‘Taonga Moana - A love letter to the oceans’ was a truly stunning part at this year’s Festival of Colour, performed by VOICES New Zealand Chamber Choir.
With Music Director Dr Karen Grylls, the choir made its début at the 1998 New Zealand International Arts Festival and, with its distinct New Zealand sound, infusing the qualities of its pacific origins into the classic choral repertoire, has established itself as the country’s premier national and professional choir.
VOICES regularly performs at Arts Festivals around the country, collaborates with orchestras, Chamber Music New Zealand, Taonga Puoro and other artists across creative genres.
The performance last Wednesday night, complete with video art, choreography and soundscapes, was a musical and visual homage to the beauty and vulnerability of our oceans with music from around the globe.
It followed the Māori navigator Ui-Te-Rangiora on his quest to save the oceans, from icy northern seas all the way down to a fragile sanctuary in Antarctica.
I got a little lost part way along this journey. Partly because the video screen behind the performers was unfortunately obscured for anyone sitting in the stalls, but also because the composition’s origin and subject was not always easily identifiable, the narration more dramatic than geographical.
Nevertheless, I was along for the ride - and the performance was as hauntingly beautiful as it was challenging. Challenging for the choir, absolutely, who showcased an incredible talent, range and ability to sing in multiple languages - but also challenging for the audience. There were no recognisable songs, few uplifting melodies, and the evening was underwritten by the bleak knowledge that we are destroying our world’s oceans, and they need our help.
It was both a cultural and educational experience - and although I’d have to say it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, perhaps it was what we needed.
Read edition 1023 of the Wānaka Sun here.