1986 Music


Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

For flute (and piccolo), clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano

Manutaki was commissioned by the Australia Ensemble with funding from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council, and it was first performed by them during a tour for Chamber Music New Zealand in 1986.

About the work

At that time I composed this I was using quite complicated structures to organise the music — similar to the isorhythmic structures used in the music of Machaut and Dufay. These hold the piece together, but you’re not aware of those structures when you hear the music.

Before I began writing it I spent some time at Whatipu on the west coast of Auckland and was fascinated by the swallows darting around the cliffs. Their movement certainly influenced the surface of the piece, and if I believe it was a conversation with Peter Scholes, clarinettist and conductor, that gave me the title, Manutaki, the lead bird in a flock of birds.

Score and recordings

Waiteata Music Press published Manutaki in 1993.

Manutaki — publication

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Manutaki — SOUNZ

Tall Poppies in Australia released a recording on CD in 1991.

Café Concertino — CD

Members of the Auckland Chamber Orchestra performed it in 2017 during a ‘composer portrait’ concert.

Manutaki — video

Five bagatelles


For piano

Five Bagatelles was commissioned by Sally Mays with assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and the New Zealand Composers Foundation. She gave the first performance on 18 May 1987.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Five bagatelles — SOUNZ

Listen to an RNZ Concert recording of Sally Mays’ premiere performance.

Five bagatelles — audio

The Pirate Moon


Opera in 2 acts for 12 singers and orchestra

Libretto by Anna-Maria dell’Oso

The Pirate Moon was commissioned for the singing students of Anthea Moller, to celebrate the opening of the new music building at the Auckland University School of Music. The premiere took place there in 1986 conducted by John Elmsly.

About the work

Early in 1985, I was asked to write this chamber opera for the singing students and an ensemble consisting of the staff and students of the School of Music. It is in 2 acts, set in the world of the Futuries, with a prologue and epilogue set on a west coast beach.

The choice of subject in an area bordering on science fiction was dictated by the fact that the majority of singers were women, and I wanted to stay away from stereotypical themes.

I gave an abstract story line based on 2 ideas to the librettist — a story concerning the encounter with a UFO on a west coast beach by a young couple, and the other, a theme I’ve often worked with, the misunderstandings that arise between groups of different cultures or beliefs.

Anna dell’Oso, who was at the time looking into women’s mythology, drew on 2 quotations, one from Plutarch, ‘This is … an oracle shared by Night and the Moon …The voice was the Sibyl’s … who sang of the future as she was carried about on the face of the moon’, and the other from Macbeth ‘You can look into the seeds of time, and say which will grow and which will not.’


There are 3 main roles for mezzo-soprano, baritone and soprano, with 7 minor principals (mainly women) who double as a small SATB chorus.


The Pirate Moon is scored for: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, keyboards, percussion (3 players), tape and strings.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

The Pirate Moon — SOUNZ

The virgin and the nightingale

Choral music, Vocal duets and ensembles

5 songs for 6 solo voices and flute

The texts are translated from Latin by Fleur Adcock

The virgin and the nightingale was commissioned with funding from the Music Board of the Australia Council. The first complete performance was given in 1992 by The Song Company.

About the work

The songs are settings of 5 mediaeval poems about birds:

  • Courtship
  • The Swan
  • The Thrush
  • The Roasted Swan, and
  • The Anti-nightingale song.


Scored for soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone and bass. Some of the songs have been sung by choirs. Flute is used in 3 songs.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

The virgin and the nightingale — SOUNZ

This work has been released on CD by the Song Company.

The Laughter of Mermaids — CD