HITTING THE HIGH NOTES
As a composer, Matthew Everingham’s work has been heard in concert, on film, and in mainstream theatres, fringe venues and an historic abbey. He conducts choirs and musical theatre, has accompanied serious singers and theatre students on piano, and played in orchestras for large stage productions.
A Douglas Lilburn Trust Composition Prize recipient, Matt has honours degrees in music and law from the University of Canterbury and a Trinity College ACTL diploma in piano. He now lectures at UC’s School of Music and Ara Institute’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) in music theory, composition, keyboard musicianship, musical theatre and choral studies.
Matt has musical directing and playing credits on productions for NASDA, Showbiz Canterbury and the Court Theatre, in shows such as The Mikado, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Mary Poppins, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. You might also see him improvising with the Court Jesters, touring nationally in a cabaret, and, more recently, conducting the Christchurch Pops Choir as the current artistic director.
Matt began playing piano at around age six. His teacher, Laurie Searle, taught classical but was ‘open to other genres, including jazz.’ Laurie taught him through to university and from him Matt gained respect for both classical and contemporary music.
There was music at home too, from his grandfather who played by ear, and his mother who played piano and clarinet. His parents took him to various concerts and shows. He saw Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, now a superstar on the world stage. ‘That was my first experience of the orchestral world and had quite an impact.’
Matt studied music at St Bede’s College before entering university, where his major in composition encompassed avant-garde contemporary styles to crossover jazz through various tutors including Chris Cree Brown, Alex van den Broek and Hamish Oliver.
On the stage Matt’s works have been performed nationally by the NZTrio; in Prague and Miami; and during the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Malta in 2015.
Such accomplishments are remarkable because Matt is only 23. His most thrilling experience so far was in 2015 at Westminster Abbey, London for the premier of his organ composition Fractures: In Memoriam on the fourth anniversary of Christchurch’s February earthquake.
‘It was the most surreal experience,’ Matt says. The piece was commissioned by fellow New Zealander Jeremy Woodside, the then-Westminster Abbey Organ Scholar, who performed it to the delight of the 19-year-old Matt, and for the ghostly ears of the 17 British monarchs and many famous figures interred there, from Dickens to Darwin, to Ernest Rutherford and Rudyard Kipling.
‘If piano writing is a sketch, then writing for organ is a massive canvas – especially that particular project. The organ is an amazing instrument. You can afford to write a lot more symphonically … there’s so much sonic potential.’
Last year Matt attended New York University’s (NYU) Summer Film Scoring workshop. ‘It was an intensive two weeks, full-time and nights as well. We scored a short film and had it recorded by a studio orchestra.’
Matt is returning to NYU in April 2019 for a graduate year. Before that, he’s aiming to do Jesus Christ Superstar at the Court in summer. ‘It has been a great year of work.’
WORDS Rosa Shiels PHOTOS Sarah Rowlands