1 Jul 2019

Matariki, music and memories

From Upbeat, 9:09 am on 1 July 2019

At this time of year, the constellation Matariki appears in the north-east sky.

Known to the ancient Greeks as the Pleiades, to the Hawaiians as Makaliʻi, and to the Japanese as Subaru, the re-appearance of these ‘seven sisters’ often coincides with the Southern hemisphere's winter solstice - the shortest day, and the Maori New Year.

Matariki has been important to tangata whenua for generations, and in recent times more New Zealanders are embracing the celebration.

Here are some ways you can mark the changing season and year, and enjoy our musical selections to get you in the mood.

Gather round the fire 

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Photo: pexels.com

First things first - it's cold.

Whether it’s the wood burner in your house or a bonfire on a freezing beach somewhere, warming yourself by a fire has is one of the most primitive and satisfying ways to celebrate the passing of the winter solstice.

And what better accompaniment to the roar and crackle of the flames than a reminder of the weather you’re trying to escape? 

Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons paints a picture of wind and sleet.

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Salina Fisher’s Rainphase, inspired by the Wellington rain, makes us want to snuggle up by the fire even more.  

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Stargaze 

Matariki

Matariki Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

Look up! See if you can spot the stars of Matariki, or the Southern Cross which appears high in the sky during winter. Here's astronomer Richard Hall talking about the Matariki cluster.

Fill your ears with Leonie Holmes’ wonderful Solstice, which evokes the many winter rituals performed over millennia.

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Hold a Matariki feast 

Hangi master Rewi Spraggon

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Grub’s up! Matariki is a time of both looking ahead to the arrival of spring, but also celebrating the fruits of the last harvest.

Gather your friends and loved ones and be thankful for the blessings of the past year – here are some Matariki recipes to get you started! 

Pork & Pūha with steamed vegetables

Kaanga Wai (Fermented Corn) - tastes a bit like porridge!

Sweet Kumara with Maple Syrup 

At the same time, you can warm your ears with some mellow jazz, or go full Southern Hemisphere with a mid-winter Christmas party, accompanied by music from the NZSO's Christmas Pops, and some seasonal jazz to get you in the mood!

Tell stories 

Saturday Night at Sea: An illustration from the book "Songs, naval and national" by Thomas Dibdin, 1841.

Saturday Night at Sea: An illustration from the book "Songs, naval and national" by Thomas Dibdin, 1841. Photo: Pubic Domain/Illustration by George Cruikshank (d. 1878).

Gathering together and sharing entertaining tales is common around the world. It's perfect for this time of the year, and there are many Matariki stories to explore.

The seven stars can represent a mother (Matariki) and her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī and Waitā, and Ururangi.  Find out more from our friends at Te Papa

Another popular story is The Seven Kites of Matariki by Calico McLintock. Gather the whānau and listen as Acushla-Tara Kupe tells the story

Remember those who have passed

Members of the public laid poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior following the Wellington dawn service

Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

While this is a time of new, it's also a time of remembrance.

Acknowledging our tupuna - those who have gone before us - connects our present to the past. It can help bring a little perspective to things, which can be a good thing when we’re shivering through yet another winter. 

Remembrance is a favourite theme of classical composers.

Mahler’s Totenfeier (literally “Funeral Feast”) is essentially a giant funeral march.

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John Tavener’s Exhortation and Kohima is a serene setting of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ – “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old”.

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And David Childs’ Requiescat looks back at the passing of a dear friend.  

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.