Singer hopes to bring jazz to Hamilton

Raewyn Watkins is aiming to become an expert in all that jazz – literally.

The Hamilton singer and actress is about to head to Stanford University in the United States to take part in an intensive jazz vocal programme at the university’s prestigious Institute of Jazz.

She is hoping when she returns from the six-day immersion course to use her knowledge and whatever new skills she picks up to introduce Waikato audiences to the genre and perform with authentic jazz skills, learnt from some of the best in the business.

”I want to give the people something they may have never heard before in Hamilton. A different experience.”She also would like to pass on what she learns to the city’s younger singers.”

There’s a lot of really good people doing great things in music. In Hamilton, I’d like the opportunity to go to a place and sit and just listen to some nice jazz being performed. I’d like to tee up some musicians and provide them with that option.”

Watkins is a familiar face and voice to Waikato audiences from her numerous appearances in musical theatre. She has performed lead roles in Hamilton productions of Miss Saigon, Oliver!, Me & My Girl, Roger Hall’s comedy Love off the Shelf, and Die Fledermaus, alongside Dame Malvina Major.

She most recently took to the stage in The Last Five Years, an acclaimed off-Broadway musical about an apparently doomed marriage, at Cambridge’s Gaslight Theatre.

Watkins will travel to the US with Taupo-based vocal coach and pianist Alex Wiltshire, who is undertaking a similar, piano-oriented course at the same time.

”The two of us are embarking on a fun learning curve … I’m looking forward to taking in as much knowledge as I can. I liken it to throwing myself into the biggest fish pond in the world and swimming around with the fish and gaining all this knowledge from them.

“Learning jazz will be a big change from musical theatre, where everything is so rehearsed and refined. By comparison jazz is really loose and open to interpretation – yet it is still very much a learned skill.”

Gaining acceptance to the course had been preceded by the organising and recording of two very different songs from the genre as her ”audition”, followed by a very nervous wait to hear if she had been accepted.

The 46-year-old said she had been bitten by the jazz bug while a student at Hillcrest High School in the mid 1980s.

”Jazz resonates with me. It sits well with my voice, which has changed in range over time.”

Al Jarreau – perhaps best known for his sultry theme to the Moonlighting TV series – was among her many musical inspirations.

Located between San Francisco and San Jose in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Stanford is one of the world’s leading teaching and research universities. Perhaps best known for business and law, it is also home to a healthy humanities school with a vibrant musical arm.

”It’s an intensive course and we are being taught by professionals. I can expect 15-hour days. There will be music theory in the mornings, workshops with various faculty musicians throughout the day, then evening performances. For the energetic, the jam sessions start at 10.30pm.”All those professional musicians to work with, for me will be like being a kid in a candy shop. I just want to grab every one I can reach. It’s going to be great and I can’t wait.”

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– Waikato Times


Real reason Queen didn’t sit on Iron Throne

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams remembers the exact moment the Queen looked at the Iron Throne and remarked that it didn’t look very comfortable.

Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to the set of the hit HBO fantasy series in Northern Ireland last month with the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was widely noted that the 88-year-old Monarch declined to sit on Westeros’ version of her royal chair, but there was never an explanation as to why.

Now Williams has explained.

The 17-year-old, who plays Arya Stark joined several cast members including Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Conleth Hill (Lord Varys) on the Belfast set to meet Her Majesty.

“She came over and I was like, ‘Good morning your majesty’, and did my little curtsey,” Williams told Access Hollywood.

“I don’t even know why, it was kind of embarrassing actually.”

Williams said she was shocked when the Queen, who she described as quiet, stopped to chat with her.

After asking whether Williams enjoyed acting on the show, the starlet said she turned her attention to the Iron Throne.

“She looked over at the throne and goes, ‘It doesn’t look very comfortable’,” she said.

“And I was like, ‘You’re right, it doesn’t look very comfortable’.”

Williams showed off her creative side at Comic-Con, sticking with the theme by wearing a dress made of outrecycled comics and graphic novels.

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The story behind pop’s hysterical howlers

When One Direction performs on their Where We Are tour in August, you’ll have to squint your ears to hear the boybands’ hits amid a more ancient and fascinating sound: the emptying of adolescent lungs.

Obviously, there will be screaming – high-decibel, high-pitch swells that push hard on the eardrums and then harder, toward the surreal. It’s an abstract sound that JC Chasez has had years to ponder as a member of the multi-platinum juggernaut ‘N Sync. But putting the power of that communal wail into words still isn’t easy.

“Sound is energy,” Chasez says. “And the entire room is producing sound, not just the people onstage, so when the entire room is resonating with every human being producing, it’s a very exciting feeling.”

