The New Adventures of MUSE

MUSE was formed back in 2002 by a group of women wanting to create a safe and nurturing environment for women to make music, perform, and encourage other women to make music too.

The story goes that Irene Pender (who now lives in Derry, Ireland) was sick of being drowned out by loud guy bands. As time went on MUSE came to be a musicians’ network for singers wanting to find accompanists, songwriters who needed singers, for women wanting to collaborate musically in general. Over the years it has been a safe space in which to experiment, to get experience performing and in which to enjoy the ‘womentorship’ of the MUSE Matriarchs.

Many of those original members are still here in Gisborne teaching and performing. One of the MUSE Matriarchs, Tanya Mitcalfe reflects that things have changed since then; it’s much more common to see a female musician performing on stage these days. But she is still a strong believer in creating safe supportive spaces in which for women to perform and have a go.

Many young women have been mentored through MUSE over the years and the Collective are proud of the recent success of two of their protégés, Jasmin Taare and Amy Maynard, who recently won the group section of Five Minutes of Fame on Māori Television.

MUSE hasn’t always strictly stuck to music, with comedy, poetry and satire providing some memorable moments over the years. Who remembers the ‘DIY Plastic Surgery’ performance in which Keren Rickard a.k.a. Professor Parsnips decked Tanya Mitcalfe out in cling wrap, painted her with Twink and used a vacuum cleaner to suck out her ‘undesirable’ attributes?

After a few years hiatus, MUSE is back and Smash Palace is hosting the Collective’s return tomorrow evening Friday August 6, 7pm. You’ll be able to catch up on what various MUSE members have been up to lately, (including Jasmine Taare!) and hear from some new members too, in a diverse celebration of women’s music.

As any musician is well aware, the audience has a huge role to play when it comes to performance and MUSE events are no exception – everyone is warmly welcome!

MUSE is always keen for new members, and as one of the most recent recruits Wendy Wallace attests, it is an awesome opportunity to work and collaborate with like-minded women to celebrate diversity, passion and prowess!

If you’re interested in finding out more head to the MUSE Facebook page.

Building Bands, One Night at a Time

It’s sorta obvious the current owner of Smash Palace Bar Gisborne, Darryl Monteith is a musician. As I walk in, he’s already on stage cranking out “History Never Repeats” by Split Enz, accompanied by his mate Mo. A young fulla and his dad have arrived at the same time, guitar case in hand, obviously here to play. Others, like me, are here to listen, to support budding musicians gaining their confidence, and perhaps experience a seasoned talent bust out something special.

Build-a-Band started about 2 years ago, and used to be on Fridays. The instruments are all on loan from local musicians, but bringing your own is pretty standard too. Electric guitars (including left hand), acoustic guitar, bass, drums, bongos, various percussion instruments…. all there. If you’re a bit shy there’s a post to stand behind, but that spot can get a bit crowded.

The original concept was that individual musicians get up and jam, some would gel as a group and go on to start a band. Darryl reckons there’s loads of musical talent in Gisborne and sees Build-a-Band as a way of helping to nurture and develop that talent. Mostly folks are happy to just come along and jam. Try out a song they’ve written. See what sort of reaction they get, or have that one time a week they are totally in the zone. It’s building bonds between local musicians who probably wouldn’t otherwise have known each other existed.

As we know, Gisborne attracts a few travellers, and even though our borders are closed we still have interesting folks from far off places passing through or basing themselves here. Some of them have proved to be accomplished musicians and thrilled to have a chance to play. On nights like that, Smash patrons get to experience something they may have to pay big bucks for in another setting. But this is Build-a-Band. Everyone’s welcome. The ages vary, the styles of music vary, the levels of experience vary, but everyone’s all about the music. As I head out the door there’s a call from the stage, “We need a blues guitarist!”

What: Build-a-band
Where: Smash Palace Bar, 24 Banks St, Awapuni
When: Every Thursday night, 7 – 11pm
Cost: Free – wouldn’t hurt to buy a beer while you’re there though!
Story by Leah McAneney
Photographs by John Flatt

Pub Choir at Smash Palace

Tuesday night in Gisborne – what to do for pure, unpressured, lift-the-spirits fun? If you’re someone who loves to sing out loud but doesn’t really want anyone to hear you, then Pub Choir at Smash Palace is the place for you.

Here you will find somewhere between 10 and 30 kindred spirits gathered around a leaner in front of the fire, singing their hearts out.

Choir master Darryl Monteith leads with his personal fearless passion for singing, and a songwriter’s adulation for the poetry and musical skill of others. His accomplished and enthusiastic guitar playing includes intros just like you hear when the original song is playing on the radio, so sets the scene for everyone to start perfectly on the first note.

Pub Choir has been happening for over a year now, and with a new song introduced every week, there’s quite a folder of lyric sheets. Suggestions for songs to include are welcomed and always create a debate. The resident cats, Dash and Pash, meander over the leaner adding their voices to the debate and hoping for a cuddle on the side.

You learn the actual lyrics of songs you’ve been enthusiastically singing only the chorus of for years. In fact seeing the lyrics written down can be a revelation in itself. My personal unforgettable favourite is from Split Enz “I see Red” ….”Squeezed me out of your life like molten toothpaste…” poetry!

Some people are actually quite good. So there is a reliable foundation of tunefulness and harmony. You are mostly free to follow your own whim as to which part you sing. However Darryl has been known to divide the choir up into a group with brown eyes and a group with blue when two parts are clearly required.

I asked a few people why they come – what do you enjoy about Pub Choir? The most common response was along the lines of “I really like to sing and I’ve always loved the feeling of singing out loud – but I’m much too shy. This choir makes it OK. There’s no judgement and it‘s completely unpretentious: pure fun and definitely uplifting. There’s no commitment to come every week, so if you don’t turn up, you don’t feel like you are letting anybody down.”

Others spoke of being new to town and enjoying meeting new people, and of finding a new self-confidence in trying an activity which is out of their comfort zone.

Suffice to say everyone is welcome – 7pm Tuesdays at Smash Palace

Story by Carol Ford

Photographs by Sarah Cleave