Concert Details

New World, New Beginnings

Nearly a year before the end of the Second World War, a group of 733 Polish children and their 102 caregivers who had been displaced by the war, settled in Pahiatua in November 1944. It was the end of a long and perilous journey. They had survived deportation to the Soviet Union, forced labour in Siberia and evacuation to the Middle East before reaching New Zealand.

An estimated 1.7 million Poles were deported to labour camps in Siberia following the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in 1939. Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 prompted Joseph Stalin to send over 120,000 Polish prisoners to Iran, where they languished in refugee camps.

While most of the former soldiers joined free Polish forces fighting on the Allied side, the Polish government-in-exile in London appealed for help finding temporary homes for the civilian refugees. In 1943 Prime Minister Peter Fraser invited a group of Polish children to New Zealand for the duration of the war. A camp for the children – dubbed ‘Little Poland’ – was established near Pahīatua in Wairarapa. Most of the refugees chose to settle in New Zealand after the war. Relatives joined some in the late 1940s, while a small number returned to Poland.

SMP Ensemble​ presented ‘Podróże - Journeys’ 10 years ago, a collection of epic works of classic and contemporary Polish music alongside new commissions that all reflected on this story or were inspired by a Polish theme.

Now, 75 Years after the arrival of the refugee Polish Children of Pahiatua, 
SMP Ensemble again dedicate two contrasting programmes of Polish repertoire alongside brand new compositions from New Zealand composers.

Programme Notes

15 November

André Nowicki Boat Children

It is a cathartic and humbling experience to share this piece with you. I wrote it because I am touched by the story of the Pahiatua Children and the kindness they encountered after years of suffering - a kindness that warmed broken hearts and brought out the healing sounds of laughter.

I am of Polish heritage and I grew up with the stories and songs of my grandparents and friends who experienced war and oppression in Poland. When preparing for the concerts to mark the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of the USS General Randall, I asked Katie, who is also Polish, to write some texts. The poem she wrote informed the structure of this piece which attempts to reflect the journey of the children.

I hope that this piece resonates with many people, especially with those of us who have come here to find a new home and with those who have children.

They are hundreds of homeless children
With pain on their skin.
They do not smile or cry,
They are small and grim.

Their dads are in the army,
Their mums lost and gone,
Some don’t know how old they are,
Or where they are from.

Hunger and guns and forests,
Hunger and snow and trains,
Hunger and hot dry deserts,
Hunger and fear and pain.  

Hope and strangers and doctors,
Hope and nurses and teachers,
Hope and bread and clothes and baths,
Hope and politicians.

A boat and games and soldiers,
A boat and waves and songs,
A boat and seasick and tired Boat people.

They arrive in green fairyland,
Under the Aotearoa,
The long and white cloud,
Nowa Zelandia.  

Here, everything is strange,
Here, people are kind,
Here, they play and learn and grow
Here. They have a home.  

[© 2019 Katie Kabala.  Edited by Richard Duer]

Hanna Kulenty Siesta

In recent times Kulenty describes calls her compositional technique “polyphony of time dimensions”, emphasizing the circularity of time and the simultaneity of time-events occurring on different temporal planes. Siesta (2016) is composed for violin, cello and trumpet. In 2003, her composition ‘Trumpet Concerto’ (2002) won the First Prize at UNESCO’s 50th International Rostrum of Composers, for which she received the UNESCO Mozart Medal from the International Music Council.

Callum Mallett lullaby

It’s said that Poland has the largest collection of carols and pastorals, the Polish carol from the 17th century Lulajże Jezuniu remains one of the most popular.  Chopin’s Scherzo Nr 1 Op. 20, includes excerpt of this lullaby from the tempo Moderato. I found the melody haunting, and with a simple verse resonated with a style that could sit within a child's music box. I have been open to extend on secondary song-like attributes an elaborate on this within a new setting. lullaby resonates with the displacement of an objet trouvé; finding a different context by compressing the subtly of singing to a child, children's music and binding it with new character.

