Westlake Symphony Orchestra Recordings
In 2015, SOUNZ facilitated a project to record and promote New Zealand orchestral works suitable for school and non-professional orchestras. This has expanded to an annual event that includes filming of the performance.
Two works by David Hamilton were selected for performance in 2017. They were performed by the Westlake Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Squire, with piano soloist Sean Yang.
David Hamilton: Piano Concerto
David Hamilton: Children of the Fire Gods
Two works by Anthony Ritchie were selected for performance in 2016. They were performed by the Westlake Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Squire.
Anthony Ritchie: Balkan Bagpipes
Anthony Ritchie: Procession
Two works by Leonie Holmes were selected for performance in 2015. They were performed by the Westlake Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Squire.
Leonie Holmes: In the Lair of the Weta Cave
Leonie Holmes: Tango Mangle
SOUNZ asked Leonie to tell a bit about each piece and about working with the Westlake Symphony Orchestra.
In the Lair of the Cave Weta was commissioned by Peter Thomas for Epsom Girls Grammar School Orchestra in 2008. Peter has been the instigator of many new commissions and projects, particularly with Epsom Grammar and Auckland Symphony Orchestra. He wanted a piece that was challenging, with specific parts for some wind and brass players and a section for solo string quartet. Since then it has literally been around the world, from multiple performances in Auckland and KBB festivals, Rhapsody Rotorua, Festival of Australian Schools Honours Orchestra, 4-yearly festival Honour Orchestra for PMSA Schools of Brisbane, and the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival at the Musikverein, Vienna, with Westlake Orchestra.
How did you find the experience of working with Westlake Symphony Orchestra on these pieces? Have you worked with them before?
Yes, in fact way back in the day during my time as itinerant Composer-in-Schools I worked at Westlake Girls High School for several years in the 1990s. The teams in both schools run excellent music programmes and their music activities hold a high priority in school life, which is always helpful. Conductor David Squire is also a tireless champion of New Zealand music both in vocal and instrumental formats. I first attended rehearsals for these two pieces at Westlake while they were preparing for performances in the year prior to this recording. I think having the composer present injects a bit of a buzz into the proceedings, heightens the atmosphere a bit and makes the whole thing more interesting (and potentially amusing) for the performers. When it came to the recording sessions for these two pieces I was hugely impressed with the professionalism, patience and good humour the students exhibited in what can be a long and repetitive process.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about the project? Many teachers and conductors of school and community ensembles are keen to include New Zealand music in their repertoire, but are sometimes stuck, not so much in terms of where to find it, but more what it sounds like and how to know if it would be suitable for their group. By its nature, music written for community groups tends not to exist in recorded form. So this project is a fantastic initiative in beginning to build a database of suitable recordings that ensemble leaders can access. The commissioning of new works by teachers such as I’ve mentioned above has headed an upsurge of music being specifically written for community and school groups. As all this music becomes more accessible, including in recorded form, the results will become noticeable – already many students attending university to do a music degree have performed works by New Zealand composers and understand the commissioning process and the value of having our own musical traditions. These students will be our future performers and teachers.
"The Westlake Symphony Orchestra has enjoyed performing NZ works annually for more than a decade, and this opportunity to work with composers in creating audio recordings of orchestral works is a real honour. Leonie has a long association with Westlake, having been composer in residence at Westlake Girls for several years in the 1990s. The orchestra has performed both these works several times over the past few years, including in Austria and Hungary, where audiences loved the freshness of 'In the Lair of the Cave Weta'. It was wonderful to work with Westlake alumnus Larry Elliott in the recording sessions too - his expertise made the whole experience a pleasure."
- David Squire, conductor