Celine and Samantha Toner have struck gold with singing success in China. The mother and daughter duo from Milford perform as Mo Ghra, with haunting and powerful Celtic-style vocals, which have struck a strong chord in Asia. The pair rarely perform here in New Zealand but are enjoying huge success in mainland China. They took some time out from their performance schedule to chat to Channel about their experiences over there...
Channel Magazine: When did you first start to visit China?
Celine Toner: 2011. I was invited to perform at a Military Tattoo in Nanchang (inland China) along with a military band. Hmmmm not an everyday request, however, after a couple of emails to the nation's boss, The Royal NZ Air Force Band accepted the invitation to join me. Samantha also attended as back up singer. It was there that we decided to form our duo 'Mo Ghra'.
CM: What is your Shore story?
CT: I immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland in 1974 as a young girl, met and married Barry Green in Napier and together moved to the Shore in 2001. Samantha travelled across the bridge to attend the prestigious music college, St Mary's College (where Sister Mary Leo trained Dame Kiri Te Kanawa). Samantha took up singing early on and went on to win the Sister Mary Leo singing cup in her final year of college. During Samantha's school years, I worked part time at The Albany Family Medical Centre on reception and had performances and world trips during ‘leave’ time.
CM: Please share with our readers some of your experiences of performing over in China?
CT: Everything the Chinese do is on a super scale and very grand! We are always in awe of the events they produce. The crowds are very receptive, super warm and friendly!
CM: Is there anything specific that you do in order to gear up for a performance?
CT: We have a set of vocal warm ups that 'get us in the zone' and we are fans of having a wee nip of 'Stone's Green Ginger Wine' to lubricate our vocal chords, haha!
CM: What are your travel must-haves?
CT: Hand sanitiser and toilet paper when in parts of rural China! Once out of the hotel, soap and loo paper seem to be a non event..! But also lip balm, sunscreen and our iPhones to capture every thrilling moment!
CM: Can you tell us the best food you’ve tried there?
CT: We love the dumplings - and the accompanying sauces! Lovely spices, used in their cooking – not hot spicy, just super tasty.
CM: Your favourite app to use overseas?
CT: WeChat so that we can connect with our friends and colleagues in China.
CM: In what ways is this place similar to the Shore?
CT: We don’t think there are any similarities whatsoever. We love China for all of the sites, fast-paced hustle and friendly people but when we arrive in NZ and drive over the Harbour Bridge, we always say 'there really is no place like home!' We are proud Kiwis and thoroughly appreciate our gorgeous country!
CM: If I could have one thing from the Shore here with me, it would be...
CT: One of our gorgeous cafes! The Shore has the best café culture in the world. We are so lucky!