A Musical Party was commissioned by the New Zealand Accordion Association (NZAA) to commemorate their 30th anniversary in June 2001. The weekend and Musical Party was dedicated to Silvio De Pra, honouring him for his outstanding contribution to the accordion in New Zealand. He has chaired the Accordion Examination Board of NZ Inc. since its inception in 1972 and been chief examiner since 1992.
A Musical Party was premiered by a massed accordion orchestra and conducted by the composer, Gary Daverne. It was later revised and arranged for solo accordion and symphony orchestra, which is the version that appears here.
Earthquake: 22.2.11 began as a project after the September 2010 earthquakes struck Christchurch and surrounding districts. I was interested in capturing the peculiar sonic properties of the earthquakes – the unnatural preparatory calm, the low pitched boom, the change in air pressure, the accelerating rhythms, the creaks, the rattles, the cracks, the climactic shuddering of the building one was in, the decay of sound, and the silence before the cacophonous response of voices, alarms, telephones, sirens, police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and helicopters.
I successfully applied for Creative New Zealand funding to compose such a work for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and set to work late in 2010.
The earthquakes hadn’t finished though. On February 22, 2011, in New Zealand’s worst natural disaster since the 1931 Napier earthquake, a 7.2 earthquake centred on Christchurch killed 185 people and caused inestimable damage to the city’s buildings and infrastructure. Composing a dispassionate response was no longer appropriate; indeed, composing anything at all about the event seemed wrong, almost exploitative, in the face of the human tragedy.
I stumbled upon Gary McCormick’s poem Earthquake 22.2.11 shortly after he wrote it as a white-hot response to the devastation. I empathised with his anger and his railing at the randomness of the event. Even so, it took almost a year before I felt ready to set Gary’s poem to music. The catalyst was a further round of earthquakes beginning on 23 December 2011, in which further damage, including the destruction of our previous home, a beautiful Victorian dwelling I had helped restore in the 1990s, occurred to the city. Something like 10 quakes of magnitude 5 or more occurred while I was composing the score.
Rain is an iconic poem by Hone Tuwhare, describing beautifully a feature of the weather but also subtly ruminating on death. The setting is quiet and lyrical, with an optional part for a rainmaker (to be played by the singer). This setting for baritone and piano was written for Matt Landreth, and recorded by him. The recording and score were auctioned to raise funds for the Otago Hospice appeal in May 2008. The song was subsequently scored for orchestra and recorded by Matt Landreth and the Auckland Philharmonia.