New Zealand’s first street choir will stage its first public concert this Saturday, August 5, to celebrate two years since it started providing good music, company and food for some of Auckland’s most vulnerable street community. Singers are also treated to pizza, thanks to the generosity of Splice, the Auckland city centre group that encourages residents to connect in meaningful ways.
The Auckland Street Choir meets every Tuesday evening near K Rd, where many of the city’s homeless and marginalised people gather. Musician Rohan MacMahon came up with the idea of a choir with a difference. Under his guidance and expertise as a choir director, it’s evolved into a close-knit group of about 25 regulars: people from all walks of life who get together to enjoy a wide range of music, including soul, reggae and waiata. A unique attribute is the choir’s open door policy, where everyone is made welcome.
“We want to bring joy, harmony and connection to the streets of Auckland,” says Rohan MacMahon. “It’s a community activity where people can put aside their worries, have fun, and support each other.”
MacMahon, a singer, guitarist, and management consultant has been involved in many musical ventures – choirs, a capella groups, bands and opera. About three years ago he was looking for something new to do musically, and he also noticed the increase in homeless people around the Auckland CBD.
“A choir for this community seemed like a new idea that would be fun and also helpful in a community sense,” he says. “Choirs build community connections and improve people’s mental and physical health.
“Steadily the choir members are getting better and better, and we are taking on more challenging material. This is in no small part thanks to Lifewise, who support our manaakitanga each week.
“It’s brought together a unique bunch of people who enjoy each other’s company and learning songs from different musical traditions. For example, I’m a pakeha Australian, so learning waiata has been great. I really like the feeling that we’ve created something new which is making a real contribution to the community while having a lot of fun in the process.”
Listen to some of the Auckland Street Choir performers on the Street Wisdom compilation below:
The choir’s assistant director, Rawiri Ngatai, says teaching the choir waiata has been a challenging but worthwhile experience.
“I wanted to strengthen the kaupapa Māori and I really enjoy how diverse the group is. Now we are whanau. We’ve come a long way in two years, and the next two years will be even more exciting.”
After performing a number of gigs, including Matariki celebrations in the CBD and busking on K Road, the Auckland Street Choir will hold its first concert, Street Harmony, at the Freeman’s Bay Community Hall, 4.30pm-6pm on Saturday, August 5. Fittingly, the event will be a fundraiser for Lifewise and the Auckland City Mission, who provide essential services for Auckland’s homeless and marginalised people.
Special guest choirs Vox Pop and Volcanic City Voices will join Auckland Street Choir for Street Harmony, a winter festival with a difference.
For interviews or more information about Auckland Street Choir, please contact:
Sandra Eriksen, choir member/communications advisor
M 0210 821 6867
The Auckland Street Choir were featured on Newsroom.co.nz. Click here for the article, or click play below to watch them rehearse:
The Auckland Street Choir performed at the Lifewise Big Sleepout 2017, their voices soaring higher and louder than the thunder claps, wintry rain and icy winds. (Photo by Michael Chung)