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2014 Composition Competition Success

"Wairua" for solo harp won 1st place in the 2014 competition for a new work for solo harp, organised by the University of Waikato and the Harp Society of NZ. The work ("Wairua") was presented at the international World Harp Congress in Sydney in July 2014. The judging panel praised the work for its "...skilful composition and imaginative use of the resources of the concert harp, while also opening up a very engaging sound world for listeners".

Other new works 2012, including a major work for Auckland Choral

Auckland Choral will present a new Hamilton work on 25 August 2012. The new piece, "The Necessary Rain" is a further setting of a text by Bill Sewell from his cycle of poems "Erebus". This work follows on from "Breaking the Quiet" for baritone and orchestra written in 2008. Both works set texts relating to the crash of an Air New Zealand sight-seeing flight in the Antarctic on 28 November 1979. At the time it was the world’s fourth worst aviation disaster, killing 257 passengers and crew. Both pieces are beginning steps towards an opera based on that event, and more particularly on the aftermath – the royal commission and its conclusions. “Erebus: a poem” by Bill Sewell was published in 1999. It is an extended poem in thirty-four sections, and covers not only the events of the crash, but also the aftermath and its effect on New Zealand society. “The Necessary Rain” is the sixteenth section of the poem, and as with “Breaking the Quiet” the poet draws attention to the fact that nobody was there to witness the crash, and nobody was there who could have warned the pilot of the imminent danger as the plane headed directly at Mount Erebus. Here is a link to an article in Auckland's Central Leader:

Premiered at the Westlake Girls' and Boys' High Schools' proms concert on 30th March were two new works:

  • "Children of the Fire Gods" written for the Westlake Symphony Orchestra (conducted by David Squire). This will feature in the orchestra's program for the KBB Music Festival in Auckland in August.

  • "Ecce beatam lucem"  written for NZ's top school choir Choralation (conducted by Rowan Johnston). This is part of the choir's repertoire for The Big Sing national finale.

On 23 June, GALS (Auckland's Gay and Lesbian Singers) gave the first performance of "A Bright Light Still Shines" for SATB choir and piano. It was warmly received by a large crowd at the choir's mid-year concert. GALS celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2012, and is commissioning a new Hamilton piece for the choir's celebration concert in late October. A video of the premiere performance can be found at:

A new work for two percussionists and orchestra was premiered by Taranaki Youth Orchestra combined with the New Plymouth Orchestra on Sunday 22 July. "Double Percussion Concerto No.2" has been written for two fine young percussionists from New Plymouth. A capacity audience greeted the new work warmly, and a link to the performance on YouTube can be found here:

In 2012 the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is running a series of workshops for six selected composers to write works for the newly restored Auckland Town Hall organ with full symphony orchestra. The project began with a selection process based on proposals put forward by composers, and in May the first workshop was held. Whatever the composers had ready was played through and the composers then went off to re-work, re-write and extend what they had already done. The next workshops are in August and November, with a performance of the six new pieces scheduled for 23 May 2013. The new Hamilton work is titled "Chimera" and will feature Auckland's civic organist John Wells.

Three new works for community choirs (2011)

On 18 December 2011, South Auckland Choral Society premiered a new Christmas work for choir and brass band. Commissioned by the choir, the work consist of five movements - one for the band alone. The texts of "Christmas Here and There" contrast the New Zealand summertime experience of Christmas, with the more traditional northern hemisphere winter Christmas images.

During the early part of 2011 David Hamilton worked with Pakuranga Choral Society and Mercury Bay Community Choir (Whitianga). New works were written for both choirs. For Pakuranga Choral Society "The Shop of Dreams" sets seven lullaby texts - and even includes a special part for the audience to join in with at the end of the work! Alongside the more gentle traditional kinds of lullaby texts are settings of Jack Prelutsky's :Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens" and a rollicking Margaret Mahy text "Baby is Falling Asleep". The work is scored for alto solo, SAB choir and piano and was premiered the weekend of 11 and 12 June in concerts at Morrinsville on the Saturday and Howick on the Sunday afternoons..

For Mercury Bay Community Choir the new work was "Down on the Farm". This cycle of five movements sets New Zealand poetry about the landscape and farming. The first is a witty story of a rather vain and fussy cow called Belinda, who wanted to enter the cow beauty show. Arriving late, she had to be content with being given some money by the man at the gate, for her own manicure set and a mirror. The second text is a brief Ruth Dallas poem about the constantly changing colours of the flowers in a summer meadow. The third text is about a dog whose owner realises that a small garden was not where the animal desired to live - he wanted to roam the hills as a sheep dog. ‘Drought’, the fourth text, is a short poem describing the landscape during a hot dry spell of weather. The final text tells of beginning a new farm on land that has been let go to ragwort and fern. This new work, for SAB choir and piano, premiered on Sunday 29th May in a concert in Whitianga which also featured St Mary's Schola from St Mary's College in Auckland.

