The Otago Daily Times' Big Night In concert took place last night in the Forsyth Barr Stadium here in Dunedin. It must have cost the ODT an arm and a leg - several legs, in fact - and they certainly didn't stint on the costs. In fact they're talking of having one every year.
It had a great cast of NZ national and local singers: big names, and up-and-coming names. And a huge crowd turned out, with many seats filled, and the playing area in the centre packed with families. Kids had a ball: they were free to come and go in safety, and danced and ran and jumped and did all sorts of other normal kid things.
We had seats in the West stand, directly opposite the stage, which meant that any performers on the stage looked like ants, some in white suits (the ensemble of singers) and some in black suits (the male singers) and some in various coloured clothes (the female singers and dancers). I can't believe how far away the stage seemed to be. Pity those up in the very top of either the West stand or the South stand. They would have felt miles away from anything.
Fortunately there was a large screen above the stage area which showed things in relative close-up. We got a reasonable idea of what was going on on stage from this.
However, we had a much worse idea of what was being sung - or even spoken. For some reason the amplication in the stadium just didn't cut it. It was loud certainly, but it was blurred, somehow. Unless you knew the song being sung, it was hard to figure out any words, and regrettably, all the marvellous orchestrations (we knew they were marvellous because we could see that aspect on the screen) went by the board because there was so little detail coming across in the sound system. It was a bit like being partially deaf: everything kind of rolled into one blodge. I know there were lots of high notes, because obviously all the singers felt this was the only they'd really get across to the audience in a place of this size, but other notes just dribbled away.
It didn't help, of course, that people in the audience treated the whole concert side of things as an occasion to talk happily to their neighbours, or to point out people they knew, or a host of other things. The buzz from the audience was continual, and none of the performers got complete quiet from the crowd. I guess this isn't surprising in this kind of a setting, and perhaps the performers didn't expect anything else, but for me they eventually became a kind of wallpaper to the whole affair.
Two young singers came on early in the programme: Sequoia Cunningham and Kawiti Watford. I've heard the latter in the Town Hall and he filled the place easily. Here he sang Figaro's aria from The Marriage of Figaro. It sounded as though he knew what he was doing, but there was little clarity because of the sound system. Terence Dennis, who was obviously playing his heart out on the piano - because we could see his fingers zipping around the keys - could only be heard when Watford wasn't singing.
Sequoia Cunningham sounded great, but her accompanist on the piano was almost inaudible too. However, she has a big future ahead of her - that I could tell from her singing of Schubert's Ave Maria.
There were all sorts of other artists: a friend of mine on trombone in the orchestra (and some other familiar Dunedin faces there too); a bunch of dancers who did a lot of rolling around on the floor, but seldom got completely in to the picture on the screen; an ensemble of singers (with another friend of mine in it); bagpipers, Highland dancers, the Glee group (with the daughter of friends in it), the children's choir (with two kids I know in it) the Mayor and the Publishers of the ODT and Malcolm Farry, who worked hard to get the Stadium off the ground. Lots of talent. What a pity it just all seemed so far away and blurry....