10 Questions with Adrienne Jansen


Q1: Taking over another writer’s book is not an easy task. Which aspect did you find most challenging?

I’d been working with Guy intensively on this book for the last two years, so the text was pretty much finished, and I was confident about making any other decisions needed. The challenge was in the photographs. Guy had identified a lot that he wanted, but they had to be sourced, permissions granted, and then many gaps needed to be filled. That’s been the big challenge.


Q2: What was Guy’s motivation for writing this book?

He wanted to show how good choral music in New Zealand was, and to explain how it became so good.


Q3: Guy was a leading figure in the story of choral music in New Zealand. What do you feel was his most lasting achievement?

Other people can comment on this better than me. But I agree with conductor Karen Grylls that he leaves a phenomenal legacy. He was a visionary, and an entrepreneur, and founded outstanding national and local choirs, summer schools in conducting his list of achievements is astonishing. But to me, he was remarkable for his breadth of vision, and for his inclusiveness of people, and of such a wide range of music. He was also incredibly hard-working.


Q4: Was it a subject you knew well before? And what was one of the most interesting things you discovered?

I had a good general knowledge of choral music now I think I could go on MasterMind! What has particularly interested me is how such a strong progression has been established there’s a generation of conductors who have all come through various national choirs. That hasn’t been accidental this book demonstrates how one step deliberately built on another but it’s a powerful example of how building a clear progressive pathway over time leads to outstanding results (now I sound like Guy except that he would say ‘world-class results’!)


Q5: Do you think New Zealand will continue to produce world-class singers and choirs? What are the challenges?

Again, I’m not the right person to comment on this, but I think that such a solid foundation has been built, New Zealand can only go forward from that.


Q6: New Zealand choirs have won many international awards over the last few decades. Why do we hear so little about them?

Guy would say it’s because New Zealand is fixated on sport, particularly rugby. He loved rugby, but he had strong views on how sport and not music was reported. And it is very surprising, given the big international successes that New Zealand choirs have had. But media make their own call on what they will cover. And a choir, even if it’s the best choir in the world, won’t have even a fraction of the publicity machine and resources that, say, the All Blacks have.


Q7: Do you sing in a choir? And, if yes, what is your favourite piece to sing? And to listen to.

I don’t sing in a choir. I play a range of instruments, and all of them really badly.  But I love music nevertheless. Hard to pick a favourite piece I have a lot of music I love, and it’s a very mixed bag, but right now I’ll settle for the 2nd movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor.


Q8: What is the most memorable concert you have attended?

The concert engraved in my memory was when I went to hear the National Orchestra conducted by Stravinsky in Wellington in 1961. I don’t remember much of the music, I was just completely overawed by the occasion. That’s why I remember it. But equally memorable was a concert in Siem Reap, Cambodia, by a doctor who was also a fine cellist and regularly played to raise money for a children’s hospital. Lots of other concerts in between.


Q9: It was a huge task pulling this book together on top of your own projects as a writer and publisher, what are you working on now?

Earlier this year Landing Press, which I’m involved in, published a collection of poetry by migrants and refugees in New Zealand, called More of Us. It’s really taken off, and a lot of the year has gone into projects around this book. Writing that seems to have disappeared entirely, but I’ll get back to it.


Q10: What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve been reading Paula Green’s new book on poetry, Wild Honey, which is a beautiful book. When I really need a break I go back to crime fiction, and I’ve been reading a novel by Henning Mankell, a Swedish crime writer. Good page-turners are like going on a small holiday for me.