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  • Helen Bowater

  • Born: 1952
  • Fully Represented SOUNZ Composer


Helen Bowater graduated BMus (Hons) in music history and ethnomusicology from Victoria University of Wellington in 1982. She later studied composition with Jack Body and electroacoustic music with Ross Harris. She has been active in various choirs and ensembles as a singer, pianist and violinist, also in the Victoria University Gamelan Padhang Moncar and in rock bands pHonk and the Extra Virgin Orchestra. Following residencies at the Nelson School of Music in 1992 and at Otago University as Mozart Fellow in 1993, she was appointed Composer-in-Residence with the Auckland Philharmonia in 1994.

In 1998 she attended June in Buffalo composition summer school and subsequently two Festivals of New Zealand music in Scotland where the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBCSSO) played her gamelan- influenced New Year Fanfare and also River of Ocean. The Hebrides Ensemble performed Banshee, the latter two works commissioned by Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust for the occasion.

Many of Helen’s solo, ensemble and orchestral works have been performed in concert and on radio and several published. Works include installation and collaboration with sculptor, Kazu Nakagawa and brother David Bowater; Urwachst, commissioned and performed by Auckland Philharmonia in 2003; commissioned works from Stroma and 175 East in 2005; performance and recording of New Year Fanfare by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra during the Asia Pacific Music Festival 2006; a string quartet This desperate edge of now performed in Holland 2008.

In 2008-2009 while she was Creative NZ/Jack C. Richards Composer in Residence at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington, she wrote a variety of pieces for solo and ensemble including Nekhbet for solo piano written for pianist Wojciech Wisniewski (performed in Australia and New Zealand) and Sun Wu Kong “Monkey” for chinese sheng, Gamelan Padhang Moncar, singer, and the New Zealand String Quartet.

Helen participated in a contemporary composition festival and conference at ISI, Jogya, Indonesia in 2008 and a festival of NZ music in Beijing in 2010.

Most recent compositions include an ensemble piece beneath the crumpled stars, setting poems by Gregory O’Brien, for the Barefoot Musicians of Budapest, in the east, to the right… for female choir, harp and 3 megaphones commissioned by Baroque Voices of Wellington, the electroacoustic sound component of a sound sculpture Crossed Wires for headland Sculpture on the Gulf, 2015
(now installed at Connell’s Bay Sculpture Park, Waiheke Island) and the sound component of Kazu Nakagawa’s sculpture Carving Water Painting Voice, hSOTG 2017.

Helen was awarded the University of Otago, Wallace Residency at the Pah Homestead Jan-April, 2016 where she created a work White Kingdom for ACE Brass and a solo trumpet piece for performer Huw Dann – Seruan (a call, invocation) in memoriam Jack Body.

Source: Helen Bowater, January 2012. Updated by SOUNZ, April 2017.

Selected Works

Banshee for two violins, cello and piano  
He does not come setting of 5 poems for soprano and ensemble  
Ixion's Wheel for B flat clarinet and piano  
Lautari for solo violin  
New Year Fanfare for orchestra  
River of Ocean for full orchestra  
Urwachst for orchestra  
Wire Dogs for solo piano  


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