This work was written before and after a visit to Colyton, where a cousin of the composer has a farm, and whose daughter was playing ’cello in the orchestra at the time. He intended the work to reflect the rural open spaces that provide welcome relief for a city-dweller.
This musical analogy to the physical phenomenon of light breaking up is written in a pointillistic style, with sinuous melodic fragments leaping across the piano keyboard in jagged cross-rhythmic dancing. Angular counter- melodies are provided by a chamber orchestra of single winds and brass with 14 strings in this single movement.
The idea of diffractions is represented in sound by the piano, central and prominent, exploiting an aspect of its technique to which it is ideally suited: rapid changes of direction and wide intervallic leaps with extreme dynamics. The orchestra provides bands of coloured spectra forming an integrated texture. The melody, oscillating and colourful is sometimes pointillistic and at other times it flows into longer continuous phrases.
Diffractions is essentially an abstract work in one continuous movement.
The original version of this arrangement was one of several made in 1987 for my choir Opus at Epsom Girls Grammar School. They were intended as straightforward arrangements of well-known Maori pieces for treble voice choirs. A version for mixed-voice choir (SSATB) was made in 1996 for the New Zealand and Australian tour by the St. Olaf Choir of Minnesota (conductor: Anton Armstrong).
The Maori people were the earliest settlers in New Zealand, arriving in the country about a thousand years ago. This piece belongs to the more recent “concert party” tradition of Maori music, rather than the traditional pre-European musical forms and styles. Before European contact, the music of the Maori people consisted largely of monophonic chants with a very limited range of pitches. The early missionaries brought with them their own musical styles which were soon taken over by the Maori people. Many well-known Maori songs are really a mix of European and early Maori forms.
Hine e Hine is a gentle lullaby. It was written by Fannie Rose Howie (1868-1916) who performed under the stage name of Princess Te Rangi Pai. Born in the Gisborne area of Maori and European parents, she showed early interest in singing, and after marrying undertook study in Australia and England. Her fine contralto voice, and natural stage presence, lead to a significant recital career both in England and in New Zealand on her return in 1905. Illness dogged the last years of her life, and she is now best remembered for this song.
An orchestral work which grew out of an earlier version for chamber orchestra, which in turn evolved from part of the wind octet Kaleidoscope. Overall it is an extrovert piece. A popular programming choice with youth orchestras it has been toured overseas by both Auckland and Christchurch Youth Orchestras.
This short and lively Maori welcoming song has been much performed, nationally and internationally, by children’s choirs. Arranged for sopranos, altos and piano (with optional parts for flute and cello) it is not difficult to learn and has bright and rhythmic parts for the instruments. The lyrics are by Canon Wi Huata to a traditional tune.
This is a lively and colourful piece for youth orchestra, based on a quasi-Hungarian folk tune. After a slow introduction, a rhythmic melody springs to life, leading to a rumbustious second theme. This work is scored for a full orchestra, and is designed for good high school players and tertiary students.