1980 Music

Tamatea Tutahi


For piano

Tamatea Tutahi was commissioned by Sally Mays with funding from APRA and the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council. Sally gave the first performance at the Radio Theatre in Auckland on 26 May 1980.

About the work

Tamatea Tutahi was written while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts, United Kingdom.

Score and recordings

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Tamatea Tutahi

RNZ Concert recorded this work at its Auckland premiere and again 2013.

Tamatea Tutahi — audio 1980

Tamatea Tutahi — audio 2013


Voice and instrumental ensemble

Monodrama for soprano, 2 clarinets, violin and viola (1 player), cello and percussion

Text by Fleur Adcock

Hotspur was commissioned by Gemini with funding from the British Council. They premiered the work in Darlington, United Kingdom with Margaret Field (soprano), conducted by Peter Wiegold. Gretchen Albrecht designed 5 banners for the performance which are now in the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui.

About the work

Hotspur was written while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts, United Kingdom. It was completed at Great Bavington in Northumberland in October 1980, while Fleur and I were both fellows of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The piece is the lament of Elizabeth Mortimer, wife of Henry Percy, the 14th century north of England warrior known as ‘Hotspur’.

While writing it in Northumberland, not so far from the site of the battle of Otterburn, I was very aware of the harsh quality of life in those border regions in Hotspur’s day, when skirmishing and rieving was the way of survival in a wild and exposed, though beautiful landscape, with a climate sometimes benign, but often treacherous. Something of this has influenced the music.

Although the piece is not simple technically, the text called for certain simplicity. The vocal line had to be direct, and could not depart very far from the idea of the ballad except in the reflective middle movement, and in the recurring prophetic sections. The instrumental sections sometimes accompany, sometimes comment on, sometimes reinforce the expression of the text. They also often contrast suggestions of movement and stillness, or of sounds of battle and sounds of nature.

There are 5 sections in Hotspur:

  • Elizabeth sings of her husband
  • The siege of Newcastle
  • Carrying Hotspur’s child, she reflects as she waits on the evening of the battle of Otterburn
  • The battle of Otterburn
  • The death of Hotspur

Scores and recordings

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Hotspur — SOUNZ

There is a recording on Volume 32 of the Anthology of Australian Music on Disc.

Anthology of Australian Music: dramatic vocal music — CD

SOUNZ also has an archival recording.

Gillian Whitehead: selected works — CD

Bright forms return

Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano and string quartet

Text by Kathleen Raine from ‘The Oval Mirror’ published by Hamish Hamilton

Bright forms return was commissioned by the Cumbria Quartet, with financial assistance from Northern Arts. It was premiered by them with Elizabeth Lamb (mezzo) on 11 June 1980 at the historic church in Grasmere during the Lake District Festival, United Kingdom.

About the work

Bright forms return is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro molto con energia


III. Ritmico con energia


It was written while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts (UK) and is one of the first pieces I wrote that is concerned with landscape and sea-scape. I was living in Northumberland, on the moors north of Newcastle, very near the house where Kathleen Raine had spent her childhood.

When I was asked to write a piece for the Cumbria Quartet and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Lamb, Raine’s poetry was an obvious choice, as its northern imagery was very familiar to me.

Although the piece is designed as a single entity, the quartet falls into 4 clearly-defined sections in its setting of the 4 short poems. The vocal writing is relatively simple (rhythmically at least), and the writing for the quartet sometimes reflects the poetic imagery or mood, and is sometimes derived from the formal structure of the poems.


Buy or borrow the score and parts from SOUNZ.

Bright forms return — SOUNZ