Stringing it together   13 Jul 2006

Erica Fosbender

If you’re from Christchurch, chances are you’ll know who Fiona Pears is. But for those of us who have been away from the Kiwi music scene, she’s an accomplished violinist who is about to release her third album – Memories of Home.

She’s worked with some of the big names in New Zealand music – Hayley Westenra, Bic Runga – but it’s her own music she’s truly passionate about.

Her record producer, and partner, Ian Tilley say this is the only CD he really believes in. Pears agrees – "I can put it on when I’m doing the housework ... normally I’m so critical of my own work but this I really like".

Like many musicians Pears took up music from an early age, and set her sights on a career, leaving school early to pursue the violin. She performed solo, with chamber music groups and orchestras but says she got bored with playing other people’s music. So she deviated from the classical path and started playing with guitarists around New Zealand in a more jazz style.

She started writing her own stuff and then the travel bug bit. It was while backpacking in Ireland that she fell in love ... with Celtic music. Her second CD reflected this new-found passion. Pears was fully committed to composing and headed back to New Zealand to write.

"Then I got a call from Hayley Westenra’s dad saying ‘how do you feel about doing violin on Hayley’s first world tour’?"

This gave Pears the opportunity to visit Australia and Japan and play a solo at the Sydney Opera House. Tilley, who was musical director for the tour said the reception Pears got in Sydney was exceptional: "everyone went through the roof".

This was also when Pears and Tilley first became an item, and tried to hide it – unsuccessfully.

In 2004, Pears came to London to really give her career a shot in the arm. Memories of Home was written during the past 12 months and is mostly originals "with a few token covers".

Tilley says the album, which was mostly recorded in Christchurch, has "strong melodies", which make it more like songs. "Fiona is a songwriter, except her voice is a violin. It’s not overly complicated, it’s just a beautiful album. Anyone can listen to it."

Pears adds: "There are two types of people who buy violin CDs – those who want one in their collection and those, like me, who want to learn techniques. This is in the market for people who want to listen to violin music but don’t want to try."

Certainly anyone with eclectic tastes would appreciate this, Pears says it’s a mixture of Celtic, Latin, gypsie and classical, but not jazz – "jazz isn’t the right word for it. That just turns people off".

Her next step is to find the right management and eventually get a record label. She is also concentrating on international sales.

Pears is having her launch party at Le Quecumber in Battersea, which she describes as a gorgeous, gypsie/jazz bar that looks like something out of Bohemian Paris. It’s also the first venue she played freestyle when she arrived in London. "That feels like a lifetime age, I’ve travelled the world twice since then."

• Memories of Home will launch on July 16 (it was going to be July 9 but the World Cup final got in the way) at Le Quecumbar, 42-44 Battersea High Street, London SW11 3HX. Cost is £10 on the door. For table bookings and tickets contact 020 7787 2227. For more information visit

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left by Lois Tynan 14 Jul 2006

I wish Fiona all the very best for an exciting launch of her new CD on Sunday – looking forward to having her back here in Christchurch to play to us later in the year.


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