In 1995 I was approached by the NZSO to write an overture to commemorate the recent death of New Zealand’s most famous war hero, Sir Charles Upham. Upham was famous for having won the Victoria Cross twice for bravery during World War II. He was, however, extremely modest when it came to discussing his achievements. Some years before his death it was suggested to Upham that he have a state funeral; he simply replied, “A bugle will do”. This comment seemed like a good starting point for my piece.
There are no bugles in the orchestra, but the opening section depicting the horrors of battle contains plenty of brass. Sub-titled Maleme and Ruweisat Ridge, the music is fast and furious, built from several motifs, and includes the opening rhythm for the most well known Maori haka (war dance), Kamate, kamate. The music builds to a climax, and the scene changes to a bleak Colditz Castle, where Upham was imprisoned during the war. While in prison he dreams of rural NZ, and the farm near Kaikoura called ‘Landsdowne’, where he eventually settled after the war. This brief pastoral section links into a coda celebrating the outbreak of peace. Motifs from earlier in the piece return but changed into brighter modes. ’
A Bugle Will Do was first performed by the NZSO in 1996 under Andrew Sewell, and was subsequently performed in the USA.
This music was originally commissioned by Richard Campion for the New Zealand Players’ production of Ring Round the Moon by Jean Ahhouil, translated by Christopher Fry. In the second act there is a ball taking place offstage and demanding a large number of dances which are specified in the text.
The music was first recorded on acetate discs by a ad hoc orchestra led by Alex Lindsay; these small recordings were then played through speakers for the production, sounding very loud to the cast but filtering out more gently to the audience. At the end of the long national tour, the cast knew the music very well and suggested to me that I should do something with it.
The result, some years later, 1957, was a suite of nine dances first performed by the Alex Lindsay Orchestra. This rapidly became my most performed piece and was commercially recorded by the Alex Lindsay Orchestra in the 1960s, a recording still available today from Kiwi Pacific Reords.
Ashley Heenen, through the NZ APRA Committee, commissioned an arrangement for full orchestra for the NZ Youth Orchestra to take on a tour of Europe and China in 1975. This version was shortened to six dances by leaving out the first three numbers. The music has also been used for a ballet, The Wintergarden, choreographed by Arthur Turnbull for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company – this version included a tenth dance not in the 1957 Suite. Since 1975 two further version have been commissioned: Waltz Suite (1989), for string orchestra (five dances) for the Nova Strings, and an arrangement of the original Dance Suite (1992) for violin and piano (nine dances) for Isador Saslav.
Anastasis is an exploration of musical contrasts where chamber music elements of intimacy and social interplay are juxtaposed with the colour and power of a full symphonic orchestra. Baroque Concerto Grosso traditions form the conceptual basis of Anastasis: instrumental divisions within the orchestra, like the wind sections, are exploited, and new instrumental groupings have been created using combinations of individual players across the ensemble. Elements from the twentieth century Concerto for Orchestra form have also been utilised, particularly the focus on the diversity of instrumental colour, extended instrumental range and virtuosity, and the array of dynamic and textural possibilities.
“Anastasis, our first taste of the APO’s resident composer, Chris Adams, proved to be a most attractive score.
Adams knows where and how to uncover unexpected colours in a piece that enjoys jolting us with huge orchestral shouts in among more subdued, almost filigree passages.
The second movement unfolds, with woodwind patterning, from lounge-laden harmonies and Adams nods to all manner of musics throughout the piece, right through to its conga-line finale.
It is an appealing score that deserves a life beyound this single performance."
William Dart, NZ Herald 7th September, 2009
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Antonyms of Trust is a poem about water; about how our water is being stolen and degraded, about the many New Zealand rivers with signs saying “do not swim – may cause illness” or the dry riverbeds surrounded by farmland with constantly pumping pivot irrigators. “Once upon a better time, the poor man’s wine flowed beneath our feet and bubbled up between the streets…”