In 2004, Civic Events produced a national acoustic church tour for Bic Runga around New Zealand, the idea springing from a show Bic had played in the Union Chapel in London in 2003. We have some amazing churches in New Zealand, beautiful places built for singing, soloists or choirs of voices. In that environment, perhaps accompanied by piano or organ, acoustic guitars, stand up bass and percussion, every note is crystal clear, at the front and all the way at the back; the sound is pure and magnificent. The tour was a huge success – the music, the leadlight and the bar heaters. It was a unique and special tour event. From the seed of an idea in a serene chapel on a cold London night, through the national sell out success of this first tour of churches in 2004, and a few years of further germination, “The Church Tour” launched as an annual event in 2009.
This was heavenly. As we revisited the songs of our national lexicon, pairing together four of New Zealand’s legendary songwriters, recording artists and performers together on stage for one unique concert collaboration, unlike any other seen before. Very magical.
The year the tour went country. Take one iconic veteran (Barry Saunders) and mix with the new stars of New Zealand music, not just country (Tami Neilson, Marlon Williams and Delaney Davidson) and you have a line up that is more than the sum of its parts. In theory. In reality it was even better than that. Exotic yet local, intimate yet epic. The songs were amazing, the voices were out of this world. Yes, the 2015 Church Tour run will be a very hard one to top. Ever.
This was a very special year, as we paired two songwriters who through their stellar careers have chronicled just what it is to be a New Zealander. Dave Dobbyn & Don McGlashan own 5 Silver Scroll awards for “NZ Song Of The Year” between them and together in concert they were mesmerising, spine tingling and not least utterly uplifting. Very, very special.
One of New Zealand’s all time favourite pub bands, Dragon, reinvented their sound and their singalong anthems for the Church Tour, but lost none of their passion and commitment in the process as the rafters were raised and the leadlight rattled to hits stretching from “April Sun in Cuba” to “Rain”. Who knows what the clergy made of it – we didn’t wait to ask!
This was a riot. Infectious, zany and comedic, but always glorious as the unique but beautifully complementary songwriting and vocal talents of Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith combined, together in concert. The three divas performed songs from their individual catalogues, as well as from their debut ‘AnikaBoh&Hollie’ album ‘Peace of Mind.’
Bic Runga returned to the Church Tour and the music scene after a five year break from music to be a full time mum. One of the very best songwriters this country has ever produced, owner of a voice gifted from God, she once again made the Church Tour her own, joined by former Mint Chicks Kody Nielson and Michael Logie.
Dave Dobbyn headlined the 2010 Tour, a national treasure and a songwriter/singer and guitarist of extraordinary talent. In the magnificent Church environment his voice shone bigger and brighter than ever before. Dave performed with percussionist Ross Burge and, at times, members of Christchurch band Dukes who were also the opening act.
The Tour featured two of New Zealand’s most successful songwriting and performing talents – Greg Johnson and Boh Runga. The shows saw both artists on stage together for their whole set, performing their own and each other’s songs – together. Joining them was Zed front man and solo hit-maker, Nathan King and the tour introduced a bright new talent in young Auckland singer/songwriter Lydia Cole.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT TIME DOES IT START/FINISH?
For all shows doors open at 7.30pm, except Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland where doors will open at 7pm. The show will start at 8.00pm, finishing at approximately 10.30pm.
HOW DO I BUY TICKETS?
WHAT IS THE TICKET PRICE?
The ticket price for all tickets purchased from Midday on Monday 11 July through to the relevant show date will be $67.50 plus booking fees.
Door sales will be available for each show (if not sold out prior), the ticket price will be $80 flat.
CAN I PURCHASE ALCOHOL/FOOD/DRINKS ON THE PREMISES?
Food and beverages are not permitted or available for purchase at any of the venues, except Old St Paul’s (Wellington) & the Cardboard Cathedral (Christchurch). A cash bar only will be available at these venues.
