Aspiring Musicians thrill crowds at Eden Park

On a wet and wild night at Eden Park, APO Connecting partnered with five Auckland schools to create a giant 140-piece Concert Band and performed for crowds at the Super Rugby Pacific game, Blues v Moana Pasifika.

The APO’s partnership with Blues Rugby stretches back to 2019, when Connecting’s Aspiring Musician brass ensemble Topee Flat created a New Orleans-style roaming jazz band to play short, well-known musical stings in response to game action.

For the 2023 year, the Blues wanted to build upon this collaboration to create a specialmusical experience for rugby fans attending the game. As far as we know this is a first for Super Rugby bringing live music into a game setting!

To prepare for performing at the game, special arrangements of fan favourites such as ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Slice of Heaven’ were created by Auckland arranger and concert band expert Tom Chester, who also led the giant ensemble. These well-crafted pieces range from 30-75 seconds in length and are specially designed to react to on-field incidents. For example – ‘Hit the Road Jack’ for a yellow or red card and ‘The Final Countdown’ for the end of each half.

Students from Kings College, Avondale College, Liston College, ACG Parnell College and Pukekohe High School assembled on Friday afternoon during the captain’s run training session at Eden Park to rehearse alongside APO musicians. It was tricky to fit over 140 people in the West Stand with adequate cover, resulting in the ensemble being very spread out and creating quite a challenge for band leader Tom. Despite this rehearsal went well and the band were ready to go.

On Saturday 6 May the rain held off just long enough for the band to play some longer pieces both pregame and at halftime to contribute to the atmosphere of the game. It was a unique performance opportunity for the rangatahi involved and one which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

APO Connecting would like to thank the staff and students from all participating schools and the Auckland Blues for their support of this exciting and unique project.

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