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Lost songs of Aotearoa 

28 July 2022
catrin johnsson
Catrin Johnsson, one of the performers.

Aotearoa’s musical history will be revived on stage at New Zealand Opera’s Call of the Huia performance, uncovering works that were lying dormant, and rediscovering the musical treasures of the past. Words Hannah Brown

The local performance is to take place on July 31 at The Piano in Christchurch, led by musical historian and chorus director Michael Vinten who developed the programme through years of research. 

He says the idea came from the feedback he received about not having enough New Zealand repertoire for opera and classical music.  

At the end of 2020, he began his research and received a Lilburn grant. 

“I realised that there were so many classical Kiwi songs needed to be shared and their stories to be told” he says. 

‘Call of the Huia’ refers to the rare Huia bird which was in the south-east of North Island, it is said their call were mostly a varied array of whistles, “soft, melodious and flute-like.” The Huia bird is now extinct. 

Michael says the programme takes the audience through songs from 1876 to 1950, with a focus on Māori land and substantial movement in literature, art songs in nature, the poet and the music, and some extremely beautiful songs. 

He says the show will be a journey throughout time, and the audience will get a deeper understanding of the context and significance around poetry at the time. 

“I think people will be in for a better musical experience than what they expect,” he says. 

The performance will feature highlights from his recent three volume collection of mainly unpublished pre-1950s New Zealand art songs, which provide a glimpse into the preoccupations and concerns of their times through periods of peace and war.  

The performers include Oliver Sewell, Catrin Johnsson, Wade Kernot, and Bruce Greenfield.

To find out more, click here.  

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