Hawke's Bay's creative community will be in the spotlight during this year's Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival, with at least eight homegrown acts featuring alongside the national and international offerings.
Festival director Pitsch Leiser says Hawke's Bay has an exceptionally strong and diverse creative community and the festival provides a wonderful vehicle to celebrate "the world-class talent that's right here in our own backyard".
Headlining the festival is one of Hawke's Bay's most successful musical exports Thomas Oliver, performing songs from his new album Floating in the Darkness. The internationally renowned musician and APRA Silver Scroll winner will be backed by a four-piece band, in what is guaranteed to be a night of exceptional musicianship.
Southern Hawke's Bay born singer-songwriter Stretch brings his acclaimed debut album Bury All Horses for a one-off live performance from the full band that recorded the album. Aptly named The Full Stretch, this will be a totally engaging night of great music as the band moves effortlessly from dark-hearted ballads to roof raising choruses.
Other local musicians include the incredible Rosie Lanagabeer, with her late-night show Dr Geeklove. Langabeer and her guitar-wielding sidekick, Neil Watson (Tami Neilson, Tim Finn, Anika Moa) will reinvent some of history's greatest hits "in ways you've never heard them before", says Pitsch.
Following last year's success, Hawke's Bay's renowned Festival Opera returns to the festival with another emotionally charged performance. Starring 30 rising stars from Project Prima Volta, the ensemble will deliver a contemporary twist on Handel's famous opera Acis & Galatea.
The Unusual Silence is a stunning concert in remembrance of World War I, bringing together some of New Zealand's finest singers, Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir. Renowned New Zealand composer and former Iona College student Victoria Kelly created the musical score, with distinguished conductor Dr Karen Grylls, who spent much of her childhood in Clive, providing artistic direction.
On the final day of the festival, The Hawke's Bay Community Choir joins forces with the Wellington Community Choir and local band Mphantwon Wuts and This Quiet Earth for Kiwi As.
Together, these multi-talented musicians pay to homage to some of New Zealand's best loved pop songs, made famous by Kiwi legends such as The Mockers, The Mutton Birds and Crowded House.
Bringing the festival to a close will be Eb & Sparrow performing with their full band, including a two-piece brass section. Fronted by former Hawke's Bay powerhouse vocalist Ebony Lamb, this group is making their mark on the New Zealand music scene and Pitsch says it's a privilege to feature them as the festival finale.
Homegrown theatre offerings are also strong, with three locally produced theatre pieces showcasing the diversity of our local thespians.
Hastings actor Daniel Betty performs the celebrated show Vincent, written by Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame. Based on hundreds of letters exchanged between the illustrious painter Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, this incredible one-man show reveals the artist as few knew him.
The Hawke's Bay premier of The Hooligan and the Lady tells the true story of vaudevillian Miss Florence LeMar, the World's Famous Ju-Jitsu Girl, and her quest to rid the world of brutes, bullies and badmen alike. It features a cast of talented Hawke's Bay actors and musicians and is written, produced and directed by local creative Pauline Ellen Hayes.
The Contours of Heaven is a performance piece featuring a weave of interviews with six rangatahi who share their voices of this time, place and what they have inherited from living on this land. It is created and performed by local collaboration Riverseeds Collective, whose 2016 festival performance received critical acclaim.
Rounding off the festival are a series of Readers and Writers events featuring conversations with writers, poets, bloggers, journalists, innovators and artists. Homegrown talent features strongly in the programme, with many well-known faces including designer David Trubridge, author and musician Mary-anne Scott and young adult author Gareth Ward of Wardini Books.