ANZFA: Hine-pū-te-hue

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022

in partnership with

Adam Chamber Music Festival

Web-based streaming concert Friday 18 March 2022- Sunday 3 April 2022

Programme

Manaaki (2022 World Premiere) – Philip Brownlee and Ariana Tikao
Hine-pū-te-hue (2002) Gillian Whitehead 
Piano Quintet Op. 67 (1905) – Amy Beach (1867-1944)

Performers

Helene Pohl – violin I
Monique Lapins – violin II
Gillian Ansell – viola
Rolf Gjelsten – cello
Ariana Tikao, Bob Bickerton – taonga pūoro
Diedre Irons – piano

Sound production – Radio New Zealand
Recording advisor – SOUNZ (Chris Watson)

A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs
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tldr: the short story

The performance of Manaaki by Philip Brownlee and Ariana Tikao was marvellous: the players were conscientiously committed and sensitive to the overall effect. It was a contemplative, meditative piece.

Gillian Whitehead created the seminal soundscape of Hine-pū-te-hue twenty years ago and, with this performance, it proved a revelation again – audacious, brave and significant. A splendid performance of a groundbreaking work.

Manaaki and Hu-pū-te-hue had something in common. Despite the rhythmic motifs by the strings and the steady underlying accompaniment from the taonga pūoro, there was a sense of timelessness.

Amy Beach‘s Piano Quintet was lush and filled with passionate melodies and melancholy moments, but the whole piece has a sadness to it, a yearning, a loss. Diedre, Helene, Monique, Gillian and Rolf were magnificent in their solos and sensitive in accompaniment – pure chamber music.

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You can hear/see this concert until Sunday 3 April:
Hine-pū-te-hue: https://www.festival.nz/events/all/hine-pu-te-hue-online/

The NZ performers and composers have a profile of SOUNZ 1

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The long story:

Hine-pū-te-hue had its ‘20th birthday’ this year. Hirini Melbourne2 and Richard Nunns3 pioneered the revival of taonga pūoro and Gillian Whitehead created this seminal soundscape interweaving the Māori and the Western European instruments. Then, it was unusual. Now, it seems normal, familiar, to have these instruments, identifying and establishing a connecting with Aotearoa and its sonic environment. 

Hine-pū-te-hue was commissioned by the NZ Arts Festival in 2001. In 2022, the Aotearoa NZ Arts  Festival honoured this remarkable work by commissioned another work, Manaaki, with the same instrumentation: taonga pūoro and string quartet of two violins, viola and cello. 

It is interesting the note that most of the taonga pūoro4 instruments are aerophones – musical instruments in which a vibrating mass of air produces the initial sound. For example: pūtōrino, kōauau, nguru, hue, pūkāea, pūtātara, … – even the poroiti and pūrerehua.  (A few are percussion –tōkere, tūmutūmu – or kū, a string instrument like a Jew’s harp.) 

It made a clear distinction about the timbre of the instruments, how they sounded. The strings were specific, unambiguous, and ‘refined’, even with techniques like harmonics, col legno, sul ponticelli, sul tasto, pizzicato, tremolo, glissando. And they have a wide tessitura. The taonga pūoro, with their compact range of notes, were ethereal, evanescent, otherworldly, spiritual. Breathy, in a good way, celebrating the breath as a life-bringing force. 

Another way to say it is: the strings were a handshake and a hug, the taonga pūoro was a hongi.5

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In the notes provided there was a comments from the composers of Manaaki, Philip Brownlee and Ariana Tikao.6  

The pūrerehua announced the work and the strings, plucking and using harmonics, had definite entries. They were in octaves, dropping down in a glissando diminuendo. Ariana Tikao increased the size of her ‘flutes’ with each section of the piece, from kōauau to pūtōrino to hue. A viola solo, and a cello solo were included. Then a change of pace was signalled with the kōauau astutely declaring its melody and the string instruments discussing polyphonically with themselves. The last phrase ascended, like a sympathetic afterthought.

The performance was marvellous: the players were conscientiously committed and sensitive to the overall effect. It was a contemplative, meditative piece.

=================

Back in the day, Hine-pū-te-hue was a revelation, and it proved itself again with this performance. At the beginning, the string quartet played gourd rattles while Bob Bickerton played the pahū pounamu. Monique Lapins matched the same rhythm of the pūrerehua. The hyper vibrato of the cellist Rolf Gjelsten was almost like tremolo. While the Gillian Ansell (viola) and Rolf play col legno, Bob played a pūtōrino by blowing and singing inside, an effect like throat singing or harmonics. Helene Pohl had a potent solo violin section with double stops and harmonics. Bob used a kū, a single-stringed instrument, tapping with a slender rod in a definite rhythmic riff – it was almost medieval.  Rolf had another solo – very aggressive this time with a strident kōauau over the top. The rest of the strings reacted to it and Bob changed to a hue with repeated, loud, crescendo tones to a sforzando. The upper strings trilled. The cello reacted. Bob responded robustly with a pūtātara and a pūkāea. 

Gillian had a solo section that led into a mournful elegy from the string quartet, with a keening melody from kōauau (an albatross’s bone flute). It built up to an confrontational section with vicious bowing from all the strings, then died down – Bob using a subtle nguru, the strings abandoning their instruments to tapping stones (tōkere) as the lights dimmed down – al niente… A splendid performance of a groundbreaking work.

