Music, Movement, and Stories: Three parts of one whole: Onepū – Christchurch Arts Festival 2019

As I’ve grown up, music, movement and storytelling have always been intrinsically linked. Separate, and on their own, each is a wonderful art form … but together they form something greater than the sum of its parts. One giant creative force, that can design and present something quite magical.

As a little child, a toddler sitting on knees and sharing picture books with older family members, it was the books with a strong pattern of rhythm and rhyme that really grabbed me, and pulled me into the stories. The stories where the pace of the words drove the action, and the reader couldn’t help but speed up their reading as the story reached it climax - they were just the best. I remember being enveloped in the rhythm of the story, and feeling like I really was being pulled right in, inside the book, with the characters. Stories happen at their own pace, and books with good rhythm and rhyme are those that match the pace of the events in the plot to the pace of the words as you read them out loud. As an adult, I still find myself reading more quickly, and turning the pages at a faster rate, if something interesting and exciting is happening in a story I’m reading. Stories have a pace - they are music without the music notes.

As I got older I began to play instruments, study music theory, and develop broader music tastes. I listened to different types of music: classical, pop, rock, indie, instrumental - anything was fair game, depending on what I was after at that particular time. All this exposure helped me tune in to the subtleties of the music I was listening to. Tempo, volume, the use of one instrument over another - these are all conscious decisions by the composer or songwriter, aimed at creating a story in the listener’s mind. Listen to something like Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and you know as soon as the music starts whether you’re listening to kangaroos or to elephants. And if you listen to Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee, you can see exactly where that bee is swooping around your head. The way these pieces of music evoke images of these animals moving - music is movement without physical bodies.

Now I’m all grown up, I appreciate the way a good soundtrack adds to a movie or story I’m listening to as an audiobook. Music can be used to add suspense (‘daa daa, daa daa, daa da, daa da, dadadadadada…’) or to show emotion and mood … And silence can be just as powerful. I’ve just finished re-watching Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the use of songs on that series is phenomenal. Each song adds so much in a simple way - music is storytelling without words.

Christchurch is currently hosting the Christchurch Arts Festival from July 26 - August 4. It is a celebration of music, stories, movement and art to lighten the cold winter days and evening. One of the shows I am very much looking forward to is one that will combine storytelling, music and movement all in one show: Onepū.

Onepū is on Friday 2 August 7pm at the James Hay Theatre in the Town Hall. It is presented by the Atamira dance company, and uses sound, movement, light and dance to tell the story of atua wahine / Māori female deities, as told in traditional Kāi Tahu stories. A combination of the traditional and the modern, this work from Louise Potiki Bryant (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe), Ariana Tikao (Kāi Tahu) and others is sure to be a magical experience.

Christchurch Arts Festival 2019

The biennial Christchurch Arts Festival brings a mix of performances to Ōtautahi. The 2019 Festival highlights Christchurch creations. The 2019 Christchurch Arts Festival runs from Friday 26 July to Sunday 4 August. Browse the full festival programme to see all the events, concerts, activities, and exhibitions.