A fun week with great musicians

Impromptu barbershop performance by (L-R) Simon O’Neill, Owen Clarke

Last week I received a call from a wonderful colleague of mine – Owen Clarke – to assist him in a recording he was making with the Royal New Zealand Navy Band. Lieutenant Commander Owen is the gifted music director of this group. I’ve known Owen as long as I have been in New Zealand! When I first arrived in the country, every time the NZSO came down to his hometown of Dunedin, I would give Owen a private instrumental  lesson. This relationship developed when he came to Victoria University to study with me. Finally, he studied conducting with me for a post-graduate course at the university. 

I was so proud of him when he was appointed music director of the Royal New Zealand Air force Band in Wellington. Conducting gigs can be rather tough to get – let alone full time music directorships!  As a former teacher, I have always felt a keen sense of responsibility with regards to job placement and professional development for students. I have serious misgivings about universities that accept students into music schools who would be better off following a different path. In this case, I was clearly working with an excellent musician who made the process particularly gratifying. I’m sure I learned more from him than he from me!

When Owen asked me to assist with production help in a recording his band was recording at the historic Stebbing Recording Centre, I was only to pleased to help out. I must say that his work with the band is superb. He is an excellent conductor who posses great charm and people skills. Owen is one of those rare conductors who has a knack of bringing people on board to his vision in a completely charming manner. He is a natural and observing his work filled me with admiration.

Just before the sessions were meant to finish, Owen gave Simon O’Neill a call to see if he would be interested in singing a couple of songs with the band for the CD. Simon was between gigs and happily said yes! I love this aspect of Simon – he is one of the world’s greatest Wagnerian tenors – in demand at La Scala, the Met, Berlin Philharmonic, etc., etc., but his love of music and his humanity (and humility) compel him to share his immense gifts! He is the very definition of a “low maintenance” artist and it was a privilege to sing some barbershop with both him and Owen – as you can see from the photo above!