He Pu, He Puoro, He Purakau (A seed, an instrument, a story) is the result of a longstanding musical collaboration between composers and musicians Horomona Horo and Jeremy Mayall that bridges the worlds of taonga puoro with the world of the orchestra. SOUNZ caught up with Jeremy to learn more about the collaborative process and how this work came about.


You have been collaborating for a long time. How did you first start working together?

Jeremy: We were first connected through Dr. Richard Nunns in a concert at the University of Waikato. Jeremy had been collaborating with Richard for a number of years, and Horomona had also been on a journey with Richard for a number of years, and he was the catalyst to bring this collaboration together. Our first meeting was just before a performance, and the energy seemed to align and we have been working together since. That was over a decade ago.

Horomona: I had heard about Jeremy through Matua Richard Nunns, and was invited to a performance at Waikato University. Richard had said he would like to me to meet someone he thought would be a good connector, a good person for me to meet(he didn’t say this that often). When we were introduced just before the performance, he let me know what my part of the performance would be, which was outside of the box of what would normally happen, and it was there where I knew what Richard was letting me know about this person. Jeremy and I have been performing with one another ever since and continue to share that same spark that Richard guided and saw in each of us.

How did you find a balance for both taonga puoro and the orchestra within the composition process? What are the challenges of bringing these two worlds together?

Jeremy: A big part of our process is through conversation. The collaboration is constantly evolving and strengthening over the years and many different projects. At this point we have an understanding of how each other works, a solid respect for the skill that each of us brings, and an openness to possibilities. This means that we are talking about the piece and working through ideas, concepts and pathways throughout the creation of the piece, but also leaving enough space within the work for those moments of freedom and response to time and space that is such an important part of taonga puoro.

Horomona: Like what Jeremy said, we allow the story to be built by mutual understanding of what it is we are developing, and to give this entity its own unique possibility. Through the conversation we find clarity in what is needed for both entities in their own histories, intricacies and even mysteries. The concepts of all conversations talk about the creative investigation or the imaginarium. It’s not about you play then I play, it is more, what can we say to allow the conversation to flow, and the story to be heard.

There are three pieces in this show. The first being ‘He Aho Rōreka.’ The second piece a musical interlude by Horo and Mayall. The third piece ‘Akakite Mai Itaau Tua’, a collaboration with playwright Benny Marama. – Tell us a bit about each of these pieces. (- How does each piece incorporate taonga puoro?)

Jeremy: Each of these pieces is a representation of a different part of the recent work we have been doing. The first piece ‘He Aho Rōreka’ is a new work – receiving it’s premiere at the concert. This is a concerto for taonga puoro and chamber orchestra. It utilises a large number of different voices from within taonga puoro, and sets it against and within and nine movement orchestral piece. This work explores different states of being. The creation of different sounds. The journey of visiting a marae and being present in this space of knowing and learning and growing and understanding. It is a reflection, and an exploration of possibilities.

The second piece in the concert is an interlude. Outside of the various commissioned work that we do, we also compose and perform as an ensemble named AWE. This duo project is one of sonic exploration. It regularly moves beyond genre, style and cultural boundaries into hybrid sonic forms, all emerging from a basis of conversation and flowing through an improvisational setting to explore time and place. It seemed like the concert could utilise an element slightly different to the orchestral pieces – something that made a focus on our other collaborative work. We recently released an album as well: https://aweaotearoa.bandcamp.com/

The third piece is a re-staging of a work that premiered in 2019. ‘Akakite Mai Itaau Tua – Tell Me A Story’ is a show written and performed by Benny Marama, with live music composed and conducted by Jeremy Mayall and Taonga Puoro by Horomona Horo. It tells the story of Benny’s parents “as they fall in love, emigrate to Aotearoa, separate and find each other again. Weaving together real life stories with Māori and Polynesian mythology it is a cinematic experience without the visuals. The live narration guides us through different stages of live, interspersed with interludes as conversations between Benny and his parents.

The taonga puoro is interwoven through all of these pieces – those voices are an important component of this concert.

Horomona: “He Aho Rōreka”. For me this is a piece that allows a different type of thread of beauty to be heard in this exploration of concept conversation between the two worlds of Western Classical music(orchestral) and Māori Classical music(traditional). It takes the listener through a journey of discovery of the processes translated in a musical dialogue of meeting on a marae, and the different sparks of insights to where our minds reflect on meeting people or a new space for the first time.

The second piece as Jeremy said is an interlude of connection. AWE, when you say it in both English and Māori, has a similar contextual or creative meaning. Through its descriptive understanding brings an explorative approach to a sound journey, so what we do in this space we stretch the sound world to new opportunities and stories of our journey in this world of musical understanding.

The third piece “Akakite Mai Itaau Tua”, written and performed by Benny Marama, with live music composed and conducted by Jeremy Mayall and I play Taonga Puoro in, is a beautiful piece in which has already been performed a couple times already. It is a love story about Benny’s parents, and it is one that many people can relate to and understand its complexities. It was and is an honour and privilege to create a taonga puoro aspect to it and continue to weave the pacific sound connection into this magical story.

The name of this performance is ‘He Pu, He Puoro, He Purakau (A seed, an instrument, a story).’ How did this title come about, and how is it reflected in the music?

Jeremy: The title came about through a reflection both of the creative process that we share, as well as an interpretation of the content of the concert. Our creative process emerges from seeds – from conversations. These then become sound – through the instruments we use, through the sounds we feature, and then those things become story as that is at the core of what we do as artists. We tell stories. Those stories might be abstract or specific, they might be poetic or historical, or something in between. But we are all storytellers.

In terms of the pieces in the concert you could see the interlude as the seed, ‘He Aho Roreka’ as the instrument, and ‘Akakite Mai Itaau Tua’ as the story… but it is also true that the seed, instrument and story are present in all three works.

 Horomona: I agree with what Jeremy has said. Each piece has all three elements in them, and no matter the format can bring into fruition the intention of story, that begins with a seed or concept, a spark, an idea that flows into the telling of that through an instrument/s of choice. The power of story reflects who we are as people, our culture, our heritage and our growth, we represent that through our creative connections.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them after the performance?

Jeremy: This concert is a way to connect audiences to various sound worlds, to different stories and traditions. It is a demonstration of partnership and collaboration. A celebration of local stories and a combination of cultures and ideas. We hope that people will come along with an open mind and be taken on a journey that will have a positive impact on their lives. Art is what we do to find ourselves, to make connections, and to dream with courage for new possibilities. Make the world a more interesting place. Or at least that is the hope and purpose.

Horomona: This is really an opportunity for the audiences who come to be a part of something new and old. Be a part of something that will present
connection spoken in a different way, music played in a different key, story brought together from different extremities, and time spent together on a musical journey. Imagining possibilities to becoming realities is an exciting new frontier, and it only takes one to step forward to begin that journey, and when we do it together, anything is possible.

Do you think this is an opportunity to showcase the world of taonga puoro to a new audience?

Jeremy: Of course. Taonga puoro is a unique voice and sound for Aotearoa. Any opportunity to share this sound and to interweave it amongst other sounds and create new combinations is important mahi to be a part of. But it is more than that as well – it is about new contexts for audiences to connect with musical experiences of Aotearoa in this time and place.

Horomona: This is another wonderful opportunity to show not only the musical difference between the two worlds, but to also allow audiences to see
the beauty, and unique connection Taonga Puoro and Orchestral music has together. Unique Aotearoa New Zealand music showcased here in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton.

To hear other examples of our collaborative work, check out this album: https://aweaotearoa.bandcamp.com/