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Red Contributor


Jenny McLeod

Composer

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Born: 1941

Biography

Born in Wellington in 1941, Jenny McLeod grew up in Timaru and Levin. Throughout her childhood and adolescence she was always involved in music, as school pianist, church organist, accompanist, or playing at dances in a band with her brothers. She enrolled at Victoria University in 1961, studying music with Frederick Page, David Farquhar and Douglas Lilburn.

Her portfolio of compositions at the completion of her B.Mus. degree included Epithalamia. After hearing a recording of Quartet for the End of Time, McLeod resolved to go to Paris to study with Messiaen, whose generous mentorship made a lasting impression on her and resulted in a life-long friendship. After Paris, she moved on to study with Boulez in Basel, and then with Stockhausen and Berio in Cologne, where she wrote For Seven (1966). This work attracted critical attention with performances by Stockhausen's ensemble, and at the New Music Festival in Darmstadt and the Berlin Festival, conducted by Bruno Maderna. While in Cologne, an environment she did not particularly enjoy, Jenny McLeod "discovered" Richard Taylor's translation of the Maori creation poetry, in the Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, which she had taken with her on her travels.

Returning to Wellington and a lectureship at Victoria University, she commenced work on Earth and Sky, a large work of music-theatre for performance by school children, based on this poetry. The work made a significant contribution to the nation's burgeoning bi-culturalism, and established Jenny McLeod at the rising star of New Zealand music. In 1971 she was appointed Professor at Victoria University, remarkable on two counts - as a woman and as being just twenty-nine years old. Although Under the Sun was not the success of its predecessor Earth and Sky, it was on an even larger scale, and stimulated a new direction in her music.

Under the Sun incorporated a rock band, and after a "jam session" with the band, McLeod became convinced that rock music, as well as non-Western music, had qualities she found lacking in Western art music. As she investigated these musics, she also began to read Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. A growing interest in spiritual matters led her to join the Divine Light Mission in 1975. Her compositional activities by now focused on "devotional rock music" for bands associated with the Mission. Feeling she had lost her commitment to teaching, she resigned from the University in 1976, and for the next five years she worked as a volunteer for the Divine Light Mission in Auckland, Australia, and the United States. Experiences in the States however led to disillusionment, and she returned to New Zealand in 1981.

A commission from the Bach Choir of Wellington to write Childhood (1981), using her own poems, was the first in a stream of commissions McLeod received over the next few years. In these pieces she integrated of the language of popular music in an attempt to reveal its "classicism". However, by 1987, with works such as the Rock Sonatas I and II for piano, McLeod felt she had reached the limit of what this stylistic synthesis was capable. Fortuitously, at this time of creative questioning, she was invited to a contemporary music festival in Louisville, Kentucky, where For Seven was performed. Here she met the Dutch composer Peter Schat, who introduced her to his "Tone Clock" theory. McLeod became fascinated with this new systematic classification of triads, and immersed herself in a study of its theory and applications. This resulted in her translating into English Schat's book on the subject, and her developing the theory to a point far beyond that envisaged by its original author. Tone Clock Pieces for piano (1988-89) was the natural creative outcome, as she applied the theory as a stimulus for composition.

In 1993 a new direction was set by He Iwi Kotahi Tatou for Maori and Pakeha choirs, the beginning of a close association with Maori culture. McLeod became a member of Ngati Rangi, and regularly wrote hymns for the Maori churches. In 1998 she became involved with her local church in Pukerua Bay, playing the organ as well as writing hymns and sacred songs for them. Most recently she converted to Roman Catholicism.

Her more recent output includes three song cycles to poems by iconic New Zealand writer Janet Frame, one of which cycles (The Poet, for chamber choir and string quartet) was chosen to represent New Zealand at the 2009 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. In 2008 she was awarded the CANZ (Composers’ Association of New Zealand) KBB Citation, for services to New Zealand music.

In 2012 Jenny’s opera Hōhepa was premiered at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. In 2016 she delivered the annual Lilburn lecture, and a CD was released of her complete 24 Tone Clocks performed by Michael Houston and Diedre Irons.

