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Witnessing Parihaka is a semi-staged orchestral work twenty-two minutes in duration. The piece portrays the events surrounding the invasion and plundering of Parihaka in November 1881, of the passive resistance stance made by the people of Parihaka, and the illegal arrest of its leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi and their followers. The orchestral music is composed by Stephen Matthews and the text is written by Robert Sullivan.
The main and central section of the piece is comprised of a series of short vignettes or soliloquies in which eyewitnesses to the events of the invasion speak to the audience about what they witnessed on this significant day in New Zealand’s political and cultural history. Within the main body of the piece the traditional Taranaki waiata poi E rere rā is performed, as well as performances of Te Puapua, a ceremonial drum, its function and musical role unique to Taranaki and Te Ati Awa iwi.
Witnessing Parihaka would not have been written or performed without the generous support, guidance and the substantial contributions made by the people of Parihaka. He mihi aroha ki ngā tangata o Parihaka. Ngā mihi nui ki Kui Whero Te Rangi Bailey, Maata Wharehoka, Ngapera Moeahu, Kiri Eriwata, Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, Rangikotuku Rukuwai, Ruakere Hond, Stuart Devenie, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Lee Martelli, Paora Joseph, Janine Martin, Tracey Eggerton, Makere Pike, Agnes Wharehoka, Whakaarahia Koroheke, Len Robinson, Te Miringa Hohaia, Ngāhina Hohaia, Tihikura Hohaia, Charissa Hohaia, Jan Steffen, Alistair Gager, Sophie Wilson, Radio New Zealand Concert (Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa), the players and management of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the children of Parihaka.
Text by Robert Sullivan
11 May 2011: Performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Young, and staring Stuart Devenie and Te Kohe Tuhaka, at the Aotea Centre, in Auckland
21 May 2013: Performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Young, and staring Stuart Devenie, Te Akau Wharehoka, and Te Kohe Tuhaka, at the Aotea Centre, in Auckland