Christchurch treated to Yo-Yo Ma performance

Lunch goers in Christchurch were given a special treat today as world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma made an appearance on the banks of the city's Avon River.

The free concert aimed to highlight the value of Canterbury's rivers and waterways, part of the musician's international Bach Project.

The project asks people to consider their cultural connections and how it helps them imagine a better future.

For more than an hour, Yo-Yo Ma, who was supported by local artists, delighted hundreds of people who stopped by the river banks.

Three weeks ago, he challenged artists in the Garden City to create a community event to help people understand their environment and each other.

That invitation was taken up by Christchurch artists Juliet Arnott and Kerepeti Paraone.

"And so Kerepeti and I decided to respond to that with this idea of just coming to the river and just simply to sing across the water to acknowledge the water and to gather together," Ms Arnott said.

To have Yo-Yo Ma play for free is a treat for the region, she said.

"We feel so grateful that he is willing to come and stand next to this [river] and to be a part of something that speaks to the importance of our relationship with water."

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Superfan Murray Jamieson is one of the lucky few who managed to get close to Yo-Yo Ma at a hāngī yesterday, prior to his paid concert in Christchurch last night.

"People were asking me about him yesterday. Some people didn't know and I said, have you heard of the Beatles? Bruce Springsteen? This guy is bigger than them in concert," he said.

Getting up close with the music legend, the retired firefighter even got a selfie together - leaving him close to being starstruck.

"[I was] a little bit shocked, but that was just wonderful and because the guys who are looking after him [Yo-Yo Ma] said, come on, we must go back and he saw me standing there and he just walked up and said I'll take a selfie for you."

Despite being the star attraction, Yo-Yo Ma stayed away from media, instead, he talked to the audience directly.

"I just want to say, I'm so moved to be so beautifully hosted by all of you and the few days that we have been able to spend here," he told the audience.

But it wasn't just the world-famous cellist who performed for the people of Christchurch, with local musicians Marlon Williams, Sistah Waitoa, and instrumental group Project Miere taking the stage.

Together with flax weavers and waiata in te reo Māori, Canterbury's culture was proudly showcased for its people.

Playing with Project Miere was flautist Tamara Smith, who said being able to perform today felt like a special gift.

"Everything that I had done in my life had kind of culminated in this moment," she said.

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