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Live music lifts lockdown spirits on the street

Flagstaff Team

After 50 years in the music business, Paul TT (pictured above) is happy to be back sharing his sounds.

The 73-year-old played a lively selection of standards outside Takapuna restaurant Botticelli in the balmy late-afternoon last Sunday, with passers by stopping to listen.

“It’s good to get out again,” said Chris Beach, who with Maree Butler had come up from Devonport for a look after hearing about the session. They have previously enjoyed the “great venue and its great music” and are keen to return when they are able to sit inside.

Botticelli owner Diliana Klintcharova (pictured, dancing) has been doing her best to lift spirits in the meantime by inviting musicians to set up on the footpath for twice-weekly Covid-era “gigs”.

The previous weekend, a group sat over the road to listen and eat pizzas they had ordered from the restaurant, knowing a slice of the price was helping support a musician.

For Klintcharova it’s her way of helping keep music alive, even though restaurants are also doing it tough. In normal times Botticelli has live music three times a week, ranging from jazz on a Wednesday, to Brazilian tunes late on Friday and mellow popular music on a Sunday.

“That’s what I miss,” she said.

The restaurant is “surviving” by selling takeaways, but she can’t wait to reopen and will have some new skills to promote this. “I’ve learned how to use social media,” she said, while filming Paul TT’s performance.

During a break, the One Tree Hill singer and fiddle player told the Observer he is a newcomer to her fold. “She’s got a wonderful lot of musicians who play here.”

Klintcharova – who originally hails from Bulgaria and has been at Botticelli since 1994 – heard him in Birkenhead a while back and sounded him out about a solo act.

“It’s so important to be out and to share music again, he says. It makes me feel good and it makes people feel good, and it brings a touch of normality.” Donations from the public are a welcome bonus.

Earlier in his musical career, Paul played at clubs in the city, including holding a lengthy six-nights-a-week residency under The Civic in the 1960s, with popular covers band Rock Candy. A stint at the Intercontinental Hotel followed, where he met a lot of big names, including Neil Diamond, Roger Miller, David Cassidy, Lionel Richie and Santana.

He’s busked in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, popped up on telethons and recorded a couple of albums. In recent years he has become a familiar face at Auckland markets. He was a regular for a decade and half at La Cigalle in Parnell.

His double-vaccinated status looks like a boon in the months ahead as the live music scene negotiates a new era.

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