Surely. But what’s behind that feeling Why do young women assembled at pop concerts express their collective ecstasy with the most alarming sound available to their bodies Why do they scream

In some ways, today’s young fans are simply imitating the ritualised shrieks of the generations that preceded them, from the Beatlemaniacs to the Beliebers. And while today’s tween screams aren’t reserved exclusively for young male heartthrobs, concerts by Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift don’t seem to generate quite the same sonic fervor as a performance from One Direction or Ed Sheeran.

Since the splashdown of Elvis Presley in 1956, the American media has often characterised the din of young female fans gathered in the presence of a pop idol as “hysteria” – “a description that denigrates their musical engagement,” according to a 2003 article written by Australian researcher Sarah Baker.

“Not only do these screaming, crushing bodies animate these [performance] spaces,” Baker writes, “but they also make the pop experience feel intensely real for both the girls involved and the wider public.”

So when the lights go down at a 21st century boy band revue, we aren’t hearing a helpless, hysteric howl.
We’re hearing a complex expression of individualism and collectivity – perhaps with a dash of Darwin thrown in.

Sociologists have different names for different types of crowds. The noisy throngs at a pop concert qualify as an “expressive crowd” – a gathering in which the participants are given implicit permission to abandon decorum and freak out.

“When men cry at a sports event, it’s very similar” to the screaming that takes place at a One Direction concert, says author Rachel Simmons. “It wouldn’t be okay for men to do that anywhere else. But the sporting event sanctions that behaviour.”

Simmons is the author of The Curse of the Good Girl, a book in which she argues that young women are unfairly asked to squeeze into an impossible mold of politeness and modesty. Simmons says a concert is a unique event that gives girls the rare opportunity to break out of those roles.

“In their day-to-day, non-concert-going lives, girls don’t have a lot of permission to scream,” she says. “A concert offers an oasis from the daily rules about being good girls. Screaming is about letting go and leaving the confines of being the self-conscious pleaser.”

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That’s one way to explain why so many concerts are filled with screaming girls instead of screaming boys.
“Screaming is a way to control a situation,” says Michelle Janning, a professor of sociology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. “When you’re a kid, and a girl, you don’t have control. Young people don’t have a loud voice in society, so screaming in this kind of space is a way to have a voice. Literally.”

Janning also believes that girls have felt an expectation to scream ever since Beatlemania spread across the land in 1964.

“We’re constantly being socialised to see crowds of girls screaming at rock stars,” Janning says.

“So we’re following the crowd, doing what we’ve seen other people do. But we also want to stand out as individuals.”

Both Janning and Simmons agree that concert screaming ultimately provides girls a chance to express their individuality while reinforcing their place in the larger group. And it can also be a place for competition.

“Adolescent girls are really invested in the acceptance of their peers,” Simmons says. “But there’s a competitive element to fandom and fan-girling – and screaming is an expression of that fandom. So girls are doing it not only to assert their passion for the band, but to compete with each other and to signal to each other that, ‘This is what I care about’. It’s part competition, but partly a way to connect. During adolescence for girls, that’s a very complex and important drive.”

Chasez of ‘N Sync says he’s seen that competitive connection manifest through fascinating displays of vocal teamwork.

The screams that most frequently caught the singers’ attention onstage during ‘N Sync’s heyday often came from “groups of three or four”, Chasez says. “They’d be holding hands and jumping up and down, screaming together.”

Whether it’s an expression of excitement or pleasure or anguish, screaming is ultimately a form of communication – and its fundamental message is almost always the same: “Over here!”

Harold Gouzoules, chairman of the psychology department at Emory University outside Atlanta, recently began studying human screams after years of studying how rhesus monkeys use screams to communicate.

Now Gouzoules is compiling an audio library of human screams and asking his research subjects to try to discern between screams of joy, excitement, surprise, fear, pain, aggression and exasperation. So far, his subjects have been pretty good at it, partially because screaming seems to transcend culture.

“We scream as a species,” Gouzoules says. “Evolutionarily, it probably came about as a way to startle a predator. But as [humans] developed socially, you get a greater complexity of interaction, and screams could serve a function within a social group.”

During childhood, the effectiveness of our screaming is often reinforced through play. “I can imagine ancestral humans screaming the same way we see kids playing in the back yard today,” says Gouzoules.

And that playful way of being noticed is something Gouzoules says can be traced back to public events that predate the rise of the Beatles, Elvis and Frank Sinatra.

“If you got back to Nazi rallies in the ’30s, when Hitler was rising to prominence, there are historical accounts that young women were screaming,” Gouzoules says. “There’s something about that kind of social event – there’s excitement being generated by somebody who has power or authority… And those screams are attention-getting. That’s how they serve monkeys. That’s how they serve us a lot of the time.”

But somewhere between childhood and adulthood, those screams cool into shouts, cheers and other forms of hollering we see more commonly in the expressive crowd.

For reunited boybands, though, the scream will always be the barometer of success.

