Giving voice to an aria

The music for Aria: a dawn song, by Christopher Blake

The music for Aria: a dawn song, by Christopher Blake

Te Ara’s new story on New Zealand composers, written by William Dart, charts the development and maturation of a home-grown composing tradition. In a story devoted to music it was necessary to make lavish use of sound and video recordings and we haven’t stinted in that regard – readers can listen to the likes of 19th-century pioneer Alfred Hill, composing giant Douglas Lilburn, and contemporary composers Eve de Castro-Robinson and Jeremy Mayall, who combines electronic music and turntablism with taonga puoro (Māori musical instruments) to great effect.

One of the more exciting resources for those of us who worked on this story was Christopher Blake’s Aria: a dawn song. This short piece for solo flute was composed in 1991 for the opening of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs (which, in 2000, joined up with the history and heritage parts of the Department of Internal Affairs to become Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which is home to Te Ara). The ministry had a framed copy of the score and we hoped to use this in the entry and bring it to life with an accompanying recording. Alas, Dawn song had never been recorded.

Being a resourceful bunch, we saw this as an opportunity rather than a problem. We needed to get Chris Blake’s permission to publish the score on Te Ara, so asked him about a recording at the same time. Chris is CEO of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and so had no shortage of suitably qualified musicians at his fingertips. He arranged for principal flute Bridget Douglas to play the piece and it was recorded at the end of a larger NZSO recording project.

We are delighted to present this recording of Aria: a dawn song to the world at a time when the first build of Te Ara is ending and a new phase beginning.

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