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In the photographic essay A Journey by New Zealand Photographer Robin Morrison there is a striking image of the small church of St Gabriel at Pawarenga, Whangape Harbour in Northland, New Zealand. It sits alone among isolated cabbage trees with its squat spire silhouetted against the sky. The picture evokes a feeling of profound solitude and a mood of keep spirituality.
The music tells a story of St Gabriel coming to Pawarenga following the Night Journey and Ascension to Heaven (Isra and Al-Miraj) of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Archangel Gabriel comes to the sleeping Prophet bringing the winged beast Al-Buraq for Him to ride through the night to Jerusalem. There He communes with the messengers of God – Moses, Jesus Christ and others.
Gabriel reappears in splendour, with golden wings stretching from horizon to horizon. He guides The Prophet, mounted on Al-Buraq, up through the seven paradises to the throne of God where He is transfixed by revelation.
Gabriel then descends from the heavens to Pawarenga, the most remote part of the world, to make a Church in his own name. The final stages of the descent are accompanied by chants from this new and different land.
The music has seven sections that trace the stages of this journey of The Prophet to the realms of God escorted by the Archangel Gabriel. It concludes with Gabriel's descent from paradise to found St Gabriel's Church at Pawarenga.
This is the second of Northland Panels, a series of four works for string orchestra based on photographs from A Journey. The others in the series are Angel at Ahipara, Anthem on the Kaipara and Christ at Whangape.
– Christopher Blake, January 2004
1. Gabriel comes to The Prophet
2. Flight to Jerusalem
3. Spirits of the messagers
4. Gabriel in splendour
5. Ascension of the seven paradises
6. The Revelation of God
7. Gabriel descends at Pawarenga
03 May 2004: Performed in a rehearsed reading by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich as part of the NZSO-SOUNZ Readings
02 Jul 2005: Premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at the Bruce Mason Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland
26 Sep 2010: ACO: Angel at Ahipara