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The official opening of the Tauranga Arts festival on the Tauranga waterfront this morning proved the early bird gets the worm, and possibly a few song birds too.

The 10-day festival kicked off to an early start with an iconic performance by a community choir, led by New Zealand artist Ria Hall on the Tauranga waterfront at 7am.

A crowd of locals flocked to the waterfront to witness the performance of Taukiri ko te Ata, a waiata composed by Ria which she says is specific to the region.

“This Waiata was composed in 2015,” says Ria. “My cousin Terania Ormsby-Teki and I were commissioned to write this song, she is responsible for the words and I am responsible for the music.

“The song is specific to Tauranga, it speaks about the patupaiarehe, the fairy people, and their dance.

“When they came out of the bush between Tauranga and Rotorua in the Pyes Pa area, to bring Mauao out here, they had to get back quickly before the sun rose.”

She says today's performance is a culmination of rehearsals.

“I've been spending the last few months travelling around to different groups. There's people from all different walks of life in the choir that performed this morning,” says Ria.

“There's some from established choir groups in Tauranga, and also people who just wanted to come and experience singing in a choral group, who aren't necessarily singers but are down for the kaupapa.”

Ria, who hails from all three Tauranga Moana tribes, Ngati Ranginui, Ngai te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga, says she's excited to be back in Tauranga and to be part of the event.

She will be performing once more in the festival, with a show on October 28.

 “I am an artist myself and an arts lover and appreciator,” she says. “I'm going to try and get out to everything I can and I encourage everyone to come along and see something.

Sandra Simpson, a member of the choir, says this morning's performance was fantastic.

“I loved it, I was in the choir two years ago as well and it was such a good experience so I wanted to do it again.

Festival director Jo Bond says she is looking forward to Ria's show.

“I'm so looking forward to Ria's show, her brand new album comes out the day before her show so we're very lucky to have that performance in our show.

“Ria has worked with Tracey Tawhiao to create artwork stage set so I think it's going to be spectacular.”

She says the festival has many benefits on the community

“It's a triple bottom line, in terms of the economic benefits around 14 per cent of our audiences are from out of town so they come and stay and spend money.

“Local people come out and they'll go for dinner, so it certainly energises the CBD because we have a lot of people in town.

“But there is also a social good too, in what the arts bring and we need to emphasise that just as much.

“This festival brings the community together to enjoy the arts and it offers opportunities to see performers that wouldn't normally come here for an intense period of time.

“There are a range of shows for children, right up to adults, so everyone can come and enjoy something.

“When you're all together experiencing a fantastic performance then there is that shared enjoyment that I think is quite special.”

Festival trust chairman, Kathryn Lellman says the performance was a great way to open the festival.

“This morning's performance was absolutely beautiful, the Gods and the fairies and everyone was smiling on us, the moana looks amazing and we had a really awesome turn out.

“I'm so proud of the choir that are really grass-roots that have been coupled together from all sorts of places, and I thought we sounded amazing, I'm very excited for the festival to start.

“It's going to be very busy, we've got ten days and nights of all sorts of events but I really urge people to get along and be a part of the fun.

“On Saturday we've got the ANZ community day, a whole lot of free events down on the water front.

“There's going to be so much going on, so it's just a chance to get out and try some things you might not normally see or do.”

The event brings artists from all over New Zealand with a few artists coming from Australia this year.

The festival activates the Tauranga CBD, presenting performances and exhibitions from the Carrus Crystal Palace, Baycourt, the Tauranga Art Gallery and throughout the streets.

For more information about the Tauranga Arts Festival visit the official website.

Source : http://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/164956-early-start-to-tauranga-arts-festival.html

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