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Ending on a high note: Ali Cat Productions


Award-winning Canterbury performer Ali Harper is not letting a year of pandemic postponements stop her. She is determined to end the year on a high note by performing two shows in December.

 

Photography: Emma Brittenden
Ali is wearing Repertoire (The Colombo)

 

The first show, Christmas Joy will be held on December 5, followed by four performances of The Look of Love on December 17 to 19. Both shows will be performed at The Piano.

In previous years, her Christmas concerts have sold out – and she promises 2020 will be better than before as she shares the stage with special guest and much-loved violinist Fiona Pears, Connor Hartley-Hall on guitar and 70 glorious voices from the Cobham Intermediate School Chorale all led by Musical Director and pianist Andy Manning.

“I adore this time of year and this year’s Christmas is focusing on love and gratitude,” she says. “The fragility of life has shown up for all of us this year. By creating a little bit of magic and lightening hearts through the beauty of music is what I think we all need at this time.”

Then it’s third time lucky for The Look Of Love – a musical feast for the heart and soul via the full spectrum of Burt Bacharach’s hit songs with muysical arranger Tom Rainey.

“Before lockdown Tom and I were able to record and release The Look of Love album and debut the show at Nelson’s Theatre Royal,” says Ali.

“Then our Christchurch dates had to be postponed due to Covid-19, not once but twice – but the upside is the songs resonate even more now with all that everyone has been have been through this year.”

The Look Of Love, captures the intimate Manhattan cabaret club vibe to transport you back through the ages, the ‘50s to the ‘80s, celebrating a long line of Bacharach muses, from Marlene Dietrich to Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick to Aretha Franklin and Cilla Black.

“Burt’s melodies are utterly gorgeous, timeless and abundantly beautiful whether they are about heartache or hope. I can’t think of a better way to uplift us into Christmas,” she says.


 

What we all need now…


Award-winning Christchurch singer Ali Harper’s concerts are synonymous with uplifting locals in hard times, and her latest show is no different. Metropol catches up with Ali ahead of The Look of Love, where she puts her own special touch on Burt Bacharach’s hits alongside pianist Tom Rainey.

 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT BURT BACHRACH’S MUSIC WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU?
“Burt’s music is brave, inspiring, creatively exquisite and abundantly beautiful – values I greatly admire. He spent a large part of his career writing about moments in history that were particularly troubling. His music has been, and continues to be, a tonic for so many.”

YOUR WORK IS CLOSELY LINKED TO UPLIFTING THE PEOPLE OF CHRISTCHURCH, AND BURT BACHARACH’S SONGS HAVE LONG BEEN A SALVE FOR TROUBLED TIMES. TELL US WHAT PARALLELS YOU DRAW BETWEEN HIS WORK AND CANTERBURY’S OWN STORIES OF RESILIENCE – ESPECIALLY IN THESE PANDEMIC TIMES.
“The sense of community and family has never been stronger. We discovered our own special ‘bubbles’ in those months in lockdown which gave us a new sense of gratitude for what we have and what is truly important. We have faced challenges as a city ten years ago with the earthquakes and last year with the Mosque shootings which shook us both physically and emotionally. Now as we face another upheaval, this show really could not have come at a better time. It’s as if the Bacharach anthem ‘What the World Needs Now’ was written for 2020 not 55-years ago.”

WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT FROM YOUR SHOWS?
“With all my concerts I really enjoy taking that fourth wall down and inviting the audience in as if they are in my living room. It’s like meeting old friends again and making new ones. Because Burt’s music is so well-known, I know everyone will be smiling and feeling those waves of nostalgia right from the opener.”

LOCKDOWN HAS HAD A LARGE IMPACT ON THE ARTS SCENE IN CHRISTCHURCH, HOW HAS IT IMPACTED YOU AND HOW ARE YOU ADAPTING?
“Yes, I had a lot of work postponed around the country. Fortunately, my other passion besides performing is teaching yoga and singing. I have set up a home studio called Cultivate Joy which does exactly that, teaching all ages, all abilities.”

