Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Ka Pō, Ka Ao was a mighty celebration. With the Matariki star cluster high in the skies, a capacity town hall audience welcomed the Māori new year in the appropriately stellar presence of singer-songwriter Rob Ruha.
Surrounded by his snappy band, stylish backing vocalists and Ka Hao choir, Ruha delivered a set of songs that transported us from night to day and dark to light, symbolising the genesis and life force of all things.
He was an eloquent guide for this journey, and the flow between te reo and English was effortlessly natural, thanks to his connecting commentary.
An encore of "I Te Pō" was even more moving after we heard of his father's recent death; the crowd-pleasing te reo version of "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King was subtly politicised by his mentioning the 1972 Maori language petition.
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At one point Ruha pleaded nervousness; perhaps a good thing, he mused, as his friend Maisey Rika felt that it meant you cared. It didn't show, however, in a generous programme that glided from his fervent te reo setting of Psalm 120 to the energized funk of "Lost in the Q".
Highlights included Cilla Ruha's elegant poi alongside her husband and Whenua Patuwai's soulful singing of "Papa", or the audience's roar of approval when Ruha dedicated "Taka Rawa", an invigorating haka for strong women, to our prime minister.
Such was this man's charisma, one felt that the spirits of Howard Morrison and Prince Tui Teka might well be hovering in the house, alongside those of Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross.
The evening was also a triumph for the APO and conductor David Kay, absolutely in tune with the turning of history. Ruha specially acknowledged Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper's arrangements, with their funky brass riffs, enthusiastic te reo whoops from the players and some gorgeous blending of Ruha's caramel baritone with the burnished tones of oboes and cor anglais.
What: Ka Pō, Ka Ao
Where: Auckland Town Hall.