The iconic annual concert series returns to the Soundshell for three weeks, where every year thousands of Wellingtonians head along with a rug, a picnic, friends and whānau for an evening of free entertainment from some of the best local talent around.
With over 200 performers, stunning light and art installations, a UV zone, bubbles, discoballs and more transforming the beautiful Botanic Garden, it’s not surprising this is one of the highlights on the capital’s calendar says Mayor Andy Foster.
“Gardens Magic is one of Council’s longest, most successful and popular events, and one we’re very proud of. Not only has it provided free entertainment, a shared experience, and wonderful memories for so many, it has also been a supportive training ground for new talent, and an international launching pad for some.
“It’s also so rewarding to see diverse cultures and demographics all coming together as one community in one space.
“Gardens Magic is a personal favourite of mine. As a family, we’ve been to Gardens Magic countless times. I love coming together as a community, the relaxed atmosphere, and enjoying a picnic to great Kiwi sounds in the stunning, yet intimate setting. Gardens Magic is a great way to start any year.”
The 2021 programme caters for a wide range of tastes – from jazz, indie, rock, and pop to Māori, Americana, folk, blues, electronica, world music and more. It includes diverse top talents such as Glass Vaults, New Zealand Opera, WAI, Wellington Brass Band, Darren Watson, and the long-awaited return of legendary garage funksters OdESSA.
OdESSA kicks-off the event series on Tuesday 12 January, and front man Matthew Pender is excited about returning to the stage that he recalls so fondly.
“Some of my favourite memories as a performer have been at Gardens Magic over the years. There’s just something so special about it – it’s a shining part of summers in the capital.
“OdESSA was lucky enough to play Gardens Magic twice before – in 2006 and 2008. The 2006 one was a few months after our album Oak Park Avenue had come out. The 2008 one is still one of my favourite memories with the band. The crowd was HUGE, and it was a beautiful, happy atmosphere.
“This performance will be the first time OdESSA has played live together for over 11 years. It feels great to play these songs again. Not everyone from the past line-ups could make it, due to COVID-19 and all of that, but we’ve got some of the most exciting local young players involved with us now and we’ve added a lot of new things, like horns and new arrangements. It’s genuinely very exciting!”
Helena Cvitanovich from upcoming youth band Girl Scout Cookie adds: “Watching Gardens Magic in the past has shown us the type of welcoming and exciting culture gigs like that and many others in the Wellington region have to offer, and it’s definitely a scene we as a band would like to be a part of and give back to.”
The 50+ members of Supertonic choir and band closes the season with their epic tribute to Elton John on Sunday 31 January.
Spokesperson Briony Pentecost says: “Gardens Magic is such a fabulous blend of music and community, two things which sit at the driving core of Supertonic. We're excited to be part of the line-up this year, and giving back to an event and a community that has given so much to our members over the years.
“We hope the audience brings their best singalong voice and dress to impress in glittering Elton John garb to be in to win fabulous prizes!” she adds.
MJF Lighting have always brought the sparkle, lighting up the gardens since the event began. They are working with a new local company, Tungsten Projects, to refresh the 2021 magical lighting display by adding new elements alongside crowd favourites. A stunning UV bamboo grove is being created as well as an artistic tribute to our beautiful native birds. Kākā will feature especially, to honour the name Paekākā, meaning ‘realm or perch of the kākā, recently gifted by Mana Whenua for the area that includes the Botanic Garden.
An outdoor gallery of temporary public art will showcase works for sale by Wellington sculptors Jonathan Campbell and Campbell Maud.
Wellington City Libraries team look forward to another season of giving away pre-loved books and magazines each night before the concert starts.
See the full programme below or visit wellington.govt.nz/gardens-magic. For daily updates, check the Council’s Facebook page.
Tuesday 12 January – Sunday 31 January 2021
Wellington Botanic Garden Soundshell
Free concerts: 8pm-9.30pm
Light display: 9pm-10.30pm