Hikurangi Sunrise was composed for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in 1999 as the result of a quest by the orchestra and ConcertFM Radio to find a piece to mark the turn of the millennium. In 2000, after several performances throughout New Zealand, it was judged overwhelmingly the audience’s favourite work. It has since been regularly broadcast and appeared for several months on the classical channel of Air New Zealand’s inflight entertainment.
This is a festive overture expressing my feelings for Aotearoa-New Zealand. It is constructed from four short musical ideas that are heard in the first minute of the music. They evolve into three contrasting themes appearing in various forms throughout the piece; these, in turn, provide the raw material for the broad, song-like theme that concludes the overture. The music is strongly melodic throughout, with an unmistakably Romantic flavor and not without the occasional, slightly ironic nod in the direction of the nationalistic overtures of past ages. The influence of the ‘Karanga’, the haunting traditional chant of welcome is evident in the high woodwind motif that occurs several times throughout the overture.
Hikurangi is the sacred mountain on the East Cape on the North Island of New Zealand. It is the first place in the world to see the sun. I imagined myself standing on the summit as the sun rose, with a bird’s-eye view of the beach, forests, and farmlands below.