Films, Audio & Samples
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'Puanga’ is the star known to astronomers as Rigel and appears in the north eastern horizon in late May or early June. It is the brightest star in the constellation of Orion, and the sixth brightest star in the sky. It is usually taken to be the signal that the Māori new year, Matariki, has commenced. Matariki is the Māori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters. The name translates either as ‘tiny eyes’ or ‘eyes of God’. In parts of Taranaki, Northland, the West Coast of Te Waipounamu and Rēkohu/Wharekauri, the Māori new year is marked by the rise of Puanga.
This piece for string orchestra and harpsichord was requested by Stuart Sherwood (Head of Music at Auckland Grammar School) for the school’s string orchestra Grammar Virtuosi. The request was specifically for a piece that was ‘texture-based’ rather than rhythmic and melodic. Something that would stretch the students, but which would not be hugely intimidating to learn. There are brief soloistic parts for the lead violin, viola and cello. Throughout, there are elements of improvisation for all the players.
Having written one piece about the Māori new year (“Matariki” for choir and piano) I was drawn back to another aspect of the story. This piece suggests in musical terms the quiet of the pre-dawn. Small points of light appear in the gloom and eventually the dawn-chorus strikes up. The final section, which uses simple tonal harmonies, may be taken as heralding the rise of the sun.
Commissioned by Auckland Grammar School
Suitable for school and community orchestras
02 Aug 2012: Performed by Grammar Virtuosi at the Centennial Theatre, in Auckland.