28 Aug 2012

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Top young chamber musicians to perform in China

Top young New Zealand chamber music ensemble Geist is heading to China in September to perform with well-known New Zealand pianist John Chen. Geist will perform at the New Zealand Music Festival in Shanghai on Saturday 22 September.

The Auckland string quartet of Westlake Girls High School students Lauren Bennett (violin), Britta Balzat (violin), Sophia Lee (viola) and Sally Kim (cello) were invited on the tour following their winning performance at the New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest earlier this month. It was the second year running Geist had taken top honours in the contest – a first in the contest’s 47-year history.

“Geist was simply superb at the contest performing the first two movements from Debussy’s string quartet in G minor,” says Chamber Music New Zealand chief executive Euan Murdoch.

“The China tour is an extraordinary opportunity to profile the quality of youth chamber music in New Zealand on an international stage. Never before in the history of the contest have we had a winning ensemble picked up for an international tour while they are still at school.”

The New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest, run by Chamber Music New Zealand, is the only nationwide chamber music competition for young musicians and composers and this year involved more than 1850 students from throughout the country.

The invitation to China for Geist to perform at the New Zealand Music Festival in Shanghai came about following the contest National Final – in the audience on the night was classical music promoter John Ballard of Maxima Artist Management. John represents pianist John Chen, who was in a winning ensemble in the contest in 2001 and coincidentally adjudicated the National Final when Geist won last year.

“From their first chord, I had an inkling Geist would be hard to beat on that night. When they won, things happened at incredible speed. I contacted the festival in Shanghai and found they were immediately and enthusiastically interested.  I contacted John Chen, who immediately invited them to appear in his recital.

"Westlake Girls High School Principal Roz Mexted pledged immediate support, and Westlake Director of Music Rowan Johnston rallied to help coordinate the myriad details necessary to put such a tour together at short notice," Mr Ballard says.

“While China produces many of the world’s top virtuoso musicians, New Zealand clearly excels over our Chinese counterparts in ensemble playing, and these young musicians can proudly be held up as a model to the world. In addition to the festival performance, we will visit schools in Shanghai and Beijing and undertake related performance opportunities during the nine-day tour.  It’s a great day for New Zealand.” 

Westlake Girls High School Principal Roz Mexted expressed her delight at the honour these four have brought to the school. “The whole school takes pride in Geist’s accomplishment at winning this prestigious competition. The tour to China is a fitting reward for their dedication and hard work.”

The New Zealand Music Festival Shanghai is the first of its kind in China, celebrating the exceptional quality of New Zealand music and presenting New Zealand artists to Chinese audiences.

Geist first violinist Lauren Bennett (16) says the invitation to perform in China came as a huge surprise.

“We were very happy about winning the contest and we are so honoured to be invited to China. It's a fantastic opportunity and we are very excited. John Chen was the judge at last year's contest when we won and now we're playing on his tour - that's fantastic."

The tour to Shanghai and Beijing is made possible with the help of a special grant from Creative New Zealand.

For more information contact:

Sally Woodfield | Publicist | Chamber Music New Zealand | 021 868 020 | sally@chambermusic.co.nz