Te Tairāwhiti Festival’s brilliant new opera event HIHĪ – A Song of Place will move to 4 February 2022.

The huge celebration of te reo Māori in waiata, which uplifts some of Aotearoa’s most remarkable songbirds amidst the exquisite beauty of Waihīrere Domain, was due to be the first event in Gisborne’s annual spring festival this October. With the current COVID outbreak, it will now take place in the height of Summer.

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival Artistic Director and Chief Executive Tama Waipara says the team have been working hard during lockdown to continue plans for delivery of a spectacular 10 days of arts, music and culture in October.

“HIHĪ will be our largest outdoor event, set to attract over 1000 in attendance. With consideration of alert level restrictions, we’ve made the decision to present the world premiere of this performance in Waitangi weekend.”

Featuring renowned singers Maisey Rika, Deborah Wai Kapohe, Erena Koopu and Rutene Spooner, accompanied by musicians from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, this spectacular and unique opera event showcases the songs of Te Tairāwhiti, well-loved waiata sung in operatic style, kapa haka and favourite opera arias performed in te reo Māori.

Created by the powerhouse team of Teina Moetara, Ruth Smith, Mere Boynton and Tama Waipara in partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, HIHĪ draws inspiration from the waters, environment and people of Te Tairāwhiti, birthplace of acclaimed Māori songwriters Tuini Ngāwai and Sir Āpirana Ngata.

Creative Director Teina Moetara says, “HIHĪ is an identity – an energy which comes from the knowing of a place. Tairāwhiti has some high-class art – it’s the toi capital of Aotearoa, but it’s art we often speak about by ourselves and to ourselves, without focused energy to exponentiate it.

“Waihīrere has many storytellers, and music makers whose role is to tell those stories. They’re stories which have been told many times in many contexts in a Māori world. The minute you drop in an orchestra in the middle of that space, with opera singers and musical forms slightly outside of what you’d normally put in that environment, the idea grows, and it connects. We’re building infrastructure to drive our stories further,” Moetara says.

At a time when live music is valued highly because of its ability to bring people together, the annual Gisborne festival is a major drawcard to a region rich with artistic history and talent, including celebrated performers and artists, both living and remembered.

“Though we need to adapt amidst the circumstances of COVID restrictions, what we can assure our community is that the Tairāwhiti region will still come alive from 8 to 17 October with the third annual celebration of the arts from the talented East Coast,” says Waipara.

All HIHĪ – A Song of Place ticket holders will be contacted by iTicket to arrange tickets for revised dates or offer a full refund, before 30 September.