Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Voices of Aotearoa At Knox Church Dunedin, 24 Nov 2011

A powerful statement of local voice heralded by the unique soundscape of Taonga Puoro closed the 2011 Chamber Music Season. This exciting departure from the usual classical repertoire was applauded enthusiastically by a near capacity crowd in the Knox Church – an intimate yet ornate venue ideally suited to this sort of event.

Horomona Horo with a pūkaeā, or Mäori trumpet announced the event and the opening bracket “Voices of Saints and Angels”. While male saints’ voices took up the pūkaeā drone, angelic women’s voices sounded from back stage in Hildegard von Bingen’s twelfth-century work “O Viridissimi Virga”. It is worth pausing to consider that these sound worlds were contemporaneous albeit emanating from opposite sides of the globe. This parallel and apparent disparity becomes the central theme.

Highlights included Douglas Mews’ tribute to victims of Hiroshima “Ghosts, Fire, Water”. Written in 1972, its distressed line ends on the plea to “Love One Another” which sadly dates it to an era when many believed this to be an achievable goal. Five works in the bracket “Voices of the Earth and Sea” proved to be the most powerful of the evening. Horo’s performance of Christopher Marshall’s “Horizon 1. Sea and Sky” for nose flutes, Helen Fisher’s “Pounamu” and David Hamilton’s “Karakia of the Stars” for choir were all intriguing amalgams of Celtic and Māori modes and tones. David Griffiths’ settings of Brasch’s poems “Oreti Beach” and “Mt Iron” were musically muscular but put Brasch into a light unsympathetic to the contemporary perspective on our identity. The programme notes would have better remembered Oreti Beach for its Toheroa than for Burt Munro - that lemon-growing petrol-head. Eriksson’s arrangement of Purcell’s “Music for a While”, was pure beauty summing the power of music.

A special tribute is due to the choir with special note to its soloists, to director Karen Grylls and to Chamber Music New Zealand for a welcome celebration of our music.