"New Zealand composer Gillian Karawe Whitehead has written two quintets for the New Zealand String Quartet and Taonga Puoro (Māori instruments) specialist Richard Nunns. These outstanding works, Puhake ki te rangi (“spouting to the skies”) andHineputehue (“the woman of the sound of the gourd”) have been performed many times in New Zealand, Europe and North America and audiences have found them fascinating, evocative and moving."
NZ composer Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead, one of New Zealand's most esteemed present day composers, has been the recipient of many awards including the SOUNZ contemporary award in 1999 for her opera 'Outrageous Fortune.' In 2008 Gillian was awarded one of New Zealand's highest honours - Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and in 2009 given the title ‘Dame’...
Her compositions number far too many to mention in a short piece such as this, however in 2010 she was part of a New Zealand composers collaboration CD with harpist Helen Webby: Pluck. I was lucky enough to have a minor job helping out on the DVD documentary project 'Harps make Fine companions' that mirrored the making of the CD Pluck. The interviews with all the composers were fascinating, where each composer explained some of their compositional styles and techniques. Gillian had a gentle yet vibrant way about her, and I particularly enjoyed the interaction she had with Helen Webby, explaining how she as the composer envisioned her piece 'Cicadas' to be played.
Her works are dynamic and include a variety of genres, instruments and performance techniques. If you would like to discover more about her work, here is a performance of her composition 'Arapatiki', a commissioned piece for Stephen De Pledge.
"Arapatiki translates (from the Maori language) as ‘the way of the flounder’, and is the ancient name of the sand flats in front of my house at Harwood, near Dunedin."