Awesome vortex of collectiveness!

New in: A video of our final run through on Saturday.

I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui singing in a language I don’t speak more than a few words of. I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui singing with (mostly) complete strangers of all ages. I spent this morning in a room at Mt Maunganui marvelling at the talent of Ria Hall and her cousin Teraania Ormsby-Teki.

Ria Hall (left) and Teraania Ormsby-Teki. Photo: Sandra Simpson

We had gathered to learn how to perform a waiata (song) written especially to open the Tauranga Arts Festival on Thursday, October 22 – we will perform it at 7am on the waterfront at The Strand so if you’re anywhere near do come. Those present on the day will be invited to join in or are welcome to simply listen.

Te Hokai Takiri Ata has been written by Teraania, while Ria has composed the melody, will lead us in song and is tutoring us to become an instant choir – tenors, altos and sopranos. Both women are involved with kapa haka performance groups and having their insights into the ‘spirit’ of the song, as well as some nuances of meaning was wonderful. Emily Macklow of the Mauao Performing Arts Centre has scored the composition and is also part of the choir (tenor) so was able to respond and adapt the score as we went along.

The waiata is about the faerie people (patupaiarehe) who come out at night and visit their old friend Mauao (Mt Maunganui), fleeing as the sun rises and returning to their forest home, Hautere. Our mission, as the community choir, is to convey the creeping and flying of these magical beings, who aren’t necessarily ‘good’, as they call one another to depart, quietly at first and then with urgency. To be caught by the sun is to die.

“The spirit of the song is there in the breath before you roll into the first word,” Ria advised us, while Teraania added notes about the kind of atmosphere she was trying to create with her words and was excellent at helping the predominantly Pakeha singers with pronunciation.

The backbone of the choir – the alto section (can you tell which section I sing in?). Photo: Sandra Simpson

After 3 hours of hard work had we achieved her ‘awesome vortex of collectiveness’? I think we pretty much had, both in the singing and getting to know one another in the short breaks (thanks to Claire for the chocolate biscuits). Chelsea is an American who has been in New Zealand for only 2 months, there was a young English woman (with a belting voice), some school-age sisters who come from a Japanese-Kiwi home, men and women, Maori and New Zealand-born non-Maori, so we’re all sorts and all the better for it, a real reflection of our community.

We have one more rehearsal on Tuesday and then comes the responsibility of singing to the night, to the sun and to Tauranga’s guardian landform, Mauao – at the same time celebrating our place, our people and our performers.

As Major-General Hall was instructing her troops on what she wanted and how she wanted it we had to laugh. ‘No pressure then.’

Deep breath … tahi, rua, toru, wha

PS: I’m no singer so if I can do it, so can anyone!

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