A 2016 photo of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Image: apo.co.nz)

A 12 year old reviews the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Madeleine Chapman took her piano-playing nephew Harper to see the orchestra for the first time. 

Madeleine: When I was very small, I used to sit in the hallway at home with my closest siblings and we would ask our brother Bernard, a teenager at the time, to play songs on the piano. We would name a song we liked from the radio, try to sing the melody, then Bernard would play something resembling it on the piano. He had taught himself how to play.

Nearly two decades later, I often find myself sitting on the floor next to a piano, asking Bernard’s son Harper to play a song. He’s 12 years old and taught himself how to play by watching Youtube tutorials. It’s strange and exciting to see a tween showing such a genuine interest in classical music, while also taking advantage of technology to help him learn (he now gets lessons from a real-life human too).

Being an aunty means desperately throwing money at any glimmer of interest your nieces and nephews have and trying to be a Cool Aunt. Once it became clear that Harper’s interest in music wasn’t a passing phase, I wanted to take him to see an orchestra play. Turns out, if you want to throw money somewhere, the orchestra will happily catch a lot of it.

On Thursday, Harper flew from Wellington to Auckland to see the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra perform Boléro as part of their New Zealand Herald Premier Series. Here’s his review.

Harper: My aunty gave me two Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra performances to choose from, Boléro and Zarathustra. She showed gave me a slight glimpse of what each orchestra sounded like. In the end I chose Boléro because the music sounded very harmonic and unpredictable. This is what I like. The other one had popular pieces from well known composers that would probably be played all the time. I wanted to hear something different.

I had never actually been to see a proper orchestra so it was quite the experience. The Auckland Town Hall was very grand. When we arrived, it was very crowded. All the people seemed very high class. A lot were past middle aged. My aunty pointed out a famous author but I hadn’t heard of him.

We took in snacks and drinks from the dairy across the road but when we sat down I didn’t see anyone else with any drinks. We had to be really quiet with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed how the orchestra hooked us in with their sweet harmonic sound. On the left they had high instruments playing in high octaves and on the right there were big, low instruments like drums and cellos. The piano and the conductor were in the middle. The conductor was very excited and jumping around a lot. It was a bit funny, he would make gestures at certain players to make them sound better.

APO and white hair (Image: Madeleine Chapman)

I listen to a lot of Erik Satie, Debussy, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff, and I like to play songs composed by them. But the way I play doesn’t connect to the listener or me as much as how they performed their songs.

My favorite part was Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major, II; Adagio assai”. It was very touching, the pianist actually had a tear when he finished playing it. And another one I liked was “Boléro”. It was like a small flower blossoming, repeating over and over and getting louder and louder.

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I really liked the cellists and the pianist. I liked how the cellists plucked at the strings, the violinists did that too. And I liked how the pianist connected with the music. He smiled in the upbeat parts and looked sad during the low parts.

The music was all great but there was just so much clapping that it kept disrupting my thoughts on the pieces. It felt like the audience clapped for like five minutes after one piece. I stopped and restarted clapping three times just because everyone was clapping for so long.

I liked that there were intervals but the songs went by really fast, like when you have fun and time goes by quickly. The show was two hours but it felt like less than one hour. People left quickly afterwards. If they had kept playing I would have stayed.

Overall, I was touched by the music. Sometimes I listen to music on my phone or the TV and then when I put my headphones on it sounds way nicer. Hearing it played live was a whole other level. I would definitely go again but I think they should put cushions on the seats.


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