Category: Music

Matinee Mondays

There will be a series of screenings on Mondays at 10am, between now and Dec 4th on the Mezzanine Floor, provided via the wonderful Beamafilm service.

Beamafilm is a movie streaming platform for documentaries, and independent features. Stream content straight from your TV, computer or device – all you need is a library card!

Come along and you’ll see how you could use Beamafilm at home, or simply take a seat and enjoy a movie, with tea and coffee provided.

Let us know if there’s a specific film on Beamafilm you’d like to watch, and we’ll see if we can play it for you!

Erna Ferry: local legend

Erna Ferry’s music career began in the 1980s, and nearly forty years later our local star has earned a national and international reputation.

Born in Germany, where her father (a Scottish Black Watch soldier) was in charge of helping refugees and displaced people in the Ruhr after World War II; Erna’s family moved to New Zealand when she was three.

After her father passed, when she was eleven, her mother remarried, and they started a new life in Palmerston North.

Growing up in the city, she attended Palmerton North Girls High School and developed her love of music.

“I formed a group with two of my friends called the Bluejays. We sang together and dreamed about music,” Erna recalls of her early experiences performing.

While she was a student at Palmerton North Girls High School Erna ferry and two friends formed the Bluejays, her first foray into music. Image courtesy of Erna Ferry

Post secondary school, she travelled and spent several years living in Wellington, before taking off on a seven-year OE in Europe.

After seeing the world, she returned home, got married and had children, but never envisaged singing would ever be more than a hobby.

She credits a friend encouraging her to help with scenery for a local production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, in the ’80s, as the turning point in her life.

Her big break came when the show’s director, Robert Rimmer, stopped her one day and asked if she could sing.

In need of a vivacious blonde for the starring role, Erna was encouraged by her friend to audition.

“We were travelling to Wellington in a car and I sang ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ to a tape of Tom Jones,” she recalls.

The director liked what he heard and wasted no time in casting her as the play’s lead.

What followed, was a whirlwind experience that she describes as one of the most terrifying, exciting and satisfying times in her life. Her commitment to the show continued behind the scenes. “I made the clothes my character wore, so I could keep them after the final show. They’re still in storage,” Erna laughs.

Bitten by the performing bug, more shows followed including ’80s favourite ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’. The show proved to be a vital step in her music experience.

Cast mate Simon Bowden, introduced her to the world of jazz, showing her a song book of jazz standards.

“This was music I knew and loved. Many of the songs were the show tunes of the ’20s through to the ’40s that my parents listened to when I was growing up,” she says.

The experience opened new opportunities. Her cast mate convinced her, and another young musician, to form a band called ’After Hours’. This helped her hone her skills.

Juggling her family with her new-found career, the trio ‘After Hours’, carved out a reputation with shows across Palmerston North.

By 1993, when her jazz repertoire and reputation as a singer had grown in Manawatū, a friend entered her in a national Jazz Quest competition without her knowledge.

Erna took it in her stride. On the night of the competition, she performed until 10pm at a local restaurant with the trio, before her father collected her and drove her to Wellington for the first heat. Erna remembers arriving at midnight and having just enough time to take off her coat before she hit the stage.

“I sang three songs including ’Mack the Knife’ and won that week’s heat,” she says.

Three weeks later she took top honours at the Jazz Quest final. That was the point Erna realised she ‘had arrived’ and was part of the jazz community.

Later that year she joined jazz legend, Al Jarreau, on his New Zealand tour as the support act.

“I realised there was no money in jazz unless you were the one who was headlining, so I developed a multi-genre approach to my singing,” Erna says.

Her approach enabled her to turn her talents to performing at a variety of events from weddings to conferences, product launches, special occasions, and gigs at local bars and pubs.

In 1998 she met New Zealand jazz legend, Rodger Fox, at a festival in Whanganui. The meeting led to both a personal and professional partnership, that has spanned more than two decades.

“We were both single and we clicked personally and professionally,” she says. “Roger tricked me into putting out my first album. He secretly collected my charts from small groups and sent them to an arranger in the United States, who rearranged them and sent them back as Big Band charts,” she recalls.

With all the hard work done, she agreed to the project, and her debut album, Devil May Care, followed.

The success of this album led to a second CD in 2004, Big Blues, that drew its inspiration from her part in a World Blues review tour throughout New Zealand.

