Kuaka (godwits) lead the great navigator Ui-Te-Rangiora on a journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic to call attention to the precarious state of the world's oceans.
A concert performed by Voices New Zealand, conducted by Karen Grylls, in the Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber in Hamilton.
The choir’s music director and conductor, Karen Grylls, tells us in her programme note that,
“The initial idea was an inspiration drawn from conversations with many people about how our oceans must become sanctuaries and the need for us all to care for them. If we followed the kuaka, the godwit, on its spring journey south from its breeding nests in the great Siberian and Alaskan tundra to the rich feeding grounds provided by Aotearoa’s tidal flats and coastal marshes, we could embrace the oceans and thank them for allowing the earth to exist. Taonga Moana is just that: a love song to the oceans.”
With music by nine composers including the New Zealanders David Hamilton and Warren Maxwell, the programme follows a synopsis developed by Sara Brodie and the concert was presented with staging directed by Brodie and visual design by Tim and Mic Gruchy.
Summary of the synopsis
From their northern breeding grounds, the kuaka cry out for the great Polynesian navigator Ui-Te-Rangiora to rise up. From the ancient seabed he appears on a waka made of dead men’s bones. The kuaka call for him to journey southwards with them to speak to future generations.
The Arctic Sea ice melts and releases the voices of whalers. Ui-Te-Rangiora discovers the whale-paths are now silent.
At the equator, the navigator encounters a giant serpent who encircles the oceans and contains the poisons of the waters.
Shells of the sea’s creatures are weakening in acid waters and breaking up. Ui-Te-Rangiora’s waka of bones begins to disintegrate. Kurma the sea turtle is awakened and he catches the navigator on his back.
At the Pacific Gyre they encounter another serpent – this one man-made, an attempt to clear the waters of discarded plastic.
Reaching Aotearoa, the kuaka are exhausted and must rest. In the cooler waters, the turtle can no longer continue either so Ui-Te-Rangiora transfers to the back of Tohorā, the whale, to ride to the Rāhui, the sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean.
David HAMILTON: Karakia of the Stars
James GORDON arr Diane LOOMER: Frobisher Bay
Jaako MÄNTYJÄRVI: The Seafarer
Jeff ENNS: The Sorrow Song of Whales
MOZART: Lacrimosa, from Requiem
Warren MAXWELL: Hind Mahaasaagar
Ken STEVEN: Hentakan Jiwa
Ēriks EŠENVALDS: A Drop in the Ocean
Mason BATES: Observer in the Magellanic Cloud
Warren MAXWELL: Te Tai Uka a Pia
Recorded by RNZ Concert in Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber, Hamilton, 11 October 2019
Producer: Tim Dodd
Sound Engineer: Adrian Hollay