Glen Downie Szcześliwe Wyspy (Isles of the Blessed)

This piece sets selected lines from Jan Kochanowski's Tren X. In it, the poet muses over multiple mythologies of the afterlife, after the death of his infant child. He asks where she, Orszulo, has gone, and imagines her in new paradises: in heaven amongst the angels, crossing Charon's lake and on the szcześliwe wyspy, the Isles of the Blessed (the latter two from Greek mythology). I was drawn to these lines for the metaphor of journey into new island paradises and sense of optimism despite the tragic circumstances.

Grażyna Bacewicz Second Piano Quintet

The great violinist-composers, Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69) also played the piano, making her a formidably-equipped as an artist to compose two companion piano quintets.

The later piano quintet, sits comfortably within the latter stylistic period for Bacewicz. Described by Reviewer Tully Potter for Chandos recording by the Silesian Quintet.

Uneasy, jagged and provisional than the earlier work.- though it still hints at earlier procedure. Indeed, in the central movement she encodes material from her Partita for Violin, something she was to do quite often in this period of her compositional life. Intense, dissonant, refractive and ambitious this is a powerful work, and there’s no let-up in a finale that can sound positively crotchety in places.

17 November

André Tchaikowsky Trio Notturno

André Tchaikowsky’s Trio Notturno, Op. 6 was written in 1978 and is dedicated to Hans Keller. Tchaikowsky writes in his own programme notes:

Some years ago Hans Keller gave a lecture at Dartington about the basic incompatibility of piano and strings. Classical harmony, he explained, used to bridge the gap. With the decline of tonality it became all but impossible to blend the disparate sounds. "All right, Hans," I said, "if ever I write anything for piano and strings it shall be dedicated to you.”

And so it is. When Peter Frankl asked me to write for his trio, I naturally remembered Hans Keller's warning -- or challenge -- and my promise. I decided to tackle the problem head on by emphasising the disparity of the instruments. This in turn led me to conceive the whole work as a study in contrast, and I did all I could to increase the polarity of the two movements.

Thus the Allegro is a movement of extreme rhythmic irregularity, full of short abrupt phrases and swift changes of register, with a preference for the dark low notes of the piano, while the Andante is a calm lyrical movement without a single change of metre, full of flowing melodic lines and clear, crystalline harmonies. And, lest the contrast thus attained prove too "pat," I wrote an agitated central section, culminating in the climax of the entire work and followed by a sudden silence, a shortened recapitulation and a long, static, reminiscent coda. It is as if Florestan had briefly invaded Eusebius' territory, before being finally subdued. [A reference to Robert Schumann's two opposing literary personalities.]

As the trio had been composed to order, it had a deadline. However, being finally finished after many agonizing weeks, the performers, for whom the trio was composed, demanded a proper hall for its premiere. Thus, the trio needed to wait for its public performance. Although the need to write the trio quickly was needless, it demonstrated its uniqueness among Tchaikowsky’s works. His usual agonising punctiliousness and overthinking every detail have been substituted with more spontaneity and resulted in something entirely different. As a consequence, the trio is Tchaikowsky’s most often-performed composition.

Sadly, the composer was not to hear his Trio Notturno performed live, which received its world premiere just nine days after his death. The first performance took place at Tchaikowsky’s funeral on July 2, 1982 and the first public performance just two days later on July 4, 1982 at the Cheltenham Festival. After this performance, William Mann wrote for The Times:

The premiere was also, alas, a farewell in the case of the Trio Notturno by André Tchaikowsky, who died just over a week before its first performance on Sunday night. The composer, no relation to his great Russian namesake, was Polish born, took British citizenship and was much admired here as a pianist. He wrote the work expressly for the admirable piano trio of Peter Frankl, Gy6rgy Pauk, and Ralph Kirshbaum, who dedicated their concert to his memory.

