Tai timu, tai pari

Orchestra with soloist

Concerto for violin and full orchestra

Tai timu, tai pari  was commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) with funding from the APO Trust and Creative New Zealand. The first performance was given by the APO conducted by James Feddeck with Andrew Beer (violin) on 10 June 2022. It is dedicated to Andrew Beer.

About the work

I wrote Tai timu, tai pari on the Otago Peninsula, in the wake of the first wave of Covid-19. I’d worked on other pieces during 2020, all initiated before the pandemic (and cancelled because of it), but this piece is written under the influences of these new times. I felt initially that I couldn’t write anything that was harsh or strident, but rather the sounds had to be gentle. This was probably something to do with the uncertainty, the keeping safe and the exhortations to be kind we’d experienced over those 18 months. However, as I wrote, the structure of the piece took over, and that self-censorship went away.

From my studio on the Otago peninsula I can look across the harbour towards the hills opposite, and what I see constantly changes. The tide ebbs and flows — tai timu, tai pari translates from te reo Māori as ‘low tide, high tide’ — light plays on the water, birds forage for food, rest on the water, whirl in flocks.

When I was writing, images of the variation in waves lapping on the shore, of distant disputes between birds or sea-creatures and birds in flight, of footprints on the beach came to mind. Not that the piece is primarily a soundscape — more than most of my pieces it harks back to the balance and proportions of the classical era.

Tai timu, tai pari is in a single movement, lasting a bit over 20 minutes, where the sections, in general terms, are slow, fast, cadenza, fast and slow.


Tai timu, tai pari is scored for: 2 + piccolo 222; 4331; harp, timpani and 3 percussion, strings and solo violin.

Percussion 1: 3 suspended cymbals, gong, bass drum, tapped stones

Percussion 2: wind chimes, clashed cymbals, tamtam, Thai finger cymbals, stones

Percussion 3: 3 suspended cymbals, gong, sizzle cymbal, stones

Scores and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ soon.

Listen to and watch the Auckland Philharmonia’s 2022 premiere.

Tai timu, tai pari — video


William Dart  and John Daly-Peoples reviewed the performance on 10 June 2022.

Whitehead concerto a superb evocation of our landscape — New Zealand Herald

The APO’s evocative Ebb and Flow concert — New Zealand Arts Review


Before the premiere, Andrew Beer and I were interviewed by SOUNZ and the Auckland Philharmonia.

The connection between image and sound — publication

Tai timu, tai pari: Gillian Whitehead & Andrew Beer — publication

I was also interviewed for the APO News and Te Ao Māori News.

Legendary composer excited about work premiere — interview

Elizabeth Kerr talked to Andrew Beer about the process of preparing the concerto.

Andrew Beer in Whitehead premiere — Five Lines