Published: Thu 10 Nov 2005 09:56 AM
Those in or visiting Wellington next week will have the opportunity to hear some of the newest works around for orchestra as the ninth session of NZSO-SOUNZ Readings takes place.
The NZSO-SOUNZ Readings is a collaborative project between SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra which aims to increase the likelihood of performance of orchestral music by New Zealand composers. This time six works by New Zealand composers have been chosen for readings by the orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich.
“These six compositions and composers are a great example of the variety of style and inspiration in New Zealand music,” Scilla Askew, Executive Director of SOUNZ, the Centre for NZ Music reports. “Ranging from abstract to programmatic works by young and senior composers they incorporate many influences – landscapes, jazz, literature, painting and earthquakes!”
“The Readings have been taking place since November 1998,” Scilla Askew continues. “Over that time 48 works by 35 New Zealand composers have received a reading by the NZSO and been recorded by Concert FM. Eleven of these have gone on to receive public performances or to be recorded on CD.
“Orchestral works tend to represent a huge investment in terms of skill and talent, effort and resources and for these works to be played and recorded is a tremendous opportunity. Orchestral managers and programmers here and overseas welcome the opportunity to hear new works and the Readings provide an excellent way of facilitating the programming of these works.”
The six composers involved and their works are: Kit Powell (Rothko Variations), Patrick Shepherd (Sinfonietta), Maria Grenfell (River Mountain Sky), Nigel Keay (Diversion 3), Leila Adu (Two Songs for Voice and Orchestra) and Samuel Holloway (Fault). Hamish McKeich and the NZSO will spend morning sessions on Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 November rehearsing the pieces in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington. Each afternoon the pieces for that day will be played through and recorded by Concert FM. After the Wednesday session an open forum will be held in the Wellington City Council Chambers for all interested participants, composers and observers.
The Readings are freely open to the public and funding from The Southern Trust has assisted with venue costs. Those wanting to attend can contact SOUNZ, the Centre for NZ Music on 04 801 8602 or e-mail for an invitation and schedule.
Background Material
About the Composers and the Works
Kit Powell, who has lived in Switzerland since 1984, based his Rothko Variations on the late works of Latvian-born American abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. “I was struck by the intense emotional impact of these monumental paintings,” he says, “and then by their similarity - all pictures seem to be variations of one another - variations without a theme, for there are no recognisable objects or motives, just colours, areas and proportions. My Rothko Variations are similarly conceived as a series of pieces without themes containing only orchestral colours and shapes rather than in the traditional musical variation form.”
Patrick Shepherd from Christchurch was given the opportunity to spend time in Antarctica and his piece Sinfonietta springs from that inspiration. “It is not meant to be a programmtic work as such,” he says, “and one takes what one wants from listening to a piece of music, but Sinfonietta depicts the tranquil and turbulent moods of one of the most beautiful and enigmatic places on Earth. The wide open vistas, the distant white horizon, the isolation sensed in the explorers’ huts, the changeable weather, the mechanical rhythms from my first chopper ride.or even just the awkwardness of moving around in that environment.”
Maria Grenfell is a true international - born in Malaysia, raised and educated in New Zealand and the USA, and now living, composing and teaching in Tasmania. “My River Mountain Sky was commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to mark Tasmania’s Bicentenary, and suggests an impression of the beautiful island that has been my home since 1998.”
Nigel Keay, born in Palmerston North, now lives in France. He was a Mozart Fellow at Otago University in 1986-1987 and an Auckland Philharmonia Composer in Residence in 1995. “Diversions for chamber orchestra was written in 2003,” he says of his work for the Readings. “The title Diversions was initially chosen using the word in the sense of ‘distraction’ or, in other words, to be essentially abstract without any attempted profound philosophical attachments. Music that is about nothing more than itself.”
Wellingtonian Leila Adu is known for her vocal performance in jazz and contemporary music festivals, venues and art spaces around New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Indonesia and Great Britain. Her unique songs are informed by studies in modern composition, Javanese singing, Balinese gamelan and the passion of early blues singers of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker and she has released two CDs, Dig a Hole and Cherry Pie. “My Two Songs for Voice and Orchestra being read by the NZSO are based on poems by women”, she reports. “The first, in French, is called For My Torturer, Lieutenant D- by Algerian poet Leila Djabali and the second in Mandarin Chinese from the 12th Century is called The Phoenix Hairpin.”
Prize winning young composer Samuel Holloway is in the final stages of completing his Master of Music degree at the University of Auckland. His work Fault was suggested by a line from one of composer John Cousins’ electroacoustic works, of ‘phrases shifting tectonically…’
“The piece is built almost entirely from a single note group consisting of a semitone and a tone occurring melodically as an oscillating motif that steps up, then down,” he says. “In spite of the title, the work was not conceived programmatically, though suggestions of an earthquake and its attendant features are perhaps audible.”
Readings Schedule – November 2005
Tuesday 15 November
9.30 - 10.40 Kit Powell, "Rothko Variations" (16')
10.40 - 11.00 Morning Break
11.00 - 12.00 Kit Powell, "Rothko Variations"
12.00 -1.00 Lunch
1.00 - 2.25 Patrick Shepherd “Sinfonietta” (12’)
2.25 - 2.45 Afternoon break
2.45 - 3.30 Play through Powell and Shepherd
Wednesday 16 November
9.30 – 10.30 Maria Grenfell, “River Mountain Sky” (10’)
10.30 - 11.00 Nigel Keay, Diversion 3 (3’30”)
11.00 - 11.20 Morning Break
11.20 – 12.00 Leila Adu, “Two Songs for Voice and Orchestra” (6’)
12.00 – 1.00 Lunch
1.00 – 2.10 Samuel Holloway, “Fault” (6’)
2.10 – 2.30 Afternoon Break
2.30 – 3.30 Play through Holloway, Grenfell, Keay, and Adu
3:45-4:45 Open Forum for all participants and observers – an informal discussion in the Wellington City Council Chamber
About SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music
Vision Statement
SOUNZ: created in New Zealand, heard around the world!
Toi Te Arapuoru – tipua i Aotearoa, rangona e te ao!
Statement of Purpose
To provide, foster and promote music by New Zealand composers to enhance the mana of all New Zealanders and our sense of turangawaewae.
This is achieved through services and projects which:
* encourage the creation,performance, publication, recording and broadcast of music by New Zealand composers
* ensure a comprehensive collectionof information and music resources are developed and maintained and madeavailable for loan, perusal and purchase
* embrace the roles of advocate,facilitator and partner in national and international contexts.
The Centre is a not-for-profit organisation which is registered as a charitable trust.
SOUNZ maintains an on-line searchable database of composers and their works []. The Centre offers retail and information services and a library representing the largest accessible collection of music by New Zealand composers in the world.
SOUNZ acknowledges operational funding from Creative New Zealand, APRA [Australasian Performing Right Association] and PPNZ [Phonographic Performances NZ Ltd.]
The Centre is a member of the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC) which is a member of the International Music Council under the umbrella of UNESCO.

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