Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players), Works with taonga pūoro, Collaborations, Dance, Film and theatre

A cross-disciplinary collaboration using dance and film, with music for string quartet and taonga pūoro

Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū was first presented during Matariki on 21 June 2022 in the North Quad of the Christchurch Arts Centre. The pre-recorded music is performed by the New Zealand String Quartet with Alistair Fraser (taonga pūoro).

About the work

Designed and directed by Daniel Belton of Good Company Arts, Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū is a 30-minute film combining digitally re-choreographed dance and music. It is based on Paul Klee’s painting, Ad Parnassum.

My music accompanies the film where the dancers become part of a shared visual and sculptural language bringing together Pacific and Mediterranean influences. Music drives the work which carries 9 women in an elongated vista — a singing bowl brimming with movement and colour codes.

Creative team

Other members of the creative team were creative producer and designer, Donnine Harrison and fashion designer, Kate Sylvester.

The Good Company Arts digital film team were Daniel Belton (cameras, film designer, film editor, post production choreography, motion graphics, audio mastering), Jac Grenfell (motion graphics, Cinema 4D, 2D animation, audio design), Nigel Jenkins, Josef Belton (kinetic props), Bradon McCaughey (cameras) and Stuart Foster (spatial lighting, props, cameras).

The choreographers and dance performers were Nancy Wijohn, Kelly Nash, Jahra Wasasala, Christina Guieb, Laura Saxon-Jones, Lucy-Margaux Marinkovich, Neve Pierce, Kiki Miwa and Stephanie Halyburton.

Score and recording

The score for this work is not available.

Watch the film on the Good Company Arts website, where there is also more information about the work.

Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū — Good Company Arts

A promotional video created for the premiere gives a taster of the work.

Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū — promo video


Daniel Belton was interviewed on RNZ’s arts programme, Standing Room Only ahead of the premiere.

Ad parnassum – Purapurawhetū dance film series — RNZ

The Otago Daily Times interviewed Daniel and me about our collaboration.

Dancing with the stars — ODT


The premiere was reviewed by Dr Ian Lochhead for Theatre Review.

Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū — Theatre Review

There was also a review by Erin Harrington.

Review: Matariki at The Arts Centre — Flat City Field Notes


In March 2023, Ad Parnassum – Purapurawhetū was presented at the Paris Women Festival based in Ontario, Canada. I was awarded Best Woman Composer for my score.

Winners March 2023 — Paris Women Festival

Angels born at the speed of light

Voice and instrumental ensemble, Collaborations, Dance

For narrator, dancer and improvising trio

Text by Cilla McQueen

Funded by Creative New Zealand, this work was given its first performance at the Trust Bank Theatre, Dunedin in 1992. The choreographer was Bronwyn Judge and the performers  were Judy Bailey (piano), Peter Adams (clarinet) and Russell Scoones (percussion).

About the work

Angels born at the speed of light is a collaboration between poet Cilla McQueen, Bronwyn Judge and myself. The dance, in and around a pool of water, involved 3 ages of women — as child, as woman (Bronwyn Judge) and kuia (Shona McTavish).

For some time, I had been interested in working with improvising musicians to provide a musical structure in which the narrative is always recognisable but the detail constantly changes.

I provided the framework and the basic material while the performers — in this instance narrator, piano, percussion and clarinet doubling saxophone — adapt the material and, within the framework, take it where they will.


The trio is scored for clarinet/saxophone, with improvised parts for percussion and piano. The clarinet part can be played on flute, and a vibraphone is optional.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Angels born at the speed of light — SOUNZ

A recording of the premiere performance made by RNZ Concert may be available from Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision.

Angels born at the speed of light — Ngā taonga

Out the window breath, bone, feather

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players), Collaborations, Dance

For cello, flute and clarinet

Out the window breath, bone, feather was commissioned with funding from Creative New Zealand, and supported by Carol Brown’s research award through the University of Auckland NICAI’s Faculty Research and Development Fund.

About the work

Choreographer Carol Brown and I devised Out the window breath, bone, feather — in collaboration with 8 exceptional performers, dramaturge Fiona Graham, photographer Solomon Mortimer and performance designer Kasia Pol — while I held the 3‐month University of Otago Wallace Residency at the Pah Homestead in Auckland. A performance on 21 October 2013 was the culmination of the residency — the music was performed by Luca Manghi (flute), Katherine Hebley (cello) and Andrew Uren (clarinet).

It is a site-specific piece in which the audience is led through Auckland’s Pah homestead from the portico to the crater behind the building. Working with sung and spoken text, dance, original music and working with the evocative paintings of Star Gossage, the piece allows glimpses into the history of the land, the house and its inhabitants.

It references prehistory with the dance of the moa, the use of the site as a Pah, the building of the house and the first family, the subsequent use of the building to house immigrants, as a boys’ home and as a convent. Today it is an art gallery and park for the people of Auckland.

Scores and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Out the window breath, bone, feather — SOUNZ

Hear and watch a recording of the performance at the Pah homestead.

Out the window breath, bone, feather  — video


Before a season at the 2015 Auckland Festival, Carol Brown and I were interviewed on RNZ Concert.

Carol Brown and Gillian Whitehead: Pah — RNZ


Solo voice, Dance

For mezzo-soprano and organ

Text: Latin

Requiem was to have been performed in 5 cathedrals around Britain during the summer of 1982 with a company of 5 dancers. The dance component was cancelled and so the work received a performance by Elizabeth Lamb (mezzo) only in Carlisle Cathedral.

About the work

Requiem was originally intended for 5 dancers and organ — the soprano was added at my request. I initially delayed beginning work on the piece, since my sister was expecting a baby, and a requiem did not seem an appropriate preoccupation. The successful birth was however followed by 2 close family deaths and it was these which provided me with the emotional impetus to proceed with the composition.

It was subsequently presented with a solo dancer, Bronwyn Judge, at the 1987 Sonic Circus in Wellington. The singer on that occasion was Glenys Taylor and the organist Douglas Mews. It has been performed several times since and recorded.

Scores and recordings

Requiem was published by Waiteata Music Press in 2001.

Requiem — publication

Waiteata Composer Portrait — CD