Napier Civic Choir premieres "Awful Ogre's Awful Day"

On Sunday 15 August 2010 Napier Civic Choir, conducted by the composer, presented the first performance of "Awful Ogre's Awful Day" - a setting of texts from the poetry book by Jack Prelutsky. Also on the programme was a performance of Haydn's "Nelson Mass". The review in the local paper commented:

"...David Hamilton's precise direction ensured the high overall quality of an expressive performance. 'Awful Ogre's Awful Day' is a setting of nine clever and amusing verses for children by American poet Jack Prelutsky. As well as a highly skilled conductor, David Hamilton is an established international composer with many acclaimed compositions to his credit. His ability in this art was certainly evident with the appropriate character of each verse captured in his widely varied and innovative settings."
(Peter Williams, Hawkes Bay Today,16 August 2010)

A second conducting engagement for the year occured in late November  - an invitation from South Auckland Choral Society to conduct their Christmas concert saw performances of Saint-Saens "Christmas Oratorio" and the Christmas work "The Road to Bethlehem" written by the conductor.

Major performances in 2010

The early part of 2010 saw several new works being premiered. "Flight" was commissioned by the Manukau Symphony Orchestra as a short fanfare-like concert opener for the orchestra's first concert of the year. It was conducted by the orchestra's Music Director Uwe Grodd in the orchestra's first concert for the year.

"Me he korokoro tui" was commissioned by the Out and Loud Festival. This gathering of gay and lesbian choirs was held in New Zealand for the first time, and attracted choirs from Australia and the USA as well as local groups. The performance was conducted by noted choral conductor Karen Grylls on Easter Sunday (4th April) in the Auckland Town Hall. The work also featured the Town Hall's recently refurbished organ.

Auckland choir Viva Voce celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010 and for the concert on 25th April a new choral work was requested by conductor John Rosser. He asked for something which referenced silver in some way, and the text set is "The Pale and Silver Moon's Blue Silk and Blossom" by American (?) poet Michael Reston. The work is slow moving and spacious with plenty of lush harmonies. (Incidentally, if anyone knows Michael Reston - or spots this reference to his poem - please get him to contact me. I found the poem on poemhunter.com and I haven't managed to make contact with the poet yet.)

Sunday 2nd May saw a new work being premiered by South Auckland Choral Society under Peter Watts. The concert was a programme devoted to Saint Cecilia (the patron saint of music) and the new piece, "And Music's Power Obey" sets three texts on the subject of music.

As usual The Big Sing, the annual choral contest for secondary schools, saw a large number of Hamilton pieces performed. In Auckland 20 of the 54 choirs chose Hamilton works as their NZ performance. Included was a new work written for Choralation (Westlake Girls' and Boys' High Schools) - a setting of a text by Spanish poet Machado "Una Noche de Verano".

Experiences in Trelew (Argentina) at the 9th International Choral Festival

From 13-19 September I was privileged to be on the jury for this choral contest in Argentina. Trelew is a regional city, about 2 hours flying south of Buenos Aires in the Patagonia region. Occurring every two years, the contest largely attracts choirs from Latin America, but this year the Latvian Male Choir also attended. A pre-selection process ensures that the choirs taking part are of a good standard, and the prize money on offer is not inconsequential. First prize in one category was 6000 pesos – about NZ$2,200.

One of my tasks was to conduct the massed choirs in one piece, rehearsed during the morning massed singing session. For this I used an arrangement I had made of “Me He Manu Rere”. The massed singing was led by Steen Lindholm from Denmark, a delightfully engaging conductor who had the singers right in the palm of his hand.

A second task was to lead a workshop each morning. The choirs were divided amongst the jury members, and we saw the same group four times for an hour and half each time. For this I conducted my arrangement of “Hine e Hine”, my own “Blessing”, and Anthony Ritchie’s “Timepiece”. The last of these proved a challenge for the group, but they were determined to sing it on the last day in concert – and they managed a very creditable performance. I was a little dismayed on arrival to discover my workshop had been called “Traditional Maori Music”, so I swiftly emailed SOUNZ for some material that I could show to my workshop group to give them an idea of what true traditional Maori music sounded like and how it looked when notated.

The final duty of the five jurors (two from Argentina, and one each from Finland, Kenya, and New Zealand) was to judge the competitive sessions. These were done by theme: folk music, and sacred music, and then by choir type: female choirs, chamber choirs (up to 20 voices) and mixed-voice choirs. Several of the choirs sang in more than one voice-type category by entering their women’s section, or their best singers as a chamber choir.
The standard of the best choirs was very high and there was some heated discussion amongst the jury members on several occasions. Repertoire ranged from Renaissance polyphony through to contemporary Argentinean works. There were several special awards including one for a piece first heard at the contest. Set test pieces were also included in some categories.

