Prime Minister and Minister for the Arts Jacinda Ardern recently collated a playlist to celebrate New Zealand Music Month.
It featured some of this country’s top artists including Dave Dobbyn and Lorde … but not one classical artist.
The team at Upbeat on RNZ Concert thought they’d help her out with some classical Kiwi tunes she could add to her list.
1. ‘Ahi’ composed by Gareth Farr
Gareth Farr is arguably one of the most prolific modern day Kiwi composers of classical music. ‘Ahi’ was commissioned in 1998 by the James Wallace Charitable Trust for the Ogen Trio. Ahi means fire in Te Reo and combines a contrast of musical flavours from French lullabies to Balinese pop-inspired sounds. Gareth Farr is currently working on a commission about Sir Edmund Hillary conquering Mt Everest.
2. ‘Rainphase’ composed by Salina Fisher
This piece was inspired by the Wellington rain. It draws an image of the different phases in the water cycle; grey clouds form, then drops start to fall, followed by heavy rain and wind, finishing with the city’s streets being turned into blurry mirrors. It’s a nice reminder of the capital for the Prime Minister while she’s on parental leave. It was originally written for the NZSO Youth Orchestra and went on to win the 2016 SOUNZ Contemporary award, making Fisher the youngest ever recipient. It was performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart and recorded by RNZ Concert in 2017.
3. ‘Drysdale Overture’ composed by Douglas Lilburn
Lilburn is known not only for his compositions but for his ongoing influence on the artistic scene in New Zealand. The long-time professor founded the electronic music studio at Victoria University in 1966 – the first of its kind in Australasia. He established trusts and publishing presses, composed more than 30 pieces including three symphonies, the first in 1949. His legacy continues in his former house where the composer in residence can get inspired. The ‘Drysdale Overture’ was written in 1937 while Lilburn was at the Royal College of Music in London.
4. ‘View from Olympus’ composed by John Psathas
Composed in 2002 ‘View from Olympus’ is one of John Psathas’ most famous and recognisable pieces. The double concerto for percussion, piano and orchestra was commissioned and first performed by Grammy Award winner, profoundly deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Psathas describes the second movement ‘To Yelasto Paithi’ as the closest he’s come to expressing his feelings for his children without using words.
5. Shapeshifter V Christchurch Symphony Orchestra
Kiwi drum and bass group Shapeshifter featured on the PM’s original NZ Music Month playlist. They are one of a few NZ groups to get an orchestral makeover (later in the year The Phoenix Foundation will join the NZSO on stage). In 2006 Shapeshifter joined the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and vocalists Lisa Tomlins, Ladi 6 and Isaac Aesili at the Christchurch Town Hall.