Heleen du Plessis


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Join us in commissioning and premiering the first ever New Zealand composition for cello and marimba, Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi, by Gareth Farr. Written for Duo Col Legno with marimba virtuoso Yoshiko Tsuruta, the world premiere will take place in the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium at the Otago Museum in Dunedin in May 2019.

'Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi' is te reo Māori for the Aurora Australis, visible from our southernmost parts of New Zealand. Some iwi viewed the aurora as ancestors' campfires reflected in the sky. This story inspires the composition, emphasising universal belonging and spiritual connection. Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi builds upon previous acclaimed projects Cello for Africa and Cellists Aotearoa, dealing with belonging to a single nation to multiple belonging, and to, in this work, representing our infinite connection to the universe and being members of one human family. These projects investigate the role of music in strengthening roots, connecting to place and finding a 'sense of place'. The longer-term vision is to expand it into a large-scale work of several movements.

The performance will be combined with a visual backdrop of atmospheric lights and colourful electric dancing veils of the aurorae that will immerse audience members in a cello-marimba sound blend, ranging from ethereal to pounding and percussive and transport them to a world of light and sound.

Dr. Ian Griffin, astronomer and Director of the Otago Museum, will provide enlightenment on the scientific aspects. A social get-together with a cash bar will precede this multi-sensory experience that draws together music, philosophy, culture, art and science.

Supported by a Creative New Zealand grant, the funds raised are for the remaining costs of the composition, the visual design and artists' fees.

Thank you for helping us reach the target of $4,500 by investing in music innovation and enabling the premiere performance of Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi.


  • Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi


    Feedback from critics and audiences about the world premiere and other performances have been tremendously positive! We have also performed it at the Marama Lunchtime concert in Dunedin, and as part of our CMNZ tour in Gore, Wanaka and Oamaru. Reactions of wonder and awe, with exclamations of wow's, ooh's and aahhh's! were audible from our large audiences! There are a few more chances to hear it together with a programme packed with variety in upcoming venues of our tour on the North Island, see: https://chambermusic.co.nz/duo-col-legno/.

    Our donors of the Boosted funding and a Creative NZ Arts Grant made it all possible! With the lack of repertoire for this obviously amazing combination of instruments the contribution is incredibly valuable!
    Below is a review on the world premiere from the The Star:

    Tahu-nui-a-Rangi (Aurora Australis), by Gareth Farr
    Dr Heleen du Plessis (cello), Yoshiko Tsuruta (marimb), and Dr Ian Griffin (imagery)
    Otago Museum Perpetual Guardian Planetarium - Saturday, May 4, 2019.
    Review by BRENDA HARWOOD

    The shimmering colours of the Auroa Australis danced overhead, as audience listened mesmerised to Gareth Farr's beautiful musical rendition of the dancing ''southern lights'' during the world premiere of Tahu-nui-a-Rangi.
    Performed twice on Saturday evening the intimate space of the 50-seat Otago Museum's Perpetual Guardian Planetarium, the 20-minute piece was superbly performed by Duo Col Legno - Dr Heleen du Plessis (cello) and Yoshiko Tsuruta (marimba).
    The brainchild of du Plessis, the commissioned piece was planned as the first movement of a larger multi-sensory work exploring music, philosophy, culture, art and science.
    Saturday's performance was preceded by explanations of the project from du Plessis and Farr, with an introduction to the Aurora Australis by Otago Museum director and astronomer Dr Ian Griffin.
    Immersed in the womb-like darkness of the Planetarium, it was awe inspiring to experience to dancing skies of the Aurora Australis, while listening to Farr's shimmering composition.
    Creating everything from low groans to percussive sounds with her bow, du Plessis showed the extraordinary versatility of the cello, while Tsuruta was in perpetual motion as she drew streams of bell-like tones from the marimba.
    The two performers showed impressive understanding, weaving their instruments together with the dancing lights overhead to create a cocoon of light and sound.
    With its evocative exploration of an awe-inspiring phenomena of our southern skies Tahu-nui-a-Rangi (Aurora Australis) is a superb new work by a leading New Zealand composer.
    Future instalments of this work, as performed by these two virtuosic players, will be eagerly awaited. Bravo!


  • Pretty exceptional and rare


    To hear a piece written for the combination of cello and marimba performed live is quite rare.
    First of all there are not many specialized marimba soloists. We are privileged to have such a phenomenal player in NZ such as Yoshiko Tsuruta.

    Because the instrument is so enormous (3 m long, weighing 150 kg) it has to be transported by a huge van! Their range normally spans over 5 octaves but Yoshiko’s marimba that was made for her in Japan by Korogi, is 5 and ¾ octaves! The biggest in NZ!

    In order to transport the marimba, it has to be taken apart into 14 pieces and put into several cases. It takes 1 hour with a helper to put together.

    Yoshiko will literally drive 1000’s of km’s to come to Dunedin for this world premiere on 4 May and our CMNZ tour to 10 cities all over NZ after that.

    Therefor the sound blend of the cello and marimba is something very special and the opportunity to hear this is quite unique!

    To read more about Yoshiko and Duo Col Legno go to: http://www.yoshikotsuruta.com/duo-col-legno/


    Pretty exceptional and rare
  • Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi / Aurora Australis


    Aurora Australis

    Have you ever seen the magical multi-coloured dancing veils of the Southern Lights? Do you know how they are formed? Did you know they make sounds?

    Did you know while there is a scientific explanation for them, there are also different spiritual meanings connected to the phenomenon?

    In this piece by Farr he made use of extended techniques and sound effects in the marimba and cello part, that brilliantly capture the moods and colours of the Aurora Australis. The world premiere performance of Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi in the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium at the Otago Museum in Dunedin on the 4th of May, combined with the live visual backdrop of the aurorae and world-renowned astronomer Dr. Ian Griffen's pre-concert talk, will bring together science, art, philosophy and culture and a bit of magic.