“You have to know how to bring every side of the building to the same decibel level,” says Michael Bivins, the 45-year-old vocalist currently on tour with the reunited ’80s boyband New Edition. “It’s scientific, in a sense. If there isn’t screaming, there’s disappointment.”

In the summer of 2014 – nearly 30 years after the release of the group’s signature hit, Cool It Now – New Edition’s original fans are now middle-aged, but they’re still coming out to see the band in concert. The ritual maintains its shape, even if it sounds a little different.

“Their voices are bigger!” Bivins says. “But it’s still the same feeling. They’re screaming for the same parts they were screaming for when we were kids.”

The Washington Post


One Direction’s Zayn Malik deluged in death threats

Zayn Malik probably thought about his tweet for a long time before firing it off to his 13 million followers.

It was just one hashtag of two words, the incendiary combination of #FreePalestine. Part lament and part rallying call, the hashtag has been trending for weeks

The popstar’s legion of followers are an engaged bunch. Even a simple smiley emoticon issued from his account clocks up 180,000 retweets.

So Malik must have known it was going to cause a stir.

While it’s different from his usual missives, which are focused on promoting his band, Malik’s #FreePalestine tweet has already been shared and favourited more than 180,000 times.


— zaynmalik1D (@zaynmalik) July 28, 2014

But it’s also earned the young singer rebukes, abuse and even death threats.


Taking music films to the people


Freddie Prinze Jr rips into Kiefer Sutherland

Freddie Prinze Jr. nearly quit acting after working with “unprofessional” Kiefer Sutherland on 24.

The 38-year-old actor starred alongside Sutherland, famous for his role as Jack Bauer in the hit TV show, back in 2010.

But after appearing in the eighth series as Counter Terrorism Unit Director Cole Ortiz, Prinze Jr. was left stunned by Sutherland’s attitude on set.

“I did 24, it was terrible. I hated every moment of it,” Prinze Jr. said. “Kiefer was the most unprofessional dude in the world. That’s not me talking trash, I’d say it to his face, I think everyone that’s worked with him has said that.”

Speaking while promoting his new series Star Wars Rebels at the Comic-Con event this weekend, Freddie also revealed the experience had been so traumatic that it nearly caused him to seek a new career entirely.

“I just wanted to quit the business after that,” he said. “So, I just sort of stopped.”

However, it didn’t take Prinze Jr. long to get back in the saddle and he has since starred in programmes such as Psych and Witches of East End.


Actor turns activist to help save Maui’s

Just 55 Maui’s dolphins remain – and celebrity activists including actor Cori Gonzalez-Macuer fear the number will simply get smaller and smaller.

The What We Do In The Shadows star was quick to jump on board when his friend, photographer Louise Hatton, said she was producing posters to raise awareness of the marine mammal’s plight.

“I knew a little, but I was quite ignorant to how big a deal it really is.”

Gonzalez-Macuer was given just 55 words on the poster – which went up across Wellington at the weekend – to get across a message about the native species, which is the world’s smallest dolphin.

From his experience, protecting New Zealand’s unique wildlife is important to all Kiwis, regardless of political affiliation.

“We’ve got to get the word out – help people realise there are just 55. And they’re ours.”

Gonzalez-Macuer is spreading the word among his family and friends, asking them to sign the World Wildlife Fund petition calling for the Government to protect the sub-species of Hector’s dolphin “wherever they swim”.

Each poster captures a high- profile Kiwi supporting the cause.

Fellow Shadows actor Jonny Brugh and Hurricanes player Brad Shields also signed up.

Nelson-based Hatton hoped the “portraits of concern” would spur people into finding out more about Maui’s and other threatened species.

“All these animals are becoming extinct by our own hand. It’s the human race that’s doing it and so we’re the only ones who can turn it around.”

The petition, to be handed to the Government this week, has more than 1500 signatures for each of the 55 remaining adult Maui’s.

That number was estimated by the Department of Conservation in 2010 and 2011, and was half of the 111 adults believed to be in the total population in 2006.

While the Government extended a set-net ban off the coast of Taranaki, WWF believes the ban does not cover the dolphin’s full territory, which could stretch as far south as the Whanganui River mouth and out to an ocean depth of 100 metres.

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– The Dominion Post


Take off your clothes to make it in TV

A contestant on a new VH1 dating show didn’t beckon a woman to walk in front of him out of politeness. He wanted to check her out from behind and didn’t need to use his imagination.

The Dating Naked series is the latest example of reality television’s newest trend: Nudity is hot, no longer confined to late-night premium cable.

Leading the way is Discovery’s Naked and Afraid, on which a man and woman who don’t know each other fend for themselves in the wilderness for three weeks without a stitch between them. That program’s success since its June 2013 premiere begat VH1’s Dating Naked and TLC’s real estate show Buying Naked, with more in the planning stages.