All food & beverage purchases made at Old St Paul’s (Wellington) may only be consumed in the foyer, with all purchases made at the Cardboard Cathedral (Christchurch) being permitted inside the venue.
IS IT ALLOCATED SEATING?
Seating is provided for this event, but tickets for the Church Tour are sold as general admission, so your seating location is based on a first come first served basis.
CAN I BRING MY CAMERA?
No professional cameras (SLRS or removable lens cameras) or recording devices are allowed. Camera phones or ‘point and shoot’ cameras are allowed. No flash.
Heavenly performance delivered at Church Tour (2016)
What do you get when you bring four of New Zealand’s most talented singers and songwriters together?
Well, those at the Chapel of Christ The King next to St Pauls’ Collegiate found out recently when they were treated to the Hamilton leg of The Church Tour.
Sharon O’Neill, Shona Lang, Debbie Harwood and Hammond Gamble have individually written and performed songs which have made their mark on the national and international musical landscape.
The Church Tour brings the four together for a unique blended performance. The singers delivered their well-known hits, some of their personal favourites, mixed in with some new songs and songs from others artists to keep the audience interested.
And although the audience heard from each performer individually, there were also many combo-performances you’ll never see anywhere else.
For example Hammond Gamble opened the concert with his edgy, blues/soul voice ripping through the church and was later in the piece joined by Shona Lang, whose bold voice demands attention.
There were other double-team acts as well, when Debbie Harwood and Sharon O’Neill combined voices for songs such as O’Neill’s Asian Paradise and Danced in the Fire.
Then there were moments when all four took the width of the church stage together to deliver the polished performance you would expect from experienced musicians.
At the end of the first hour-long set, mother-and-daughter audience groups took the time during the break to look up the performers on their mobile phones, to check their ages and titles of songs.
There was a good mix of ages in the crowd, from people who would have enjoyed the group’s music from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, to younger audiences who came to hear and appreciate four of the big names in New Zealand music.
Debbie Harwood and Sharon O’Neill, in particular, engaged with the audience, both at different times explaining how tragedy in their lives, and in the lives of friends, had provided some inspiration when it came to writing songs.
Harwood even admitted that recently she had enjoyed some happier times in her life and so writing about tragedy was no longer the only source of inspiration.
In the second set of The Church Tour, the audience heard some of the big hits they’d associated with the performances, such as Sharon O’Neill’s Maxine, Shona Lang’s Glad I’m Not A Kennedy and the show finished with Melting Pot, made famous by Debbie Harwood when she appeared as part of the band, When the Cats Away.
But there were other key performances during the night.
Shona Lang’s live performance of Soviet Snow (released in 1988) and 1905, (released 1973) were standouts for me and certainly moved people out of their seats, or at least got their heads nodding, hands clapping.
Harwood also successfully pushed her vocal boundaries and worked hard for the audience, delivering her version of The Cape, by Billie Holiday, as well as another song, Don’t Explain, written by comedian and friend, Michele A-Court.
Lawrence Gullery - Stuff.co.nz
Concert review: The Church Tour (2015)
The handsome wooden arches and stained glass of Auckland’s old St Mary’s church would have rarely rung with such a blend of sacred and secular songs as they did when Barry Saunders, Tami Neilson, Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams brought their collective catalogues into its intimate space.
The show had played the Holy Trinity Cathedral next door on the previous night after dates in Napier and Tauranga.
From the swamp-gospel of Neilson’s Bury My Body and a glorious O Holy Night duet between her and the operatic Williams (he singing in te reo) to the spooky loops, delays and scouring vocals of Davidson’s treatment of the old country ballad In the Pines, this was a night where all measures of the human condition were explored.
Saunders included a couple of the Warratahs’ better known songs (Maureen, Hands of My Heart) and at times Davidson seemed to be channeling the spirit of John Lee Hooker’s eerie blues as re-imagined in Sun Studios of the 50s.
