Composer Leonie Holmes has exerted a quiet but individual presence on the New Zealand music scene since the mid-1980s when, straight from studies at Auckland University, she took up her first residency at the Nelson School of Music.
This led to a short Prelude for Strings, which, instead of languishing in a filing cabinet, was revived three months ago by Auckland music group Wairua Sinfonietta.
Blending well in a programme of 18th century classics, even its highly critical composer deemed it "not too bad for a 22-year-old just out of university".
But during the years, Holmes has confronted larger orchestral beasts, splendidly corralled on her 2013 album Solstice by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Marc Taddei. Holmes' evocative Frond was the perfect launch for the disc and, tonight, should do the same for the NZSO in concert, preparing us for music by Rodrigo and Bartok to follow, under English conductor Alexander Shelley.
Entering the world of Frond, you can understand why Holmes talks so movingly of a very shy childhood and how it took her a long time to let anything out. The work's programme note describes it as a scene from childhood, remembered as a half-peaceful, half-eerie dream sequence.
The opening solo violin is the tightly coiled fern, she explains, and the cello that follows is the voice of nostalgia, but what darkness is being hinted at when the programme note talks of mysterious bush-dwelling creatures watching from the shadows?
"It's a sort of delicious fear," Holmes says. "The feeling that you're lost, when, deep down, you know that you aren't. When a fern frond opens up, you've got this little bit that could be a bed and I used to think, as a child, that it would be fun to curl up inside it.
Although she has taught in the university's School of Music for a decade, Holmes' music is very much informed by her years spent travelling around Auckland schools, encouraging youthful creativity.
"Sometimes, we'd just all grab instruments and do a lot of experimentation. We may have made a hell of a lot of noise but that's the way to do it."
Looking back, she can hear echoes of classroom sonorities in instruments such as the glockenspiel and tubular bells that set the mood of Frond's opening pages.
With school classrooms behind her, Holmes has gone on to enjoy her more ambitious Aquae Sulis making it into the top three scores in the 2013 SOUNZ Contemporary Award, an acknowledgement that, she says, was utterly thrilling.
"When one starts as a community musician, it's easy to become typecast, and that recognition marked how things are slowly changing."
Holmes' orchestral talent owes much to her years spent in the violin ranks of Auckland Youth Orchestra.
"I was very much a quiet observer," she says. "I simply absorbed the whole orchestral thing, as if by osmosis."
What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where and when: Auckland Town Hall, tonight at 7.30pm; Baycourt Addison Theatre, Tauranga, Wednesday at 7.30pm