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NZ Youth Choir turns 40

The New Zealand Youth Choir (NZYC) has just turned 40 and to celebrate, it’s holding a special Christmas concert in Auckland, Friday 6 December, before boarding a cruise ship the next day for a 17-­day tour of the Pacific.

New Zealand Youth Choir was founded in 1979 by Dr Guy Jansen. Then called the National Youth Choir, Prof Peter Godfrey took over as Music Director in 1983 before Karen Grylls in 1989. David Squire has been Music Director since 2011.

NZYC alumni include well-known names like Simon O’Neill, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Sol3 Mio, Anna Leese, Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard … and Hilary Barry who will be dashing from the set of TVNZ’s Seven Sharp to share the stage with her old friends at the Auckland concert.


After 40 years of training over 1000 of our best singers (aged 18-­25), NZYC is heading to the Pacific for the first time. “It’s a mark of how far we’ve come in reaching beyond the traditional choral membership, repertoire and audiences,” says David Squire, NZYC Music Director. “In 2019, we’re a multicultural choir that performs a rich and diverse selection of music, here and around the world. The Auckland concert and Pacific tour are a celebration of this, as well as a tribute to Pacific music”.

NZYC will be joined on stage in Auckland by Voices New Zealand and members of its alumni including TV presenter, Hilary Barry. The repertoire for the evening will feature Pasifika music and new takes on some well-­known Christmas songs, including a new arrangement, Nova, Nova, Ave fit ex Eva, by Igelese Ete. Igelese, who helped create the soundtrack for the Disney hit, Moana, and worked on Lord of the Rings, will host the choir while in Fiji where he lives and works as Head of Performing Arts at the University of the South Pacific, Suva. He is a former NZYC member and a judge of the TV show, The Naked Choir.

Following the Auckland concert, NZYC will be farewelled in song at Princes Wharf by alumni members. Once onboard MS Maasdam, the 50 youthful singers may come as a surprise to the cruise ship’s regular clientele – all 1150 of them – and so will NZYC’s two concerts while at sea. During stopovers, there’ll be special events and performances in Tonga, Niue, Fiji and New Caledonia. NZYC will work with local schools and singers in most locations.

In each Pacific destination, the choir will perform new musical arrangements created by its own Pasifika members or local composers. 21 year-­old NZYC member Denzel Panama is particularly excited about the Auckland concert and Pacific tour. Of Niuean descent, Denzel is the youngest member of the choir and has arranged a piece for NZYC to sing in Niue. Mark Pole, a NZYC member from Tonga, has also arranged a work for his home country.

Joining NZYC on the Pacific tour will be documentary maker, Evan Williams, and Samoan cultural adviser, Siliva Gaugatao. During the cruise days, NZYC will work with Gaugatao on Pasifika repertoire, the music, movements and languages.

New Zealand Youth Choir in Concert: A Christmas Journey Friday 6 December 2019, 7:30pm, Holy Trinity Cathedral Auckland.