Category Archives: Music

Back in NZ -John Chen and Julia McCarthy’s CMNZ Tour

View from Pacific Rendezvous, TutukakaI’m back in Auckland now enjoying the start of springtime. I don’t have time to talk about the wonders of my time in Europe at the moment – but I promise that I will dedicate enough time to spell out the delightful journey I went on over the past months!

Tonight, I’m zooming down to Te Awamutu to hear the 3rd of 16 Chamber Music New Zealand concerts by John Chen and Julia McCarthy. They premiered my commission, Tutukaka, on Wednesday night in Gore.
The work was inspired by childhood memories of summer holidays spent in Northland, New Zealand.

This is the main composition that I worked on with my tutors in Europe and I think I learnt a lot from them. It will be very interesting to listen to as you will (hopefully!) be able to hear the influences of my overseas training.


Just letting you know – I’m still alive!Saturday market in Freiburg

I had a very enjoyable time in the city of Freiburg. The university was really nice and had great facilities. It was also in a fantastic location, just minutes on foot from the centre of town. It had a very international feel being so close to France and Switzerland. I can see why so many New Zealanders’ gravitate there. It’s a really lovely place.

Back at the old piano again – I’m steadily working my way through another composition, this time for orchestra. I have so many ideas that I have to keep telling myself to save them up for the next one… or ten compositions!

Prague Spring Festival + Berlin Phil..


Hi Everyone,Me outside the Rudofinum.
I had a wonderful time at the Prague Spring Festival! A highlight was attending the final round of the International Conducting Competition. The entrants were so different and created very different sounds from the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Rudolfinum concert hall was an attraction in itself with beautiful pillars and chandeliers and much of the audience dressed in ball gowns.
I heard the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in another of their beautiful halls in the Municipal House. They played works by Sibelius, Ravel and Debussy. In the Church of SS Simon and Jude I also heard a Baroque concert featuring baroque oboe, flauto traverso and chalumeau. It was just like traveling back in time!
Prague itself is a delightful city with picturesque buildings everywhere you turn. The old town seemed to come to life in the evenings – shops and cafes not shutting till very late. I could see exactly why artists were drawn to Prague.
The ultimate highlight was on my way to Prague. I was able to hear the Berlin Philharmonic playing in their home auditorium, the Philharmonie. The programme was stellar with Stravinsky’s Petroushka and Marher’s 1st Symphony. I just loved the whole concert not wanting it to end.


Fairytale Lübeck Lübeck is a really lovely place. The Musikhochschule is hidden in a pretty street that slopes down to the river in the heart of the old city. Inside these historical buildings you can hear all types of music from jazz to classical and contemporary. Professor Dieter Mack was very nice and welcoming. After seeing my work Dieter had a lot of advice at a very detailed level. He also surprised me with a visit from another fellow Auckland University graduate studying there – Andari!

Sensational York

Learning at the Univeristy of YorkI was really impressed by the University of York, from the picturesque lake setting to the size and quality of its musical facilities. They have three auditoriums, a whole block dedicated to research and above all a huge composition department – there are over thirty PHD composition students alone! Despite this I was delighted to find that it was just as common to see another student walk by as it was a family of geese.

I was warmly welcomed by Nicola LeFanu and Roger Marsh and was immediately made to feel at home. My sessions with Nicola were both thoroughly enjoyable and insightful. I learnt a lot about my writing style, my weakness and even my strengths. Both Nicola and Roger introduced me to a range of new music that was unknown to me that I am keen to explore. I also spent long afternoons in their large music library studying their contemporary scores. Many that I had never had a chance to see before.

Loving London

Composing in LondonHi Everyone,

In the past week I’ve experienced at least two of London’s seasons. From freezing winds and snow to perfect blue skies where I was able to eat lunch outside – in shorts and a t-shirt.
I have started tutorials with Dorothy Ker, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, who is in London at the moment. I had a real mission getting to her house ‘cross country’ using four types of transportation – tube, train, bus and foot. I really enjoyed meeting her and have started to show her some of my works. She has given me lots to think about in my writing and some homework to do before our next session.

Rising Star Feature in NEXT Magazine

The lovely people at Creative New Zealand arranged for me to have a interview with the next magazine after I had won the Edwin Carr Scholarship. I actually had my interview and photoshoot the day before I left for Paris in November last year so it was a really hectic but fun morning.
Firstly, I went the the ACP Media Offices which is near the Viaduct and was interviewed by Lorna who was so nice and easy going. I shot off to Rakinos on High Street straight afterwards for a photo shoot. It was lunchtime so I had to sit there and pretend to be composing while about 40 people stood a couple of meters away ordering lunch! The photographer was lovely and even brought along different clothes for me to wear. In the photo used in the Magazine I’m wearing her new top from Cue! Click here to read the interview Rising Star Feature, NEXT Magazine, March 2007.

Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, New Zealand

Greetings from the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, New Zealand.
Yesterday was the ACL Young Composers Competition. There were from 8 different countries represented – NZ, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Korea, Thailand and Israel. The compositions were played by STROMA and friends. STROMA is a seriously talented group of kiwi musicians made up primarily from members of the NZSO.
I was really happy with the way my piece “Le Marteau du Destin” was played by STROMA and Claire Nash. They had just two rehearsals but made it sound brilliant. Clarie is also a fantastic singer. She brought life and a really engaging theatrical quality to my work. I had great feedback from the audience and lots of people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it.
The prize of the evening went to Hong Kong and Australia. They also gave out a different prize for the best young composer from the host nation throughout the entire festival. Sam Holloway won with ‘Fault’ which was played by the NZSO the night before. I was given an honourable mention which is very nice as there were a lot of great pieces by young kiwis in the Festival.
All the Young Composers have been put up at Weir House – part of the Victoria University student accommodation (nicknamed Warehouse). It’s actually pretty cool here as we have the run of the place while the students are on holiday. I particularly enjoy being able to simultaneously use 4 TV rooms, table tennis and 10 computers. But nothing can beat the lovely smell of school dinners wafting up the stairwell to your room at 5pm.
I am now brimming with strange and beautiful ideas. Tomorrow I will return to Auckland where I will get back to writing!

Highlights from Paris

Happy New Year !!Ensemble A.P.I.E.M rehearsing Dans la Nuit.

I hope you all had a relaxing Christmas and New Year. I am back from my adventure in Paris and am enjoying the NZ summer weather. Vicki and I went for our first swims of the season at Takapuna beach this afternoon. The water was perfectly still and it wasn’t too cold either!

In Paris, Vanessa and I were very well looked after and thoroughly enjoyed being apart of a FrenchRiding along the Seine family (okay, so they did all speak perfect American as well…but it was heaps of fun!). We went for bike rides along the Seine, went to concerts, local markets and explored the castle and grounds of St-Germain-en-Laye and Chateau de Vincennes. Our chamber music and orchestral concerts/rehearsals went really well. We made lots of friends among the players. Highlights of the trip were…
1) Attending an evening soirée in the Marais where people informally performed while others ate, drank, talked and listened.
Soirée for the France - NZ Association 2) The string quartet was in a wine cellar! The acoustics were great and a lot of fun was had after while we mingled and ate delicious nibbles.
3) Of course, it goes without saying that hearing my piece performed and rehearsed was a definite highlight. The conductor Elizabeth Askren was thorough and patient in getting everything to sound just right.

Nigel Keay has organised a web page with photos by Stéphane Ouradou. Click here to view them.

Back to reality now – I’m working on my CMNZ commission which is going really well!

Happy Holidays :)

Bonjour from Paris

Our home in ParisBonjour! Vanessa and I are being billeted with a lovely family living in Le Vésinet. It is a western suburb of Paris known for its wooded avenues and bourgeois mansions…it’s just so beautiful here. We are enjoying the last of the autumn colours and having been taking bike rides along the river near our house in our spare time.

We’ve been to two concerts so far. The first was in informal soirée where anyone can get up and perform while the others drink, eat and chat. The second was a concert, by Naccara, of six harps, percussion and double bass. They memorized the full 1 ½ concert and even added theatrical elements – moving around the stage, swapping instruments and using their stools and harps as percussive instruments.Autum Colours

We are in the middle of preparing for our two concerts. The first is a soirée for the France – NZ Association on the 30th November. Vanessa and Charmian are playing in Daniel Rémy’s String Quartet. I have been watching them rehearse Haydn’s ‘the emperor’ Quartet and Bartok’s Violin Duos to name a few. It will be a great concert! The rehearsals for the second concert will kick off tonight. In this concert a string orchestra will perform Shaker Loops by John Adams, Serenade for Strings by Nigel Keay and my own dans la nuit. The performance is next Thursday the 7th Dec. Yesterday, I met with the conductor Elizabeth Askren to go through the score which went well. Fingers crossed that there aren’t some horrendous mistakes in my parts or something like that!