In the years that have followed, the partnership has flourished both personally and professionally, with national and international tours and recognition as a formidable force in the music scene.

Throughout it all, two constants have remained in Erna’s life – her passion for music and her connection with Palmerston North and Manawatū audiences.

While her career sees her travel far and wide, Palmerston North is still her home and the place where her music memories began.

Brazen Hussies: rebels with a cause

Aiming to shock and create conversations on frequently sensitive subjects, the Brazen Hussies were born from the challenge to be brazen and outspoken in the 1990s. A group of friends, self-confessed feminists and political thinkers, were keen to make a stand against politics and confront issues such as benefit cuts and the Employment Relations Act.

Since their first performance, outside the old Palmerston North Post Office for International Women’s Day, the group has never shied away from topical issues ranging from climate change to Don Brash speeches, to women’s health.

While their line-up has changed throughout the years, the nature of their music hasn’t. The Brazen Hussies parody popular songs with lyrics revised to highlight contentious issues and the politics of the day.

A fixture at most annual Palmerston North May Day commemorations, the Brazen Hussies have reinvented such classics as ABBA’s Money, Money, Money – with lyrics criticising the rise of capitalism and right-wing politics. Other politically themed songs in their repertoire have included, Sink the Corporate Pirates song, These Boots are Made for Walking, and What Shall We Do with the Politicians.

Dressed to impress the Brazen Hussies. Photo: Image courtesy of the Brazen Hussies.

With a strong social conscience, the group has always been focused on ‘the message’ and expressing their opinion through singing. Over their two-decade run, these solely female singers have enjoy thinking up new and interesting ways to shock.

“I’m sure some people squirm when we come along, and others think ‘what are they going to do next?’ But that’s good and it’s what we want. Singing has given us a powerful voice,” says original Brazen Hussies member, Jean Hera.

Manawatū Music History

From Friday Oct 6-7, we celebrate Manawatū Music Makers (even more than usual). Come in and hear some great talks by some truly inspirational and entertaining characters!

There’s also the launch of this year’s Palmerston North Heritage Trust calendar, with — you guessed it — a musical theme.

Covering classical, to pop, to jazz, and including talks about some of our iconic local venues too, you’re bound to enjoy this series.

See the full programme here.

Sign up to the Library’s emails lists here.

Kiriata me te Kānga Pahū – Movies and Popcorn

Kia ora!

Come to the movies at Central Library, Tuesday 26th, Wednesday 27th, and Thursday 28th, from 2-4pm.

Movies in te reo Māori – fun for everyone (and popcorn too!)

A great option on a grey school holiday afternoon.

Music is a portal to reading

A special feature blog post by Senior Service Guide Zak.

Reading and noise: not two things you’d think would go well together (unless you’re enjoying an audiobook, many of which are available right now through the library on Libby or BorrowBox)… But a good book paired with the right album, I find, is like cheese and wine.

My favourite pairing recently has been Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy with the eponymous first album of Finnish prog-folk band Auri.

Divine Cities is what you get when you cross a spy thriller with the sprawling, reality-shattering antics of our favourite fantasy worlds – the gods are dead, the miracles that made life livable no longer work, the people live in squalor, and as they try to eke out a life without the deities that defined their society a series of bizzare murders are making the best and brightest think: maybe magic isn’t completely gone from the world after all. 

Wonder, possibility and myth are the name of the game in this series, which makes folk music – with its traditional instruments speaking of days past and cultures kept alive – a perfect fit.

Auri brings to mind everything from isolated Northern-Irish hamlets to sweeping steampunk skylines, to mysterious coastlines begging to be explored. There’s something about the music that really gets the imagination going, the sound drawing crisp pictures of what you’re reading out of the page – dancing pennywhistles, soaring strings, some of the cleanest choir vocals you’ve ever heard, all accompanied by a rock drumbeat that reminds you not to fall too comfortably into your chair – the story you’re reading has stakes, perhaps apocalyptic ones. 

I’ve never found an album that goes so well with a book it relaxes you into the world and gets your heart racing at the same time… but that’s exactly what happened here. I’d recommend either of these two things alone any day, but truly: do yourself a favour and try them together.

The Divine Cities trilogy – City of Stairs, City of Blades, and City of Miracles – by Robert Jackson Bennett is available at the City Library in paperback, and Auri can be streamed wherever you get your music. [Editor: Auri’s second album Those We Don’t Speak Of has just been ordered for the City Library.]