Jenny McLeod is considered one of the most naturally gifted of all New Zealand composers - she could read music at age five, and, before attending University, was essentially self-taught. In the opinion of one of her colleagues she has always had the intelligence and ability to make a success of any enterprise she put her mind to. Clearly one of the major paths in her life has been a search for spiritual meaning, whether through the cosmic questions posed Under the Sun, her devotional rock music for the Divine Light Mission, her writings for the Christian communities to whom she has been attached in recent years, or her choice to retire to a quiet, almost meditative life-style. Something of her strength of character may be judged from her embracing of the "Tone Clock Theory" as an intellectual as well as musical challenge. Over a period of several years she has compiled a large body of theoretical work on the subject. Having researched the subject exhaustively, however, she has now put it aside for other interests, and feels no particular ambition to press for this material to be published. Her career has been a remarkable procession of extraordinary changes of direction, periods of intensive creative activity interspersed with periods of inactivity, and stylistic volte faces - one moment radical avant-gardism, then popular music. However, she now moves with ease between different musical worlds - "serious" music, popular music, music for the church, and for Maori communities.


Composed (137)

18 Easy Pieces

easy pieces for 1-4 players (or more), 17m


A baby lying

for SA choir and piano, 1m 30s


A baby lying

for SA choir and piano with optional men's part, 1m 30s


A Clear Midnight

For Tenor, Bass-Baritone and Piano


A New Zealand Blessing

for SATB choir, 1m


Africana

for 2 saxophones (doubling clarinet), trumpet and bass trombone, 9m


Airs for the Winged Isle

for string quartet


Azure

for SATB choir and piano, 4m


Cambridge Suite

for chamber orchestra, 13m


Cat Dreams

for nine players, 16m


Childhood

ten short songs for unaccompanied SATB choir, 12m


Deep in the forest

for SSA choir and piano with optional men's part, 1m 30s


Deep in the forest

for SSA choir and piano, 1m 30s


Dirge for Doomsday

for a cappella SATB choir, 6m


Earth and Sky

community music theatre, 1h 30m


Epithalamia

a song cycle for baritone and piano, 20m


Equation

music for documentary film


Follow the Way

for unison voices and keyboard accompaniment


For Seven

for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, marimba and vibraphone, piano, 23m


From Garden to Grave

for soprano and piano, 16m


Gentian

for SATB choir and piano, 3m 30s


Gentle is the Way of Jesus

hymn for unison voices and keyboard accompaniment


Godsongs No 11: 7 Solo Godsongs

aset of seven modern hymns for solo voice and piano accompaniment


Godsongs No 4: 2 French Carols

two bilingual carols for unison choral singing


Godsongs No 7: 9 Maori Godsongs

hymns for choir using Maori texts, with keyboard accompaniment


Godsongs No. 10: 6 Godsongs for small children

a set of six modern Godsongs for small children


Godsongs No. 12: 14 Godsongs for special occasions

a set of fourteen modern hymns for special occasions


Godsongs No. 13: 17 Christmas Carols

a collection of carols, in up to four parts


Godsongs No. 14: 12 Youth Godsongs

a collection of modern hymns suitable for church youth groups


Godsongs No. 15: 10 Godsongs for Youth or Junior Choir

unison choir, but with opportunities for descant and singing in multiple parts.


Godsongs No. 1: 16 Four-part Godsongs

16 four-part Godsongs, suitable for schools, churches, and community choirs


Godsongs No. 3: 7 Folkish Godsongs

for unison choir and accompaniment


Godsongs No. 5: 44 General Godsongs

44 general Godsongs for congregation


Godsongs No. 6: 3 Kiwi Godsongs

three songs for unison choir set to New Zealand texts


Godsongs No. 8: 9 Godsongs for Meditation

a set of hymns for choir, up to four voices a cappella


Godsongs No. 9: 27 Schools Godsongs

a set of twenty-seven modern hymns for unison choir, suitable for schools


Good Old Conference Blues

for choir and handclaps, 3m


Goodnight Christchurch

for 3 orchestras, jazz band and 400 recorders


He Honore, He Kororia (Honour and Glory to God)

for orchestra with electric guitar, bass guitar, and SATB choir, 1m 30s


He Iwi Kotahi Tatou (We are one people)

for Maori choir, chamber choir and mixed choir with keyboards, 25m


He Pepi ta Meri (Mary Had a Baby)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 59s


He Pepi ta Meri (Mary Had a Baby)

for three part choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 59s


He Whakaahua o Maru (A Portrait of Maru)

a song cycle in Maori for soprano, flute/piccolo and piano, 30m


He Whare Ataahua Toku (I Have a Lovely House)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 40s


He Whare Ataahua Toku (I Have a Lovely House)

for three part choir, 1m 40s


Henna

for SATB choir and piano, 5m


Henna

for SAA (T) choir and piano with optional bass part, 5m


Homai Ou Raruraru (Give Me Your Troubles)

a lullaby for a grandchild for three part choir with optional piano accompaniment


Hymn for the Lady

for choir and small choir, flute, piano and 6-8 percussion, 6m


Hōhepa

a chamber opera in four acts, 1h 45m


In the Quiet of the Day

hymn for unison voices and keyboard accompaniment.


