Mate Ururoa

Works with taonga pūoro, Opera

For baritone, mezzo and large ensemble

Text in Māori and English by the composer

Commissioned by and written for baritone, David Tahere. The premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York was scheduled for November 2021 but has been postponed because of Covid.

About the work

During World War 1, Roger Dansey, of Te Arawa, a captain in the pioneer battalion, disobeys his commander’s orders to save the lives of his men. The piece explores the differences between Māori and European approaches to war.

‘Kaua e mate wheke, mate ururoa — don’t die like an octopus, die like a hammerhead shark’ was a saying used in the Dansey family.


Mate Ururoa is scored for baritone and an ensemble of taonga pūoro, flute doubling alto flute and piccolo, clarinet  doubling E flat and bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, violin, viola, cello and double bass.

Percussion instruments are: marimba, vibraphone, 2 timpani, rototoms, bass drum, wood blocks, wooden drum, metal chimes, 5 suspended cymbals, tamtam, thundersheet, stones and poi.

Scores and recordings

The score will be available from SOUNZ after the premiere performance.


Elizabeth Kerr wrote about this work in a blog celebrating my 80th birthday.

Gillian Whitehead at 80 — publication