Sounds of Te Kōkī

Sounds of Te Kōkī

Music students Kassandra Wanga and Liam Furey wanted to create a regular event for students to perform their original works. myView sat down with them for a New Zealand Music month chat to find out what’s inspiring them and how they’ve kept Sounds of Te Kōkī running through the challenges COVID-19.

Kassandra Wang and Liam Furey hosting the 2020 Sounds of Te Kōkī concert.

What is Sounds of Te Kōkī and what kind of music do you play?  

Liam: We founded Sounds of Te Kōkī in 2019 as a non-selective concert for students’ works. As both a piano and composition student, my fields were separated from each other and there wasn’t a lot of cross-interaction. We wanted more collaboration between different departments of the school, and let new musical interactions blossom from that. 

Kassandra: I studied jazz and electronic music composition at undergraduate level, where people also tend to stick within their own social circles. We wanted to make something that was non-competitive and non-judged, and provide space for all diverse genres, styles, and people to come together.

(L-R) Devyn Fowles, Sayaka Kirkman, Annabelle Thorpe, and Benny Sneyd-Utting preparing Hugo Butler’s ‘A Frightful Party’.

What gigs have you played lately and what message do you have for people who are keen to get out and see live music? 

Liam: Throughout COVID we’ve scheduled five concerts and only three of them have been able to go ahead because we’ve been prioritising the safety of the audience and performers. I’ve done a lot of gigs with COVID restrictions.  I’m working with the Glamaphones, Wellington’s LGBTQI+ choir and we’re doing physically distanced rehearsals. New Zealanders have been generous with the at-risk and vulnerable people in our community and if people want to be involved in the arts, there is a solution.  
Kassandra: I’ve just come back from a tour with the New Zealand Youth Choir and sang in a concert last week with the Tudor Consort. We’ve had to make live music accessible to people who can’t attend in person. There’s also been adaptations made to accommodate for the financial impact of COVID, like pay what you can, koha and tiered pricing. We’ve always recorded Sounds of Te Kōkī concerts and made them available online too.

What role has the University played in your development as musicians?  

Liam: While studying here I’ve been able to do solo performance, collaborate performance as a pianist, I’ve been able to write for people, conduct, and analyse music for study. I always wanted to throw myself in at the deep end with classical music and just really immerse myself entirely in those practices. The programme (Bachelor of Music) has been great for that. 

Kassandra: I also love what I’m doing. I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility I’ve had in my composition degree, and the real wealth of diverse knowledge at the school.

Kenny Childs performing keytar on his piece ‘Uzi’.

It’s New Zealand Music Month, what kiwi music from the past and present inspires you? 

Kassandra: I love listening to New Zealand artists because it’s great to support local. Louisa Williamson is releasing an amazing album next month that involves jazz with film and classical aesthetics. Jerome Kavanagh, our composer in residence, is another exciting composer and taonga pūoro (Māori instruments) practitioner. Te Kōkī associated H4LF CĀST, The Jac, and Frank Talbot Quartet are also favourites.

Liam: Whenever I go to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, I’m always fascinated by the pieces by New Zealand composers. Glen Downie, Ihlara McIndoe, Salina Fisher, Michael Norris, and Gillian Whitehead are all inspirational.

Liam Furey is studying for a Bachelor of Music (Hons.) double-majoring in Classical Piano and Composition. Kassandra Wang is studying for a Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Vocal Composition and Sonic Arts Composition and will be starting a Master of Music Therapy in 2023.

Check out New Zealand music month.

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