Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Young tenor helps empower youth in the Hawke’s Bay

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Echoing through the orchards of the Hawke’s Bay is the voice of opera singer Lila Junior Crichton.

The Samoan tenor joined Project Prima Volta (PPV) a free music programme helping local teenagers explore their potential within the context of ‘sung performances’.

“Music gave me the skills to understand what was happening and communicate my feelings to the people who I could communicate it to,” Crichton says.

“Music and PPV gave me the skills to understand how I was feeling and how I could communicate that and how I could manage that myself.”

Crichton is a founding member of PPV which runs every week throughout the year giving 30 students a taste of musical theatre. Now a graduate of the programme, he says it’s more than music lessons here as they also learn life skills.

“The idea for PPV is just that we are teaching kids these skills that they can use to navigate life, and navigate decisions and to understand which is the most important,” he says.

Anna Pierard co-founded PPV in 2013, she says the music training is also very important.

Lila Chrichton, a founding member of PPV working with local Hawke’s Bay youth. Photo: Supplied

“We use singing specifically and its focus is on training kids to be able to sing, you know in a ridiculously extreme way which is of course is opera,” Pierard says.

The community driven opera company started in 2013 where international and local industry professionals mentor local talent.

Lila started at age 13 when he auditioned and joined the chorus.

“I walk in and I meet these people and it’s like, it finally sinks in. It’s like you’re doing a production and all of these soloists are from around the world. They all, you know, live and they all pay their bills using singing.”

Last year Crichton sang at the Beehive in Wellington, teaming with the Virtuoso Strings orchestra and Grammy Award-winning bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.

“I felt so epic being up there; we were in parliament, all of these kids playing music from the pacific, all of these kids wearing clothes that represented the Pacific. All of the repertoire is Pasifika…it just felt like, you know, yea these are our people; this is classical music and it can sound like this too.”

Crichton’s a member of the quartet Tokowhā and has performed with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and toured with Chamber Music New Zealand.

But his heart has always been with his community; he currently teaches vocals at a school in Flaxmere while coaching at PPV.

“I feel that’s my stage, you know, in front of these kids… that’s where I feel like I can help my community the best.”

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