Tongariro (2022/23)

work for Symphony Orchestra. Duration: 5 mins.


1 Piccolo, 2 Flutes (1 doubles a 2nd piccolo), 2 Oboes, 1 Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets in Bb, 1 Bass Clarinet in Bb, 2 Bassoons, 1 Contrabassoon, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in Bb, 1 Trumpet in C, 1 Tenor Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Tuba, 3 Percussionists: Percussion 1 – Timpani, Percussion 2 – Bass drum, Tam-Tam, Tambourine, Cocoa Bean Rattle, Foot Tambourine, Guiro, Percussion 3 – Triangle, Tambourine, Guiro, Gourd Maracas, Bass Drum, Drum Set (Kick drum & Cymbal), 1 Concert Harp, 1 Piano, Strings

Programme Note

Tongariro is a volcanic National Park on the North Island of New Zealand/Aotearoa. It is the site of one of the country’s Great Walks – The Tongariro Crossing. My wife and I undertook this epic hike through otherworldly volcanic terrain in 2022. Soon after starting the walk I began to feel a strange primordial music coming from the lower reaches of Mount Tongariro. It was a style of music like I’d never composed before, without any conventional sense of melody, but instead with shifting dynamic terraces of colour. Approximately two weeks after the walk, the majority of this piece came to me late one night. After composing it I knew exactly what it was, it was the music I’d felt at Tongariro.

One element was missing though, the distinctive bird-song of the area that can be heard on the ascent and especially the descent through the lush forest that wraps around Tongariro. So I’ve peppered the orchestration with snippets of the extraordinary songs of native birds – Tui, Fantail, Grey Warbler/Riroriro and Bellbird/Korimako.

This is the first piece of mine that I can definitively call a composition from New Zealand/Aotearoa. I hold dual Irish and New Zealand residency. Born and raised in Ireland, an Irish character naturally finds its way into much of my music. Since first arriving in New Zealand in 2014 I’ve searched for my New Zealand/Aotearoa voice. I found it wandering the awe-inspiring trails of Tongariro.

In Maori culture Tongariro is considered a divine ancestor.
I honestly feel like this piece was gifted to me by Tongariro itself.
I dedicate this piece to Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, the Maori iwi (tribes)
who kindly allow others to walk on their waahi tapu (sacred land).

Ko Tongariro te maunga – Tongariro is the mountain
Ko Taupo te moana – Taupo is the lake
Ko Ngāti Tuwharetoa te iwi – Ngāti Tuwharetoa is the tribe
Ko te Heuheu te tangata – Te Heuheu is the man / Chief