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Christ at Whangape

for string orchestra

Year:  2007   ·  Duration:  18m

Year:  2007
Duration:  18m

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A heartrending, exquisite sculpture of Christ on the Cross stands on a headstone in the graveyard of St. Gabriel's Church at Pawarenga in Northland, New Zealand. Its intimations of eternity are caught in the Robbin Morrison photograph Christ at Whangape Harbour which appears in his 1994 photographic essay A Journey. It is an image of Christ in the wilderness. He is held in a primeval landscape of bare, low, dark hills, silhouetted against a grey sky and luminous sea and mudflats in the harbour.

How did Christ come to be in this place? The music presents the revelation of His spirit that starts with the French Pikopo or Bishop sailing into the great harbour Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe. It is an event of immense significance. The bearers of God and his Son literally follow the path of Kupe, the traditional discoverer of New Zealand, and arrive in a schooner named after his homeland.

The Word of God is spread by His servants. The Mill Hill Missioners build churches and make converts. The Spirit of God suffuses the harbours, valleys and hills of the north. The souls of the priests and worshipers of past generations permeate the churchyard. A silver of early morning sunlight suddenly lights up, in perfect relief, the epitaph beneath Christ on the Cross. It is a miracle, a hidden text revealed by the hand of Christ above.

This is the final piece 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, Night Journey to Pawarenga and Anthem of the Kaipara.

– Christopher Blake, December 2007

Commissioned note

Commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Contents note

  1. Introit
  2. Le retour
  3. La messe
  4. Amare et Servire
  5. Inoi mo te wairua
  6. The trembling veil
  7. Ake, ake, ake