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'Rock' music from CSO to celebrate university's 150th

21 August 2023

CSO musicians will use river stones as instruments when they perform the world premiere of a new work inspired by Christchurch and marking 150 years of the University of Canterbury.


The anniversary concert Noteworthy – 150 Years of University of Canterbury, on Saturday 26 August at the Christchurch Town Hall, showcases UC’s broad range of musical talent and demonstrates the long-standing relationship between Te Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO).

UC’s connection to Ōtatauhi Christchurch anchors the concert which features a new work by UC Head of Composition Dr Reuben de Lautour and taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments) artist and composer Mahina-Ina Kingi-Kaui commissioned to mark UC’s 150th anniversary.

<img src="" alt="Mark Menzies" style="    " class="img-responsive additional-image"> Professor Mark Menzies, Head of Performance at the University of Canterbury School of Music, who is conducting Noteworthy.

Te Reo Ki Ōtākaro | Voices of Ōtākaro is a sonic portrayal of significant moments in Christchurch’s past and present, but it also looks to the city’s future.

In an unusual twist, CSO musicians will perform the new work using river stones, tapping and rubbing them together to evoke the soundscape of Ōtatauhi Christchurch and its river, as well as playing their traditional instruments.

Dr de Lautour says about a dozen members of the ensemble will play the stones at the same time creating tranquil “water-type sounds”.

“I first encountered river stones as a percussion instrument when I was living abroad, separate from their history as part of taonga pūoro practice. Working with Mahina has brought a different perspective to things. She’s taught me how the texture of the stone is really important, especially when you use them to create friction – the rubbing noises – It can really affect the sound.”

Dr de Lautour moved to Christchurch five years ago and he says the work is inspired by his perspective as something of an outsider to the city. His starting point for the lyrics was text carved into stone along Te Ara Ōtākaro Avon River Trail, including lines written by Ngāi Tahu poets.

He hopes Voices of Ōtakaro will help the audience reflect on Christchurch’s past, its post-quake rebuild, and its future. “Where do we go from here and what can these texts from our past tell us?”

UC Amokapua |Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist says there is a strong sense of place in the programme. “We wanted this concert to highlight the close relationship between UC and our hometown, Ōtautahi, and its people. It’s also a fantastic showcase of the impressive talent in the University’s School of Music and the CSO.”

He says Noteworthy will appeal to all tastes because there’s a wide variety of musical styles, including exciting new work from UC students and staff, and favourites from the recent past.

Christchurch soul and pop singer, Lauren Barus, aka L A Mitchell, who is a songwriting and contemporary voice tutor at UC, will perform four of her best-known songs for Noteworthy.

The programme also features Master of Music graduate Rakuto Kurano’s new work Concerto Grosso, which is in the Italian baroque style with a contemporary twist, and Papanui Road Overture, which was first performed by the CSO in 1988. It was composed by former UC Head of Music, the late Professor Emeritus John Ritchie, and captures the bustle and atmosphere of one of Christchurch’s best-known and busiest streets. 

In a second world premiere, UC Associate Professor Justin DeHart will perform acclaimed New Zealand composer Gareth Farr’s new solo percussion work Macet (Balinese for traffic jam) which combines drums, Balinese gamelan and electronics.

Professor Mark Menzies, Head of Performance at UC’s School of Music, will conduct the CSO for the concert which he says will be like “a musical party” to honour UC’s history. “I think what we’re really doing is celebrating what we do every day, which is coming together to make music.”

CSO Chief Executive Graham Sattler says the orchestra has a long-standing, close relationship with UC. “We are delighted to collaborate with the University on this special celebration of musical development, skill and accomplishment."

  • Noteworthy – 150 Years of University of Canterbury, Saturday 26 August, 7.30pm at the Christchurch Town Hall’s Douglas Lilburn Auditorium. Tickets at Eventfinda.
<img src="" alt="Reuben de Lautour" style="    " class="img-responsive main-content-image"> Dr Reuben De Lautour, Head of Composition at the University of Canterbury School of Music, has composed Te Reo Ki Ōtākaro | Voices of Ōtākaro to mark UC’s 150th anniversary. It will be performed by the CSO for the first time at Noteworthy – 150 Years of University of Canterbury on 26 August.

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