I lived and worked for ten years in New Zealand, starting my composing-for-choirs and composing-in-schools careers there. Here are twelve of the best songs I wrote while I was there.
Motu Puketutu and Manukau – When I was Composer-In-Schools for the New Zealand Arts Council in 1993, my colleague Robyn Trinick at the Auckland College Of Education gifted these two sets of words to me to set to music.
The songs were first given a go by the children at Mountain View Primary School in Mangere Bridge, and Motu Puketutu particularly has since been performed many times by a variety of choirs and singing groups. At the time, Puketutu Island was polluted, along with the Manukau Harbour in which it sits and these songs lament that state of affairs. Happily, since then both have been cleaned up!
The Swing, The Moon, My Bed Is A Boat – These three songs are part of a set of five settings of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. The other two are From A Railway Carriage and Marching Song. These were the first songs I ever wrote for choir, and these three in particular, have been very popular with school and youth choirs in New Zealand and elsewhere.
No-Umbrella Blues – When I continued as Composer-In-Schools in Dunedin in 1994, I wrote several songs on the theme of umbrellas. This bluesy song was one of them. It was given its world premiere performance by Orlando Singers in Auckland, but it has been very popular with several choirs including a version for male voice choir, and another for treble voices with piano accompaniment.
Red, Red Rose – I’ve set lots of Robert Burns’ poems to music and this one has been a popular setting. It was originally composed for Vocarmony at Queens High School in Dunedin, and has more recently been performed by The Bridge Singers and Kantos in the UK.
Hey Diddle Diddle – I was asked by Bayfield High School to compose something for their choir which had lots of sopranos and altos, a couple of basses but no tenors. They wanted it short too, so I delivered this fanfare-like dramatic song. They performed it too!
Golden Rain Baby – I wrote this lullaby while I was collaborating with Professor Henry Johnson from Otago University on a teaching resource which explored Indonesian music. I was inspired by one of our focus works, Bubaran Hudan Mas (Golden Rain). I was living in Brisbane at the time, where all the rain is golden, and my Dunedin friend Sarah, had just had her first child, so I wrote it for her son and her school’s choir gave the first performance. It uses several aspects of the Javanese piece as inspiration. These are outlined on the video below!
Hodie Christus Natus Est – This is my most performed and most popular song, It exists in several voicings and has been performed around the world. I originally composed it for the centenary celebrations of Woodford House School in Havelock North, and have adapted as required! It even has its very own advertisement!
Little Bo-Peep – When I did my teacher training in 1995 I was despatched to Catlins Area School in Owaka, Otago for my rural posting. I did all my teaching practice, but also composed music for their choir, including Little Bo-Peep. They performed it several times, and for a while renamed their choir the Catlins Cammeos!!!
Lullaby Of Robert Landreth – I loved my time in the Catlins and made many wonderful friends. I continued to go down there to work while I was Mozart Fellow at Otago University in 1996. Some of my greatest friends there are the Landreth family. This song was composed in 2010 for the reunion of the Landreth family which commemorated 150 years since their ancestor, Robert Landreth first arrived in Otago, New Zealand from the Borders in Scotland. The song was performed on that occasion by Matthew Landreth with his cousin Rebekah accompanying. This version for choir has been made since then, and this video features photographs by Glenda Landreth of places connected with Robert Landreth’s history in Otago.