Bjork: All is Full of love


Our latest show is hitting the arts markets! Blackbird Ensemble are attending APAM and PANNZ arts markets with their show ‘All is full of love.’ Take a look at some of the footage from this explosively creative show above, and some of the photography by Loork below.


Dear Björk

We are putting this out to the world to see if it reaches her eventually!

letter to bjork2octDear Björk,

There are very few artists like you. We admire your work, your passion, your originality and your dedication to music and performing.

To celebrate your recent 50th year, we are putting on a small theatrical run of concerts here in Auckland, New Zealand, with a group called

The Blackbird Ensemble.

We’re a classical based orchestra who delight in walking the lines between genres, levelling out the playing field between art music,

classical music and pop. Your music often features in our programmes, and we’ve been thinking for a while now we’d love to celebrate

you and your incredible life’s achievements.

Iceland and New Zealand are not that different we like to think. The isolation breeds ingenuity, the nature fills us with inspiration, and the

solitude gives us space to create. Blackbird Ensemble is built on these foundations. We have worked from the ground up, starting with

nothing and creating musical experiences to envelope us all in a sense of magic and a belief that anything is possible.

With that in mind, we warmly invite you to attend this celebration of your music. We are arranging songs from throughout your career

and creating new versions of your work, performed by a 10 piece band and 4 of NZ’s best singers. We hope we can do your work justice.

We look forward to hearing from you, and hope that you will do us the honour of your attendance.

Here is a video from a few years ago where we covered your song Pluto as part of our Night Sky themed concert.

The singer is NZ’s Jessie Cassin.

With much Aroha and respect,

Claire Cowan

Composer & Director

The Blackbird Ensemble


New Zealand


All is Full of Love

By the Blackbird Ensemble

Nov 8-11, 2017

Q Theatre, Auckland NZ



Blackbird Ensemble, New Zealand’s most exciting chamber orchestra, is ecstatic to announce an awe-inspiring homage to the inimitable Icelandic pop artist Björk.


In BJÖRK: ALL IS FULL OF LOVE, Blackbird Ensemble serves up an audio feast of Björk’s finest songs across the decades, re-imagining her much-loved classics from Debut through to Medulla and Vulnicura.

Taking to the stage with signature flair at Rangatira at Q Theatre with four shows from November 8 – 11, ALL IS FULL OF LOVE will showcase an eclectic chamber orchestra and a glittering cast of vocal talent, with visual design to complement and evoke the themes which provide so much inspiration to Björk herself.

The line-up includes the talent of electro-indie-pop artist Sarah Belkner (Australia), enchanting singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, emerging soulful star Teeks, and returning Blackbird favourite the ethereal Jessie Cassin.  A band of strings, brass, woodwind, keys and percussion presents custom arrangements with beats made live via acoustic instruments, live object manipulation and foley.

Formed in 2010 and led by the group’s unstoppable musical director and arranger, Claire Cowan, Blackbird Ensemble draws musicians from diverse musical backgrounds to perform radical and inventive takes on genres from tango to electronica to classical in evocatively themed settings. Always elaborately costumed, the group has performed multiple productions to sold-out crowds and critical acclaim, taking on works from Radiohead to Philip Glass, PJ Harvey to Prokofiev.

Cowan promises a fully immersive event.  In truth Blackbird shows defy categorisation: they like to mix it up.  Says Cowan, “Blackbird Ensemble always strive to produce musical ‘experiences’ rather than concerts. We put a lot of love and effort into the way our audience feels when they enter the space, the musical arc of the set list, and the way the players look and interact on stage. This will be a show we’ll be proud to invite Björk herself to witness. Blackbird Ensemble has often included the music of Björk in their shows previously, -from the pulsing electro-orchestra of ‘Pluto’ in the Night Sky show, to the stripped back ‘Hyperballad’ performed in a forest with Indian Tabla and Harp. When Björk turned 50 last year, we decided it was time to devote an entire show to feature her work. She is incredibly unique in the way she mixes the avant-guard with popular music, both visually and sonically. She makes absurdity accessible and her work is filled with integrity and intense emotion.”

Magical, provocative, and unforgettable, this stunning new show from Blackbird Ensemble reimagines the genre-spanning sound worlds of Björk – don’t miss your chance to see it.


in collaboration with Q Theatre

Rangatira, Q THEATRE




For more information – reviews, interviews, and images, please contact

J9 Russell +64 21 121 0172

Very special show announcement soon

  1. used to attract someone’s attention surreptitiously.
    “Psst! Want to know a secret?”

Psssst indeed!

