Wellington festival challenges classical music stereotypes

Source: 1News

Classical on Cuba is returning to the streets of Wellington this weekend, putting a modern twist on the genre.

Over 40 music groups will be playing 100 shows across 20 Cuba Street venues in Pōneke.

“The idea is to try and put classical music in a space people wouldn't expect,” says festival curator Leah Thomas.

She wants to make the classical music genre accessible to a more diverse audience.

“There's a massive amount of diversity in this community and it's something to be celebrated,” says the recent New Zealand School of Music graduate.

The event features performances ranging from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, a drag classical crossover, and kaupapa Māori ensembles.

The event is a partnership between Orchestra Wellington and musicians who couldn't perform at the CubaDupa festival due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“It wasn't clear what ensembles would survive and orchestras stopped hiring casuals which is where students get their jobs because they had to downsize everything to make it Covid safe,” says Thomas.

As curator for the festival, she believes it’s her job to make sure people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate.

“It's an unavoidable fact in New Zealand that the best-funded art is traditional western European art… which isn’t true.”

Bridgerton-inspired string quartet The Whistedowns will also be performing pop classical covers made popular through the TV soundtrack.

“We're beginning to see a whole new generation of people who know that the violin isn't just for old white men,” Whistledowns violinist Margaret Steen Guldborg told 1News.

The festival runs from July 22 to 24.