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Opening Notes for Wellington's Next Generation

What is the sound of Wellington's culture?


What is the sound of Wellington's culture? Which songs, popular or obscure, are defining the 21st century identity of New Zealand? How important is music in our lives?

What is the sound of Wellington's culture? Which songs, popular or obscure, are defining the 21st century identity of New Zealand? How important is music in our lives?

Opening Notes, a unique partnership between Wellington City Council's Arts Programmes & Services office and Wellington Saatchi & Saatchi, seeks to answer these questions. It will be phrased in the form of an annual CD compilation and package given free to every baby born in the region.From July 2006 on, every family of a new Wellingtonian will go home with a carefully designed gift meant to celebrate the robust character, creative lives, and burgeoning music communities in New Zealand's capital city.

Over 6,000 new babies arrive in Wellington Region each year. The Opening Notes package and disc, delivered through a partnership with the District Health Boards, will be both a unique welcoming gesture and a legacy for the next generation. This gift is the sound of our culture.

The Opening Notes has been developed by Eric Holowacz, Arts Programmes & Services Manager for Wellington City Council, adn has been produced in close partnership with Jonathan Russell, General Manager of Saatchi & Saatchi. Their innovative partnership has also depended on the expertise, input, and hard work of dozens of others - from Blink and A Low Hum to SOUNZ: the Centre for New Zealand Music to local record labels and musicologists. It has been three years in the making.


Opening Notes was developed between 2002-2006, as a new creative initiative for Wellington City. Holowacz was inspired by the growing profile of local music-makers, by the dedicated work of nurses and midwives, and by the emerging New Zealand culture that will be forged by our next generation.

The project was without funding and the necessary momentum until tried-and-true Wellingtonian Jonathan Russell, known to all as "JR," saw the good in Opening Notes. In the spring of 2005 his agency, Wellington's Saatchi & Saatchi, became sole sponsor and a driving force behind the implementation of this cultural initiative. Everyone at Saatchi has helped play midwife to this idea.

The inaugural Opening Notes CD is a tour of great, contemporary local music-making. It opens with Maori musicologist Richard Nunns performing the pumotumotu, a flute-like instrument that had been used ritually by Maori. It was played directly into the head of newborn babies - as a way of transferring cultural essence, knowledge and identity. His short recording (made specailly for Opening Notes) is haunting, powerful, and a fitting metaphor for the entire project.

Following that is "He Mihi" performed by Paekakariki poet and songstress, Hinemoana Baker; The Phoenix Foundation's unimpeachable hit "This Charming Van"; and Kashmiri singer Kiran Aswani with a track from the recent 'Close Your Eyes' ethnic lullaby CD. There are further tracks by local favourites Ghostplane and Over the Atlantic, gypsy folk group Carousel, and blues/jug-band stalwarts The Windy City Strugglers. Iraqi singer Homeh contributes a traditional 'mawal' chant of love, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra violinist Elena performs her intimate "Elena's Elegant Violin." Wellington East Girls College Choir offers an extraordinary Samoan song, "Tofa mai feleni," followed by tracks from Verona, Mike Fabulous, and Age Pryor's Fly My Pretties stand-out "Singing in my Soul." The first compilation comes to a close with new music from Wellington composer Jack Body, Lullaby 1 and 2 from "Rainforest," performed specially for Opening Notes by Bridget Douglas (flute) and Carolyn Mills (harp).

Researching and planning the Opening Notes Project has involved SOUNZ the Centre for New Zealand Music, Wellington-based record labels, the Wellington International Jazz Festival, University programmes and local musicologists, and a crowd of local music lovers. Significant early support was provided by recording engineer Robbie Duncan and his Braeburn Studio, as well as the good people of Loop Recordings. Local graphic design agency Frontloader and principal Viv Bernard also contributed significant ideas and enthusiasm to Opening Notes. And New Zealand's legendary music promoter and organiser, Blink, energised the latter stages of development by joining the production team as an Opening Notes advisor.


The Opening Notes CD has several objectives in mind:

to foster a wider appreciation of Wellington's local music scene
to support and provide new exposure for local musicians
to re-affirm Wellington's identity as a creative, musical city
to encourage a sense of community and tradition among parents and families in Wellington Region, and
to get people thinking about cultural identity and relationships

A new Opening Notes compilation will be produced annually, making the tracks specific to the year of birth and an heirloom from that special time. The package is intended for both the baby as well as the parents and extended support group. But more importantly, the tracks are meant to fill not just the early years of the child. Opening Notes hopes to forge be a life-long connection between a person and his/her culture.


Wellington and Hutt Valley hospitals and District Health Boards handle an estimated 6,000 births each year, and serve communities and parents from all regions of the lower North Island (from Kapiti to Upper Hutt to Breaker Bay). A partnership has been established with Margot Mains, Chief Executive Officer of Wellington Hospital/Capital Coast District Health Board, and her executive team. This will ensure that the "Opening Notes" CD's is provided to every new Wellingtonian born at hospital or at home. An equal partnership has been forged with officers at Hutt Valley DHB, to ensure coverage to that area.

There are no commercial aspects to this project, and absolutely no income through sales of any kind. Contributing artists retain all rights, ownership, publishing and every other use of their music: the Opening Notes project only requests permission to use recorded songs for the one-time, non-commercial purpose of providing a no-cost music compilation to all new-born babies in Wellington.

The development of Opening Notes Project has depended on many music, health, and community organisations. From the early stages in 2003 to the final phase of production in 2006, hundreds of people have shared their knowledge, energy, and talents. All of them have done so with a driving thought in mind: our culture is important to realise, understand, and discover. These musicians, leaders, creative people, and organisations truly love music and want to celebrate its place in the past, present, and future of Wellington.


Eric Vaughn Holowacz
Arts Programmes & Services Manager
Wellington City Council
P. O. Box 2199

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

21 Jun 2006

The Big Idea Editor