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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 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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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.