Musician to play at Pike mine memorial

Noel Coutts will play his song, 29 Ghosts, at today’s Pike River commemoration.
Noel Coutts will play his song, 29 Ghosts, at today’s Pike River commemoration. PHOTO: PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
A veteran Queenstown musician is lending his voice to today’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Pike River Mine explosion that killed 29 workers.

Singer-songwriter Noel Coutts is performing his song, 29 Ghosts, at Parliament, in Wellington, before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, other dignitaries and some of the deceased’s family members.

The 72-year-old wrote the song a few years ago at the prompting of his good friend Rick Durbridge, who lost a son, Daniel Herk, in the West Coast disaster.

Coutts befriended Durbridge before then, when he was living in a classic old boat in Wellington’s Chaffers Marina.

"‘Rowdy’ had a boat there that had run around or something and he was getting it sorted out.

"Then whenever I played on the Coast he’d come to my gig."

The idea for the song came when they were chatting about the tragedy over "tears and beers".

"It tells the story, I suppose," Coutts says.

Mr Durbridge, who has called it "the official song" of Pike River, made a recording of it when down in Queenstown that has been played the odd time, including at another ceremony the Prime Minister attended.

Coutts has also played it with a band on the Coast.

"I didn’t put it out because I didn’t want to be sort of cashing in on other people’s grief."

Now semi-retired, he calls it a privilege to have been asked to perform at today’s commemoration.


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