During the Covid 19 lockdown when musicians all over the world were finding new ways to perform and engage audiences, NZOpera undertook their Echoes of History project.
Three singers were each asked to identify a forgotten song by a New Zealand composer, to locate a copy of the music, and to create two short videos: the first was a performance of the piece in a suitable location or venue, and the second was a discussion of the background of the composer and the work chosen.
During late May and early June 2020, I worked with the singers (as information coach, facilitator and research support-person) to help them find suitable songs, which turned out to be quite a challenge - I don't think any of us realised how much needle in a haystack searching this project would require. There were relatively few operatic compositions by early New Zealand composers, and not everything that has been mentioned in the literature has survived. Much of the surviving material is in New Zealand or Australian library and archival collections, almost none of the songs have been digitised, and a lot of the material has access restrictions which would have required a lengthy period of negotiation (we only had a few weeks). On top of this, COVID-19 meant that collections were closed or provided very limited access, and the singers were under lockdown in different parts of the country, making access even harder. Fortunately, some material was held in personal collections that singers could access, and others were in libraries that we could visit.
I spent a lot of time making phone calls to musicians, music librarians and researchers, working out what was available, and what was possible, and what we definitely could not do. Aleisha Ward, the Alexander Turnbull Library's Music Research Librarian, was phenomenal in her support. Music historian Elizabeth Nichol from the University of Auckland put me onto a range of possible sources that I would not have found on my own.
The resulting five videos have been released during July and August. They have done a lovely job!
I have linked to each of the videos below, and embedded Eliza's Ave Maria at the bottom of the post. NZOpera's page with all five videos can be found here.
It was a real pleasure to play a small part in this project!
Posted: Tuesday 11 August 2020