Written in early 2018, Pictures of Aotearoa is a major work for brass band that paints five musical pictures, depicting some of the most iconic moments in the history of New Zealand.
The piece opens with a depiction of the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. Through the percussion (both behind and in front of the band) as well as a cadenza played by the Solo Trombone, the volcano awakens with an eruption that claimed the lives of approximately 150 people.
This brief section segues into a depiction of the infamous 1995 Rugby World Cup final. Depicting the All Blacks competing against the Springbok team from South Africa, the music portrays the frustration that occurred in the match that resulted in a 15 - 12 loss for the New Zealand team.
This is followed by a musical picture of the 1953 Tangiwai disaster. On Christmas Eve of that year, a steam locomotive carrying 285 passengers plunged into the Whangaehu River after the bridge collapsed under it. Of the 285 passengers on board, 151 perished - making this New Zealand’s worst rail accident.
This leads into the chaotic events of the 22nd February 2011 when a magnitude 6.2 earthquake occurred in Christchurch. The quake caused widespread damage across the city, killing 185 people.
After a brief return to the theme used in the Tangiwai disaster picture, we are brought back to 1953, where on 29th May of that year New Zealander Edmund Hillary became the first person to set foot on the highest peak in the world - Mount Everest. With a very brief reference to the New Zealand national anthem near the end, Pictures of Aotearoa is concluded with Hillary’s heroic triumph at the top of the world, uttering his famous words - “Well, we knocked the b*****d off!”.