Recent performances, awards and successes

Here’s an update on happenings over the last little while – mostly other people’s successes that I played a small part in.

It was great to see a recent post on the SOUNZ Facebook page about the recording of Robert Burch’s “Essay to the memory of Dmitri Shostakovich” in Wellington (photo above) by Richard Mapp (piano) and Andrew Joyce (cello). I typeset this back in January for SOUNZ and I can’t wait to hear how it has come together with these two amazing performers.

Back on October 30th was the annual APRA Silver Scroll awards and it was a huge pleasure to have worked on the scores of two of the finalists for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award – “Inner Phases” (for the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra and the NZ String Quartet) by Michael Norris and “Solstice” (recorded by the NZSO) by Leonie Holmes. Congrats to Michael for taking the title! Also, Victoria Kelly well-deservedly won best score for “Field Punishment No.1” – a score I worked on through the night, tucked up in an Auckland hotel – long story.

Continue reading “Recent performances, awards and successes”

2010 through the eyes of a blog

monkey-thinkingIt is December 31 and I just wondered “what exactly has happened this year?”

So through the eyes of this blog, let’s have a look. We’ll start with January and the tail end of our South America trip, along with the workshopping and recording of my music in Brazil.

January 4th Leg Four – Argentina to Paraguay to Brazil
January 11th Leg Five – Rio de Janeiro to Paraty to Auckland
January 12th A day with Sphaera

After spending too many hours hunting down good repertoire for my school orchestras, in February I explored the efforts of conducting. I also set up my newsletter with MailChimp.

February 20th Conducting – 90% perspiration, 10% exhilaration
February 26th Automating the monthly issue

It was a plentiful month of posts in March, many on great discoveries I recently made but also highlighted a new piece, Picture for Emily, for my niece.

March 14th Sibelius First – if you’re so inclined
March 15th Moana Ataahua programme launched
March 16th Picture for Emily – aiming for the small market
March 16th Scoring Avatar
March 18th My indispensables
March 19th If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

In April it was all about preparing Moana Ataahua for its massive premiere at the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival.

April 24th Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ)
April 28th Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

I explored digital music stands in May, how they compare and how I wanted one. Do I still want one now? That is another post!

May 15th Digital music stands, hook me up – Music Pad, Music Reader, eStand

I summed up the Moana Ataahua premiere in June and did a very popular post on music apps for your iOS devices.

June 1st Moana Ataahua, the premiere
June 2nd iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

It was great to see plenty of music getting performed through July.

July 12th Wild Daisies premiere
July 18th Breathe In, Breathe Out – a concert of overtures and finales
July 27th SoundCloud, move your music
July 29th Three pieces performed by Brazil’s Sphaera Ensemble

The Auckland schools orchestra festival happened in August, so did some pondering on music theory.

August 27th Sounds great! I want it, I want it now
August 30th KBB Music Festival 2010, thumbs up
August 31st Music theory, do we need it or not?

Spent a fantastic few days in Wellington in September recording Rakaia with the NZSO. Also, Rhian Sheehan’s amazing score for The Cult, which I helped out with, won best score!

September 9th More iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional
September 20th The Cult wins at Qantas Film and Television Awards
September 23rd NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

In November I did a three part post looking at music printing, engravers, copyists and how things are changing. I also hooked up Sibelius users with some great resources!

November 29th So, you’re a Sibelius user?
November 30th Music printing, a journey for engravers (part 1 of 3)
November 30th Music copying and confusion (part 2 of 3)
November 30th Changing times for music preparers (part 3 of 3)

As you would expect, I got festive in December but also looked at a new feature for

December 7th A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians
December 24th SOUNZ moves forward, again
December 24th Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone!!

Moana Ataahua, the premiere

On Saturday 8th May, Moana Ataahua, the 2009 SOUNZ Community Commission, was premiered at the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival by the Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band, and Tauhara College Stage Band and was conducted by Justin Gibbs. Before we get to the concert, the day before we had a final rehearsal and the recording.

