28 Aug 2020

National Youth Orchestra commission opens NZSO's Passion concert

From Upbeat, 12:13 pm on 28 August 2020
Robin Toan

Robin Toan Photo: Supplied by composer

Back in 2005, Robin Toan became the inaugural Composer-in-Residence for the National Youth Orchestra. Coming out of that year was her work Tū-mata-uenga “God of War, Spirit of Man”, premiered by the orchestra on 23 August 2005 in Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre.

Robin says the work was inspired by the Maori story of creation.The story starts in the beginning when the world between Rangi-nui, the Sky Father, Papa-tua-nuku, the Earth Mother, was cramped and dark. Their children could not grow in this environment and were forced to take action to survive and Rangi and Papa were forced apart - creating the world, as we know it today.

Robin's piece portrays the part of the story where Tū-mata-uenga struggles to tear Rangi from Papa:

"Tū-mata-uenga...leapt at the task, hacking wildly at the sinews that bound Earth and Sky, making them bleed. It is with this act that the sacred red clay, or ochre, was made. But even Tū, the fiercest of the sons, could not sever Rangi from his lover Papa."


Conductor Gemma New

Conductor Gemma New Photo: Roy Cox

Among the National Youth Orchestra players for that first performance in 2005 was young violinist Gemma New.

Fast-forward 15 years to this Saturday's New Zealand Symphony Orchestra concert Passion, when Gemma will once again perform the work in the Michael Fowler Centre - but this time from the conductor's podium. She's chosen the work to open her debut concert with the orchestra.