Wellington Festival challenges stereotypes of classical music


Classical on Cuba returns to the streets of Wellington this weekend, bringing a modern twist to the genre.

More than 40 bands will play 100 shows in 20 venues on Cuba Street in Pōneke.

“The idea is to try to place classical music in a space that people wouldn’t expect,” says festival curator Leah Thomas.

She wants to make the classical music genre accessible to a more diverse audience.

“There’s a huge diversity in this community and that’s something to celebrate,” says the recent graduate of the New Zealand School of Music.

The event features performances ranging from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, a classic drag crossover and kaupapa Māori ensembles.

The event is a partnership between Orchestra Wellington and musicians who were unable to perform at the CubaDupa festival due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“It wasn’t clear which ensembles would survive and orchestras stopped hiring casuals, that’s where students get their jobs because they had to cut everything to make it Covid safe,” says Thomas.

As curator of the festival, she believes it is her job to ensure that people from all walks of life have the opportunity to participate.

“It’s an inescapable fact in New Zealand that the best-funded art is traditional Western European art… which isn’t true.”

Bridgerton-inspired string quartet The Whistedowns will also perform classic pop covers made popular by the television soundtrack.

“We’re starting to see a whole new generation of people who know that the fiddle isn’t just for old white people,” Whistledowns fiddler Margaret Steen Guldborg told 1News.

The festival runs from July 22-24.


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