Recreating the sounds of Māori at Gallipoli

In what is probably a first for an exhibition like this Gallipoli: The scale of our war  (opening April 18) has its very own soundtrack and score to enhance the visitor experience.

In this blog Te Papa researcher Amber Aranui talks about recreating the sounds of Māori at Gallipoli.

For the part of the exhibition that looks at the role of the Māori Contingent at Gallipoli we were tasked by composer Tane Upjohn-Beatson to recreate the sermon delivered by Chaplain Captain Henare Wepiha Te Wainohu on the eve of the assault on Chunuk Bair.

Henare Wepiha Te Wainohu, photographed in army chaplain’s uniform during the First World War. Alexander Turnbull Library, Charlie Wainohu Collection Reference: 1/2-190195; F.

Henare Wepiha Te Wainohu, photographed in army chaplain’s uniform during the First World War. Alexander Turnbull Library, Charlie Wainohu Collection Reference: 1/2-190195; F.

On the same night we also recorded a haka, and two waiata.

All those involved met up at the location on a hill top at Mount Crawford in Wellington. It was still daylight, the sun was shining and the wind had mysteriously died down. It was to be a still, calm, eerie night.

Setting up for the recordings. Photographer Amber Aranui

Setting up for the recordings. Photographer Amber Aranui

The waiata were recorded first, so the group of men assigned to the task began warming up. These men were representatives of the Te Aute College Alumni. This was fitting considering the strong Te Aute College presence in the exhibition. They then took their place on a large concrete circle on the grass field. Recording began and if you closed your eyes you were transported back to 1915 and you were listening to soldiers singing during Sunday mass.

Te Aute Alumni men recording the two waiata. Photographer Amber Aranui

Te Aute Alumni men recording the two waiata. Photographer Amber Aranui

When the haka was recorded it was dusk, the atmosphere had changed, there was a coolness in the air. The car headlights went on and the haka filled the night air. I had goose bumps, what an amazing recreation this is going to be.

Te Aute Alumni men recording the haka. Photographer Amber Aranui

Te Aute Alumni men recording the haka. Photographer Amber Aranui

Finally it was time for the sermon, our voice actor, Reverend Michael Tamihere, had a special connection to Chaplain Te Wainohu. Not only was he also from the same area, but he was also a man of God, and a similar age to Te Wainohu when he was on Gallipoli.

We all gathered around him for his delivery of the sermon. It was cold and dark, yet we were captivated as he began to speak. It was the most amazing and moving experience. Many of us present were affected, there were even tears shed as we were all caught up in the moment. I could almost picture myself there at Gallipoli on the 6th August 1915, prepared for battle, being given those words to hold close.

Here is the transcript of Te Wainohu’s stirring and emotional sermon from a letter written to his wife:

“Fellow members of a brave family. Listen unto me, your elder and adviser in things spiritual and corporeal. My words to you are: Be brave, be valiant. Be firm and determined in your hearts and in your minds, to win success. Remember you are the descendants of brave and warlike ancestors. You are only a handful of warriors amongst the many thousands of men here. These people are watching you; they are asking within themselves, What manner of men are these who have come from the ends of the earth. Will they justify their presence? So therefore, my brothers, do not forget that the name and honor of the Maori people lies in your hands today— to make or to mar. When you charge the enemy, never turn back, but go on, and on, and on to victory. I know that some of us now here will never again stand together with us. But it would be better for us all to lie dead in these hollows and on the tops of these mountains than for a whisper of dishonor to go back to the old people at Home. Therefore, my brothers, be of good courage. Be fearless in the face of the enemy and keep up the prestige and high name of the Maori race. You will by your noble deeds light such a fire on the mountains that it can never be quenched. Remember that old and ancient proverb of our ancestors: ‘Small and insignificant as is the kopara (native bird), yet swings he to and fro on the highest branch of the tallest kahika tree.’ Accordingly I desire you to reach the top of those mountains this morning.”

Reverend Michael Tamihere recording the sermon. Photographer Amber Aranui

Reverend Michael Tamihere recording the sermon. Photographer Amber Aranui

You can see footage of the sermon being recorded in Episode 3 of Building Gallipoli at www.gallipoli.tepapa.govt.nz

 

4 Responses

  1. Te Waari

    Nga mihi tino nui ki a koe Amber; you have captured a very beautiful moment and it is something that I will never forget. The sermon was extremely moving. The honour of doing the haka and singing our elders songs for the sound scape of the Gallipoli Exhibition I know will move people deeply.

    Reply
  2. Chrissie

    Ngā mihi nui ki a koe Amber. I loved reading your blog and can’t wait to hear them, ngā taonga tuku iho, and to see the exhibition.

    Reply
  3. Jenny Caitlin

    a very moving account thank you

    Reply
  4. Annie

    This is such a lovely post. But the only spoken or sung voice missing is Amber’s.

    Reply

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