Tchaikowsky gave them a tough assignment. Having pledged himself to balance anew the unwieldy, sometimes inequitable, partnership of violin and cello with modern grand piano, he proposed a linear basic texture, its outlines ornate, almost baroque, rich in harmonic density, passionately argumentative in expression. The two abruptly contrasted movements challenge instrumental virtuosity at every turn; they might have sounded simply hard going, but were revealed, with formidable cogency, as invigorating to play, and listen to, especially in the rapid middle section of the second movement, an alarmingly brilliant feat of imagination. (…)

Textural considerations are paramount in the Trio Notturno. It was inspired by an allegation (from the ever-provocative Hans Keller, to whom the work is dedicated) that piano and strings are basically incompatible. André Tchaikowsky approached the problem in much the same way as Bartók did in the two mature violin sonatas, emphasising the differences rather than attempting to effect a compromise.

The Trio Notturno is thus not the most comfortable work written for violin, cello and piano. It is, however, despite its echoes of Bartók, one of the most original and personal of its kind. The silence observed by the audience at the end --although the composer himself might have preferred applause to reward an admirably dedicated first performance -- was an appropriate reaction to a work of such integrity.

Louisa Nicklin III:RE

III:RE  is focused around displacement and the premises of readjusting. The piece explores new perspectives on familiar things.
The hope is that it reflects some of the emotions of those who were part of the Pahiatua community in the 1940s.

Hanna Kulenty Cradle Song

In 2007 Kronos Quartet ("probably the most famous 'new music' group in the world") commissioned Hanna Kulenty to write a string quartet. String Quartet No. 4 (A Cradle Song) was performed more than 20 times throughout the world, including at the Sydney Opera House (5 june 2009) and at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Her earlier work of the same name A Cradle Song, was composed for trio in 1993.
Kulenty had some sort of emotional structure in mind, an arc design as a way of expressing the intensity curve or energy of a particular structure. She tried to achieve a permanant tension in a sort of European trance music.

Karol Szymanowski Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin

Karol Szymanowski
Pieśni Muezina Szalonego, op. 42


Allah, Allah Akbar, Allah!
Ja wiem, ja dobrze wiem, że ciebie stworzył Allah, bym jego chwalił,
bo czyż nie mając ciebie byłbym szalonym muezinem?
Bo czyżbym wysyłał w niebo głos wychwalający Allaha
nie myśląc, że dźwięk jego zbudzi ciebie?
Allah, Akbar, Allah!


O, ukochana ma! Allah, Bismillah, Allah!
Do ciebie modli się mój głos pięciorako
Allah, Bismillah, Allah!
Bo wiem, że w nocy i w czas południa
i czasu gwiazdy porannej
czekasz na mój stęskniony zew!
Allah, Bismillah, Allah!


Ledwie blask słońca złoci dachy wież;
mój głos posyłam tobie.
Wiem, że w poranku spokoju ufasz w jego srebrny ton!
Zbudź się, zbudź i przyślij wraz ze słonkiem
twój pierwszy uśmiech, o luba!
Allah, Allah!


W południe miasto białe od gorąca,
Baseny pluszczą wilgotną zielenią.
Wzywam na chwalbę Allaha, po to jedynie,
byś do kąpieli zdziała szaty barwne.
Wezwanie moje codzień sprawia cud,
Cud twej nagości.


O tej godzinie, w której miasto śpi, o olali! o olali!
Zbudźcie się chwalić Allaha!
Wstań, stary kupcze, by chwalić Allaha! Licząc swe perły.
Wstań ty, niewiasto, by chwalić Allaha, czekając na junaka.
Tylko ty, o luba, utulona snem, o olali! o olali!
Jak lotus śpij skulona.


O olio, o olio! Odeszłaś w pustynię zachodnią!
O olio! O tej godzinie już twe białe ciało nie zna kropelek srebrnych wód.
W suchych piaskach swe ciało w zachodniej nurzasz pustyni
I serce moje piasek rozłąki miast wody słodkiej kochania pije! O olio! O o olio!

