A crowd of 600 people gathered on Saturday, May 13 at Sacred Heart College in Auckland, where Play it Strange presented the We Are One concert for autism awareness with Jordan Luck, Fiona McDonald, Larry Morris, Mike Chunn, Peter Urlich, Shane Cortese and the North Shore Youth Music Orchestra.
16-year-old Kane Chong wrote the title song We Are One, inspired by a friend who is affected by autism. Kane was thrilled, saying it was truly incredible that people from all over the country had come together for one cause.
Play It Strange CEO Mike Chunn explains that at least some of his personal excitement stems from being a huge fan of Larry Morris.
“The night was all about variety, so I thought we’d do the jazz thing, the jazz battle, with the elderly jazzers and the young ones, so there were the two jazz bands fighting it out together.I got up there with Larry Morris. I was overawed as I saw him in 1968. I was aware of him, his songs were big in my life.”
Chunn remembers Play It Strange’s involvement with autism started when he met a student called Matthew Beardsworth.
“He was on our CD last year. The story behind Matthew is that he was bullied at school. Principals told him to pull himself together. He’s triumphant, he’s proven that a kid in the education system that he walked into which completely rejected him, didn’t understand that he had it in him to excel.
“Matthew wrote the concertino for solo violin in A minor, that’s not easy to do. He played violin in three different orchestral arrangements of beautiful singer-songwriter songs, plus he wrote the arrangement for Tim Finn’s Stuff and Nonsense.”
Former Headless Chickens and Strawpeople singer Fiona McDonald no longer performs live often but played Hurts like Hell by 15-year old student Heidi Simpson, Cooler Like You and Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, and Strawpeople’s Taller than God.
McDonald cites playing with one of the students as her highlight of the night. “Playing live is great but for me it was working with 15 year old Heidi Simpson. I absolutely adored watching her talent.”
Another old boy of Sacred Heart College along with the likes of the Finn brothers, Mike Chunn and Dave Dobbyn, Peter Urlich did his first performance at the school in 1969. He performed with his own kids, Joe and Stan, and Matthew McFadden, who attends Balmoral Intermediate.
Play It Strange regular Jordan Luck lent his voice to the night’s theme song and also sang I Got You by Split Enz and Be Mine Tonight by Th’ Dudes.
“I was a bit trepidatious when Chunny called up about the song. I had friends that have children with autism, but I really didn’t know a lot. It seemed worthy but stepping into someone else’s song, I wasn’t sure if I was capable. Irrespective of whether it’s AC/DC, or whatever, I find doing other people’s songs a challenge.”
Play it Strange have organised 10 large concerts so far – it’s based on the Band of Strangers model originally utilised by Neil Finn in 2001, the concept being to put unknowns or students on stage with known idols.
All proceeds for the rock-influenced song We Are One will go to the charity Autism New Zealand.