From Where I Sit: Understanding so much more

2K4A0497_smallIn September Chamber Music New Zealand ran our very first audio described concert in Auckland which featured music for two pianos and percussion (Rhythm & Resonance). Musicians Diedre Irons (piano), Michael Endres (piano), Thomas Guldborg (percussion) and Lenny Sakofsky (percussion) performed Mozart’s Sonata in D for Two Pianos K448, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin for two marimbas, Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos and percussion. 

For this month’s “From where I sit” guest post, we asked Cassandra Embling (a student at BLENNZ – The Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ School) to share her experience of the concert and touch tour…


On Monday 5 September a group of lucky blind and vision impaired people met at Auckland’s Town Hall. We were going to see a chamber music concert called Rhythm and Resonance. The concert was being audio described and we were also invited to a touch tour before the concert began.

Percussionists Thomas Guldborg and Lenny Sakofsky run a special touch tour for patrons with visual impairments. (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photogrpahy)

Percussionists Thomas Guldborg and Lenny Sakofsky run a special touch tour for patrons with visual impairments. (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photography)

We met the two percussionists up on stage. They went around and played each of the instruments and described them for us. Then we all got to do a round of the stage to touch and play the instruments ourselves. My favourite instrument that I played was the Tam Tam (or gong.)

Here I am playing with the cymbals! (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photogrpahy)

Here I am playing with the cymbals! (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photography)

We were all given our headsets for the audio description and a Brailled programme. We listened to an introductory talk. The two pianists from the show had a chat about their backgrounds and the show that we were going to see.

Finally it was time for the show to start. I loved it. Before the interval we heard some Mozart and some Ravel. The Mozart piece was written for two pianos and the Ravel for two marimbas. I loved both performances. After the interval both pianists and percussionists were on stage altogether to perform Bartok and Lutoslawski. I loved every piece that was played.

The audio description and touch tour prior to the concert was also excellent and certainly enhanced the concert for me. I was able to picture what the instruments looked like, where they were on stage, what the musicians were wearing and the general set up of the stage including colours and lighting. I couldn’t believe how fast the concert seemed to be over. Before I knew it, it was the interval and then it was the end within what felt like only minutes. I truly believe that having the added level to the concert through the audio description and touch tour made for this.

This was the first audio described show I had ever been to. We were each given a receiver and a single earpiece. When the lady who was describing did not talk during the pieces the receivers turned themselves off. Luckily however a lady showed us how to turn them back on again before the concert started. At one point I accidentally turned the receiver to the wrong channel but I was able to find the right channel again easily. We knew to turn our receivers back on again when the applause started so that we could hear a description of the changes that were happening on stage between pieces. One example of something that I would have missed out on completely without the audio description was the fact that the percussionists each had two mallets in each hand during Ravel’s piece. Knowing this I was able to further appreciate the complexity of the music I was listening to.

Haley (left) and I checking out the snare drum at the touch tour before the concert. (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photography)

Haley (left) and I checking out the snare drum at the touch tour before the concert. (Photo Credit: Andi Crown Photography)

I look forward to being able to attend more audio described shows in the future and also movies at the cinema as I truly believe it allows us to understand so much more about what is happening that we have been unaware of until now.

Thank you to Chamber Music New Zealand for a lovely concert and especially for the opportunity to experience such an inclusive concert through the touch tour, Brailled programmes and the audio description.

– Cassie

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