Films, Audio & Samples
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The original versions of these folk song settings are mainly found in Neil Colquhoun’s book Song of a Young Country: New Zealand Folksongs originally published by A.H. and A.W. Reed and re-published in a new edition in 2010. All my selections have both the words and music by Anon!
Much NZ folk music is really variants of earlier British songs, often with local names and places substituted for the originals.
Come All You Tonguers is a song about the whalers who worked on shore boiling down the whale blubber, often living quite comfortably compared to the sealers. Many of them befriended local Māori, marrying into the tribes who in turn built them houses and grew food for them.
The origins of Lullaby are uncertain, although it is said to have been invented in the 1830s by two women - one Māori and one Pakeha - who enjoyed a lifelong friendship. It is an interesting mix of English and Māori.
The third song, Blow Boys Blow, set for the men’s voices, is another descriptive sea shanty - again about whaling in the southern seas.
The fourth song, A Long Time Ago, is described as '...a local adaptation of a famous halyard shanty...heard sung on a coastal trader in the Hauraki Gulf.' It has the typical swaggering rhythm of many songs of the sea.
Darling Johnny O is in the tradition of love ballads. A young woman sings of her love who, having signed onto a ship, has not been heard from for a long time. She sings proudly of her lost love and vows to travel wherever necessary to find him.
A few anonymous folk songs embrace the more recent past rather than colonial times. My man’s gone is such a song from the 1930’s Depression era.
Soon May the Wellerman Come tells the story of the whaling ship The Billy of Tea. When a whale was harpooned it took the ship in tow for forty days and nights, and as far as the singer knows the fight is still going on! The identity the 'Wellerman', is never explicitly stated in the song. The Wellermen, ships owned by Weller Brothers of Sydney, supplied provisions to New Zealand shore whaling stations from their base at Otakou.
These folksong arrangements were prompted by a request from the conductor of The Grosse Ile Chorale (Michigan, USA) who were to tour New Zealand in mid-2014. These new arrangements were intended as a possible combined work for the two choirs.
Suitable for School choirs and community choirs
20 Jul 2014: Performed by the South Auckland Choral Society and conducted by David Hamilton at the Hawkins Centre in Papakura, Auckland