NZSO/TODD Young Composers Awards

NZSO/TODD Young Composers Awards 2006 PrizegivingNot long ago I attended the NZSO/TODD Young Composers Awards. Ten composers aged between 13 and 23 years old gathered for two days in Wellington to hear their five minute compositions rehearsed and recorded by the NZSO. Hamish McKeich, the conductor did a fantastic job getting through all our pieces on time. We had mentoring by Lyell Cresswell who was really supportive and helpful. There were also some ‘extras’ – a tuba demonstration, tour of the NZSO music library and a talk by Claire Cowan about the NYO Composer-in-Residence scheme. My piece, La Sagrada Familia was on last. This was a little scary as it was just before the awards presentation and a number of important people were there. Anyway, Karlo Margetic and I were announced joint winners. We were then whisked off up to Radio New Zealand to do an interview for Concert FM. It will appear on Upbeat! soon – I’ll post with a date later.

Ticket to London

I just brought my ticket to London! I had to make a really quick decision as a lot of the 2007 Earlybird specials ended today. I’m flying out on the 29th of March – which isn’t very far away considering what I have to do before then…let me make a list…go to Paris, write a CMNZ Commission, a MCSO Commission, attend the ACL Asia Pacific Festival in Feb, complete and hand in my Masters… I am getting a little panicked thinking … I won’t be getting much sunshine this summer!!

Today I also did a pre-recoded interview for National Radio. It will be broadcast next Sunday, 19th Nov. I’m not sure what time yet. I’ll try to find out. Please tune in!

If you would like to view photos from the Edwin Carr Foundation Scholarship presentation please visit Robert Catto’s website. Robert seems to go for the ‘in the moment look’ :)

Edwin Carr Foundation Scholarship

FANTASTIC NEWS!! I have just won the $20,000 Edwin Carr Foundation Scholarship. I’ve been sitting on this information in secrecy for weeks – now I can finally tell you all :) I was flown down to Wellington today to attend the official presentation at the Creative New Zealand Offices. Tony Carr (Edwin’s younger brother) flew over from Australia to present the scholarship. I made a little speech and played two of my pieces. ‘pizzicato’ from my String Quartet and Tu-mata-uenga “God of War, Spirit of Man” for Orchestra. I am going to use this scholarship to extend the overseas study I had planned with my APRA PD Award. I initially intended on spending 6 weeks visiting composers in the UK and Germany. I will now base myself in Europe for about 7 months to further develop my composing and to attend summer music festivals. I will post more details soon! – I also want to thank Rose, Mairead and Ruth at CreativeNZ for organising a great event. Click here to see a picture of me with Tony Carr, the brother of Edwin Carr and a trustee of the Edwin Carr Foundation, and Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright at the presentation in Wellington.

Asia Pacific Festival 2007 Young Composers Competition

–Breaking News—Breaking News–

I’ve just found out that my entry, Le Marteau du Destin has been selected as the New Zealand entry in the Asia Pacific Festival 2007 Young Composers Competition. The Festival runs from the 8th-16th of February in Wellington. Each country participating in the festival may enter one piece in this category. I will get flown down to Wellington for the duration of the festival by CANZ and ACL will provide me with accommodation, breakfast and lunch. An early version of this composition was played at the Nelson Composers Workshop in 2004. Some of you may have heard it then. For those of you who don’t know this piece. It’s for seven instruments; voice, clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet, violin, cello, percussion and piano. I have set five Japanese Haiku to music. The first movement is based on a Haiku by Issa and goes like this… Before this autumn wind Even the shadows of mountains Shudder and tremble I’m currently inputting the score onto Sibelius so that I can make easy to read parts. Originally the score was hand written and graphically notated and it made things a bit chancy in performance!! For more information about the Festival and Young Composers Competition follow the link to the CANZ website at the bottom the page.

I have a title!

I have a title!! <and believe me, that’s news> With some pieces I haven’t got a clear title. For example, Turista di Venezia was easy. I was writing about Venezia and each movement told a little story about my travels there; taking a ride on the Canal Grande, visiting the Ducal Palace and walking through the beautiful rooms or sitting on some steps in the Piazza San Marco eating a carrot… This piece was different. I was creating strange textures and colours with irregular rhythms, exploring small intervals, glissandi, harmonics and sul ponticello. It has an atmosphere of apprehension and suspense. To tell the truth there are some quite tormented bits aswell! Anyway, this is where my sister, Vicki came to the rescue. “dans la nuit” perfect. In the night. It completely sums up my work. There is a lot of sneaking around, dark melodies and sudden crashes. I am really looking forward to hearing this creation! We will be recording it at the concert in Paris so I’ll be able to put up some extracts when I get back. I’m expecting the CD from the NZSO/TODD Young Composers Awards to arrive soon so I’ll have something else for the recordings page very soon.