To The Horizon: Images of New Zealand

This cycle was composed in 1990 to celebrate New Zealand’s Sesquicentennial. It was commissioned by Dr Karen Grylls and the Auckland Dorian Choir who first performed it twice in June 1990. Composition took place in Western Samoa and New Zealand, with the final revision in New York in 1997. This revision included the two songs ‘Home Thoughts’ and ‘On The Swag’ unable to be completed for the 1990 premiere.  There have been many successful performances of individual songs from the cycle in New Zealand, the United States and Europe. However the full twelve-song cycle was only premiered in 2016: Rob Curtis directing the choir i Coristi in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in November 2016. The twelve songs are settings of texts by eight New Zealand poets, each one suggesting a different aspect of ‘horizon’: the physical horizon, where sea or plains or mountains meet the sky; or a range of metaphorical horizons: a glimpse into the past, into the future, or to the limits of our experience or comprehension.

1) Horizon I 2) Horizon II

Ian Wedde

1)  SSATB 2) SSATB x2 + solo soprano and baritone

The beautiful opening lines of the poem ‘Those Others’ frames the cycle. It has resonances of the Maori creation myth, where life emerges through the forced separation of Rangi and Papa. Gentle, atmospheric. 1) ±3″  2) ±4″

Walking On My Feet

A.R.D. Fairburn


The human journey ‘from womb to tomb’ through the eyes of a tramp. Lively, rhythmic, tuneful. ±3″

Home Thoughts

Denis Glover


The new Jerusalem? An optimistic vision of New Zealand, from an early 20th century perspective. Wry humour, echoes of Parry. ±2″

Not By Wind Ravaged

Hone Tuwhare


The music is a setting of the first verse of this passionate lament at the loss of Maori identity, a loss symbolised by the abandoned marae. Intense, dramatic. ±3″

Wild Honey

Alistair Campbell


The text, taken from a joyful love song to the poet’s wife Meg, is subtly infused with Polynesian imagery. Gentle, wistful serenade. ±2″

The Magpies

Denis Glover


The account of an unsuccessful farming venture. The Australasian magpie is a large, crow-like bird with a beautiful cry. Folksong-like, poignant. ±3″ Listen (recording by kind permission of Magen Solomon and the San Francisco Choral Artists)

To A Friend

A.R.D. Fairburn


Taken from ‘To a Friend in the Wilderness’ a poem written shortly before the poet’s death. Contains sea imagery. Lyrical, moving. ±3″

Song At Summer’s End

A.R.D. Fairburn


‘Tempus fugit’ in the form of a playground rhyme, with clock chimes. Rapid tempo, light hearted, melodious. ±2″

Elegy In A City Railyard

M.K. Joseph


A cityscape from the 1940s, grim and grey, but viewed with an unmistakable affection. ‘Blues’ colouring, nostalgic. ±3″

On The Swag

R.A.K. Mason


The Great Depression hit people from all walks of life. It always paid to treat the tramp with respect, you never knew who he might turn out to be. Syncopated, tuneful. ±3″

To L.H.B.

Katherine Mansfield


Mansfield’s young brother died in France in the early days of the First World War. Strange, dreamlike, dramatic. Driving ‘heart-beat’ motif, soaring melody. ±3″ Listen (recording by kind permission of Steven Sano and the Stanford Chamber Chorale.

*The Magpies, Song At Summer’s End and Elegy In A City Railyard originally comprised Three New Zealand Songs commissioned by Viva Voce. Home Thoughts and On The Swag were commissioned by the Ashburton Chorale and subsequently  incorporated.