The Festival Club
Sunday February 25
Commissioned for The New Zealand Festival this pairing had Crayford (piano, arrangements) and Nathan Haines (flute, saxophones) performing a set of classical pieces in the “Adagio” or slow movement – from the opening Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte by Ravel through Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor to Samuel Barber’s near-ubiquitous Adagio for Strings, 1st Gnossienne by Erik Satie and Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
Accompanying Haines and Crayford the string trio of Rachel Wells (cello), Sophie Buxton (viola) and Peau Halapua (violin).
Jonathan Crayford’s delicate arrangements struggled at times against a gust of Wellington’s worst winds – one of the problems of the Festival Club’s Spiegeltent setting. As squelching canvas and creaking wood infiltrated the tender piano intro to the Ravel piece I thought about walking out. Not the musicians’ fault, and not really the fault of the Festival of course. But a huge frustration.
This is the downside of festival booking – this performance deserved to be in a theatre. But would it be as well received during the year, as part of a typical schedule? The chance to soak in a manufactured ambience – provide craft beer and wines, platters and the see-and-be-seen-scene of a festival, in a tent darling! And then you have an audience…
But the performers continued on, stoic, their hour-long program of music winning out in the end.
Haines’ stately flute and sax lines were sublime, particularly in rescuing Barber’s Adagio for Strings from so many appearances in films of varying quality. Still, this is a piece that has withstood Jim Morrison’s babbled doggerel atop it.
The strings were almost the rhythm section of the evening, the main dance between Haines and Crayford, taking turns to provide the lead, as these classical works were shifted subtly towards jazz.
At the conclusion of the program Haines addressed the crowd in a parched whisper. He introduced the works and the musicians.
Crayford then explained to any in the audience that did not know ahead of time that Nathan had undergone surgery for a tumor in his throat as recently as December. (Haines has documented the procedure and his recovery on his Facebook page).
This provided a moment of genuine emotion and Haines, rightly, received a standing ovation. Crayford further explained that the string section was added at the 11th hour to help with some of the heavy lifting.
The music was beautiful. The wind was fucking annoying. The contextual back-intros was as important as the notes of music and their cautious placement.
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