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2023 SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha

SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, with APRA AMCOS NZ, is thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2023 SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha, celebrating excellence in contemporary composition:

Joshua Pearson for 'No ro hunu ake' for TTBB choir and Solo Soprano
Victoria Kelly for Requiem
Nathaniel Otley for Mycelium

The finalists were selected by a judging panel of independent industry representatives, including international representative David Pay (Canada):

“Listening to so much great music for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award opened my ears again to the excellence and variety of compositions from Aotearoa New Zealand. With diverse approaches to aesthetics and musical material, each work gave me a sense of a ‘New Zealand’ sound, and made me want to hear more from New Zealand composers.”

The panel, which included New Zealanders Anthony Ritchie, Justine Cormack, Sonya Waters, and Somi Kim, commented on the very high quality of the submissions this year, demonstrated in the 78 entries from 74 composers. 

Sonic artist, composer and creative technologist Joshua Pearson, a first-time finalist for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award, has been nominated for his work 'No ro hunu ake' for TTBB choir and Solo Soprano.

Joshua Pearson says, “I feel incredibly honoured and fortunate to have been selected as a finalist for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award 2023. As a Moana Pacific composer, this recognition has made me reflect on my musical journey and the considerable effort it took to cultivate confidence in both my skills and my identity. I feel truly uplifted by the acknowledgement of this work, which holds profound personal significance.

“’No ro hunu ake’ is a protest song drawing inspiration from the name according to the Moriori people which roughly translates, 'Sprung from the earth'. ‘No ro hunu ake’ was written as a call for action against the harmful effects of climate change in the Moana islands. Our islands are at risk of being flooded and damaged by rising sea levels and climate-related hazards, even though the Moana people contribute very little to climate change. For me, it is about bringing solidarity and uplifting moana voices to this crucial matter."

Award-winning composer Victoria Kelly has been nominated for her work Requiem, based on poetry by Bill Manhire, Sam Hunt, Ian Wedde, Chloe Honum and James K Baxter, for Soprano, Tenor, Choir and Orchestra.

Victoria Kelly says, “I’m incredibly honoured to be a finalist for this aspirational award. Te Tohu Auaha is the only award of its kind in Aotearoa, and such a beautiful way to celebrate contemporary classical music as part of the whole spectrum of music that people create here. 

“‘Requiem’ is a work that I’ve been contemplating for 30 years. I think it exists because I’ve never been able to find words for the events that inspired it — the death of my parents; the loss of friends; the experiencing, witnessing and sharing of grief; the advent of love; the birth of children; the beauty and hostility of the world; the wonder of the universe… The music of ‘Requiem’ ebbs and flows around the poetry. Tides are generated by simple melodic shapes that rise and fall. As the melodies reach for each other they create harmony. The tenor, far beyond his natural register, represents our vulnerability, our hope and fear. The soprano, with her austere purity, is something immutable and beyond us.”

Composer, violinist and conductor Nathaniel Otley, also a first-time finalist for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award, has been nominated for his work Mycelium, for chamber ensemble.

“It really is a privilege and honour to be a finalist for the 2023 SOUNZ contemporary award. It was a wonderful if unexpected surprise to receive the news that my work 'Mycelium' had been selected as a finalist and the news is definitely still sinking in. I'm also so very excited to get to know the work of the other finalists and just enjoy being part of this celebration of compositional work here in Aotearoa.

“I was very lucky to get to write 'Mycelium' for the incredible Marie Ythier and exceptional musicians of Belgium's ICTUS ensemble as part of the 2022 Voix Nouvelles Academy at Royaumont Abbey in France. The work explores the ways in which fungal hyphae (threads) form vast interconnected webs that exist beneath the ground connecting life that otherwise seems disparate together. As such the work finds at times strange comfort in trying to bring together and connect musical ideas that at first might seem at odds as these ideas are slowly bound together; each idea still retaining its core identity while gaining context and meaning through its many interactions.”

The winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha will be announced at the 2023 APRA Silver Scroll Awards to be held at the Spark Arena in Auckland on Wednesday 4 October

The SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha, now celebrating its 26th year, recognises New Zealand compositions demonstrating outstanding levels of creativity and inspiration and has been presented in collaboration with APRA AMCOS NZ since 1998. Read more about the Award and its past winners and finalists, and explore their works here.