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The Poet


Sat 17 May 2008, 3:00pm–5:15pm

Where: The Great Lake Centre, The Crater Room, Story Place, Taupo

Ticket Information:

  • Adult, A Reserve: $39.00
  • Adult, B Reserve: $35.00
  • Student, A Reserve: $19.50
  • Student, B Reserve: $17.50
  • Additional fees may apply

Related Artists:

Listed by: Sarah Hunter

The Poet, at ERUPT Taupo Festival, is powerful marriage of music and words with the grand finale a new work by Jenny McLeod celebrating the poetry of Janet Frame.

Taking the theme of text in music forms, New Zealand’s world-class national chamber choir Tower Voices New Zealand and this country’s foremost chamber ensemble, the New Zealand String Quartet, both perform works individually, from Gloria by Jan Sandtrôm to Death and the Maiden Quartet in D minor, in the lead up to the collaborative finale, The Poet: song cycle, composed by Jenny McLeod.

Drawing on 11 of Janet Frame’s poems, Jenny McLeod says the song cycle has "many, many different moods! - there is constant change, every line of the text, every new keyword, has its own music."

About Frame's writing, she says "I love her down-to-earth imagery, she often uses domestic or household images that are not at all 'poetic' in the flowery sense (one reviewer even considered - absurdly to my mind - that you can't set to music a line of poetry about pulling out a bath plug! Of course you can!); I love her broad range of human emotions, and the truth and depth of what she says, also her sense of humour, and the way many different meanings can accumulate as you dwell on a single line or verse; and her freedom from conventional metres and patterns."

The Poet premiered at the 2008 NZ International Arts Festival in Wellington. Jenny McLeod says that "in the corridors and foyer afterwards there was an excitement, you could see and feel it, people were lit up - a sense that together they had experienced something new, and something truly of our own."

A nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature, The Pocket Mirror, Frame’s first collection of poems, was published in 1967 (Literary Fund Award for Achievement, 1969). She was awarded the poetry category posthumously at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards for her second collection, The Goose Bath, three years after her death.

For the song cycle, Jenny McLeod selected, Cherry Tree, Crusts, Some Will Be Burning, Thoughts, In A Garnet World, Prejudice, Chant, Snow and three works with the word poet in their title.

She says "well, I chose all of them because I like each one so much - but in the context of 'The Poet' as a celebratory festival piece in tribute to artists generally I think my favourite lines would be these, the closing lines of the last poem in the cycle:

"Old living poets
stay faithfully camouflaged in their own sky.
It may even be forgotten they have been shining
for so long.
The reminder comes upon their falling
extinguished into the earth.
The sky is empty, the sun and moon
have gone away,
there are not enough street bulbs, glow-worms,
fireflies to give light
and for a time it seems there will be no more stars."
(Poets, from The Goose Bath)

Jenny McLeod is considered one of the most naturally gifted of all New Zealand composers - she could read music at age five, and, before attending university, was essentially self-taught. Both Tower Voices, formed in 1998 under Dr Karen Grylls as a nationally selected chamber choir of the highest calibre, and the New Zealand String Quartet have distinguished themselves nationally and internationally.

The Poet was commissioned by TOWER Voices New Zealand and premiered New Zealand International Arts Festival 2008.