Taking music to country halls

Thinking small a Covid pivot for the music business

Tickets and more information are available through smallhallsessions.co.nz.






The year 2021 has been a lowkey one for New Zealand’s music scene. Restrictions and regulations meant venues and events’ organisers had to adapt to survive. One such pivot in Hawke’s Bay appears to have worked perfectly. Jamie Macphail saw the winds of change approaching and at the tail end of 2020 he faced the onslaught head on. Macphail created an experience called Small Hall Sessions. Big acts, big names and big talent used to playing in big city spaces have been trekking into the wop-wops to hang out in small country halls and perform to locals, a combination he describes as “magic”. In 2021, there were (fittingly) 21 shows and 2100 people who got to see them. At small halls from Omakere to Ongaonga, and Tutira to Takapau the bright lights came on and the local folks crowded in to be entertained. Macphail says 2022 is going to be even better and much bigger, with a massive 17 five-night tours already locked into the calendar. Legendary country diva Tami Neilson is the first to head to Hawke’s Bay, with five nights in five different small halls from January 12. This year, Small Hall Sessions has a loyalty programme for those who want a year’s worth of music — plus extra benefits — with no chance of missing out. “Capacity for these shows is always small, that’s its nature. So getting in quick is important,” Macphail says. “These sessions bring life to the tiny halls we all love and perhaps a time we all miss and are nostalgic about. It’s real community, and being up close to extraordinary talent is awe-inspiring.” Added into the Small Hall community are students from EIT’s Ideaschool music programme. Charged with providing tech support, the students are sometimes also invited on stage. “The music stars who are on the posters aren’t the only talent in the room,” Macphail says. “We have extraordinary talent here in the Bay, and part of Small Hall’s kaupapa is encouraging emerging local talent to open for the big acts and giving it some love and some of the spotlight.” Tami Neilson, Wellington Sea Shanty Society and Wheel of Experience are the first three acts to tour in Small Hall Sessions’ 2022 schedule.