Neilson offered her newly minted classic country ballad Lonely (written in part by her late father and finished by Neilson and her brother) and sometimes tapped the spirit of Peggy Lee (on her terrific Walkwith the whole ensemble) as much as Patsy Cline. Williams brought the unsettling Dark Child and State Hospital.
But an always engaging evening emerged out of such diversity.
Often referred to as country artists – Saunders perhaps the most mainstream in that regard – these singer-songwriters explored much more than that: The soaring’n’sandpaper voices of Neilson and Davidson took on the Dan Penn-Chips Moman soul classic Dark End of the Street, Neilson sang her moving ballad First Man about her father (“The first man I ever loved was the first man to ever hold me in his arms”) and Davidson took off into to that high lonesome sound of Hank Williams on Please Don’t Let Me.
And if the tribulations of love and life were ever-present so was the healing spirit (Get On Your Knees in the encore).
With a small but cracking band (Dave Khan once again Jack-of-all-instruments), clever changes of musical and personal focus, sometimes humorous but brief stage patter and a set of often exceptional originals, this was a concert to treasure.
And an opportunity to applaud the unique, discreet and seemingly effortless talents who brought the sacred and sometimes slightly profane into a place which has doubtless heard all manner of this before . . . but never with so many great songs, brittle guitar or such impeccable bluegrass harmonies.
Graham Reid - NZ Herald
Kiwi legends' double act is heaven sent (2014)
This double-up of national treasures Dave Dobbyn and Don McGlashan marks the fifth year of this annual acoustic church tour, a chance for veteran acts to do the sit-down unplugged mix-it-up thing in venues which might inspire a hushed reverence in their respective flocks.
No, this isn’t the night to heckle Dave to play Bliss, my son.
Dobbyn had taken it to the pews of the nation solo a few years ago. This time, with McGlashan, was a chance for the pair to bounce between their respective Great New Zealand Songbooks – both of which probably should come with fold-out maps given their shared sense of geography – and add some new elegant touches to the familiar.
The pair had made up the set list by naming their favourites among each other’s songs.
Said McGlashan of the tour prep: “Learning one of Dave’s songs is like meeting a long-lost family member who has lived a vivid parallel life to my own.”
The result on this hometown third night of the tour was a gently enchanting show to a sold-out congregation at Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, the venue making up for what it lacked in decent sightlines to the seated musicians with warmly cavernous acoustics.
It got better as it went along. The opening ballads of Dobbyn’s Beside You and McGlashan’s Andy felt a mite tentative, the latter suffering from too much acoustic 12-string lushness.
But with Dobbyn later mostly opting for electric guitar and the arrival of a rhythm section which included former Mutton Birds drummer Ross Burge, it soon gelled into musical tag-team magic.
Both men were content to accompany each other with harmonies and deft playing of multiple instruments rather than offer their own interpretations of each other’s songs, but they still pulled out some surprises. Among them Dobbyn’s Song of the Years, his setting of a James K. Baxter poem from the 2000 tribute album, was one of the night’s most stirring moments as it closed the first half of the show.
There were others – a hymnal Anchor Me with McGlashan on piano played after Loyal, which came with Dobbyn’s amusing introduction trying not to mention a certain sporting event. And there was the added entertainment value in both men’s stage banter with Dobbyn’s happy heartfelt rambles against McGlashan’s self-deprecating wryness.
Yes, of course, it was preaching to the converted who responded with a standing ovation which won them a double encore. But this double-act in this setting acted as a fine reminder of just how special the songs and voices of each man remain.
Russell Baillie - NZ Herald
Dragon rock the roof off (2013)
If your band is over 30, let’s face it: you’re going to church. For others (Dobbyn & McGlashan, EnzSo), holy tours have worked to varying degrees of success. But does playing in a church mean you’ve turned your back on rocking out for the acoustics?
Have you resigned yourself to becoming a heritage act for the grey hair circuit? Thankfully, this isn’t the case for Dragon: they’ve passed the 40th anniversary and still sound like a new group with something to prove.