What’s the appeal

Well, what do you think

In a world of endless choices, titillation lures. So does a catchy title, and the word “naked” jumps off the program guide. Brent Montgomery, who produces the non-fiction hit Pawn Stars, which airs on the History channel, said many early fans were drawn in by that title even though the show had nothing to do with the image left in your head. He’s now doing the spinoff, Pawnography.

To truly succeed, however, a show needs more going for it to keep viewers once the novelty of watching naked bodies with blurred body parts wears off.

“The secret sauce of our show is not the fact that they’re naked,” said Denise Contis, West Coast head of production and development at Discovery. “I think it’s the storytelling, the cast and a survival experience that’s authentic.”

Memorable characters make successful shows, “and it takes a big character to take off their clothes in front of a reality TV camera,” Montgomery said.

Standards are the same at each show: male and female genitalia are blurred out, along with female breasts. Backsides are fair game. A graphic artist takes about a week to cleanse each episode of Naked and Afraid. A strategically placed flowerpot or sofa obscures the nude home shoppers in Buying Naked.

Discovery wasn’t searching for a “naked” show when developing Naked and Afraid, Contis said. It wanted a new twist in the survival genre and, ultimately, the most elemental shelter is clothing.

Yet, let’s face it: One hook is the question of whether a romance develops between two naked strangers left alone in the woods (except for the producers and camera crew, of course). It hasn’t happened yet. The opposite is more likely: In one upcoming episode the two survivalists detest each other so much they agreed to separate until they were picked up at the end.

Romance is the point of Dating Naked. Susan Levison, head of programming at VH1, gave the series a green light her first day on the job last September and hurried to beat competitors to the air. Fox has its own naked dating show in the works but put it on hold during a management change.

“The idea of using nudity as a metaphor for allowing yourself to be truly exposed and truly yourself in the search for love felt really fresh and exciting,” Levison said.

While the nudity arguably serves a thematic purpose on Dating Naked and Naked and Afraid, it’s hard to see Buying Naked as anything other than a typical real estate show on which prospective owners leave their clothes at home. TLC says the Florida-based show exposes the habits of a nearby nudist colony.

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The Dating Naked debut earlier this month featured a woman in her 30s stung when her chosen man was distracted by a younger, gorgeous temptress, an intriguing story for VH1’s female-dominated audience. The older woman’s name, Wee Wee, trended on Twitter, and the episode’s audience of 826,000 easily beat the network’s average of 335,000 viewers in the time slot. With more than 4 million viewers, Naked and Afraid was Discovery’s most-watched series premiere ever.

That explains why plenty of other “naked” pitches are being heard in network boardrooms.

“You’ll probably see four or five work and a dozen that don’t work,” Montgomery said.

The Parents Television Council is dismayed that each of the “naked” shows is judged by its network as being suitable for children. But Tim Winter, president of the lobbying group, which backs family-friendly programming, predicted the trend will be short-lived. Despite the ratings, the shows likely make many advertisers squeamish.

“It’s just so lazy,” he said. “This is how you have to resort to making a buck Is this really what your entertainment brand stands for”

– AP


The new Hobbit trailer is here

The first brief look at the final instalment in The Hobbit movie trilogy has been released – and it’s grim.

As might be expected from the title, the one-minute 50-second Warner Bros teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is all about war.

There are lots of swords and armour, bows and arrows, elves, dwarfs and orcs.

According to the publicity accompanying the trailer, dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage, is obsessed with his reclaimed treasure, for which he sacrifices friendship and honour.

Hobbit Bilbo Baggins is driven towards a desperate and dangerous choice in his attempt to make Thorin see reason.

“But there are even greater dangers ahead,” the publicity material says.

“Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf, the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain.”

The trailer, which also shows the dragon Smaug setting Lake-town ablaze, Cate Blanchett’s royal elf Galadriel kissing the forehead of Ian McKellen’s beleaguered wizard Gandalf and legions of elves and orcs racing into battle was shown first to an audience of 6500 at the Comic Con.

“It’s always great when you can kill off some main characters,” director Peter Jackson told the audience.

“You have the chance to do something powerful and emotional. We do get to kill a few of them this time around.”

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– Stuff


New Hobbit trailer revealed

The first brief look at the final instalment in The Hobbit trilogy has been released – and it’s grim.

As might be expected from the title, the one-minute 50-second Warner Bros trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is all about war.

There are lots of swords and armour, bows and arrows, elves, dwarves and orcs.

According to the blurb accompanying the trailer, dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield is obsessed with his reclaimed treasure, for which he sacrifices friendship and honour.

Hobbit Bilbo Baggins is driven towards a desperate and dangerous choice in his attempt to make Thorin see reason.

“But there are even greater dangers ahead. Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf, the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain.”

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– Stuff