YOU’VE BEEN PERFORMING FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS IN NEW ZEALAND AND ABROAD, WHAT KEEPS FUELLING YOUR PASSION FOR YOUR CRAFT?
“Connecting with people and giving not only myself the platform to express myself, share stories and honour the great artists I adore, but to allow people to escape, to reminisce and have a fabulous experience in the theatre. Something I, with so many, will never take for granted again.”


 

Born to Perform: Q&A with Ali Harper


Local award-winning talent Ali Harper has been wowing the crowds for years. We caught up with the lovely lady behind the microphone about being born to perform.

 

 

When did a life of performance first beckon, Ali?
Like many children, I was constantly role playing, always singing. I set up the ‘Fitzgerald Stationery Shop’ in my wardrobe, and the ‘Harper’s Bizarre Fabric Store’ which sold my mother’s leftover sewing remnants. All sorts of imaginary characters visited those shops! Then I found out I could take those characters, continue ‘playing’ and make it my full-time job.


In 2014 you were artist-in-residence at your former school Rangi Ruru. Teaching young women to grow their performance confidence must have been a wonderful experience?
I really enjoy working with young people – encouraging them to explore and delight in the total abandonment that comes through singing, movement and storytelling. We live in a society so caught up in what we do, what we look like, and worrying what others think. I want to impart that we’re all unique; there’s no-one else like us. I want our young people to embrace and celebrate that.


You won the Actress of the Year Award at the United Solo Festival 2014 in New York, and at the same festival, in 2019, won the Best One Woman Show Award for your Songs for Nobodies – how did that feel?
The Arts is not the easiest of career paths, so it’s wonderful to be recognised for the risks you take, on and off the stage.


Any favourite roles?
I’ve loved so many. Eliza Doolittle and Maria Von Trapp were a delight, while Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers was a dream role. Songs for Nobodies was like a personal coming of age…celebrating being old enough to draw from a wealth of life’s highs and lows to play the often tortured ‘nobodies’ and ‘somebodies.’


Is there a “baddie” woman you’d relish bringing to life on stage or screen?
I’ve been watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. The lead baddie is Count Olaf, but I’d love to play that role as a woman, taking on the many disguises and accents. Mean, convincing, greedy… my boys would be so impressed!


You’re currently touring your solo show, A Doris Day Special, around New Zealand. What do you love about Doris Day?
Doris sang and danced with total joy and abandonment. Her life was often difficult, but it never defined her as a person. She retired early to commit her life to saving neglected animals. She was optimistic, kind and genuine – all qualities I greatly admire.


Which world-renowned venue would you love to perform in, if you could?
I saw Audra Macdonald singing with the San Francisco Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall last year. Fabulous! I kept looking at the elite New Yorkers’ in their box seats and imagined walking out onto that stage to take my place in front of that orchestra… pure joy!


Tell us about the importance of yoga in your life?
I realise more and more the importance of yoga not only in my life but for those around me. To take time out for yourself, to connect deep within, to listen and trust your intuition, cultivate self-love and, most importantly, breathe fully and deeply. When we align these things, it’s amazing how they impact so positively on so many other areas in our lives.

Recently I did my yoga teacher training in Thailand. It was a life-changing experience, and now I’m so fortunate to be balancing my life, teaching and sharing my passion for yoga, meditation and singing, as well as at home with my singing and acting students.


When not performing, MCing, producing, writing, teaching or doing yoga, what do you do for time out?
I have busy young boys and a daughter at uni, so time out is rather scarce, yet when I really think on it, the things I choose to do in my life are time out, because they’re what I’m passionate about.

 

 

Photography by Simon Greenwood from Canterbury Tales. Hair and makeup by Sarah Greenwood Buchanan at TheatricalStylistNZ.


 

Award-winning artist honours Doris Day


Popular local performer Ali Harper is bringing her show A Doris Day Special back to Christchurch to honour and celebrate Doris Day since her death in March at the age of 97.