Comprising of original member Todd Hunter, vocalist Mark Williams, Paul Drummond and Bruce Reid, St. Paulsl has put the konk back into Dragon’s konkaroo. The acoustic rearrangements show that they care, that they haven’t thrown in the towel. There are still moments that groove with the Ponsonby spirit of old.
The set starts with an acapella Still in Love with You, one of their great, oft forgotten songs. The dated production has been stripped away, revealing something a bit more organic, a bit more human. Williams is also an affable, lovely front-man with a stellar voice – he can also wail like a blind boy from Alabama.
A number of tunes are filtered through bluesy, brooding rumbles (Body & the Beat, Get That Jive), whilst the big singles in faithful renditions (April Sun in Cuba, Rain). For fans of the musicians behind the sound, this is their night. With colours morphing in the stage’s backdrop, it seemed as though the ghosts of Dragons past loomed above the men on stage. It may be the best they’ve ever sounded too.
Overall, Dragon have put on a thoroughly enjoyable show, rightfully reclaiming songs that have been stolen by cover bands. An inspiring listen and a new reason to reassess a classic Kiwi act.
Jake Ebdale - Waikato Times
Review: Acoustic Church Tour (2012)
Auckland’s Holy Trinity proved the perfect environment for the harmonious voices of Anika, Boh and Hollie – but it was a bit quieter than what the singers are used to.
“In bar tours everyone talks over us. In the church tour no-one talks at all. Please say something!” Boh Runga cried moments into the 90-minute set.
The 700-strong audience wolf whistled and cheered but soon fell back into the hush of an awe-inspired congregation.
The trio’s emotionally charged, haunting melodies soared over the strum of acoustic guitars right from the opening number, Anika Moa’s Running Through the Fire.
“Thank God that’s over,” she quipped afterwards, relaxing the crowd and her band.
“I hate wearing heels,” Moa continued. “I didn’t wear them the first night and it was like this,” she demonstrated, squatting. “Hey, hey guys.”
If Moa, on acoustic, is the group joker then Runga, on electric and bass guitar, is the ring leader.
The former frontwoman for pop/rock band Stellar took centre stage, energy pulsing through her voice, a no-nonsense attitude in her speech.
The antics of the group’s youngest member, soul singer Hollie Smith, on bass, guitar and keys, made her the perfect goofy little sister.
“Was I born then?” she joked when Runga introduced a song from her Stellar days.
The girls’ first released combined single Be Mine was a highlight, the high-energy pop tune sent soaring.
Runga’s voice is perfect in powering out the catchy melodies of the trio’s songs. Moa’s sweet, soft soprano harmonies blend well and are rounded out with Smith’s husky rich vocals. A sign of good things to come.
Yet to be released Like I Love You was a pretty example, charming the audience yet again into silence.
Accomplished drummer Tom Broome and keyboardist Godfrey de Grut added to the mix in the show’s second half.
Smith, Moa and Runga are talents in their own right with 16 Tui Music Awards between them, but Wellington based 30-year-old Smith stole the show.
“I’m really nervous, she said before launching into a new song. “This is one we wrote together, we all did ‘dibs, I’m not singing this one’, but somehow I lost. It’s quite difficult.”
Her thick, sultry voice filled the cathedral and nerves or not, her notes sounded beautifully effortless.
Her rendition of I Will Do while seated at the keyboard, and encore number Bathe in the River which she dedicated to her newborn niece, were spine chillingly brilliant, with the latter receiving a standing ovation.
As with any group of talented, independent women, antics there were a plenty – from an impromptu version of The Bangles’ Eternal Flame, to a ‘tongue in cheek’ group creation called Alone.
Gypsy, Sissy and Rehab they called themselves – “we wanted to have a really cool name like Kings of Leon”. But indecision means that, for now, the girls will remain Anika, Boh and Hollie.
