Don McGlashan One of New Zealand’s finest musicians will be scoring this year’s World of WearableArt stage show, joining a powerhouse team of New Zealand’s most creative minds.
The music of Don McGlashan, award-winning composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, has thrilled audiences for decades. His career has travelled the worlds of dance, theatre, film, and television, as well as recordings with Blam Blam Blam, The Front Lawn, The Mutton Birds, and a flourishing solo career.
This year, as the musical director for WOW, he’ll be collaborating with creative directors Mike Mizrahi and Marie Adams in building a musical arc for the show, composing parts of it himself and commissioning others to write pieces too.
It’s not the first time he’s worked with Mizrahi and Adams’ Inside Out Productions, but it is the first time he’s been involved with WOW. Studying last year’s show, he’s seen how they create a particular magic for the New Zealand stage phenomenon.
“It was a big non-verbal story that rested, I thought, really lightly and beautifully on all the costumes.”
To prepare, McGlashan is absorbing the work of leading contemporary New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson, whose pieces have provided inspiration this year. “I’m steeping myself in Reuben’s work now to get the colour of it and get the excitement of what he does,” he says.
Not only does he have to create the sound to accompany Mizrahi and Adams’ vision and complement Paterson’s work, but he also has to consider the practical aspects of a show like WOW – a hybrid of dance, theatre, and fashion. Each part of the score has to be right length and rhythm to ensure the models have enough time to show off the garments. “There are a whole lot of cool challenges that aren’t there in a theatre show, and aren’t necessarily there in a film,” he says. “I’ve worked a lot with dance before, and I think that’s where my dance experience will help.”
McGlashan has had a diverse career, and although you have to embrace variety to make a living as an artist in New Zealand, it also means there are many rich veins of inspiration threaded through his work.
“I’ve had a really blessed life in New Zealand,” he says. “It’s a small place; I am essentially a songwriter and I branch out from there whenever somebody asks me to do something exciting, or the children need feeding.
“Sometimes those things happen at the same time and sometimes they don’t, but mostly I get to collaborate with really cool people on really interesting projects, and I still get a lot of time to do my own work, and everything feeds into everything else. If I’m working on this, or working on a film, I come out the end of it with about five songs that are germinating deep down in my subconscious, and I don’t know where they’ve come from. I’ve been really lucky.”
McGlashan is a frequent journal-writer, and returns to his personal writing when he needs inspiration for music.
“What you’re doing as an artist – whether you’re in a collaborative form like this where you’re just one cog in a big team, or whether you’re writing a song or writing a novel or dancing a dance – all you’re doing is translating your humanity into your craft. You’re showing through your discipline what it’s like to be human.”
He loves that WOW has allowed so many to live out their creative dreams. “I think one of the wonderful things about WOW is that it’s opened a door on creativity,” he says. “It’s said to a whole bunch of people that you can catch those ideas, and make something out of them, and we’ll find an audience for it. It doesn’t matter at all who you are.
“My life has been about training myself to do that, but I love looking at the way WOW has given that opportunity to a whole lot of other people.”