THE FAMOUS WAIATA MAORI CHOIR
Under the direction of the Rev. A. J. Seamer
- Au E Te Iwi Te (Kingi Tahiwi)
- Toku Wairua
- Te Ariki
- Pakia Kia Rite (Kingi Tahiwi)
- Tirohia Mokoia
- Uia Mai Koia - Solo: Mihi Waikare
- The Cloud-Capp'd Towers (R.J.S. Stevens)
- E Ihu E Te Kingi Nui
- How Excellent Is Thy Loving Kindness, O Lord (from Choral Praise)
- Kataka Mai
- Awhi Mai
These selections were transcribed from three 78 r.p.m. recordings made in England early in 1938 by the Wiata Maori Choir during their tour. The beauty of the singing is highlighted by the fact it is entirely unaccompanied. Mr. Seamer never actuly conducted the choir in public, nor did he permit anyone else to do so.
The foundation members of the Waiata Maori Party gathered at the suggestion of their elders around Mr. Seamer in the mid-twenties to support the effort he was making through his Dominion-wide Mission Festival tours toward the development of a better-informed and more sympathetic relationship between Maori and Pakeha. The group at first was small but proved effective in that it created deep, thoughtful interest in both Maori and Pakeha circles. Gradually the membership grew until every main tribe was represented. The public called the group Mr. Seamer’s Maori Party, but he himself called it the Waiata Party. Mr. Seamer was already known as a choirmaster, and before long the group was being referred to as the Waiata Choir. By 1930 the largest halls in the Dominion were filled regularly with audiences enthusiastic to see and hear the party.
In response to many pressing invitations a four months’ tour of Australia was made under the auspices of the Methodist Church in 1933. On arrival in Botany Bay the members of the party found themselves guests of the Government for a ten-hour official launch tour of the harbour. The following day they were accorded a civic reception at which the Lord Mayor insisted on following Maori custom in the personal greetings. That evening the great Sydney Town Hall was filled with a highly appreciative audience, Thus the tour was launched and the choir proceeded on what proved to be a highly successful round of visits to all the cities and large towns from Cairns in northern Queensland to Port Pirie in South Australia. Press reports everywhere were favourable and generally enthusiastic. The welcome was exceptionally warm in Melbourne where Mr. Seamer had taken his missionary course of study and had been appointed in 1897 to Maori mission work.
Many requests for a return visit had been made during the tour and early next year an official deputation came to Auckland bringing definite proposals. In the meantime invitations had also been received from England, Ireland and America and it was decided to spend three months in Australia in 1937 before going on to England. This second visit to Australia proved even more successful than the first.
The clouds of war were beginning to loom over Europe by this time, but the choir nevertheless considered themselves bound to honour the programme arranged for them in Great Britain. The more nebulous American plans however, were held in abeyance. The first few days in London were devoted to sightseeing, and the first official function was the civic reception in the Guildhall. At the Westminster Hall and other large London halls the choir sang to capacity audiences. They met with a very hearty reception in Wales and the Cardiff' Press called special attention to the naturalness, spontaneity, versatility and the blending of the voices. In Ireland there was a still warmer welcome, with a vice-regal reception in Belfast and a civic reception in Dublin at which each choir member received a personal gift from the Lord Mayor. On the eve of leaving England the party visited Buckingham Palace by Royal Command and sang to the King and Queen and Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth. Their Majesties talked with members of the party and refreshments were provided. A final farewell banquet was given at Westminster Hall.
With the threat of war now closer still, the American invitations were reluctantly declined on official advice, and the choir retuned to New Zealand via Panama Canal. In Auckland they were greeted with a civic reception and presented their final programme. The next day at Ngaruawahia they were accorded an enthusiastic Maori welcome home. The Maori elders congratulated the party on its success in carrying information and goodwill abroad and on securing financial assistance for many worthy causes. The members of the choir received no personal remuneration from the tour, but felt themselves to have gained from their experiences a far deeper understanding of the meaning of goodwill among all people.
Compact Disc LA-8