Shimmering work brings “southern lights” to life

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Tahu-nui-a-Rangi (Aurora Australis), by Gareth Farr
Dr Heleen du Plessis (cello), Yoshiko Tsuruta (marimba), and Dr Ian Griffin (imagery)
Otago Museum Perpetual Guardian Planetarium – Saturday, May 4, 2019.

The shimmering colours of the Auroa Australis danced overhead, as audience listened mesmerised to Gareth Farr’s beautiful musical rendition of the dancing “southern lights” during the world premiere of Tahu-nui-a-Rangi.

Performed twice on Saturday evening the intimate space of the 50-seat Otago Museum’s Perpetual Guardian Planetarium, the 20-minute piece was superbly performed by Duo Col Legno – Dr Heleen du Plessis (cello) and Yoshiko Tsuruta (marimba).

The brainchild of du Plessis, the commissioned piece was planned as the first movement of a larger multi-sensory work exploring music, philosophy, culture, art and science.

Saturday’s performance was preceded by explanations of the project from du Plessis and Farr, with an introduction to the Aurora Australis by Otago Museum director and astronomer Dr Ian Griffin.

Immersed in the womb-like darkness of the Planetarium, it was awe inspiring to experience to dancing skies of the Aurora Australis, while listening to Farr’s shimmering composition.

Creating everything from low groans to percussive sounds with her bow, du Plessis showed the extraordinary versatility of the cello, while Tsuruta was in perpetual motion as she drew streams of bell-like tones from the marimba.

The two performers showed impressive understanding, weaving their instruments together with the dancing lights overhead to create a cocoon of light and sound.

With its evocative exploration of an awe-inspiring phenomena of our southern skies Tahu-nui-a-Rangi (Aurora Australis) is a superb new work by a leading New Zealand composer.

Future instalments of this work, as performed by these two virtuosic players, will be eagerly awaited. Bravo!