Rotorua Māori Choir

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | 6 Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills – Liaison Librarian Audio-Visual and Music

FullSizeRender

August was inaugural Māori music month, a celebration of Māori music around the country of all genres. The first music recorded in New Zealand was indeed Māori, when Ana Hato and Deane Waretini were recorded singing a number of songs, including Hine e Hine, and Waiata Poi. This was in February 1927 at Tūnohopu meeting house, in Ohinemutu, Rotorua, and their accompanists included the nascent Rotorua Māori Choir. While their story is the stuff of musical history, less has been written about the Rotorua Māori Choir, and their seminal recordings of 1930.

The Rotorua Māori Choir had been in existence for at least two decades, having been formed in the early 1900s by Frederick Bennett, an Anglican Clergyman. Before making their famous recordings, the choir had been part of New Zealand’s first feature film, George Tarr’s Hinemoa, from 1914. In 1929, the choir’s lawyer (a Mr. Simpson) suggested to Arthur Eady (of Arthur A. Eady Publishing) that the choir be recorded. This suggestion was taken to Columbia Gramophone Company, who agreed, and a contract was signed by three choir members – Geoffrey Rogers, Tame Petane, and Rotohiko Haupapa. In 1930, a group from the label (including musical director Gil Dech, managing director W.A. Donner, and engineer Reg Southey) came to New Zealand to record the choir, and this took three months – a significant commitment of finances and resources. Dech, who had been to New Zealand before, became closely acquainted with the music by listening to the songs sung to him repeatedly by the choir before the recording started, though his introduction to the some of the music originally occurred when he accompanied and conducted the recording sessions of Scottish tenor Ernest McKinlay, who recorded Māori songs in Sydney in 1928.

By all accounts, the recording sessions with the Rotorua Māori Choir were long and often hard, as choir members had day jobs, and the recording sessions often lasted until the early hours of the morning. Dech was keen to have the choir harmonise naturally, but often wrote harmony parts and taught them to the group – Reg Southey confirming “he trained them to sing as a group – most of them were used to singing solo.” There were soloists, however: bass baritone Rotohiko Haupapa, soprano Te Mauri Meihana, contralto Mere Amohau, and tenor Tiawhi Ratete.

As with Ana Hato and Deane Waretini before them, the Rotorua Māori Choir recorded at the Tūnohopu meeting house at Ohinemutu, Rotorua. To create a better environment to record in, shawls and carpets were hung from the roof to dampen the echo, and a production/control room was assembled in the porch. Southey recalled that the recording sessions were to record Māori singing and song, which they “felt was unique and should be put on record for all time. So many visitors… came to New Zealand, heard these singers and asked where they could buy recordings. They weren’t available… we wanted to correct that.” The recordings were cut directly to fragile wax discs (two recordings were cut, and the best one chosen for use), and sent to Australia, where copper master records were cut. Over thirty songs were recorded (in what Mervyn Mclean called “the European melodic idiom”): folk songs, love songs, and farewell and welcome songs, as well as two English hymns in Te Reo: Au e Iho, and Karaunatia. Originally issued on 10” shellac 78rpm discs, in 1961, all but three of the songs were taped from the master discs and pressed to LP, bringing the Rotorua Māori Choir to further recognition.

Digitised recording of Warutia Putiputi Pai

To illustrate the talents of the Rotorua Māori Choir, we have digitised some of our original 78rpm discs. One of the best examples of their vocal abilities is Warutia Putiputi Pai, a Māori love ditty, where the range of the choir members, and the style of the musical director is evident. The disc is in remarkably good condition for being 86 years old, though there are ‘pops’ due to the nature and slight deterioration of the format.

References:

Armstrong, A. (1961). Records: Still popular after thirty years. Te Ao Hou, 36 (September), p. 63-64.

Mclean, M. (1996). Maori Music. Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

[Unknown author]. (1964). Pioneer returns. New Zealand Listener, 20 March. p.10.

