Thursday 14th February

Sparks a first for young Christchurch percussionist

(From left: Ezra Samy, Tony Setu and Joel Leka, of Shirley Boys High) 

For a young Christchurch percussionist, his debut performance in Sparks in Hagley Park will also be the first time he attends the popular annual outdoor concert and fireworks display.

Joel Leka, a Year 11 music student from Shirley Boys High, is a member of the East Side Drum Line, the percussion ensemble who will be opening this year’s Sparks with a bang, performing New Zealand composer Gareth Farr’s Little Sea Gongs with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

“I’ve never been to Sparks before,” said Joel. “It will be an interesting new experience. I’ve never performed with an orchestra before but I feel better [about it] than doing it solo.”

The eight-person ensemble, with students from Linwood College, Catholic Cathedral College, and Shirley Boys High, were asked by their drum teacher, CSO Principal Timpani Mark La Roche, to perform as soloists with the orchestra. Mark arranged the score into three parts, using an original notation system of dots and dashes, rather than quavers and semiquavers. Originally it was designed as an activity that would be used as a part of the orchestra’s community engagement initiatives, so he decided to test it on his students first.

Fellow Shirley Boys High student Tony Setu said he was excited about the project and especially about performing with the orchestra for the first time. “Music runs in my family. It’s fun.” 

Ezra Samy, Year 12, was a bit nervous about performing in front of a large audience, but he was also looking forward to it. “I thought it would be fun [to perform with the orchestra],” he said. “In general, I’m pretty nervous about it, but [Tony and I] have performed before, so it’s not like it’s a brand new thing, playing in front of an audience.”

Ezra started playing the drums in Year 5, when his primary school offered music lessons to anyone who was interested. “It’s fun. You get to hit things.”

Last year’s Sparks brought more than 60,000 people to Hagley Park to enjoy the music and fireworks. This year, to do things a little differently, the Christchurch City Council conducted a public poll on Facebook asking people to choose the piece of music they wanted to accompany the fireworks. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture won.

Other guest performers in this year’s Sparks include soul singer Sacha Vee, Christchurch band nomad, and kapa haka group Te Ahikaaroa.

Sparks will be held on 16th February from 7.30pm to 10pm.