12 Nov 2020

Introducing Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home

From Upbeat, 9:00 am on 12 November 2020

Homesick and under-employed, a group of New Zealand opera singers based in London pulled together to make something beautiful for the world, and generate some much needed lock-down income from their art.

Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home performers at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home performers at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Photo: Claire Egan

Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home is a beautiful performance of Pakeha, Māori and Pacific songs live in the Royal Albert Hall to be shared internationally. RNZ Concert is the official media partner.

"Many of us have struggled through the pandemic, unable to go home, be with our friends and family or even make music. This performance will bring us together, provide an essential working opportunity for these professional musicians, lift our spirits and those of our audience, and share NZ’s stunning music with the world. We hope you enjoy this concert: our ode to New Zealand." - Singer and event organiser Julien Van Mellaerts.

Here's a preview from some of the singers involved in the project:


The performers gathered - socially distanced - to capture an hour-long concert in the Royal Albert Hall just before London’s latest lockdown. It features 21 UK-based NZ singers, pianist Bradley Wood, conductor Tianyi Lu and the Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club.

We invite you to experience the world premiere broadcast of Whanau: Voices of Aotearoa, Far From Home  at 1pm on Monday 23 November on RNZ Concert (repeated 6pm Sunday 29 November).

Video of the performance will be available on the RNZ website from 9am on Monday 23 November, for one month.

Making the best of a tough situation

Based in the UK to further their careers or to study and unable to get home as the Covid-19 pandemic spread, most of these world-class singers have not been able to perform since theatres, opera houses and music schools closed in March, halting their main source of income. Many have been ineligible for government assistance and have struggled to find other work.

The singers decided to take the initiative and create a fundraising concert to perform songs from home and to spend time with other New Zealand singers after months in isolation. Thanks to the famed Kiwi Number 8 wire mentality and the support of sponsors including the Royal Albert Hall who donated the venue, all funds raised will go towards supporting the performers until performance venues can open again.

“What started as just a simple idea of performing again has grown into something that is bringing dozens of performers together from NZ and London to share and celebrate our country, culture, and what unites us,” said organiser Julien Van Mellaerts.

While the performance is free for all to enjoy, people can choose to contribute directly to the singers and musicians through their website whanaulondonvoices.com.  

Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home performers at the Royal Albert Hall, London

Whānau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home performers at the Royal Albert Hall, London Photo: Claire Egan

Artists include:

  • Organiser and baritone Julien Van Mellaerts (Kathleen Ferrier Award winner, and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 finalist)
  • Organiser and soprano Madeleine Pierard (former Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist and Lexus Song Quest Winner)
  • Filipe Manu (current ROH Jette Parker Young Artist)
  • Madison Nonoa (Jerwood Young Artist Glyndebourne 2020)
  • Benson Wilson (Kathleen Ferrier Award winner and Harewood ENO Young Artist)
  • Phillip Rhodes (Lexus Song Quest winner)
  • Isabella Moore (Lexus Song Quest winner)
  • Kieran Rayner
  • Marlena Devoe
  • Sophie Sparrow
  • Katherine McIndoe
  • Christie Cook
  • Claire Egan
  • Kamilla Dunstan
  • Rhonda Browne
  • Carleen Ebbs
  • Clinton Fung
  • Leila Alexander
  • Kamilla Dunstan
  • Jonathan Eyers
  • Harry Grigg
  • Jarrod Lee
  • Benjamin Reason
  • pianist Bradley Wood
  • award-winning NZ conductor Tianyi Lu