A big target.

Good afternoon, blog world. I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to make an album of my comedy songs.

My ambition is substantial: NZ$9,000. The reason: I want to record real musicians in real, well-equipped studios. I’ve got it all planned out!

My greatest hits will include:
Book Club
Dry July
Flat White
Love is a Four-Letter Word
Malört
Root Vegetable Opera
Symphony No 1 in Eb
and more!

There’ll be a rich sound of strings, winds, brass and rhythm, and it’ll be made freely available on Spotify. But I can only make this if you support my fundraising campaign. read more

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Soash.

Are you ready for the first robbieellis.net blog update in nearly two yeeeee

….eeeeaaaars?

Not that big, but two things. Three things. Four things.

One: I updated the look of this website. The main imperative was to minimise the fact that I’m bad at updating a blog. A secondary outcome was to split my professional life into different categories: my work is now sorted by Comedy SongmakerMusic DirectorComposer and Broadcaster. (They’re all in the menu at the top.) read more

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Get your towels ready.

achievement-unlocked-template

I have accepted an offer to be a music director for Second City Theatricals aboard a cruise ship.

When I was preparing to move to Chicago, people told me that this work existed, and that I’d have a good chance at it. Getting this gig was a short- to medium-term goal for me, and I’m pretty damn happy: it’s a recognisable standard for music directors in Chicago and a great basis for landing future projects.

This contract is also a big reason I moved to the US: New Zealand doesn’t have this volume of work for comedy music directors. Chicago really is the centre of the universe for the most niche skill I have. read more

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Green Card Lottery time!

Hi world.

It has been a long time since I’ve written an update for this site. I’ve got a few things to post (like I really should update my About Me to reflect my various Chicago activities). In the meantime, let me link to the website of someone who does actually put fingers to keyboard: I present Andrew Allen’s excellent and comprehensive article How to Win the Green Card Lottery.

Both Andrew and I come from Auckland, and we were both selected in the 2014 intake of Diversity Visa Lottery winners – in fact our consular interviews were just one day apart. We were connected by mutual theatre friends, and we ended up on the same variety show bill before we emigrated. Andrew now lives in New York City, where he quickly found work as a theatre publicist. I now live in Chicago, where my rent is three times smaller. read more

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Where is home?

The first Google Image Search result for "home", because every blog post is supposed to have an image because of search engine stuff or Facebook or whatever. Source: moneysmart.gov.au

The first Google Image Search result for “home”, because every blog post is supposed to have an image because of search engine stuff or Facebook or whatever. Source: moneysmart.gov.au

Where is home? I’ve flippantly said “Home is where your stuff is”, but that’s not the whole picture.

When you move countries, when do you actually move? When do you comprehensively separate day-to-day ties with your previous country and properly integrate into the new? This is a thorny question given that I came back to New Zealand for a two-week trip less than three months after settling in Chicago.

I’ve got all sorts of contending dates.
– 27 December 2014: when I entered the United States on an immigrant visa and became a resident alien.
– 5 January 2015: when I reached my new home city of Chicago, and the room in my apartment.
– 7 January 2015: when I bought a bed in Chicago
– 14 January 2015: when I spent $573 at IKEA in Chicago on furniture and pillows and kitchen stuff
– 6 February 2015: when I did my first paid, taxable gig as a US resident
– Today, 22 April 2015: when I fly back to the United States after a short New Zealand return trip, and when I henceforth have no fixed future plans to return to New Zealand.
– 1 June 2015: the date from which I (hopefully) have Affordable Care Act health insurance, as opposed to travel insurance
– (unidentified future date, but probably some time in June): the date from which I’m earning more income from United States sources than New Zealand sources. I’m actually doing alright at this freelance composing malarkey, although I’m aware that may not last when I’m not showing my face at concert venues up and down the country.
– October 2015: when this year’s commissions have all received their first performances in New Zealand: the various Sonatina for alto saxophone and piano people; the Jade String Quartet; and the Westlake Boys High School choir Voicemale performing the full version of Howler Monkey at Prizegiving
– (unidentified future date): when I stop regularly listening to most podcasts from Upbeat and Standing Room Only
– (unidentified future date): when my Facebook algorithms serve me far more US/Chicago content than New Zealand content
– (unidentified future date, TBA when): when I have more Facebook friends in Chicago than in Auckland
– (unidentified future date, heaven knows when): when I intercontinentally relocate all my books from my parents’ house in Auckland
– (unidentified future date, possibly never): when I have more United States Facebook friends than New Zealand friends
– (unidentified future date, possibly never): when I intercontinentally relocate all my stuff currently in storage at my parents’. read more

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A quick trip home!

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

I moved to Chicago on 5 January 2015. Three months on, I’ll be back in New Zealand for a couple of weeks.

To clarify for both Chicagoans and Kiwis: no, I’m not moving back. I still definitely live in Chicago. This trip is to fulfil a long-standing commitment with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra because they’re playing my Relish in Immature Bombast again.

If you’re unfamiliar with this piece, it’s for huge-ass pipe organ, full-on funk/rock/jazz drum kit, and symphony orchestra, take a squiz at this video:
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The extremely belated Chicago arrival post

I'll give you my mobile number on request.

