Tōku reo, hai kai mō te hinengaro My language (my voice), is the sustenance for my consciousness – Toni Huata

NZCF and SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music are delighted to announce a new award for secondary school students: the SOUNZ-NZCF Te Reo Māori Choral Composition Award as part of The Big Sing – secondary schools choral festival. Introduced in 2021, the competition aims to encourage young composers to write choral settings of texts in Te Reo Māori. The winning composer will receive a cash prize and a trophy, kindly donated by SOUNZ, in the form of a beautiful Pūtōrino carved by taonga puoro player and maker Tāmihana Kātene.

Toni Huata (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata) holds the position of Kaihautū Puoro Māori | Director of Māori Music at SOUNZ. She says “It has been a pleasure for SOUNZ to work with NZCF in the creation of the Te Reo Māori Choral Composition Award. We see this competition as providing our rangatahi an avenue to engage with Te Reo Māori not only on a compositional level, but also on a deeper level of expression and understanding. To some this maybe a natural part of their being and for others this may be an opportunity to delve deeper into their own identity and life purpose. For any reason, it offers Māori language a vehicle to be expressed naturally, and for many.”

Regarding the award itself, Toni continues “We are very thankful to have the support of Tāmihana Kātene, who is a Taonga Puoro maker, player and specialist and is kindly making Te Puoho Ki Te Rangi, a Pūtōrino taonga puoro that will be the award for the Te Reo Māori Choral Composition competition. The grandfather of Tāmihana, Te Puoho Kātene, was a prolific composer of choral works and was a SOUNZ board member when SOUNZ was founded in 1991. There are many connections and stories that make this kaupapa very profound and meaningful.”

Tāmihana Kātene (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Koata, Te Taoū – Ngāti Whatua) has written a note about the new taonga he is creating for the award, saying: “In its base concept, Te Puoho Ki Te Rangi connects the language of our people (Te Reo Māori) to the language of our Atua, the language of nature. The Pūtōrino in Māori tradition is the home of Hine Raukatauri our Atua of flute music and is the source of her song. When used as a musical instrument the Pūtōrino transforms the breath of the player into the voice of the Atua creating a tangible link between humankind and nature. It is this connection that embodies the Māori cultural philosophy of balance and respect. The name Te Puoho Ki Te Rangi translates to “The awakening of the Heavens” and describes the path to enlightenment through this philosophy. Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori | The language is the life force of Māori dignity.”

NZCF’s Chief Executive Christine Argyle says “We were thrilled when SOUNZ approached us to offer this new prize. The SOUNZ-NZCF Te Reo Māori Choral Composition Award will help grow the repertoire of choral pieces in te reo and ties in well with the Auahi Kore performance award at The Big Sing Finale for the best performance of a piece with a text in te reo Māori. The new competition complements the existing NZCF-SOUNZ Choral Composition Competition, offering secondary school students not one but two opportunities to gain recognition and performances of their works.”  The Executive Director of SOUNZ, Diana Marsh (Te Atiawa), echoes those sentiments, saying “We are excited to be working with NZCF on this collaborative project to support Te Reo Māori composition now and for the future. Tāmihana’s expertise in providing the taonga for this prize is significant.”

The inaugural adjudicator for the SOUNZ-NZCF Te Reo Māori Choral Composition Award will be Robert Wiremu (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa). Robert studied singing, music history, and composition at Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Auckland, and the Queensland Conservatory of Music. He has taught at the University of Auckland since 1998 and, in addition to his work as a vocal consultant, accompanist and conductor, Robert has composed and arranged for a number of ensembles, including Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and Auckland’s V8 vocal ensemble. The NZ Youth Choir’s performance of his transcription of “Waerenga a Hika” (by Tuirina Wehi) was viewed more than 106,000 times with over 1,000 shares in the weeks following the Christchurch tragedy. Robert has been a member of the NZCF Governance Board since 2018.

To all our young composers, we say: Kia kaha koutou ki te tuhituhi me te tono mai!

SOUNZ-NZCF Te Reo Māori Choral Composition Award – Entry Form 2021