The recording

It was such a special project and one that so many people were involved with, so making a recording to keep as a memory was an absolute must. I have not personally heard it yet, but I have been told that it sounds great. See all the photos from the evening here, a selection is below:

Moana Ataahua, the recording 17
The choir, most are hiding behind the curtain.
Moana Ataahua, the recording 7
Keeping an eye on things.
Moana Ataahua, the recording 12
Moana Ataahua, the recording 14
The rest of the percussion.
Moana Ataahua, the recording 13
Clarinets, saxes.
Moana Ataahua, the recording 15
Flutes, trumpets
Moana Ataahua, the recording 18
The orchestra.
Moana Ataahua, the recording 4
Moana Ataahua, the recording 20
Justin Gibbs getting in to it.

The concert

The morning setup and sound check went well and the weather (thank goodness) was pleasant. The concert was the groups all performing their own set, leading up to Moana Ataahua at the end. They absolutely nailed it! Far better than the recording the night before and by far the best they ever performed it. Stephen Gibbs at SOUNZ said:

The well-rehearsed group gave a committed and enthusiastic performance of the work that was equally well-received by the audience. The compositional skills that Ryan brought to the work were apparent in the way that he was able to layer, mix and blend relatively straight-forward musical lines for such a wide range of voices and instruments. The result was a work full dynamic changes: verve, interest, subtlety, and volcanic energy leaving performers and audience with a suitable sense of grandeur.

“If Lake Taupo were a piece of music, what would it sound like?” was the Festival’s introduction. Ryan provided an apt answer.

See the entire SOUNZ article here. Here are some photos from the setup:

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 4
Bird's-eye view.
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 5
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 15
Mics galore.
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 17
Sound gear.
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 7
Sound desks.
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 16

The concert selection (see most photos here and the rest here):

Moana Ataahua concert 29
Drew James (festival director), Justin Gibbs (conductor), Ryan Youens (composer). Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert 27
Taupo-nui-a-tia College kapa haka group. Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert 23
Taupo-nui-a-tia College kapa haka group. Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert 10
The main event. Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert 9
Going well... Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 8
Everyone on stage.
Moana Ataahua concert 2
Justin Gibbs getting in to it. Photo by Stephen Gibbs (
Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 13
Moana Ataahua concert 1
With some of the choir members. Photo by Stephen Gibbs (

It was such a big project for the community, they were proud of it, they put so much rehearsal time into it, and all stops were pulled so to see the polished and fine performance at the end of the journey was just fantastic. In the weeks leading up to premiere I was looked after so well by the ERUPT festival and the community so a huge thank you to everyone. A big thank you must also go to festival director Drew James who thought of the project and SOUNZ for making it happen with their community commission.

Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

Two weeks ago I travelled down to Taupo for the first big rehearsal of Moana Ataahua. Brilliant. Really good. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, thank goodness, and managed playing it well on first attempt. Justin Gibbs, the conductor, says:

“Smoldering, bubbling, swelling and ultimately eruptive! Moana Ataahua (Beautiful Lake) by Ryan Youens embraces all that Taupo represents. The violent yet beautiful geological processes that have heaved up and carved out our part of the world are represented here in music. Thundering percussion, shrill woodwind, triumphant brass and lyrical, arching melodies in the choir unite to create a composition that leaves you breathless until the final thump. Written with an intimate understanding of how community music operates, Moana Ataahua is sure to release an eruption of pride in our town.”

Here some photos from rehearsal number one:

ERUPT rehearsal-156
Clarinets, saxes, choir.
ERUPT rehearsal-130
Helping out with the percussion.
ERUPT rehearsal-92
Alto Sax music.
ERUPT rehearsal-135
Checking the score.
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Singing along.
ERUPT rehearsal-8
We also took the opportunity to visit the venue again.
ERUPT rehearsal-170
The town is red with ERUPT.

Rehearsal number two, a week later, was a huge step up in standard. The orchestra started to become very tight and the choir, as you will notice in the photos, tripled in size from the first rehearsal so the balance was much better. The community seems to be really enjoying the project, some very good musicians just turned up and wanted to be involved. Here are a few pics of this second rehearsal:

20100425 Taupo-4
Sing choir, sing.
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Sounding good choir.
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Some of the percussion section.
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What fun.
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Justin Gibbs at helm.
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It is an absolute joy to be at each of these rehearsals and see the work progressing. Heading down again this Sunday for a final rehearsal, ahead of the recording next Friday and premiere next Saturday:

  • Saturday 8 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Weather postponement: Sunday 9 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours
  • Venue: Unison Amphitheatre Riverside Park
  • Price: FREE

Huge thanks and congratulations to all those involved. I look forward to rehearsal three in a few days.

Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ)

SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, who commissioned Moana Ataahua for the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival with their SOUNZ Community Commission, published an article about the project on 19th April, 2010:

“If Lake Taupo were a piece of music, what would it sound like?

An answer to this question will be given by more than 150 musicians on the afternoon of Saturday 8 May when, as part of the ERUPT Festival in Taupo, they present a free concert in the Unison Amphitheatre on the banks of the Waikato River. The highlight of the concert will be the premiere performance of Ryan Youens’ Moana Ataahua (beautiful lake), the musical result of a 2009 SOUNZ Community Commission.

This new work is the epitome of what the SOUNZ Community Commission is about bringing together the Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band and Tauhara College Stage Band under the musical direction of Justin Gibbs who is Head of Music at Tauhara College and conducts four of the above groups.

Ryan also involved the wider Taupo community in the early stages of the work’s conception. “Last year, in September,” Ryan explains…” …read the whole article here…

If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

Find that out on Saturday 8th May when Moana Ataahua is premiered at the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival. It is written for the Taupo community and commissioned by the SOUNZ Community Commission.

Over the last two months I have been writing, writing, writing this piece day and night and finally on Friday it was complete and in the post. We described it in the programme as “a spectacular mix of symphonic, choral and percussive elements that will erupt into an exciting finale” and that surely is what it is. It is 14 minutes in duration and works through various pictures of Taupo as expressed to me by four local poets, whose texts are used throughout the work.

The piece will be performed by a 150 strong ensemble ranging from young players to professional players and involves five community groups. It was a joy to write – knowing the players, venue and occasion made the ideas flow nicely.

Rehearsals are underway and in the next week or two I may go down to help out and see how it is all going.

Here is the huge amount of music printed and prepared for each ensemble, and all set for the post.



Some ERUPT festival links:

Stay tuned.

Moana Ataahua programme launched

(courtesy of

If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

New Zealand composer Ryan Youens’ mass musical work, commissioned especially for ERUPT 2010 through the SOUNZ Community Commission, takes its inspiration from the people and places of Taupo.

Featuring lyrics submitted by local writers, Moana Ataahua is a spectacular mix of symphonic, choral and percussive elements that will erupt into an exciting finale.

Drawing together musicians from Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band, and Tauhara College Stage Band, a 150-strong ensemble will premiere Moana Ataahua in the picturesque surrounds of the Unison Amphitheatre on the banks of the Waikato River.

Auckland-based Youens has arranged for concerts, films and publishing, including arrangements on Rhian Sheehan’s soundtrack for TV2’s The Cult, and his own compositions have been performed throughout New Zealand, Europe and South America.

Bring your cushions and rugs, enjoy the blaze of autumn colours and celebrate the spirit and beauty of Taupo.

  • Saturday 8 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Weather postponement: Sunday 9 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours.
  • Venue: Unison Amphitheatre Riverside Park
  • Price: FREE

SOUNZ supported composition for ERUPT 2010

(written for, and published at ERUPT Festival blog, 22 December 2009 – image courtesy of

The SOUNZ Community Commission ( is supporting a new piece from me for the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival. This is a fantastic project which I am very happy to be involved with. The piece is written for the community and they will perform it. It also involves text written by those in the community.

The piece is currently being written and although I don’t want to give much away … it will certainly be a celebration of Taupo. I have always loved Taupo and have stayed there many times. Recently when I visited Taupo to meet many of the musical groups there, I was completely blown away by the amount of musical activity. This alone is reason to celebrate.

The lake and the river will help to characterise the work, which will involve numerous groups from the community, who will be announced publicly later.

I have been involved with several projects writing for community groups and so I have enjoyed hitting this one with full force. Writing music is what I do full-time – as well as copying and arranging other peoples music. I also conduct several groups in Auckland. For any more info, or for my blog, see

I look forward to this project evolving further, and for it to explode into ERUPT 2010!