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State of Grace

A resurgence of interest in the performance of New Zealand compositions was noted at this year's Gisborne International Music Competition. Seventeen out of 42 entrants in this year's event included New Zealand works in their selections.

'The Gisborne International Music Competition is committed to supporting the dissemination of performance of New Zealand music,' said GIMC manager Mark La Roche at the final.

'SOUNZ, the centre for New Zealand music, has gifted each musician a score by a New Zealand composer with the hope they will share it with their teachers, colleagues and audiences.'

He invited Christchurch-born viola-player Grace Leehan, winner of the best performance of a work by a New Zealand composer prize, to perform Salina Fisher's work Reflect. Fisher's work is noted for its exploration of the musical traditions of Japan and New Zealand, with experiments in timbre and colour.

Reflect opens with a fine, sustained note that unsources itself with subtle Japanese musical inflection. It's a contemplative work with the melancholy of a lake before dawn and flashes of drama. In an intriguing section, the top notes are accompanied by a sustained raw sound like white noise, distant traffic or the static rasp of a radio just off the station. This gives way to more drama with strains of the discordant. Leehan drew a bagpipe-like resonance from the viola and breathiness in some notes suggestive of puoro.

As an eight-year-old, Fisher was the youngest of six composers to have their music performed by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble at the 2002 New Zealand Festival, says Elizabeth Kerr in The Listener. She used Sibelius music-writing software to help orchestrate her 'tiny pieces' which were later re-orchestrated for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Her Japanese heritage is a major influence on her work. Komorebi for violin and vibraphone is based on the Japanese word, which means 'sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees'.

'Reading about Maori instruments, I came across the putorino, the only purely Maori instrument, I think; others have Polynesian roots,' Fisher told Kerr.

'It's tied to Hineraukatauri, the goddess of music, who is embodied in the case moth; the putorino is the moth's cocoon. It can be played like a trumpet or flute.'

Leehan can be viewed performing Fisher's work Reflect at https://tinyurl.com/wxgd8ju. Her performance in the recording is preceded by GIMC third place-getter Sam Lucas' cello performance.

GRACE NOTES: Grace Leehan was the winner of the Gisborne International Music Competition's best performance of a work by a New Zealand composer category. She won with her performance of New Zealand composer Salina Fisher's work Reflect on viola. File picture