Karol Szymanowski
Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin, Op. 42


Allah, Allah, Akbar, Allah!
I know, yes, I know Allah created you so that I could praise him,
for without you would I be the Infatuated Muezzin?
Would I send my voice towards the heaven praising Allah
without thinking its sound would somehow awaken you!
Allah, Akbar, Allah!


Oh, my beloved! Allah, Bismillah, Allah!
My fivefold voice prays unto you
Allah, Bismillah, Allah!
For I know that at night and noon,
and at the morning-star-time,
You’re waiting for my longing call!
Allah, Bismillah, Allah!


The rising sun has barely gilded the tower-spires;
my voice I send to you.
I know you trust its silver tone in the morning peace!
Awake, awake, oh beloved, and send your first smile with the rising sun!
Allah! Allah!


At noon the city is white with heat,
The pools ripple with wet green.
I raise the call to glorify Allah only so
you’d take off your colourful robes to bathe.
My call every day brings a miracle,
The miracle of your nakedness!


At this hour when the city sleeps, o olali! o olali!
Awake thus to praise Allah!
Rise, old merchant, to praise Allah! ah! counting your pearls.
Rise woman, to praise Allah, awaiting your young lover.
Only you, oh beloved, nestled in dreams, o olali! o olali!
Sleep curled like a lotus flower.


O olio, o olio! You departed into the western deserts!
O olio! At this hour your white body no longer knows
the drops of silvery waters.
In dry sands of the western desert you immerse your body,
and my heart drinks desert sand
Instead of the sweet water of loving! O olio, O olio!

New works for SMP Ensemble by...

Glen Downie

Glen Downie studied at the NZSM where he completed his MMA under Michael Norris and Dugal McKinnon. He has had works performed/workshopped by the Brussels Philharmonic, Musiques Nouvelles, the Auckland Philharmonia, NZSO and was the NZSO National Youth Orchestra composer in residence in 2019. He also attended the 2016 Palendriai Composers Course in Lithuania, and tactus 2017 in Belgium.

Callum Mallett

Callum Mallett is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. He has had works performed internationally and nationally  from NZTrio, SMP Ensemble, Peter Scholes, and Green Room at the Pyramid Club. Callum has participated in a number of development programmes, CANZ - Nelson Composers Workshop and impuls International Academy for Composers and Ensembles of Contemporary music (Graz, Austria).

Callum studied Sonic Arts and Composition with Dr. Ted Apel, Michael Norris, Kenneth Young and Dr. Dugal McKinnon at the New Zealand School of Music - Te Kōkī. As a performer, Callum is a multi-instrumentalist and has performed with the SMP Ensemble, Wellington Brass, and Kollective International Totem at PortalFest.

In 2017 he was finalist of the Lilburn Trust NZSM Composition Competition with Interference Theory I. for duo with live electronics, and co-winner of the NZTrio Composing Competition with Departure, at the Going Tide. In 2018 his work was Lines Traced, Past Reading placed within the University of Auckland Clarinet Festival Composers Competition.

Louisa Nicklin

Tamaki Makaurau-based artist Louisa Nicklin is a graduate of Te Koki New Zealand School of Music. Louisa has had works performed and recorded by local and international orchestras, small ensemble groups and soloists.

In 2019 Louisa's work I:RE was performed by Australian Cellist - David Moran, at Wellington's Portalfest. Louisa's work One (2017) was recently performed and recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2018 NZ Composer Sessions - organised by SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, and recorded by RNZ Concert. In November 2016 her piece for orchestra and soloist, Moonlit Delirium, was premiered by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra in China as part of Shanghai Conservatory of Music's 'Hearing China' concert. 

Louisa's works typically explore themes through the use of harmony and texture. 

André Nowicki

After studying clarinet under Debbie Rawson and Phil Greene at the New Zealand School of Music, André Nowicki completed a masters in composition under Ross Edwards at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2017. André co-founded and previously directed the SMP Ensemble and his works have been performed and broadcast in several countries.