Organists Mark Patterson and Kemp English plan to play around the country. Photo: Supplied.

Aiming to spread musical aroha across the country

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Two Nelson trucks are set to bring smiles to the faces of care workers and the elderly right across the country.

The two trucks are each currently being kitted out with an organ, lighting systems and LED screens, which share messages of connection and thanks during a one-hour free concert that will be performed at aged and palliative care homes from Dunedin to the Far North.

President of ‘From Us with Aroha’ charitable trust, Sarah Waterman, says the idea for the project came about from a feeling of helplessness as we were thrust into the Covid-19 lockdown.

Sarah and her husband Mark Patterson, one of the organists who will begin touring with the South Island truck this month, found themselves with a lot of spare time when Level 4 was announced in March.

They immediately began thinking of those who were isolated from their loved ones.

“We felt really quite helpless, I’ve got a background in care work, so I’m not used to sitting there doing nothing. I’m used to helping,” says Sarah.

She says they were trying to come up with a practical way to help during the lockdown.

An idea struck when Mark saw a video on YouTube of American organist, Cameron Carpenter, performing to a rest home from a bespoke truck.

“I said ‘I think this could be something that could really help people’.”

The pair quickly found others keen to jump on board with the project, including one of New Zealand’s leading concert performers Kemp English, who will play the North Island leg of the tour.

Kemp found all 30 of his tour dates cancelled amid the Covid-19 outbreak and was happy to be able to play again.

The tour officially launched at Ernest Rutherford retirement village two weeks ago and village manager Cathy Hiku says it lifted the spirits of both residents and staff.

“It was such a tonic after the lockdown, one resident came to see me on Thursday, and she had tears in her eyes she said it affected her so much but in a good way.

“It was just a real boost after what’s been a difficult time and I think it’s going to go really well and there will be a lot of smiley faces.”

Before the tour departs Nelson, it is aiming to raise $200,000 to fund the journey for both vehicles.

Sarah says the money will go towards leasing of equipment, petrol, accommodation, truck drivers, and security. You can donate to the cause here.