Taioro ki te Ao
Text by Sharn Maree, music by Anthony Ritchie
Sharn Maree, poet and narrator
Sherry Grant, piano
Donald Maurice, viola
26 February 2023
Colonialism was the subject of this musical performance. Colonialism is a much debated historical concept, but Sharn Maree focused on its impact on a Wahine Maori. She described ‘life forces’, and the meaning of ‘Maoriness’, and being Maori in the past, the present and in the future. These found expression in the music, The piece started with a brief introduction in Maori about past destruction and the viola responds with a haunting theme, capturing the mournful sound of a Maori trumpet, a putatara while the piano played a repeated two note plucking phrase. The further historical account of colonial wars and conflict, land confiscation is echoed in harsh military music on the viola with disturbing base notes on the piano which represented the clash between Maori and the European Pakeha colonizers. But this was followed by a revival of Maori awareness, and this was depicted by a beautiful passage on the viola, which to me sounded Scottish or Irish, rather than Pacific. The intergenerational trauma was reflected by a sad melody, again more Celtic than Pacific. But the voice, the Maori voice which cannot be silenced, was reflected in the music by a triumphal passage on viola and piano. In the end the positive message of the putatara returned, it was about life’s long journey regardless of race.
Anthony Ritchie’s music encapsulates the complex message of the text. He made superb use of the limited instrumental resources available to him. One might think of this as occasional music. This event was first performed at the National Gallery, Ottawa on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. and was attended by First Nation leaders, MPs and Diplomats.as guests of the NZ High Commissioner Canada, Martin Harvey.
It was unfortunate that there were no programme notes available, so those of us in the audience who understood no Maori missed some of the substance of the text. Nonetheless great credit to Sharn Maree who wrote the text and delivered it beautifully, with great clarity and violist Donald Maurice with pianist Sherry Grant who realised the musical rendering of the impact of colonization