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The starting point for this piece was a curiosity in the metal doors that covered the entrances to cells imbedded in the cliffs near Andersons Bay inlet, in Dunedin. A friend informed me that during the 19th century Maori prisoners were kept there at night, and worked on the Dunedin Harbour land reclamation during the day. Some of these prisoners were brought down to Dunedin from Taranaki in the North Island, as a result of the conflict in 1881 at Parihaka.
Upon reading Dick Smith's book Ask that Mountain - The story of Parihaka I learned of one of the most shocking incidents in our country's history. The land wars of the 1860s provoked a new approach from Maori to the protection of their lands. Te Whiti, Tohu and their followers at Parihaka combated the Pakeha land grab by organising passive resistance through a variety of means. In response to unauthorised land confiscation Te Whiti ordered the ploughing of fields, building of fences and planting, all of which impeded the surveyors who wished to carve up the land for settlers. Many were arrested, offering no struggle, and soon prisons around the country were full. Despite the many injustices Te Whiti maintained his policy of passive resistance to the end. In November 1881, government troops entered Parihaka with guns and artillery. They were greeted by Maori women and children chanting songs, but no armed struggle. Te Whiti and Tohu were taken away, the Pa was broken up, and hundreds sent away to prison. Despite a press blackout, two reporters were smuggled into the Pa, one commenting that "it was one of the saddest and most painful spectacles I have witnessed".
Remember Parihaka attempts to sum up my thoughts and feelings about the events at Parihaka. The slow opening is peaceful, like a sun rise, with melodic fragments that slowly unfold into a fuller, more passionate statement. Flutes and oboes announce a chant-like theme, based on an actual song composed at the time of the incident. This 'Maori' theme alternates with a more European-sounding theme on solo violin, accompanied by an Irish drum, the bowron. At the heart of the piece the various melodic ideas come together over a grinding, relentless bass, building to a climax. In the short postlude, the peace of the opening is suggested, but now it is tinged with sadness, and a slightly uneasy feeling.
Remember Parihaka was first performed in 1994, under the baton of John Hopkins.
Written while Anthony Ritchie was Composer-in-residence with the Southern Sinfonia
13 Mar 1994: Premiered by the Dunedin Sinfonia (now the Southern Sinfonia) conducted by John Hopkins at the Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin.
29 Sep 2011: In Remembrance - facing conflicts through music
02 Dec 2012: WCO: December Concert
02 Oct 2013: Japan Tour Fundraising Concert | Southern Sinfonia
24 Sep 2020: NZSO Podium Series | Eroica
26 Sep 2020: NZSO Podium Series | Eroica
Performed by Auckland Chamber Orchestra conducted by Peter Scholes