Michelle Robinson - Stuff.co.nz
Runga wins hearts of fans - (2011)
It was as though an angel had descended on Knox Church last night, to stand beneath an 8m stained glass window, framed by altar candles.
More than 400 people filled the 135-year-old bluestone church to hear Auckland singer-songwriter Bic Runga perform in the fourth annual “Acoustic Church Tour”.
Runga played a short acoustic set, before picking up her electric guitar and launching into her 1996 hit Drive.
The chanteuse pleased fans both old and new as she mined her three platinum-selling albums – Drive (1997),Beautiful Collision (2002) and Birds (2005) – in the hour and 40-minute concert.
Old favourites, including Get Some Sleep. Sway, Something Good, Winning Arrow, Belle and Drive, intermingled with material from her latest album released last month, Belle, such as her first single in five years, Hello, Hello.
The 35-year-old was in stunning voice on her first major solo tour for three years.
She told the crowd she “loved the ambience of churches”.
Runga was supported by Natalia Mann and her band, Kody Nielsen and Michael Logie, of The Mint Chicks.
Runga performs in the “2011 Acoustic Church Tour” at Knox Church again tonight.
Nigel Benson - Otago Daily Times
Dobbyn delivers slice of heaven for Dunedin fans (2010)
Dave Dobbyn and the Dukes rocked Knox Church in Dunedin last night during his Acoustic Church Tour.
He was preaching to the converted, but the celebrated New Zealand singer-songwriter still produced a spirited show for a capacity 700-strong crowd.
Dobbyn (53) was both raconteur and troubadour, taking the crowd on a tour through his three-decade music catalogue.
He said he first played Be Mine Tonight at the former Shoreline Hotel in 1979 and then produced the loudest cheer of the night when he told the crowd Dunedin was the first city to sell out on the tour.
Nigel Benson - Otago Daily Times
Musos back and better than ever (2009)
REVIEW: The Church Tour 09, Greg Johnson and Boh Runga, Nathan King, Lydia Cole, All Saints Church, Palmerston North.
All Saints Church really is as beautiful as it looks on the outside – but last night’s musicians would have blown any nativity scene out of the water.
Kiwi music stalwarts Boh Runga and Greg Johnson were joined by ex-Zed frontman Nathan King and younger songstress Lydia Cole for this gig, one of nine they are playing in churches around the country.
The idea harks back to 2003, after Runga played at London’s Union Chapel and realised the acoustics of churches were perfect for musicians.
In 2004, her sister Bic toured New Zealand, with Boh and Johnson following suit this time. Both performers are based in Los Angeles, but the brief sojourn to New Zealand for this series of concerts was most certainly worth it. The pair have been working on an acoustic set especially for this tour, and the result was an eclectic selection of songs spanning both their careers.
Resplendent in a mini-tutu, skinny jeans and high, high stilettos, Runga was all long shiny hair and attitude as she belted out rock songs from her former band Stellar* , earnest as she sang lyrics from her new solo album, and sweet as she accompanied Johnson on his offerings.
She swapped from guitar to mandolin to percussion, including a set of gold, glittery drums, with practised ease.
In the high eaves of the church, every note in her voice rang clear.
Johnson was a strong presence, opening the first song with traditional organ chords and displaying his flawless musicianship on the keyboard, guitar and vocals.
In the downtime he was funny, buoying the audience along with snippets of his new Los Angeles life, witty observations and general banter that was at times wildly inappropriate for a church, really. The pair were accompanied during their set by established guitarists and vocalists Dave Goodison and Ben King, who rounded out their professional sound.
Earlier, a soulful Nathan King kept the night’s congregation captivated with his harmonious guitar set.
The crowd were a mixed bunch, with middle-aged groups of women dispersed among hand-holding couples and a few younger fans.
And, judging by the number who were jostling out of their pews to get CDs signed at the end of the gig, they left happy.
Michelle Duff - Manawatu Standard