2001 Music

Tom’s Serenade for Ann Morris

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players)

For oboe, violin, viola and cello

At an Auckland Philharmonia fund-raising auction in 2000, one of the orchestra’s most generous sponsors, Dr Tom Morris, bid a substantial sum for a short ensemble piece to be written by the composer-in-residence.

Dr Morris chose the instruments and title. The world premiere was given in November 2001 at the orchestra’s 21st birthday celebrations by the Ensemble Philharmonia in the Auckland Town Hall, where it was played as a surprise for Ann Morris, whose birthday it also was.

About the work

Serenade for Ann Morris spans 4 sections in one movement, of which the second is for strings alone, and the third is an oboe cadenza.

Score and recordings

Buy or borrow the score and parts from SOUNZ.

Tom’s Serenade for Ann Morris — SOUNZ

A recording, released by Rattle CDs, can be bought from SOUNZ and all good record stores.

Shadows crossing water — CD

A recording was also released on a SOUNZfine promotional CD.

SOUNZfine Volume 5 — CD

Bright silence

Solo instrument

For violin

Bright silence was the competition piece for the inaugural Michael Hill International Violin Competition (MHIVC) in June 2001, held in Queenstown where it was played by 18 very different violinists. The competition was won by Joseph Lin.

About the work

I wrote Bright Silence while I was composer-in-residence with the Auckland Philharmonia. It is dedicated to Michael Hill.

The piece is an evocation of Central Otago, the high plateau between the Southern Alps and the coastal plains in the South Island of New Zealand. The area is treeless, rocky, sparsely populated, sometimes snow-covered, and the piece reflects the sounds, silences and ghosts of the area.

Scores and recordings

Bright Silence was published by Waiteata Music Press in 2001.

Bright Silence — publication

Joseph Lin’s performance was released on CD by Waiteata Music Press.

Chamber Music III — CD

SOUNZ also has a CD you can borrow with performances by 5 different violinists at the 2001 Michael Hill Competition.

Bright Silence — SOUNZ


I was interviewed for an RNZ Concert series about the commissioned works in the Michael Hill competition.

MHIVC Commissions: Gillian Whitehead – Bright Silence — interview


Chamber ensemble (2-7 players), Works with taonga pūoro

For string quartet and taonga pūoro

Hineputehue was commissioned by Wellington International Festival for the New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns (taonga pūoro). It was first performed by them at the Illott Concert Chamber on 14 March 2002.

About the work

Hineputehue translates literally as the woman of the sound of the gourd — she is the Māori goddess of peace. The work was written in 2001, at the time of President Bush’s State of the Union address shortly before the invasion of Afghanistan, and suggests the fragility rather than the celebration of peace, particularly in a pre-European environment.

A number of instruments used in Hineputehue are made of gourds — the gourd, which carried food and water, is a symbol of peace.

There is a similarity between the stringed instruments of the quartet and the gourds, in that they are made from plant material, with sound emitted through sound holes. Another link is the ku, the only stringed instrument known to Maori, which is a small musical bow played like a jaws harp (jews harp) using the mouth as a resonating chamber. The idea of ororuarangi, which can be translated as ‘spirit voice’ (or double stopping in a different context) has had some influence on this piece as in the parallel movement of the strings.


The taonga pūoro part is improvised using:

  • the poi awiowhio, a very quiet bird lure which is swung around the head
  • the tiny kōauau ponga ihu or noseflute which ends the piece
  • the hue puru hau, a large gourd which is blown across its top opening
  • the gourd rattles played by the quartet, and
  • 2 other wind instruments frequently made from gourds, the nguru and the ororuarangi.

Other instruments are the pūtātara or conch shell trumpet, traditionally used for signalling, the pu kaea or war trumpet, a nguru niho paraoa or flute made from a whale’s tooth, the pumotomoto, associated with birth, and tumutumu (tapped percussion).

Scores and recordings

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Hineputehue — SOUNZ

The New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns have recorded this work.

Puhake ki te rangi — CD

Nau mai e te ao marama

Works with taonga pūoro, Solo voice

For voice with optional kōauau

Text by Tungia Baker

The first performance was given by Ramonda Te Maiharoa Taleni (voice) with Richard Nunns (kōauau) outdoors at the Elephant Rocks, Oamaru in January 2002.

About the work

Tungia Baker wrote the text, called Tuhituhi, for a celebration of the story of Waitaha’s prophet Te Maiharoa, who led a hikoi up the Waitaki River. Naumai e te ao marama is a song (or aria) from this work, which Ramonda Te Maiharoa Taleni has made her own. It is sometimes referred to as ‘the Waitaha aria’.

Score and recording

Borrow or buy the score from SOUNZ.

Nau mai e te ao marama — SOUNZ

There are 2 archival CD recordings.

Tūhonohono — CD

Pakiwaitara o te Pouakai; Te heke o te Maiharoa — CD

Titless Wonders

Film and theatre

Incidental music for a documentary

Directed by Gaylene Preston

About the documentary

Gaylene Preston calls this documentary ‘an upfront exploration of the emotional discoveries of women with breast cancer’. Jan Bolwell’s dance piece, which is at the centre of the documentary was  choreographed to Georg Pedersen’s recording  of my work, The Journey of Matuku Moana.

The Journey of Mataku Moana

Watch excerpts from the documentary.

Titless wonders — NZonScreen