‘Versions’ writing project

Every year the City Library gives you the opportunity to get published!

We give you a writing prompt to get you started. Let it take you wherever it will!

Submit your finished short story, poem, play script, or song, and we’ll publish it.

Maybe you’ve never written but want to give it a try, or maybe you’ve already done a lot of writing but want something quick and fun to do. Versions is for everyone!

We’re all about celebrating the abundance of creative talent here in the Manawatū.

Keep your eye on our What’s On page for the prompt announcement each year, or contact us to learn more.

NZ Music Month 2023

Support local music this May! The Central Library will host live performances (details coming soon), as well as a screening of NZ Music gig photographs on the big screen in Sound & Vision.

If you’re a local musician and would like your music video featured on our big screen, please get in touch! (All necessary clearances must be provided.)

Thanks to our awesome partners Manawatū People’s Radio and Radio Control 99.4FM, not only will the live performances sound great, they will be recorded too.

Local music legend DFresh has collaborated with Hamilton music legend Dujon Cullingford on this special funk, soul and disco playlist on Spotify. It will also be playing in Central Library’s Sound & Vision area during May. Chock full of retro NZ sounds!

Were you part of the music scene in the 70s, 80s or 90s? We need your help! Manawatū Heritage is adding some band photos from newspapers from those decades, and would love it if you can provide information about them. Perhaps you were in one of the bands, or you know who the people are. What genre did they play? Where was the photo taken?

Here’s an example: this gig poster from The Stomach‘s collection doesn’t say the year it happened – maybe you know? We can extrapolate from some clues. Radio Control was called Radio Massey, and the band Rungled was still around, so perhaps late 90s? For images like this which are already loaded into Manawatū Heritage, you can use the comments field to add detail, or simply email us, quoting the digitisation ID (or just copy us the link).

Other ways you can get involved in NZ Music Month:

Library podcast – Shelf Awareness

The Library now has its own podcast! Thanks to Manawatū People’s Radio, Shelf Awareness airs live at 10am on Wednesdays, but you can listen to it at any time on the MPR website.

You can expect to hear about all the great stuff the library offers, from books to author talks to outreach programmes. Plus there’ll be reading recommendations, and interviews where library staff talk about what they do in their jobs, and how they can help you.

Is there something you’d like us to talk about? Let us know:

Digging in the crates

A guest post from Anton Carter, Group Manager – Community Services. Anton hosts a weekly radio show ‘Audio Mechanics’ on Radio Active (Wtgn). He is a board member with Manawatu People’s Radio, and former member of NZ dub fusion band Rhombus.    

Palmerston North City Library has an excellent curated vinyl collection and it’s a great way to discover new and old music, but also to have the physical tactile experience that digital streaming can’t offer. I’ve been a vinyl junkie and record collector since the early 80’s and am always keen to do some vinyl crate digging, as you never know what you will find.

Here’s few of my picks:

  1. Alice Coltrane / Journey in Satchidananda 1971

Alice was married briefly to legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane but is a significant artist in her own right. This double gate fold-out album on Impulse Records has wonderful liner notes and photos of the artists performing. Providing depth and details of the recording before you even put the needle on the record.   

This is Alice’s fourth full length album, on which she plays piano and harp. The title of the album indicates Alice’s spiritual leanings, as it refers to Swami Satchidananda, of which she was a close disciple. And you can hear the eastern musical influence in many of the tracks and is a strong theme over her career.  

The album needs to be listened to multiple times, as there’s so much subtle interplay between the artists, you are always discovering new elements of harmonics. While the tracks have a start, middle and end, each of the tracks have their own life and move in different directions. At times in opposite directions but always coming back together to form a cohesive musical statement. The album has been described as ‘fusion music with a cosmic opulence’ with tracks called ‘Shiva-Loka’ and ‘Isis and Osiris’, it highlights Alice’s personal and musical journey in life. 

I had the privilege of seeing Alice perform solo on piano in a small intimate club in LA and you couldn’t but help realise you were witnessing jazz royalty.

Other notable albums by Alice Coltrane include; Universal Consciousness 1971, Lord of Lords 1972 and Illuminations 1974 with guitarist Carlos Santana. And of course, John Coltrane’s classic 1964 album ‘A Love Supreme’ is also highly recommended. 