 

 

Portraying the Hollywood icon herself, Christchurch entertainer Ali Harper will sing many of the great hit songs that made Doris Day famous, while providing a glimpse into a life that was not always filled with sunshine and daisies. “She could be all sunshine and pure joy on camera and yet her life was full of torment and sadness,” Ali says.

“This, for me, shows what an incredibly brave and empowering woman she was, that the tragedies in her life did not define her.”

In 2016, Ali went with her Director Stephanie McKellar-Smith to Carmel by the Sea in America to celebrate Doris’s 94th birthday and sung one of her most famous songs, Secret Love. Doris’s immediate response was “Wow! You sound good! Oh my gosh. You make that song sound really, so good.”

A Doris Day Special has toured to numerous cities around New Zealand to much acclaim and now it’s time to get back on the road as a way to honour and celebrate one of the greatest entertainers of our time.

The Ashburton show is on Thursday 15 August at 7:30pm, book at www.ticketdirect.co.nz. This is followed by a Christchurch show on Saturday 24 August at 2pm and 7:30pm at The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts, book through The Court Theatre, 0800 333 100 or www.courttheatre.org.nz.

 


 

Jordan Luck band

Hottest tickets in town


This summer Christchurch is playing hostess with the mostest, with musical acts and artists from near and far hitting the city. These are some of the hottest tickets in town.

Jordan Luck band

Jordan Luck band

 

This New Year’s Eve will kick off with family entertainment from 6pm with Mullet Man, free activities, fairies and a special kids countdown at 8pm, then continues with DJs and live bands, including headline act, The Jordan Luck Band who will rock you into the New Year.

New Year’s Eve 6pm – 12am, Monday 31 December
North Hagley Park
www.ccc.govt.nz/summertimes

 


Ali Harper

Ali Harper

 

Ali is once again bringing some Christmas Joy to Canterbury. After her popular Christmas Joy concerts the past two years, Ali has put together another beautifully festive concert celebrating this special time of year.

Sunday, 16 December 3pm and 7pm
The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts, 156 Armagh Street
Bookings www.courttheatre.org.nz
0800 333 100

 


Phil Collins

Phil Collins

 

Global music legend Phil Collins is set to make his long-anticipated return to New Zealand with his Not Dead Yet: Live! tour, presented by TEG Dainty, with the two-date tour kicking off in Christchurch.

Monday, 4 February 2019
Christchurch Stadium (Formerly AMI Stadium)
www.ticketek.co.nz | 0800 842 538

 


The Hollies

The Hollies

 

New Zealand’s love affair with Rock n Roll Hall of Famers, The Hollies, is about to get a whole lot hotter this summer with the legendary band’s. The Road Is Long Tour.

Sunday, 24 February 2019
Horncastle Arena
www.ticketek.co.nz | 0800 842 538

 


Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams

 

In celebration of his three wins at this year’s VNZMA’s for Album of the Year, Best Solo Artist and Best Video, Marlon Williams is heading back home as part of his New Zealand tour.

Sunday, 3 March 2019
Town Hall
www.ticketek.co.nz | 0800 842 538

 


Nora Jones

Nora Jones

 

Billboard named her the top jazz artist of the 2000–2009 decade and now the beautiful and talented Nora Jones is heading our way for the first time in 14 years.

Monday, 29 April, 2019
Town Hall
www.ticketek.co.nz | 0800 842 538

 


Cats

Cats

This new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece will visit 16 cities nationwide in April and May. It will be the first major theatrical performance at the $127.5 million refurbished Christchurch Town Hall.

Saturday and Sunday, 13 and 14 April 2019
Town Hall
www.ticketek.co.nz | 0800 842 538

 


Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams

Armed with a career spanning over four decades and a signature brand of feel-good rock’n’roll hits, Bryan Adams is returning to New Zealand with his ‘Shine A Light’ tour

Sunday, March 17 2019
Hagley Park
www.ticketmaster.co.nz