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The Māori word 'ahunga' can be understood to mean facing forward in a single direction, and may suggest the idea of space. It can also refer to a group of people gathered together for a particular purpose. These meanings are all relevant to the music of Ahunga for taonga pūoro and piano trio. The piece was written to form part of a special ceremony to welcome Te Kohinga Taonga Pūoro, a large new collection of traditonal Māori musical instruments, to the University of Waikato Conservatorium of Music in 2016. Commissioned by Martin Lodge, the collection was enabled by funding from Dr Ian Graham and Agi Lèhar-Graham. Master carver Brian Flintoff designed the collection and made most of the instruments.
In Ahunga, Western and Maori instruments play within their own respective traditions, neither attempting to imitate the other. Rather, Ahunga is an artistic place of encounter where all the participants find they can face forward and move harmoniously ahead in a single direction while remaining culturally true to themselves.
Ahunga was first performed by Lara Hall (violin), James Tennant (cello) and Katherine Austin (piano) with the taonga pūoro part created by Horomona Horo, in Te Whare Tapere at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato, Hamilton, on the 8th of March 2016.
The composer acknowledges, with grateful thanks, sustained input about nga taonga pūoro and tikanga over the years from Richard Nunns, Hirini Melbourne, Brian Flintoff, Horomona Horo and Tom Roa.
(Programme note by the composer - September 2019)
08 Mar 2019: Performed by Lara Hall (violin), James Tennant (cello), Katherine Austin (piano) and Horomona Horo (taonga pūoro) in Te Whare Tapere at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato, Hamilton
09 Jul 2019: Performed by James Webster (taonga pūoro), Keir GoGwilt (violin), Paul Mitchell (cello) and Gabriela Glapska (piano) at the CANZ Nelson Composers Workshop 2019 opening concert, Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, Nelson