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Squaring Up - Paying Homage to Palmerston North Composers

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The Renaissance Singers present Squaring Up - Paying Homage to Palmerston North Composers to celebrate 150 years of Palmerston North's music. The composers are the late Helen Caskie, Renaissance Singers' Patron Graham Parsons, oft-times Renaissance Singers accompanist Jonathan Berkahn, and Renaissance Singers chorister Tim Devlin.

Helen Caskie wrote her Seven Songs of the Spirit in 1993 to commemorate the 100 years of Women's suffrage in New Zealand. She was a Quaker, the religious society of friends, mostly pacifists and believers in social justice including that for women. A very good choice then to be commissioned to pen a composition celebrating women's emancipation. Besides the choir, there are also a soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone/bass and a flute. The songs are lyrical with the fifth, Wisdom, melodic to the extent that the audience is likely to be humming it as they leave.

Graham Parsons' An Anniversary Mass was written to celebrate the fortieth birthday of the Renaissance Singers in 2015. Besides the choir will be a soprano, tenor and baritone with organ accompaniment. The mass is both solemn and witty, with Graham displaying the compositional skills that have won him several awards and the literary adeptness that amuses just at the right moments. It was very well received when performed last by the Renaissance Singers.

Jonathan Berkahn grew up in Palmerston North but is now based in the Wellington region. He often has returned to accompany the Renaissance Singers on organ and has his own fan base here. His Hopkins Gloria celebrates that poet's legacy by putting his poetry to music. A saxophone notes Hopkins' Irish connection introducing a Celtic RiverDance-like element as the choir, soprano and piano provide both the more typical music of the Gloria part of a mass - Hopkins was a Jesuit priest - while cleverly putting to music the more modern poetic rhythms for which Hopkins became famous.

Tim Devlin ferreted out Palmerston North's oldest extant newspaper, the Manawatu Times of 3 January, 1877, available at: From this and other Manawatu Times of that year, Tim created six songs in a collection - Outside the Square. There are three advertisements, a letter to the editor, a news item and "Lecture Notes". They are hilarious and Tim has captured our perceived quirkiness of the time with his editing and musical creativity. Accompaniment includes a saxophone and organ helping to create the old music hall atmosphere.

Helping the choir under Christine Archer-Lockwood will be Cecily Shaw, Hamilton-based contralto; Nigel Tongs, tenor; Lindsay Yeo, bass/baritone; Diana Neild, flautist; Stephanie McKenzie, saxophonist; Jonathan Berkahn, organist; and Guy Donaldson, pianist.

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