We are excited to announce next week our new show… while we prepare all the final details we can tell you this:

-It’s going to big, bold and beautiful

-It involves not one, not two, but 4 amazing NZ guest vocalists

-It features costumes designed by NZ’s very best costumer, Elizabeth Whiting

-It’ll be at Q Theatre in November!

We really can’t wait. But wait me must, but not much longer!





It’s with excitement that we announce our soon to be released album from our live show Dreams.

Recorded in Dec 2016 as a full ensemble, the collection of songs from ‘Dreams’ includes some beautiful musical alchemy from musicians including Callum Passells (Sax, clarinet), Kevin Keys (Trombone, Ukulele, Vocals) Jessie Cassin (Vocals) Tristan Deck (Drums) Charmian Keay (Violin) Claire Cowan (Banjo, Cello, Keys) Mikey Brown (Vocals, Guitar) Jonnie Barnard (Guitar) Jonathan Burgess (Bass).

The album will include our own versions of songs by artists including Iron and Wine, Radiohead, Stravinsky, Amy Winehouse, Loudon Wainwright, The Smiths, Claire Cowan, The Cure and Beth Orton.

We’re very excited to release this to the world in June. Keep your ears open!


Introducing : The Afterlife

Our latest show in development is our most adventurous and intriguing yet. But we need your help to make it happen! Up until this point, Blackbird Ensemble has been self funded through ticket sales. But this show is out of the ordinary, and requires a longer and more thorough rehearsal and development period to help it reach it’s potential.

Head over to our  Boosted Page to find out more. We can’t do it without you. Truth!

A Dance Class for Musicians

Here at Blackbird Ensemble we’re planning many shows, breaking new ground for classical performance in many directions. One of the directions we’re heading in – is dance. In preparation for that, and for a greater purpose of building a Blackbird community and musician network with similar goals; we are starting a dance class for musicians. Non-dancers can often feel intimidated learning in an experienced contemporary dance class – and too often there are few or no men involved. Blackbird Ensemble changes this. We’re creating an environment where it is:

  • Affordable
  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Energetic
  • Musical

to learn to use our bodies through dance. Our teachers are top notch contemporary dance practitioners from the Auckland region, and will teach in blocks of 3-4 weeks.

Classes are held at Central dance studios on Queen St (Above McDonalds.)

Wednesdays 8-9pm. Find our event on our Facebook page and register your interest. Classes will be only $10! cash at the door. All ages!



Akram Khan Vertical Road





Dance some more

DREAMS : Our review

Here’s what the NZ Herald (William Dart) has to say about our latest production…


“The Basement was magically morphed into a bed-strewn boudoir for Blackbird Ensemble’s latest sortie into chamber music cabaret.

Dreams came with devious intent as the group’s founder, Claire Cowan, urged us to let our minds run away with their desires and anxieties into a landscape that could be either thrilling or terrifying.

And who could resist, as the nine musicians woke up in their nightwear, rendering their first lullaby?

A wide-ranging playlist showed Cowan’s songbook is eclectic and classy.

At its most energetic, a rip-roaring Nick Cave number (I Had a Dream, Joe) strutted in a snappy arrangement that could have been the missing link between Kurt Weill and Tom Waits.

On the gentler side, there was the wistful Gillian Welch closer, with each instrument having its intimate conversation with Jessie Cassin’s tender vocals.

Colours dazzled, from an mbira duet signing off a Smiths song, to Callum Passells’ impressive shifts from sax and clarinet to world-weary accordion.

There was a curatorial zest in mashing songs together. Who would have thought that 80s vintage Smiths could partner a wry Loudon Wainwright lullaby from a decade before?

Later, an elegant Piazzolla tango encased Cassin’s smouldering tribute to Nina Simone in Don’t Smoke in Bed.

Instrumentally, these players caught the linear cool of Stravinsky, deftly arranged by Cowan, yet broke out and bloomed in moments of freedom. Kevin Keys’ trombone, sliding into the nostalgia lounge for ’60s Mancini, was a definite highlight.

With Daniel Williams’ imaginative set exquisitely lit by Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill, this stylish divertissement was beautifully paced by director Renee Lyons.

In the final count, though, the musicians made the show, centred on the vocal contributions of the inexhaustible Cassin and the soulful Mikey Brown.

Jonathan Burgess moved as effortlessly between electric and acoustic bass as Cowan balanced cello with banjo. Tristan Deck was molto simpatico as a top-notch percussionist must be, while Charmian Keay offered glamour and fine fiddling, on and off the bed. And let’s not forget a particularly sleek guitar solo from Jonnie Barnard that would have had Gillian Welch herself beaming.

The Blackbirds have come up with a dream of a show. Don’t miss it.

What: Blackbird Ensemble’s Dreams

Where: The Basement, to April 18

NZ Herald