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Christmas playlist

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 1 Comment

Post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – AV and Music

Hocken Christmas music

Have you ever heard of the New Zealand Christmas classic “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Pat McMinn and the Combie Murdoch Trio? No? How about Pixie Williams singing “Best Wishes”?  These are only two of the many New Zealand Christmas classic tracks waiting in the Hocken stacks to be rediscovered. The recorded Christmas music that the Hocken has dates from the late 1940s with the Pixie Williams disc, though the 1960s to the 1980s featured many recordings popular at the time, but now faded into obscurity. These include

  •  Chic Littlewood’s “Let’s make everyday Christmas”
  • The Dallas Four’s “White Christmas”
  • Hauraki Good Guys with Salty Dog “Please daddy, don’t get drunk this Christmas”
  • Various Artists Still hooked on Christmas

However, many recordings have remained in the public consciousness, with arguably the most well-known being Kingi Ihaka’s “Pukeko in a ponga tree”.  Along with Billy T. James’ “When a child is born”, Julie Nelson and The Don Ball Orchestra’s “Sticky Beak the kiwi” is still incredibly popular. “Sticky Beak the kiwi” was written specifically by Gisbourne-based folk singer Bob Edwards and lyricist Neil Roberts for children in 1961. 14-year old Julie Nelson sang the song, backed by the Whanganui dance band, the Don Ball Orchestra. The song became a hit.

Sticky beak the kiwi

Well known bands like the Avengers in the 1960s, and Split Enz in the 1980s, recorded Christmas messages for their fan clubs, in a similar vein to the Christmas fan club recordings released by The Beatles. Billy T. James released “A Maori Christmas” for Radio Hauraki, while Fred Dagg released the infamous short track “Star of wonder”. These tracks were among the local songs gathered together in the 2012 Christmas-themed CD Pohutakawas & pavlova.

Along with Wing’s two albums of Christmas music (Everyone sing carols with Wing, and Carols, rap and sing: A beautiful Christmas), another Christmas-themed holding we have is Wendyhouse’s The Wendyhouse Christmas album, which has alternative (and often subversive) Christmas tracks such as “Teddy’s anger”, and “Here comes the family”.

Our sheet music holdings have some interesting items too – “The song of Bethlehem (A New Zealand Christmas carol)” from 1942 by Muriel Hunt and Joye Taylor is a short piece that centres on the seasonal features of the New Zealand Christmas. “Dear Santa Claus” in contrast (written in the UK in 1948 by Gerry Mason, and published locally by Beggs), is more traditional in theme, focussing on a child’s letter asking Santa Claus to not forget him.

Finally, one very interesting holding we have is particularly close to the Hocken Collections:  the Hocken end of year function from 1987, featuring the recorder skills of Ken Booth. This cassette is definitely one for the digitisation list!

Hocken Cassette

Johnny Tahu Cooper, QSM, (1929-2014)

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

Blog post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and AV

Johnny Cooper (the ‘Maori Cowboy’) was a local rock’n’roll hero.

Cooper grew up on a Te Reinga farm in the 1930s, becoming a fan of Gene Autry during his childhood. While living with his aunt and uncle, he listened to their 78rpm disc collection, his favourites being Autry, Tex Morton, and Wilf Carter. Cooper learnt to play the ukulele along with the records, soon performing to shearing gangs.

After gaining a scholarship and attending Te Aute College for two years, he went to Wellington and found work as a gravedigger. Not long after, he formed a country and western band with Will Lloyd-Jones on slap bass, Ron James on piano accordion, Don Aldridge on steel guitar, and later, Jim Gatfield on guitar. They called themselves Johnny Cooper and the Range Riders.

 

Johnny Cooper Rock and Sing

Rock and Sing With Johnny Cooper and his Range Riders. His Masters Voice, 1956. Hocken Sound Recordings. HRec-M 697

The band entered talent competitions, coming first in the talent quest at Wellington’s Paramount Theatre, winning £20, and an audition with HMV. In 1954 Cooper went to Korea to entertain the New Zealand troops, and on returning, HMV asked the band to record with the label. This resulted in their first hit, a duet with Margaret Francis of a cover of One by One, backed with Cooper’s own song Look What You’ve Done – a song that found another life 40 years later when it featured in ‘Once Were Warriors’. HMV then approached Cooper about recording a new genre: rock’n’roll. HMV were keen for Cooper to cover Bill Haley and the Comet’s smash Rock Around the Clock, though Cooper was sceptical, and didn’t really like the genre. However, he recorded it (and the b-side Blackberry Boogie), and it became a hit. Interestingly, Cooper’s version was released locally before Bill Haley’s version.