Indigo I

for SATB choir and bagpipe, 4m 30s


Indigo I

for SATB choir and piano, 4m 30s


Indigo II

for SATB choir and piano, 4m


J'ai oui chanter (I heard the nightingale)

for SA choir and piano with optional men's part, 2m


J'ai oui chanter (I heard the nightingale)

for SA choir and piano, 2m


Jade

for SATB choir and piano, 3m 30s


Je sais, vierge Marie (I know, O Virgin Mary)

for SSA choir and piano with optional men's part, 2m


Je sais, vierge Marie (I know, O Virgin Mary)

for SSA choir and piano with optional men's part, 2m


Ka To te Ra ki te Uru (When the Sun Sinks in the West)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 32s


Kia Puawai te Aroha (Let Love Flower)

for three part choir, 1m 58s


Kia Puawai te Aroha (Let Love Flower)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 58s


Kia Rere Atu Nei (Let Our Song Fly to You)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 17s


Kia Rere Atu Nei (Let Our Song Fly to You)

for three part choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 17s


Ko Au Ra Te Awa (I am the River)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 2m 12s


Ko Au Ra Te Awa (I am the River)

for three part choir, 2m 12s


Kumara, E Tupu! (Grow Kumara!)

for three part or four part choir, percussion with improvised drum part and optional piano accompaniment


Light of lights beholden

carol for SATB or unison singing


Little Owl Song (The Ruru)

a festival song for 3 choirs and ensemble, 4m


Little Symphony

for chamber orchestra, 18m


Loss

for piano


Music for Four

for two pianos and two percussionists, 12m


Music for Wall

a musical poster


Nau te Hau (Thine is the Wind)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 13s


New Wellington March

for military band, 5m


Obscure as the Theology of Mountains

for a cappella chamber choir in 8 parts (SSAATTBB)


Ochre

for SATB choir and piano, 4m 30s


Oh What a Proud Dream Horse

for SATB choir and chamber ensemble, 5m


One Small Child

for voice and keyboard accompaniment


Peaks of Cloud: A Song Cycle

for tenor and piano


Ring Round the Sun

suite for two pianos - 4 hands, 25m


Rock Concerto

for solo piano and orchestra


Rock Sonata No.1

for piano, 15m


Rock Sonata No.2

for piano, 15m


Seascapes

for piano trio


Suite: Jazz Themes

for flute, saxophone, viola and piano, 10m


Te Paraire Tapu (Good Friday)

for SATB choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 59s


Te Paraire Tapu (Good Friday)

for three part choir with optional piano accompaniment, 1m 59s


Thank you for the night

for mixed choir and accompaniment


The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo

a little blues ballad for SATB choir, 8m


The Dong with the Luminous Nose

for soprano, piano and clarinet, 9m


The Emperor and the Nightingale

for narrator and orchestra, 23m


The Gift

music for documentary film


The Haunting of Barney Palmer

electronic music for TV film


The Neglected Miracle

music for documentary film


The Poet: A Song Cycle

for chamber choir and string quartet, 18m


The Silent One

music for the film of the same name


The Silent One - Main Title Theme

for orchestra and women's chorus


Three Celebrations for Orchestra

for full orchestra, 17m


Through the World

a cycle of 15 songs for mezzo and piano, 26m


Tohungia Ra Matou (Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us)

for SATB choir with piano accompaniment


Tone Clock Piece I

for piano


Tone Clock Piece II

for piano, 2m 20s


Tone Clock Piece III

for piano, 5m


Tone Clock Piece IV

for piano, 2m 30s


Tone Clock Piece IX

for piano, 6m 20s


Tone Clock Piece VI

for piano, 2m 40s


Tone Clock Piece VII

for piano, 3m 20s


Tone Clock Piece VIII

for piano, 4m 30s


Tone Clock Piece X

for piano, 4m


Tone Clock Piece XI

for piano, 3m 30s


Tone Clock Piece XVIII - Landscape Prelude

a "landscape prelude" for piano, 3m 30s


Two Hopkins Hymns

for women's choir and organ


Under Southern Skies

a song cycle for mezzo soprano and piano, 45m


Under the Sun

music theatre for children and amateurs, 2h


Vulcan

for SATB choir and piano, 3m


We are the Singers

for unison voices and keyboard accompaniment


Whatever this Life Has Been

a blessing for unison voices and keyboard accompaniment