Claire Cowan

Blackbird Ensemble : "The Afterlife"

Choose a theme

Copy (Ctrl C) the code below

The Blackbird Ensemble are rapidly growing a reputation for creating a unique combination of musical and theatrical magic on stage. "The Afterlife" is our new show in development which we are excited to present to you in early 2017.



"The Afterlife" will travel into theatrical territory where no other chamber orchestra has gone before. Not only are performers all highly skilled classical musicians, they also play characters that move about the stage, creating a closer and stronger audience connection. Composer Claire Cowan has created an original score for the work. Director Sara Brodie is an expert in working with musicians, having directed many operas and musical works both in NZ and abroad, exploring movement, story and characters.

"The Afterlife" replaces spoken word with blown air and the vibration of strings. These are the only forces through which these lost souls communicate now; they use it to replicate the properties of life they no longer possess. What is a body when it is barren of emotion, of chemical desire? They blast their cries and thump out their own heart beats - they create pointless order and systems to replace the comfort of passing time - they look inside each other for the people they have loved and lost. When music is the only thing that connects them to the memory of life, what choice do they have but to keep playing?


We are raising funds to cover one week of workshopping the show.

This will go towards:

-Paying cast and designers wages

-Rehearsal space hire

-Prototype costumes/set

Total costs for our development this year are over $40,000. This campaign will go a long way to enable us to come together and work solidly on the show's development.

We are raising the other costs through a fundraising concert on July 20th at Crystal Palace and various other funding bodies.



Eamon Edmunson-Wells (Ruckus, Dreamville) - Bass

Peau Halapua (The Black Quartet, APO) - Violin

Kevin Keys (Soul Samba Circus, APO) - Trombone

Mark Baynes (Quantum Blue, U.S Chicago) - Keys

Chris O'Connor (Phoenix Foundation, SJD) - Percussion

Jess Holly Bates (Real Fake White Dirt) - Flute

Callum Passells (Sal Valentine's Baby Shakes) - Saxophone

Tom Dennison (Mike Nock Trio, Baby Shakes) - Electronic

Michael Howell (Creative Jazz Club, WD40) - Electric guitar

Anya Whitlock - Production Designer

Filament 11 - Lighting Design

Claire Cowan - Composer (Fledgling, SJD) - Cello

Sara Brodie -Director (Arts Foundation Laureate, NZ Opera, ATC)





    Dear Blackbird Angels!

    We got over the line with hours to spare, thanks to you, our wonderful backers!

    We just completed the week of workshops for the Afterlife and have generated a lot of interesting material for the show. We can't wait to put it all together in the final workshop later on this year, and present it to you early next year.

    THANK YOU for your generous support, we're thrilled that we're able to continue to develop this exciting new show. Here's a screenshot of some footage taken during the workshop week..we learned how to play our instruments in new and exciting ways.. we're a bit bruised up and exhausted but very pleased at the progress!

    Big love and grattitude,

    Claire & The Blackbird Ensemble cast of the Afterlife.


  • Just 3 days to go!


    Hello backers!

    Well we've been super busy raising the funds to add to our campaign, and on wednesday night at the crystal palace we raised a whopping $5115 towards our project. This was through the momentous efforts of all involved.. and we're getting close.. 

    Thank you to all of you who have donated or come to the concert at crystal palace. It was an awesome night of re-living blackbird moments past, and raising awareness of blackbird's future!

    With only 3 days to go and another 28% to go we need to spread the word far and wide! Thank you for helping us with our campaign, we're excited to begin rehearsals for our next workshop with Sara Brodie!

    Below is a photo of our entire band on stage at the crystal palace. What a squeeze!


    The Blackbirds

    Just 3 days to go!
  • A few words from Chris O'Connor


    Hello important people!

    Thanks so much for donating to our show. We've started off well and the word is beginning to spread. We've been chuffed at your wonderful generosity so far! Here's a few words from Chris O'Connor our wonderful percussionist (and musician!) for the show. You may know him from The Phoenix Foundation, SJD, Andrew Keoghan's band, Don McGlashan's band, Ruckus, Nadia Reid's band, pretty much every band in the land! Why? Cos he's bloody brilliant!

    Your support is appreciated hugely, please keep chatting to your mates about it and hopefully we can spread the word.