Celtic duo to light up paper mill

Half Light: Bob McNeill and Rennie Pearson. (Supplied) 368018_01

Matt Hewson

Many musicians can point toward the influence of their parents when it comes to their art, but Celtic flute phenom Rennie Pearson takes that a step further than most.

The New Zealand native – not strictly a flautist but a genuine multi-instrumentalist who is virtuosic on the flute – said his mother and father’s musical tastes began imprinting themselves on him before he was born.

“There are a couple of key albums; one was a group called Altan, a band from Donegal,” Pearson said.

“But the number one influence was a guy called Chris Norman, a flute player from the east coast of Canada (playing) maritime Canadian music, early Scottish music, French-Canadian, Irish, all on the wooden flute.

“I actually had these albums playing to me while I was still in the womb, so I sometimes like to joke that I was brainwashed.”

At the age of seven, Pearson got the chance to see Norman when the Canadian was touring through New Zealand, which he described as “the pivotal moment… the turning point”.

At Pearson’s request, his mother dug out her high school flute and began to teach him the rudiments of producing a sound. 12 years later, at the age of 19, Pearson travelled to live, study and work with Norman at his flute-making workshop in Canada.

Now 28, Pearson is touring with long-time playing partner Bob McNeill under the name Half Light, bringing their mix of original and traditional folk tunes to Fyansford Paper Mill’s Door Gallery Cafe next Saturday, October 28.

“It’s a bit of a journey through a different time in terms of storytelling; then there’s also that wild foot-stomping energy when we get going on the jigs and reels, and also some quite ethereal, slow, moving pieces as well,” he said.

“It’s going to be a cool experience, where everyone’s going to be in this really beautiful little spot sharing that together.”