  1. This is Soul / Atlantic records 1968

If you don’t know what soul is, then this compilation is a great introduction. Released in 1968 on Atlantic Records, this album features 12 smash hits from the home of soul.  

Starting off with Wilson Pickett’s ‘Mustang Sally’ and finishing with Pickett’s version of ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’. The record features artists like; Percy Sledge, Sam & Dave, Ben E king, Aretha Franklin, Carla Thomas, Solomon Burke and Otis Redding. All giants of their time and you can hear the raw energy in each of these recordings, no flash recording studios, multiple takes or overdubs. Which is what makes soul music unique, the raw emotion of singers digging deep within their own experience to bring out something special. You can feel their pain, longing or joy with each word.

Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood’ and Percy Sledge’s ‘When a man loves a woman’ are probably the most well-known songs on the album. The album back cover also features pictures of the albums which the original songs come from, along with other soul artists from Atlantic Records. A great way to learn about soul music and the many pioneers of the time. 

  1. Easy Star All-Stars / Dub side of the moon

Easy Star All-Stars formed in 1997 in New York and have built a solid reputation for their reggae inspired reinterpretations of classic albums and sometimes very unexpected versions. Covering unlikely bands such as Radiohead, The Police, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, is what makes their albums interesting and standout. 

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is not at album that you would expect to be reggaefied, but the spacey ambient nature of the original album does lend itself perfectly to the dub echo chamber of Jamaican music. This comes through particularly on tracks such as ‘The great gig in the sky’, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘On the run’. With long meandering intros and classic Roland Space Echo breakdowns, you can imagine yourself being weightless and floating effortlessly in space.         

The vocals on the album are done by some serious reggae heavyweights like Ranking Joe, Frankie Paul, Dr Israel and The Meditations. Which adds to the authenticity of the music, not just cheesy fluffy covers but real reworkings of the songs by accomplished musicians.  

If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd and want to hear another take on this album, then this one is a real trip into an alternative musical universe.

  1. Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra / Floating points

This album is a collaborative effort from Manchester born electronic artist Floating Points (Sam Shepard), free jazz legend Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone and the LSO. Composed by Shepard the album is a single 45min composition broken down into nine movements.   

The beauty of this album is the sparse nature given to Sanders’ playing, where each note speaks volumes and is allowed to hang in the air. The album is a slow sonic meander with textures of synthesisers, harpsichord, piano and strings guiding you along the way. Released in 2021 this was Sanders’ final album before he passed away in 2022.

As expected, each movement has its own life. At times the movements collide in a frenzy of activity, almost a 70’s psychedelic vibe with violins and sax creating tension that keeps building and building into a swirling climax. I’d describe the album as a modern version of experimental jazz with no jazz. Meaning not the traditional jazz sounds or approach but a high level of musical creativity and innovation. 

Other notable albums by Pharoah Sanders include: Pharoah’s First 1966, Black Unity featuring Stanley Clarke on bass 1971 and Message from home 1996. Also, worth a listen if you like classical music collaborations is ‘A brand new me’ Aretha Franklin with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 2017.

  1. Nas / Illmatic 1994

Rated as one of the top 10 hip hop albums of all time. Nas first came to light with a guest verse on Main Source’s ‘Live at the Barbeque’ 1991. From just one verse his reputation quickly grew, and a full-length album was highly anticipated.  

The album was released in 1994 and featured some of the best hip hop producers at the time including Dj Premier (Gangstarr), Large Professor, Pete Rock and Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest). Which only added to the hype of the album, as the line up of producers were some of the most respected East Coast hip hop producers in the game.

What makes the album significant is Nas’s ability to paint vivid pictures with words. A modern-day storyteller, gritty and real but also respectful. The album is what I’d call ‘headphone food’ rather than ‘dancefloor fillers’. ‘NY State of mind’ gives you an idea of what it’s like growing up in New York, while ‘Halftime’ (one of my all-time fav tracks) is a solid headnodder from start to finish. ‘The world is yours’ and ‘One Love’ are both anthemic odes to ‘street life’ while offering hope and inspiration.

It’s rare for hip hop albums to have more than two or three singles from an album but almost every track on this album was released as a single, which just shows the quality of the album. 

Other notable albums by Nas are: ‘It was written’ 1996, ‘God’s Son’ 2002 and ‘Distant Relatives’ featuring Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley 2010.