Review for Rotorua Daily Post
What: Te Miha
Where: Destiny Theatre, Rotorua
When: Sunday 8 September 2019
It was timely that the two works on the programme should be sung in the Maori language on the eve of Maori Language Week. Stephen Small had composed and orchestrated music for Te Miha, a new Maori sung version of the Latin Mass and also for Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the traditional myth of the Sky-father and Earth-mother. The performers were Opus Orchestra, the vocal ensemble Kotahi Te Wairua and the Kapa Haka group, Te Mauri, and in directing them Stephen Small had a firm and informed grip to get a cohesive character for the performances, helped by additional keyboard and recorded sounds.
Kotahi Te Wairua, the five singers who performed as soloists and a chorus, were capable and well-suited for the drama of ‘Ranginui and Papatuanuku’, the story of the struggle between the primal couple and their children.
Throughout, the programme the kapa haka group added style and rhythm by their haka, in the sense of dances, or songs accompanied by dances, and effectively wielding taiaha and poi, and this created a convincing atmosphere. The music for Te Miha had a distinctive style, contemporary rather than classical, while the orchestra’s symphonic texture provided depth in both works. In the Gloria of Te MIha, brass and timpani gave it fitting splendour and vitality, while in the Credo the chorus injected in it a strong spirit of belief. The Agnus Dei was light with a brisk tone, making a satisfying finale .
In summary, Te Maha was absorbing and not too solemn, with persuasive power, expressiveness and orchestral colour, and maintained a sense of propulsion right through and brought great credit to the composer and performers.