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World Premiere For Māori Battalion Tribute

A moving and powerful tribute to the 28th Battalion (the Māori Battalion), sung in te reo Māori, will have its spectacular World Premiere in Wellington this month.

Performed by Orpheus Choir Wellington, Aotearoa’s premier symphonic choir, and enriched with a kapa haka group and a chorus of more than 100 tamariki drawn from schools around Wellington, the performance of E Kiwi E promises to be truly unforgettable.

Composed by the talented young New Zealand artist Takerei Komene and inspired by older waiata with the same title, the text of E Kiwi E expresses heartfelt concern for soldiers in the Māori Battalion stationed far from home.

“The soldiers of the Māori Battalion were not just soldiers - they were sons, fathers, husbands and brothers sent to fight in a war for a king and a country that did not love them.” Takerei says.

This new telling of a unique Kiwi story has been commissioned by Orpheus Choir Wellington and will be presented as part of very special ANZAC Day commemorations.

Takerei Komene (Photo supplied)

“The prospect of everyone coming together to complete the work is incredibly exciting,” Takerei says.

The work opens the choir's The Armed Man Concert, which features Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man — A Mass for Peace, an accessible modern masterpiece that explores the human experience in times of conflict.

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Brent Stewart, Orpheus Music Director and Conductor, says the themes of loss, resilience, and the enduring desire for reconciliation resonate deeply today.

“Though deeply immersive, palpable and stirring music, this concert does not shy away from expressing the fragility of peace and the horrifying human cost of war,” Brent says.

Writers whose words appear in the work include Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sankichi Toge, who survived the Hiroshima bombing in 1945.

Orpheus will be supported by the multi-award-winning Wellington Brass Band and highly acclaimed and internationally renowned mezzo soprano Maaike Christie-Beekman for this performance.

“Undoubtedly New Zealand’s greatest band, the Wellington Brass Band is the only New Zealand band to achieve five consecutive A Grade National titles, and have won nine national titles in the last decade,” Brent says.

The performance takes place on 20 April at the Michael Fowler Centre, with Orpheus performing highlights from the concert at the ANZAC Day memorial at Te Papa on Thursday April 25. Tickets range from $20 to $60 and are available at Ticketmaster.co.nz or 0800 111 999. More information about Orpheus Choir Wellington can be found at www.orpheuschoir.org.nz.

Takerei Komene (they/them) is an award-winning musician studying at the University of Auckland. Their compositions have been performed internationally, and they both sing in and conduct many choirs across the country. They are passionate about, and have experience in, music teaching, performance, conducting, composition, studio pedagogy, and administration.

From the Composer of E Kiwi E — Takerei Komene

Are there any particular moments or sections within the composition that hold special meaning for you personally?

Towards the middle of the piece, the full forces of choir, organ and brass are pared right back to just singers and a guitar - an image of whānau at home awaiting the safe return of their son from lands afar. The soldiers of the Māori Battalion were not just soldiers - they were sons, fathers, husbands and brothers sent to fight in a war for a king and a country that did not love them.

What do you want the audience to experience?

Hope - hope for the prospect that Aotearoa (and the world) will not see the likes of this war again.

What are you most looking forward to at the World Premiere of your composition?

Seeing everything coming together. The collaborative process is an extremely important one, and one that I value dearly, and with all of the forces involved in the piece, the prospect of everyone coming together to complete the work is incredibly exciting. Plus - I've never written for Brass before...

Can you tell us about the creative process behind crafting this composition?

Having sung at many ANZAC services, the Ode to Remembrance from Binyon's For the Fallen resonated in mind at the beginning of the process. The image of the "going down of the sun" struck me as incredibly melancholic, and the music basically sprouted from that point.

I knew that I wanted to describe two of the many sides of war. My music represents the starkness of war, using moments of uncomfortable silence and near constant dissonance to create a picture of chaos and desolation. In contrast, Tuini Ngāwai's E Kiwi e speaks of longing and hope in the simplest, most devastating way. Together, the music speaks of sights that we should hope never to see again.

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