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Voices of Aotearoa

Some of New Zealand’s brightest opera stars living and working in London have had a tough year because of cancelled events, finding themselves in the predicament of being ineligible for government funding and support from either the UK or New Zealand because of Covid restrictions.

To help raise spirits and much-needed funds, a recording of an hour-long recital of classic New Zealand, Maori and Pasifika songs will be broadcast around the world at the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Supported by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, Royal Albert Hall, NZ High Commission, FANZA, NZ Opera Foundation, Dame Malvina Major Foundation, Hunn Trust, NZ Opera, Auckland Opera Studio, SOUNZ and Radio NZ Concert, the Whanau London Voices initiative aims to unite performers to celebrate our country and culture.

One of those is singer and model Isabella Moore, who’s been living in London since January.

“Most industries have suffered in some way due to the pandemic but the arts have been hit extremely hard, with opera companies and theatres across the UK and Europe in jeopardy of closing. Trying to network, make connections and start an opera career amid this global pandemic has proved very difficult.”

Recorded as an hour-long recital of New Zealand, Maori and Pasifika songs, the Whanau London Voices initiative will be available to stream online until at least December 23.

“What started as a simple idea of performing has grown into something that is bringing dozens of performers together from New Zealand and London to share and celebrate our country, culture, and what unites us.

“Whanau London Voices means so much to me. I moved to London at the beginning of the year for my modelling career but more so, to continue pursuing my first passion for singing opera.

“Whanau has not only given me a platform and an amazing performance opportunity, but it has also given me purpose and has connected me with some very talented Kiwi singers who have made me feel at home and given me hope.”

Isabella adds that for the Royal Albert Hall-recorded concert, her performance of a much-loved Samoan song is dedicated to her ancestors.

“I am performing Tofa mai feleni by Fa’atui Fuimaono alongside the wonderful Kiwi Samoan soprano Madison Nonoa, accompanied on guitar by the multi-talented Samoan baritone Benson Wilson.

“I chose ‘Tofa mai feleni’ for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m very proud of my Samoan heritage and wanted to sing in the language of my ancestors for such a prestigious concert. It still feels surreal that we had the opportunity to perform a Samoan song at the Royal Albert Hall.”

“On a more personal note, I wanted to sing this particular song because I remember my Nana singing it for my Papa at his funeral to farewell him on his journey from this world. ‘Tofa mai feleni’ can be sung as a send-off to loved ones who are travelling/leaving Samoa, but it is also sung to say goodbye to those who have passed away. I felt the song was appropriate because, not only can we relate to it as people from Oceania living so far from home who have had to say goodbye to our friends and family but, so many lives have been lost this year because of the coronavirus. So, this song is for them, for our loved ones faraway, and for my Nana.” — NZ Herald

RNZ Concert is proud to present Whanau: Voices of Aotearoa, far from home. Head to https://tinyurl.com/y5dbdvwf

■To support the efforts of Whanau London Voices, the project has a Go Fund Me page. Donate at https://tinyurl.com/y3s5qral

FAR FROM HOME: Whanau Voice London at the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Picture by Claire Egan