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Expendable Animals: Songs and Improvisations


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Expendable Animals: Songs and Improvisations
Bill Direen and Guest Improvisers

Bill Direen is well known as an alternative pop-rock songwriter and performer who has worked with a staggering array of class musicians. But he also has roots in poetry and theatre. A recent documentary by Simon Ogston portrayed him in all his facets — poet, composer and collaborator-musician. This new show brings together those elements in a live evening of texts, songs and improvisation. Direen will perform songs, some known, some new, counterbalanced by creative compositions by a small ensemble of select musicians. The stage set will be a cross between a typical gig and a cabaret/theatre show, with some multi-media elements.

The evening is a voyage through New Zealand's history from 1914 to 1939 in three parts. Songs commemorating the social reforms of the first Labour Government in New Zealand, a mini song-cycle written by Direen and poet Alan Brunton about Michael Joseph Savage, and songs themed upon New Zealand's involvement in war, in all its gore and sadness. The spotlight will shift to and fro from five collective improvisations by the respective groups, to short brackets of poems and songs from the Direen repertoire. Direen views the war through the eyes of his grandfather, an Oamaru-born driver of horse-drawn vehicles. He survived three years on the Western Front, was wounded and hospitalised in France in 1918. The evening closes with an extended improvisation of interweaving text and music, inspired by the feeling of relief at the peace and prosperity that New Zealand knew in the 1920s. This significant collective work is predicated upon the theme of playfulness using as principal guiding thread implications of the game.

Tickets $10 at door. Box office open 30 mins before.

Personnel at time of writing: Stuart Porter (saxophone), Alex Wolken (piano), Adam Stewart (drums), Matt Sanson (keys), Susan Ellis (violin), Brendon Ryniker (drums and guitar), Bill Direen (texts and songs).