Manaaki and Hu-pū-te-hue had something in common. Despite the rhythmic motifs by the strings and the steady underlying accompaniment from the taonga pūoro, there was a sense of timelessness. A suspension. And a weaving of more than music.

I suspect that the new work was inspired by its predecessor by its form: the build up and the arc of tension, the string solos. By virtue of postsight, Maanaki was more cohesive. The taonga pūoro and the strings were more integrated with each other. But Hu-pū-te-hue was more audacious, brave and significant.

(Usually I don’t like to read the notes from the composer, by this one by Gillian, was  compelling7.)

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The third piece in this concert was a Piano Quintet  by Amy Beach – a composer that I never heard of before.

It was certainly lush and filled with passionate melodies and melancholy moments – a Romantic work. But it didn’t remind of anyone else. It was not an ‘European’ copy – Beach used her own voice. Sometimes it was lumpy in form, but it didn’t matter, and the players enjoyed it immensely. 

The work used octaves a lot, in the strings and the piano. It was in the usual three movements – basically fast, slow, fast – but the whole piece has a sadness to it, a yearning, a loss. 

Diedre, Helene, Monique, Gillian and Rolf were magnificent in their solos and sensitive in accompaniment – pure chamber music. In the beginning, Adagio, the strings had soft octave notes and the piano played rippling arpeggionate chords. In the second moment there was a gorgeous violin II solo from Monique. At the beginning of the third movement there was a similarly gorgeous solo from Rolf. Then the third movement took off, galloping to a viola solo from Gillian with crashing chords from Diedre on the piano. Helene’s solo was accompanied by tremolo from the strings and arpeggionated chords from Deirdre. A fuga ensured – cello, viola, violin II, violinI with a massive climatic crescendo…and a grand pause.  

The same as the beginning: soft octave notes and the piano played rippling arpeggios. The last section was very agitato – big chords to finish – but still a sense of yearning and loss. 

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I had the same reservation as Voice of the Whale. Why did they programme this way with the newest work first and the older work last? Maybe I am a chronodicalist at heart – I like to have the programme in order by the dates of the composition, or at least, by order of the evolution of music genres. Piano Quintet; Hu-pū-te-hue; Manaaki would be my preference.

Or better, why did they not included another piece with taonga pūoro? Maybe He Poroporoaki (Saying Goodbye) by Gareth Farr and Richard Nunns or Puhake ki te rangi, also by Gillian Whitehead

But, I guess, that one reason is to play works that would not be heard if they were not included. Works from Grażyna Bacewicz and Amy Beach. And it is valuable to hear them. But that is true for most of the pieces that this ANZFA and ACMF project is mounting.

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1: SOUNZ – Centre for New Zealand Music – Toi te Arapūoru
http://sounz.org.nz

Gillian Whitehead
Philip Brownlee
Ariana Tikao
Bob Bickerton
New Zealand String Quartet
Diedre Irons

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2: Hirini Melbourne (1949-2003)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirini_Melbourne
https://sounz.org.nz/contributors/1166?locale=en

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3: Richard Nunns (1945-2021)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Nunns
https://sounz.org.nz/contributors/1300?locale=en

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4: Most of the range of taonga puoro instruments can be viewed and heard with this resource, curated by SOUNZ.
https://news.sounz.org.nz/taonga-puoro-resources/ 

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5: The hongi – https://www.nzmanukagroup.com/find-out-more/news/archive/hongi-maori-greeting

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6: Note from the composers on Manaaki

“Manaaki is a key concept within te ao Māori and means ‘to support, take care of, give hospitality to, protect, show

respect, and generosity for others’. This piece takes inspiration from the pōwhiri process, the ritual of encounter that typically happens on marae, where mana whenua welcome in the manuhiri. This should uphold the mana of the home and people as well as acknowledge and enhance the mana of the people entering.

respect, and generosity for others’. This piece takes inspiration from the pōwhiri process, the ritual of encounter that typically happens on marae, where mana whenua welcome in the manuhiri. This should uphold the mana of the home and people as well as acknowledge and enhance the mana of the people entering.

It starts with the shifting of energy through the use of the pūrerehua, which indicates something is about to start. Then the kaikaranga start to call and weave their voices together, with pūtōrino and strings shooting up into the heavens and then coming back down to earth. This is followed by an invocation of tangi, bringing in the voices of our ancestors. The next section represents the voices of the kaikōrero, a robust musical discussion among the male voices of the ensemble.

The piece then moves into the hongi, a sharing of our sacred breath, which symbolises peace, and a chance to reflect on the process and transition before a more improvisational ending that indicates a release and celebration that the ceremony has been completed. Through experiencing this ritual and understanding the principle of manaakitanga, we are reminded of how we should treat each other, in a way that enhances each other’s mana through dialogue and respect.”

Mauri ora, nā Ariana and Phil.

Manaaki was originally commissioned by Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts.

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7:  from SOUNZ, information about Hue-pū-te-hue:
https://sounz.org.nz/works/16446?locale=en

About

Hine-pū-te-hue translates literally as the woman of the sound of the gourd, and 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.

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