Everyone was very welcoming and generous, and Trelew is in an interesting part of the country. There is a strong Welsh presence in the area, and in nearby Gaiman Welsh is still spoken and taught to young people. It even boasts its own Eisteddfod! The next World Choral Symposium is also based in this area – centred on the nearby coastal city of Puerto Madryn. The Trelew festival director, Daniel Garavano, is heading the Symposium organisation for 2011. The next contest in Trelew is therefore not until 2013.

Auckland Choral premieres new work, plus some other first performances in 2009...

"Orpheus" written to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Haydn, was premiered in Napier on 25th July 2009 by Auckland Choral. The choir then presented the work to Auckland audiences a week later. Setting a poem by American poet William Jay Smith, this 9-minute work is scored for alto solo, choir and organ. NZ Herald reviewer William Dart commented:

"After a robust start, with a bracingly confident choir against John Wells' sometimes tumultuous organ toccata, Hamilton carefully drew out specific words and images through his music. (Kate) Spence's shapely melodic line was beautifully turned, especially when the poem transported us to places extraterrestrial. ...the final combination of vibrant vocalising and instrumental splendour were the perfect celebration of both Haydn and the composer's singing colleagues." (William Dart in the NZ Herald, 4 August 2009)

In mid-June Auckland Chamber Orchestra gave the first performance of "Hine Raukatauri", the flute concerto that won an international competition for composers in 2007. The soloist was Alexa Still. The work is being used as a test piece in the performers' part of the same competition in Haifa, Israel this year.

On 6th August, the orchestra of Auckland Grammar School gave the first performance of the Concertino for Percussion and Chamber Orchestra. Written specifically for the school, the work featured young percussionist Laurence McFarlane, and the performance was conducted by Head of Music Dr Nelson Wu.

Early June 2009 also saw the premiere performance of "Kristallnacht". This score was written for a group of students at New Plymouth Boys High School, and their performance won the regional section of the Chamber Music NZ chamber music contest. The unusual scoring is for flute, guitar, 2 percussion, and piano.

Another Hamilton success in international competitions

Late in 2008 David Hamilton took 2nd place in a composer's competition run by The Chapter House Choir (York, England). Setting a text by New Zealand hymn writer Colin Gibson, "Carol of Cold Comfort" was one of 67 entries from around the world. The work was scheduled for performance in the choir's annual carol concerts in mid-December, broadcast by the BBC. One of the adjudicators was the choir's founder Andrew Carter, who spent a year in Auckland in 1984 conducting choirs. There is further information about the choir at its website.

Treble-voice choral music Volume 2 CD now available

Click here to see an image of the new CD of David Hamilton's treble voice music. Available directly from the composer (not available in shops!). Performances by various choirs. Includes the Christmas cycle for SSA choir, harp and percussion "A Child Comes Forth".

Auckland Choral in Hamilton celebration

On July 5th 2008 Auckland Choral's 2nd subscription concert was a celebration of Hamilton with 4 works on the programme, alongside Haydn's "Te Deum" and Bach's Cantata No. 98.. Conducted by the composer the programme featured "Well Done, Mister Bach" (for string orchestra), "Whisper to me" (for women's choir and strings), "Monday's Troll" (for bass clarinet, choir and orchestra) and a new orchestral scoring of "Te Deum". Of this last work, reviewer William Dart in the NZ Herald said:

"Hamilton's Te Deum has pedigree. Originally commissioned by the Auckland Choral Society, it was impressive 22 years ago, and, a over-boisterous 'Amen' excepted, it wears its age well. (Kate) Spence was at her radiant best, Auckland Choral threw themselves into some radical 80s vocalising, while youngsters from the Auckland Youth Choir, Kentoris and Diocesan Senior Choir, sprightly brass and percussion, and John Wells rumbling away on the organ ensured this was the full Technicolor splash."

Concerto wins 1st prize in Israel composers' competition, plus another choral composing success

"Hine Raukatauri", a concerto for flute, string orchestra, harp and percussion, has been placed first in the Haifa International Composers Competition 2007. The work is intended for performance by the Israel String Ensemble, a group consisting of leading players from the Israel Philharmonic and other top Israeli string players. The competition was open to composers internationally, and the jury selected 11 entries to compete for the prize. Hine Raukatauri is the Maori goddess of the flute, and the work includes music suggestive of New Zealand birdsong.

This was followed at the end of the year by a second place in the Longfellow Chorus Composers' Competition in the USA. A setting of "The Singers" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was awarded the Longfellow Chorus Director's Prize. of the work the adjudicators said: "'The Singers' is a work of artistry that will engage singers and audience on several levels: intellectual, creative and expressive."

