Diedre Irons (piano). Recorded by RNZ Concert, 11 March 1986.
Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead has written a wide range of music including works for solo, chamber, choral, orchestral and operatic forces. Born in Hamilton in 1941, she studied at the University of Auckland from 1959–62, and Victoria University of Wellington in 1963. She then studied composition at the University of Sydney with Peter Sculthorpe from 1964-65. The following year she attended a composition course given by Peter Maxwell Davies in Adelaide and then travelled to England to continue studying with him. In 1981 she returned to Australasia to join the staff of the Composition School at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was for four years Head of Composition there before taking early retirement in 1996. She has received numerous honours and awards, including the CANZ KBB Citation for Services to New Zealand Music, and in 2008 she became a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Gillian writes: ‘Voices of Tane' was the first piece I wrote on my first return to New Zealand after nine years away. It was written for my sister, Joyce Whitehead, to play at the Registered Music Teachers' Conference in Auckland that year. A series of seven short piano pieces, written with children in mind (although some of them are difficult for children to play), was written for my godson, Kit Boyes. There is little to say about the pieces themselves except that the last repeats the first, the third has to do with birdsong, the fifth with the wind, and the sixth consists of nine ideas that the pianist plays in whatever sequence she or he wishes.’