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The four songs were originally sketched in 1989 as a response to a number of requests from teachers in primary and intermediate schools for NZ choral music suited to that age group. Nearly all my choral output has been written for mixed voices, or in case of treble-voice music, written at a difficulty level beyond that manageable by young singers. The songs stayed in rough sketch form until 1992 when they were finally put into a more performable format with the aid of a music printing programme. A second volume of another four songs followed in 1994.
The texts of these four songs are all drawn from an anthology of New Zealand poetry produced for schools in the early 1970's called These Islands. The title also seemed appropriate for this collection of songs, being taken from the following lines of poetry by Denis Glover: 'Sing all things sweet or harsh upon These islands in the Pacific sun... '
The four songs in this collection use texts by some of NZ's best known poets: James K. Baxter, Katherine Mansfield, Denis Glover and Joe Charles (only the last being a somewhat less than familiar name). They range from a song about a typical 'character' of New Zealand's past, through two songs about the weather, to a song about a swagman brewing up tea in a billy. The songs have been written for unison voices, but with an optional harmony part. For most of the songs this second part can be taken as either a vocal or instrumental line (or a combination of the two), or omitted entirely. The piano part has been conceived for pianists of a modest ability level.
1: Hokitika Bill
2: There is a Solemn Wind Tonight
3: The Gentle Rain
4: Black Billy Tea
Texts by James K. Baxter, Katherine Mansfield, Denis Glover and Joe Charles