“Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island – the Land of the Glowing Sky. The island lies to the far south of New Zealand. It is separated from the mainland of the South Island by Foveaux Strait. It is rugged, remote, bushclad, and very beautiful.” (from the ’Author’s note’ by Eileen Philipp in the published play script Rakiura).
“Rakiura” is the name of a play by Eileen Philipp. It retells, in the style of a Japanese Noh play, the true story of a Japanese woman found living in a cave on Stewart Island in the late 1970’s. The woman had no coherent reason for being there, simply that she had had an obsessive need to travel far from Japan. Eventually convicted as an overstayer, she was escorted back to Japan by relatives. The play incorporates many of the stylized features of Noh drama including a chorus which comments on the action. My setting of parts of the text in no way tries to re-tell the narrative. Instead, I selected parts of the text which speak mainly of the landscape. In doing so, I have taken several liberties: the selected texts are presented here as though a single entity, whereas they come from various places in the play. Also, I have allocated the texts to choir or the alto solo according to structural or musical needs, rather than trying to retain the solo/chorus divisions of the original.
The music oscillates between E minor and G minor harmonic centres. It is often quite static although there are two major climax points. Structurally the work is something of an arch, with the opening musical ideas returning at the end.
Rakiura was commissioned by the Auckland Dorian Choir (conductor, Karen Grylls) with funding provided by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council whose assistance is gratefully acknowledged.