Matariki is the Maori name given to a group of stars that rises in the north-east around the end of May each year. This constellation is known traditionally at the Pleiades, and in the ancient world was known from Greece to India. Maori gave names to seven of the stars, and the first moon after the appearance of the stars was celebrated as the Maori New Year. This was a time of feasting (the crops had been gathered and food was plenty), and a time to remember those who had passed away. As with many myths and legends, there are contradictory ideas – some suggest that Matariki is the name of the largest star (with the other stars being her sisters) while others suggest the name refers to the whole cluster.
Maori mythology named the stars of the night sky “Te Whenua Marama” (the family of light”) – the children of Ranginui the Sky Father and Papatuanuku the Earth Mother. The word Matariki has conflicting origins: some say it is a combination of ‘mata’ (eyes) and ‘Ariki’ (God), while others see it as a combination of ‘mata’ (eyes’ and ‘riki’ (tiny).
For this work several traditional texts associated with Matariki are used, each of which presents a different facet of Matariki. No traditional music is used in the work although much of the melodic writing uses rhythmic patterns suggestive of traditional waiata. Bell sounds are also used to suggest the seven stars of Matariki.
Matariki was written for the choir Choralation (Westlake Girls’ and Westlake Boys’ High Schools) and conductor Rowan Johnston.