In 1956, HMV released its first New Zealand rock album, ‘Rock and Sing with Johnny Cooper’, a 10” compilation that placed his country recordings with Rock Around the Clock, and Blackberry Boogie. Cooper also released a second rock’n’roll cover by Haley – See You Later Alligator in 1956 (this time on 45prm as well as 78rpm disc).

Cooper’s third single made him a significant name in local music history. Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll (1957) was (as the story goes) about the Whanganui pie cart, where Cooper and the band would get their ‘pea, pie, and pud’ meals. Pie Cart Rock’n’roll was considered the first locally written rock’n’roll song. However, this is thought to be incorrect – Sandy Tansley’s 1957 song Resuscitation Rock (according to researcher John Baker) was released a few weeks before Pie Cart Rock’n’roll in September 1957.

Cooper and the band kept their audiences broad by appearing in variety shows. In the late 1950s he began the ‘Give it a Go’ talent quest, with musicians such as Mike Nock, John Rowles, and Midge Marsden appearing. The talent shows ended in 1968, and Cooper released his last single, Break the World in Two / Cold Cold Heart on Impact. He continued to perform in the 1970s as The Johnny Cooper Sound, and in the 1980s as part of the Original Ruamahanga River Band. He retired in the 1990s.

Johnny Cooper was 85 when he passed away last week at his home in Naenae.

NZ Music Month 2014

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and AV

Music Month has rolled around once again! This year, to draw attention to the recordings and music-themed material we have in the collections, we have created six posters that illustrate our interesting (and often decorative) holdings.

Archway Hocken Poster A2 May 3 14

The posters are currently displayed in the University of Otago’s stone archway on campus. They represent the various aspects of the music collections, including The Dunedin Sound, locally-focussed music sheets, and early 20th Century Māori music released on major international labels (and the attractive sleeve that accompanies it). We have also included an image of some of our more interesting and rare formats: cylinder, mini-CD, and (intriguingly) a disc the size of a business card. Also featured are examples of our music posters and music ephemera: programmes dating back to the 1920s.

Some of the images are well-known: the cover of ‘Doledrums’ by The Chills is hand drawn by the bands founder, vocalist and songwriter, Martin Phillipps; while the cover of ‘Bird Dog’ by the Verlaines is by John Collie, local musician and artist. The sleeve for Columbia Records’ Māori Recordings would have been familiar in the 1930s, but is now mostly forgotten to all except collectors and music historians. Graphically designed in red and black, the sleeve speaks to the Māori Marae design on the disc’s label. This label was used for local Māori recordings on Columbia Records.

Archway Hocken Poster A2 May 5 14

The eye catching poster for the Royal Comic Opera ‘Our Miss Gibbs’ dates to 1911 and this production was described in the Otago Daily Times at the time as “…the Greatest Musical Comedy Success Of Our Generation.” The ephemera collection includes a large number of programmes for a variety of musical events in Dunedin from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. Some colourful examples of these are represented on one poster and they demonstrate a few of the musical genres included in the collection.

Dr Mervyn McLean donation of Maori and Pacific Music

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

One of our most significant donations in 2009 was the Dr Mervyn McLean collection of Maori and Cook Islands music. The collection has been added to the archives and manuscripts section of the Library and is catalogued under the call number ARC-0613. It is fully listed on the Hakena catalogue.
Right: Dr Mclean, Anne McLean and Professor John Drummond at the Hocken Collections 2009 Donors event.

Dr McLean is acknowledged world wide as an authority on the music of Oceania, particularly traditional Maori music. A graduate of the University of Otago, Dr McLean was the founding Head of the Archive of  Maori and Pacific Music at the University of Auckland from 1970 until his retirement in 1992. The collection that has been donated to the Hocken is Dr McLean’s personal collection of the original tapes, notes, transcriptions and translations of the waiata, cds and mint copies of his books. The material relates mainly to NZ Maori with recordings dating back to 1958, but also includes 30 hours of material recorded in Aitutaki and Mangaia in 1967. Although it duplicates what is already available through the Auckland archive, this generous donation will allow more researchers to access the material here at the in Dunedin. The collection will be useful to iwi, musicians, historians, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists and other researchers who will be able to listen to the recordings through the digital copies, and read the notations and transcripts.