Voice and instrumental ensemble

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

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


Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano, piano and bassoon

Poems by Glenn Colquhoun

The first performance of Camelot was given by Janet Roddick (soprano), Emma Sayers (piano) and Ben Hoadley (bassoon) at St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin on 16 October 2008.

About the work

Camelot, a collaboration between Glenn Colquhoun and me, is a response to a visit by 10 artists on the Breaksea Girl, skippered by Lance Shaw and Ruth Dalley, to Dusky and Doubtful Sounds in Fiordland, and particularly to a trip up Camelot, the river that flows into Gaer Arm in Doubtful Sound.

Glenn’s poems, cryptic and spare, relate to old Chinese poetic forms, and the cycle traces the poet’s travelling up the river, and, changed by what he learns, his return to the open water. The titles of the poems draw on imagery very apparent on this journey.

One thing that was made very apparent on that journey was the extent of the degradation of the environment, because of the depredations of deer, goats, rats, possums and other pests, which have made the forest a silent place, where biodiversity is acutely threatened.

Both the performances and the journey to the sounds were devised as a fundraiser by the Caselberg Trust, which is raising money to purchase the Broad Bay house of Anna and John Caselberg, for use as an artist’s residence.

Camelot is dedicated to Ruth Dalley and Lance Shaw.

Score and recordings

Borrow the score from SOUNZ, or borrow or buy a recording.

Camelot — SOUNZ

Arapatiki — CD

Moon, tides and shoreline — CD and book

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Voice and instrumental ensemble

Monodrama for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra

Text by Fleur Adcock

The first performance of Eleanor of Aquitaine was given in September 1988 at the New Directions Festival in Sydney by the Seymour Group with Jeannie Marsh (mezzo) conducted by Paul Stanhope.

About the work

Eleanor of Aquitaine was commissioned by the Northern Sinfonia with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain.

The powerful and politically acute 12th century queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of 2 kings and mother of 2, was married first to the monk-like King Louis of France — their marriage was annulled and she strategically married Henry II of England.

Henry, alarmed by her political manoeuvring and the growing power of their sons, had her imprisoned in Chinon for 17 years. In our monodrama, Eleanor, in prison, looks back to her marriages and forward to the time when she will be freed and her son, Richard Coeur de Lion will become king.


Buy or borrow the full score from SOUNZ.

Eleanor of Aquitaine — SOUNZ


Vocal duets and ensembles, Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano, male voices, piano and bassoon

Text by Claire Beynon

F/Wh/Fugue was first performed on 8 October 2008 by Ana Good (mezzo), Joyce Whitehead (piano) and Ben Hoadley (bassoon) with a male voice ensemble from Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral Choir led by David Burchall.

About the work

F/Wh/Fugue evolved during a 6-day journey by 10 artists to Dusky and Doubtful Sounds in Fiordland, and particularly to the Camelot River, which drains into Gaer Arm in Doubtful Sound. Both the journey and the performance were part of a fundraising drive by the Caselberg Trust, to complete the purchase of the Broad Bay house, that belonged to John and Anna Caselberg, for use as an artists’ residency.


Resonant ceramic vessels, modelled on the steep sides of the fiords and made by Katherine Glenday and decorated by Claire Beynon, can be incorporated into the performance. At the first performance  they were played by Claire Beynon and Greg O’Brien.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

F/Wh/Fugue — SOUNZ

Girl with a guitar

Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano, cello and piano

A setting of Ruth Dallas’ sequence of the same name

The first performance was given by Panache, in ‘Like Flowers in Rain’, a celebration of the writings of Ruth Dallas at the Globe Theatre in Dunedin as part of the 2000 Otago Festival.

About the work

Girl with a guitar sets 7 short poems taken, with the poet’s kind permission, from Ruth Dallas — Collected Poems (Otago University Press, 2000).

The subject matter, drawing largely on nature images, is reflected in the titles: Autumn Leaves, Flowering Thorn, By the Sea, Boat Moored to a Willow, The Shining Moon, Tree on the Cliffs and On the Plains.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Girl with a guitar — SOUNZ

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