What People are Saying

NZ Pops Audience responses in 2012 + 2013

“Congratulations on a simply superb concert Sunday night! My eyes were filled with tears…”

Graeme Edwards


“It was magic every moment from beginning to end.”

Janice Webb


“Wow, what a great night last night! It’s totally the sort of thing Auckland needs!”

Truusje Matthews


“Congratulations !!! On a fabulous start for this new orchestra! I am sure the whole audience in the Town Hall loved each and every item.”



“My wife Jenifer and I loved it and will become devotees.”



“Thank you NZ Pops Orchestra for a magical evening. What a joy to see the mesmerised look on the faces of the many young audience members!”

Brigitte Bednar


“The evening sparkled and the positive comments as one left the theatre speaks well for the future.”

Roger & Nannette Goldstone


“My friend enjoyed every minute of it and can’t wait for the next one!”

William Green


“Just a note to thank you for the wonderful reception yesterday and to thank you for the brilliant concert and the musical experience. Congratulations.”



“What a fantastic afternoon of entertainment! You were all A-mazing! We’ll be back for the October performance! Such a pleasure to see so many talented people on stage.”

Des Cooke Clark


“Alan and I really were thrilled at the NZPOPS Orchestra, the young people we invited loved the diversity of the music.”

Margaret and Alan Williams


“We really enjoyed the evening and were impressed with the talent of the orchestra and the soloists. It was truly a wonderful experience.”

Philippa and Simone Smith


The New Zealand Pops Orchestra presented us with their third concert on Sunday May 26th at the Auckland Town Hall. Formed only last year by its Music/Artistic director, German-born conductor Rita Paczian, the orchestra is modelled largely on the Boston Pops Orchestra, epitomised by its long-standing director Arthur Fiedler, and aims to provide audiences with a range of items along a musical spectrum from popular to light classical.

A far cry from the grandfatherly Fiedler, Paczian is lithe and energetic on stage, conducting with the clarity and focus Auckland audiences have come to appreciate in her classical concerts in the last twenty years. The atmosphere created in this concert was one of relaxed spontaneity, yet having played under Paczian’s baton myself I can attest to her forethought and attention to detail. The band was of modest size, but was augmented by students from a number of Auckland choirs, who joined the orchestra in the opening number, ‘I will follow him’ from Sister Act, introduced by informative MC, Dr Frances Pitsilis, who relaxed into her role as the evening proceeded. Paczian coaxed a strong full-throated sound from these young singers, and they were welcomed back enthusiastically in the second half in music by Howard Shore, Netherworld Dancing Toys, and – for a rousing encore – Strauss’s Radetzky March.

The concert showcased a variety of soloists – some new to the orchestra, and some who have been with it since day one. In the latter category is New Zealand-based soprano, Gina Sanders, who crossed a bewildering array of boundaries in her selection of songs for the evening. A Handel aria, delivered with command and aplomb was followed by heartfelt Puccini. Several items later, and with another costume change – this one more ‘middle earth’ perhaps – she sang the solo in Howard Shore’s ‘In Dreams’, accompanied by the choir. Only a short time later it was musical theatre, hitting the spot in the thoughtful ‘People’ from Funny Girl and, following that, she was all coy seductiveness in the Testa/Renis ‘Quando, Quando, Quando’. Each item was stylistically delivered by Sanders with the maturity, versatility and commitment we’ve come to expect from her.

The next soloist was John Mackay, who is a Canadian-born jazz pianist and composer who spends much of his time in New Zealand. His contribution to the evening’s proceedings began with the premiere of his own composition, ‘New Zealand, My Home’. After an intriguing intro, with shades of polytonality, the piece broadened into an expressive and warmly-received paean to his adopted country, with words deftly fitted into the pre-existing melody by US-born NZ playwright, Michelanne Forster, and sung with heart by Gina. Bach and jazz go hand in hand in Mackay’s world, and after the interval he and his trio treated us to a dizzying display of virtuosity based on Bach’s c minor prelude, the melodic twists being almost drowned out at one stage by Ron Sansom’s enthusiastic drumming.

The orchestra has, from its inception, endeavoured to support young artists, and in this concert it was the turn of 20-year-old accordionist, Eddie Giffney, who coolly negotiated the syncopations and glissandi of Piazzola’s ‘Otono Porteno’. I’ve now heard this young man perform on both accordion and piano, and he’s definitely one to watch.

New Zealand-born cross-over tenor, Will Martin is still in the bloom of youth but has already achieved a staggering amount on the international stage. He is a consummate entertainer who – as previous NZ Pops audiences have seen – is totally at ease, and knows when and how to joke with an audience. He had us totally on his side with some spurious remarks about Justin Bieber (the kids in the choir behind him were in no position to object) having warmed us up with his take on The Last Rose of Summer. Being the exponent of the pop side of the evening’s programme, he was on home turf in the second half of the concert, wowing us with a Netherworld Dancing Toys song, ‘For Today’, and multi-tasking on piano in U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found’. He is a man with a golden voice, and knows just how to use it.

With over three decades in the entertainment industry in New Zealand, it’s tempting to label Tina Cross as a ‘veteran’ of a stage. However, there was nothing staid, ‘same old’ or even veteran-like about her performance of ‘Midnight’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Looking as slinky as a cat herself, she made it her own, demonstrating the sheer power in her upper register. Sadly this was her only item on the evening’s programme but I for one was left wanting more.

Naturally when there is a new player on the block such as the New Zealand Pops Orchestra there is inevitably some jockeying for position, given a small arts market and tight economic times. Granted, we already have an excellent orchestra in this city in the Auckland Philharmonia, albeit with a different focus to what NZ Pops offers. But, as someone who has attended concerts by both orchestras, it was clear to me as I looked around at the faces of the audience in the near-full Town Hall, that this orchestra has already grown an audience all of its own. Where else would you find a concert where oratorio precedes folk music, musical theatre follows U2, and tango sits alongside Puccini, and where opera lovers can rub shoulders with pop and film music enthusiasts? Not only that, but this style of concert can open doors to music other than what individual members of the audience have specifically come to see.

Whichever way you look at it, there was something for everyone in this concert. The New Zealand Pops Orchestra is here to stay.

William Green, June 2013