ON the beat: Dusky Sounds – 5 reasONs to see The Blue Moments Project (review)

Sonic brilliance: The Blue Moments Project. PHOTO: Supplied.

Sonic brilliance: The Blue Moments Project. PHOTO: Supplied.

ANNABEL WILSON attended the first stop of The Blue Moments ‘Blue Spaces’ three-town tour of  Otago and shares five reasons to catch their show.

Because of the words.

First, there was … the words. The Blue Moments Project (now in its third iteration following a 2015 development showing then 2017 Festival of Colour premiere) begins and ends with the fine words of Laura Williamson. The project came about as a result of Laura and her composer friend Angela Mote exploring the question, “What happens when a writer and a musician work, really work, together?” As dusk gathered over the lake and mountains outside, Williamson drew us into an emotional landscape where “Morning / breaks dark. / Rain. Black tar. Ash grey. / The lack of light / stretching beyond the night / darkening the day…” From that particular ‘blue moment’, the audience was swept away into a world of spoken word, jazz and blues. A world which in some ways evokes the realm of a Beat-era speakeasy and in others is distinctly Kiwi. This is part of Williamson’s signature style: her words traverse the globe, from North America to the UK before returning, always, to the Southern Lakes. As she explains, the pieces and the people performing them are representative of the multi-cultural make-up of the place The Blue Moments Project calls home. For the one hour show, we are invited into that home. It’s intimate, and at the same time expansive – like Williamson’s poetry.

"The minor key, the drawn out note, the colour of bruise, the taste of smoke." PHOTO: Supplied.

“The minor key, the drawn out note, the colour of bruise, the taste of smoke.” PHOTO: Supplied.

Because of the music.

Performed by a five-piece band comprised of Graeme Perkins on piano, Jeff Sinnott on drums, Angela Mote on flute and saxophone, Dominic Stayne on upright bass with Queenstown-based jazz/blues singer Karen Hattaway on vocals, the pieces are rich and varied, layered with shades of light and dark. The group, working with Mote’s compositions, ‘sing up’ the places and poesis of Williamson’s words. Each evocation is different, yet they flow together with recurring threads, symbols and themes. Time and again, a sense of yearning is conveyed. You can hear the shimmy of light on water, the “crush of snow”, the drive of “desire / desire / desire”, sunrises and sunsets, vignettes of love and loss, spaces of stillness and wonder. Each piece is a stand out, but one in particular that clutched my heart musically was ‘Mata-Au: The Clutha Suite’. In this quatrain of ‘moments’, four seasons on the Clutha river are conjured. For this piece, Mote wrote the music first, then Williamson crafted four short accompanying poems. The outcome is a quire of delicious seasonal moods; sonic brilliance.

Because of the collaborative spirit.

Blue Moments is the result of a multi-year collaboration between Williamson and Mote, one that produced a sequence of works that gives new meaning to the phrase “music and lyrics”. Having seen the first showcasing of Blue Moments at The River House in November 2015, it’s cool to see the evolution of the work. This time, acting on audience feedback after the sell-out Festival of Colour premiere, Williamson added some short explanations around some of the pieces, engaging us in the narrative behind some of the poems as well as  she and Mote’s creative process. There’s an easefulness about the group that’s endearing and alluring; a sense that the show has really grown into its skin.

Everybody loves merch! PHOTO: ONmag.

Everybody loves merch! PHOTO: ONmag.

Because of the merch.

The ‘Blue Spaces’ tour is largely thanks to the group’s successful PledgeMe campaign, which funded the recording and mastering of their debut album at the lovely Orange Studios in Christchurch, the creation of CDs and the printing of the covetable ‘Blue Moments’ book through Drill Press. Mote and Williamson make themselves available after the show for book and cd signing at the merch desk. For those after a smaller momento, you can score a postcard version of the show’s central poem, ‘The Blues’.

Because of the atmosphere.

From the kōauau played by Mote at the outset, to the silvery tones of Williamson’s “What I learned about dusk” at the end, a sense of drawing in is evoked throughout the show. In one of those art/life serendipitous alignments, the territory of ‘Blue Moments’ was mirrored by the fading light outside. Framed by the venue’s geometric windows, we saw the velvety mountains change from cigar-brown to dusky pink to black outside as we were transported into “the dark blue world” inside. Quite magical.


Tickets for The Blue Moments Project shows are on sale now at eventfinda.co.nz:

QUEENSTOWN – October 1 at St Peters Church Hall:


DUNEDIN – October 2 at Stuart Hall, Knox Church:


For ON-the-ball previews, promotion, advertising, interviews, reviews and photography for your cool happenings and concepts, contact annabel@onmag.co.nz.

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