipload of 19th-century immigrants from England. He did the original story, then the committee took over and looked at who could be included.” “I’d had the idea for ages,” says Tony, “but I had to wait for the right

time. It was originally mainly sailors, putting shanties in context, then we brought in passengers to make the show more balanced. It morphed and changed as it needed to.” Tricia was the director/producer, and the script was built around folksongs, starting with The Leaving of Liverpool. The show went well, then Auckland Folk Festival booked them for Kumeu in January this year. There were Wellingtonians in the audience, leading to an invitation to this month’s Wellington Folk Festival in Wainuiomata. “Rudy Sunde was narrator, in the role of ship’s captain,” explains

Shiree Lee, “but he wasn’t available for Wellington, so Tricia became narrator,” now an elderly immigrant, writing her memoirs. Shiree has experience in musicals, acting, singing and stage-managing, so in addition to being a ‘sad wife/busty barmaid’ she’s now director. “They’re calling me director, but I’m more stage-manager really. A couple couldn’t make the trip, and the time-slot is shorter, so we changed some roles.” “Shiree’s put a bit more drama in it,” says Tricia, and Shiree adds

“The show is about folk music, but we wanted to make the theatrical side interesting. People have motivated each other and it’s come together really well, with support encouragement – and some shouting!” Folk-club President Ian Bartlett is First Mate, and a dab hand with

props. “When we cross the equator Neptune needs a trident and cut- throat razor. As an occupational hygienist I’ve years of experience making-do and improvising equipment.” He notes that the songs at the

Narrator Tricia Lee (left) and passengers Sheila Duggan, Bill Morrison, Rosemary Thomas, Beverley Young and Jean Reid during last month’s ‘live test’.

start of the voyage are more traditional, but the closer we come to New Zealand they become more modern.” Among the crew are Tony Smyth and well-known shanty-singers

Gavin Asher, Bob Large and Paul Howarth. Says Rosemary Thomas: “This means there are lots of shanties and chorus-songs to involve the audience.” Rosemary plays “a melancholy wee thing who misses her home. I like pretty songs, and the sad ones seem to have the prettiest tunes.

“After watching the video of the Auckland Festival show we added

a comical part crossing the line, we get someone from the audience, shave them and duck them.” The other passengers are Sheila Duggan and Bill Morrison, along with leading Auckland traditional singers Jean Reid and Beverley Young. The current show was live-tested at the Folk Club last month, partly

as a fund-raiser, and everyone is very happy, looking forward to the trip to Wellington on Labour Weekend. It may be the last performance, though there’s already talk of interest from schools. UPDATE: We wrote about poetry/funk band Freaky Meat a while

back, and have just heard they are releasing their first album Delicatessen – looking forward to checking it out.



who, what, where, when in the west...

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