"Missa Pacifica" premiere and subsequent performances

"Missa Pacifica", commissioned by Auckland Choral to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2005, was premiered on 6th November 2005. The piece set the traditional Latin Mass text with additional texts from traditional Maori sources, New Zealand writers Joy Cowley, Patricia Grace and Hirini Melbourne, and Singaporean writer Edwin Thumboo. The performance, conducted by Peter Watts, featured soloists Morag Atchison and Kate Spence, Piper's Sinfonia and several of Auckland's best secondary school choirs.

William Dart, reviewing the work in the NZ Herald on 9th November, called the work "...a triumph of innovation and vibrancy". He said:

"A more welcoming score you could not imagine, with Hamilton sneaking in a few progressions from the Howard Shore chord book. But, Hollywood moments aside, it was the sheer inventiveness of the composer that made the work so vibrant....This was a solid and exciting piece, written with the balance of expertise and sensitivity that should ensure it is picked up by other enterprising choral groups."

Read the entire review through this link (note that this may only be available as "subscription only" material):


You can also read an article published on 2nd November which previewed the performance of "Missa Pacifica". The article came from an extended interview with the composer and includes background on David Hamilton and also Auckland Choral. Follow this link:


Within a year of its premiere performance in November 2005, "Missa Pacifica" chalked up 4 performances - the latest in Dunedin on October 7th 2006. Under conductor David Burchell, it was performed by the City of Dunedin Choir and the Southern Sinfonia, with soloists Anna Cors and Kate Spence. The Otago Daily Times headlined their review: "Outstanding NZ choral work well received". Reviewer Anthony Ritchie commented: "Given the background to the work, it is hardly surprising there are several references to Pacific Island styles of music as well as Maori. These provided some of the work's most vibrant sounds, from pounding of the log drums to the gentle strumming of the ukulele-like violins. The inclusion of a youth choir as well as the main choir in these sections was a masterstroke: it provided a freshness of sound to the work."

"Missa Pacifica" also received 2 performances by The Queensland Choir (conductor Kevin Power) in June 2006. The performances were in Brisbane (4th June) and Ipswich (17th June). The performances featured two different groups of school choirs. The performances were accompanied by a specially constituted orchestra, and the soloists were Amy Wilkinson (soprano) and Georgia Hawes (alto).

"Young soloists shine in enjoyable eclectic mixture"

So ran the headline in the NZ Herald of 31 July 2006 reviewing the concert by Auckland Choral of Saturday 29 July 2006. Conducted by David Hamilton, the concert featured Constant Lambert's "The Rio Grande" and Haydn's "Nelson Mass" along with 3 New Zealand pieces: Jenny McLeod's "Hymn for the Lady", Graham Parsons' "Sing a New Song to the Lord", and Hamilton's own "Night Visions". Reviewer William Dart commented:

"The best of the locals was David Hamilton's "Night Visions", five settings in which tunefulness was the order of the evening. Soprano Morag Atchison relished her shivery descants during the skeleton's final dance. Hamilton's astute writing revealed Auckland Choral at its most confident, thrillingly so in "The Middle of the Night"."

Five premieres in one week!

The middle of June 2006 saw a concentration of first performance of David Hamilton choral works.

First was the premiere of "A Winter Twilight" on Sunday 18 June. This was commissioned by Auckland Youth Choir, and features a number of 'contemporary' vocal techniques in an atmospheric impression of a winter's landscape. The Auckland regional competitions of The Big Sing on 20 and 21 June saw three new works for male voice choirs. These were "Ballad - O What is that Sound?" presented by Mainly Men of Rangitoto College; "Every Day'll Be Sunday" presented by Rosmini Boys' Choir (Rosmini College); and "The True History of Resurrection Jack" presented by the Dilworth Foundation Singers. Finally on Friday 23 June the highly acclaimed Key Cygnetures from Westlake Girls High School (conductor Elise Bradley) premiered a new Christmas cycle "A Child Comes Forth".

Another international competition win (2006). And a local one!

In February 2006 it was announced that David Hamilton's setting of Tennyson's poem "Ask Me No More" had taken the Ned Rorem Award for Song Composition in the USA. The setting is for soprano and piano. This award is another of the series promoted by NUVOVOX. This award follows on from the win in the choral composition section of the NUVOVOX awards in 2005 with "Deus, Deus meus" (a setting of the text "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"). These award are organised as part of the Diana Barnhart American Song Competitions and Conference which supports the creation of new vocal and choral music.

"Dreamwaltz" won the competition organised by the New Zealand Flute Society. This five minute piece for solo flute was used as a test piece at the society's convention in June 2006.