I’ll give you my mobile number on request.

Hello world.

Today marks three weeks since I arrived in Chicago, my newest city of residence. It’s the first time I’ve lived outside New Zealand, and the first time I’ve set myself up in a city with so few connections.

If you’ve come to this website because I’ve handed you a business card in the last three weeks, welcome. I am indeed here in the city that you met me in. I live in Wicker Park – a neighbourhood sort of inconvenient to Lake View, where much improv takes place, but wonderfully hipster all the same. read more

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New-ish photos!

These images were taken by Kate Little, an Auckland photographer beloved of New Zealand’s comedian community. Thanks to the New Zealand Comedy Trust for kicking in some subsidy with these.

I’ve been using these all over: 9746 is on my business card, 9797 is my LinkedIn profile pic, and 9856 & 9858 are just fun!

If you need to promote anything me-related, you’re welcome to use these photos with a credit to Kate Little. Wonderful!

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Robbie’s arbitrarily selective list of “new music” in 2015

newmusicEven though I’m not going to be in Auckland to hear (almost) any of this, I’m indulging in habit once more to produce a list of “new music” in the 2015 concert calendar. The APO, the NZSO and CMNZ have all released their seasons quite close to each other.

Points to note:

  • Lilburn 100. I can’t find an official website for that but I presume it’s being run through the Lilburn Trust. Old Gordon was born in 1915, so there’s plenty of his music around in the 2015 season. Quite a lot of chamber music that we don’t hear all that much, and OMG Michael Houstoun’s doing the Chaconne live!
  • Britten 102. You’d think it was his anniversary too, but no. Just coincidence that quite a lot of Benny-Boy is turning up.
  • I’m not bothering with putting in nice photos to break up the long list, since I won’t get to see any of it. Well, except my own pieces and Corwin Newall’s one (obv) and the Dutilleux cello concerto in April. Long story.
  • Kimmo Hakola is a mad bastard. Kari Kriikku is slightly less mad but still incredibly awesome. Well done NZSO for that concerto.

On with it!

New Zealand “New Music” Composers’ Music

BLACKMORE: The First Time I Stood [WP] – Milla Dickens, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
BODY: Melodies for orchestra – APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
COWAN: [new work] [WP] – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
ELLIS: Relish in Immature Bombast – Tim Noon, Jono Sawyer, APO/David Kay – 11 Apr, ATH
ELLIS: [new work] [WP] – Yvette Audain & Robbie Ellis – 19 Apr, Rannoch
FARR: From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs – Atamira Dance Company, APO/[conductor?] – 14 Oct, Aotea
FARR: Shadow of the Hawk – Edward King & John Chen – (18 Aug HAM, 22 Aug WLG)
S FISHER: [new work] – NYO/José Luis Gómez – (2 Jul WLG)
HARRIS: Fugue for piano [WP] – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
HARRIS: Piano Quintet [WP] – Stephen De Pledge & NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Variation 25 – NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Violin Concerto – Ilya Gringolts, APO/Garry Walker – 19 Feb, ATH
LILBURN: Allegro for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – 12 June, ATH
LILBURN: Aotearoa Overture – APO/Rumon Gamba – 18 June, ATH
LILBURN: Chaconne – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
LILBURN: Diversions for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – (18 June WLG)
LILBURN: Sonata for violin & piano (1950) – Natalie Lin & John Chen – 30 Aug, ATH CC
LILBURN: Symphony No 2 – NZSO/Christian Lindberg, 2 May, ATH
MANDENO: Au Revoir [WP] – Jarvis Dams, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
MARGETIĆ: Lightbox – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
MORGAN: Seeking Answers to the Riddle [WP] – [Horomona Horo?], APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
NEWALL: Scientists [WP] – Robbie Ellis & Corwin Newall – 19 Apr, Rannoch
NORRIS: Claro [WP] – NZSO/Christian Lindberg – 2 May, ATH
PSATHAS: Corybas – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
PSATHAS: Island Songs – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
TAYLOR: burlesques mécaniques – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
WEBSTER: Your Letter [WP] – Elizabeth Mandeno, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
WILLIAMS: Symphony No 1, Letters from the Front [WP] – George Henare?, Madeleine Pierard?, NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
K YOUNG: In Paradisum [WP] – Patricia Wright, Graduate Choir, Choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral, APO/Kenneth Young, Tim Gruchy – 4 Mar, ATH
K YOUNG: [Gallipoli Armistice commission] [WP] – St Kentigern College Choir, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum read more

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A short time and a sweet time

Yesterday was the closing night of Short+Sweet Song 2014 in Auckland. I was the Artistic Co-ordinator – a job that I in essence created for myself. A bit of back story:

Short+Sweet is an internationally franchised festival of ten-minute theatre pieces. It’s been running in Auckland since 2010, but last year they added Short+Sweet Song, an adjunct category for musical theatre. I entered a two-hander called Annie & Joshua:

It was not a large show last year: only five pieces in total. I went to the producers and said they needed a specialist to run the Song side of things, and suggested myself. They gave me the job: Artistic Co-ordinator. read more

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