The Unusual Silence is a concert of remembrance of WW1, a specially curated programme sung by the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir featuring songs of loss and tragedy, but also of hope and the strength of the human spirit.

It will be performed at Waiapu Cathedral as part of the Harcourt's Hawke's Bay Arts Festival on Sunday, October 1.

"This specially commissioned work, The Unusual Silence, has enjoyed a wonderful working relationship between composer and conductor as the piece evolved," says Dr Karen Grylls, who is the Artistic Director and Conductor of Voices New Zealand.

Victoria Kelly, composer of The Unusual Silence, says the title references silence and the transience of sound. "The piece explores the silence that descends when battles stop; the unspoken relief, hope and desolation that is left resonating in the spaces between bursts of sound; the silence that so many soldiers maintained when they came home," she says.


Kelly has chosen text from 1915 newspapers, from the letters and poems written by New Zealanders at the front to their loved ones back home and telegrams that reported the deaths of soldiers.

Premiering this month at the Auckland Museum's Sanctuary before coming to Hawke's Bay for the Arts Festival, the moving and contemplative programme for The Unusual Silence includes other choral works by Eric Whitacre, Jenny McLeod, Healey Willlan, Samuel Barber and the haunting setting of In Flanders Fields by Stephen Chatman for men's voices.

The Unusual Silence has four movements: The Census, The Frightful Monotony, The Glorious Sunset and The Unburied Dead. It is composed for Chamber Choir and a men's chorus, which will be sung by the tenors and basses of Voices New Zealand. It also features Hawke's Bay trumpeter Robbie Cargill and a local school choir.

Dr Grylls says, "Voices NZ is delighted to be performing in the Bay again and, of course, it's exciting as Victoria and I both lived in Hawkes Bay. I went to Primary School in Clive and spent my first couple of secondary school years at Napier Girls' High School and Victoria is a former Iona College student. We will be thrilled to meet our audience in Hawkes for this remarkable and unique experience."

*Voices New Zealand: The Unusual Silence
Waiapu Cathedral, Napier
Sunday, October 1 at 2pm