Celebrating Māori music and art with Auckland's orchestra

To celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori and encourage us all to kōrero with confidence – APO’s Ben Gemmell looks back at some of our favourite moments where Auckland’s orchestra and te ao Māori have come together to create something wonderful.


APO & TEEKS was a collaboration of our full 72-piece orchestra with upcoming artist TEEKS in his first ever headlining show in the Auckland Town Hall in 2019. It was a magical night of soul, gospel and wairua (spirit); a shining example of how to do a modern, inclusive orchestral concert right.

The 23-year-old singer peformed a one-off gig of music from his debut EP, moving waiata and hits by other Aotearoa artists. And, after being joined onstage by the award-winning kapa haka group Ngā Tūmanako for a passionate rendition of Ria Hall’s Te Ahi Kai Pō – there was not a soul left untouched in the concert hall.

Watch his performance of ‘Te Ahi Kai Pō’ below

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A first for Poi-E

There are few songs that can bring New Zealanders together like Aotearoa’s unofficial anthem, ‘Poi E’ by Patea Māori Club. The song was a cultural reset; encouraging pride among young Māori and proving that there was room in the top spaces of New Zealand’s music charts for tangata whenua.

Over three decades later, the APO paid a much-deserved tribute to the iconic song with its first ever orchestral performance.

Watch the story on TVNZ’s Te Karere News:

Watch Here

Connecting with kōwhaiwhai

The first thing you’ll see when you come to an APO Connecting concert, is a rainbow of colourful cloths adorning the music stands throughout the stage. This is all thanks to APO’s partnership with Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae. In 2019, their talented students stepped up to create unique kōwhaiwhai (Māori designs) based on each section of the orchestra, adding a pop of colour and some cultural context to our orchestra.

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Kawhe with a waiata

The APO kept the music alive for Auckland and Aotearoa thoughout lockdown in early 2020 – with our Coffee Break recordings of musicians playing in their very own homes. These were some of our favourite performances:

Pokarekare Ana (Traditional arr. Jonathan Cohen), Performed by Jonathan Cohen, APO Principal Clarinet (Final piece)

Tōrua by Dame Gillian Whitehead, Performed by Lauren Bennett, APO First Violin and Cathy Bennett, Piano (Final piece)

Aroha for the organ

At the very heart of our orchestra’s home – the Auckland Town Hall – lies its magnificient organ, one of the largest organs in Aotearoa, built in 1911. By 2010, it was restored; almost back to it’s original Edwardian state – but with two very unique additions. Two stops were added to replicate traditional Māori instruments, following consultation with Māori traditional instrumentalist Richard Nunns.

The kōauau (flute) traditionally made of bone or stone, was crafted using scientific glass and feature beautifully-crafted Māori emblems. The pūkāea (trumpet), mirrors the traditional form of conical, hollowed-out wood, adorned by carvings done by Tāmaki Makaurau’s principal Māori tribe, Ngāti Whātua.

Watch the Town Hall Organ Trust’s Kerry Stevens walk through of the organ:

Watch Here

Honourable mentions

  • APO and Atamira Dance Company’s 2016 Auckland Dance Project, Ruaumoko – bringing together dancers of all ages and skill levels with music from the APO, performing Gareth Farr’s Ruaumoko, based on the story of the Māori Atua (God) of earthquakes
  • Dr Charles Royal’s Rā te rongo kingo – Dr Charles Royal (Marutūahu Ngāti Raukawa and Ngā Puhi), APO’s 2019 Te Arapuoru Community Commission composer composed this piece in response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting. The sombre piece was performed by the APO at its free Community Classics series in central, west and south Auckland
  • A te reo Māori version of Leonard Cohen’s classic Hallelujah – Hareruia; a staple in APO Connecting concerts
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