Fiona Wilson has just been announced as the inaugural 2024 Assistant Conductor for Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand, the body that governs our four national choirs. This new role is part of a dedicated annual mentoring programme that will see Fiona working one-on-one with acclaimed New Zealand conductor and Choirs Aotearoa Artistic Director, Dr Karen Grylls (CMNZ). The programme is designed to develop future choral leaders for Aotearoa, and Karen will actively mentor Fiona for 12 months.

“The role of Assistant Conductor was hotly contested,” says Karen, “The calibre of applicants was impressive, which bodes well for a healthy future for choral music in Aotearoa. I’m delighted to announce that Fiona is the successful candidate for 2024. Many of the choirs she’s led have won competitions, here and overseas, and in April 2023, she represented New Zealand in the Conducting Masterclass at the World Choir Games in Istanbul.”

Fiona has been Head of Music at Westlake Girls High School for ten years during which time she’s earned the school half a dozen gold medals at the highly-competitive Big Sing Finale – New Zealand’s national choral festival for secondary schools. Fiona is also a singer and is currently a soprano in Voices New Zealand, our premier national chamber choir. Fiona has toured with Voices to the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany and performed with internationally acclaimed artists Eric Whitaker, The Kings Singers and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, here and overseas. In her new role, Fiona will also work with Voices NZ as a conductor, including at the Compose Aotearoa workshops later in 2024 when she will work with the winners of the national choral composition competition.

“I’m excited to be selected for this new role and look forward to working with Karen Grylls, the other national choirs’ music directors and, of course, the talented members of our national choirs,” says Fiona. “I’ve always worked hard to empower singers to explore a diverse range of vocal colours and expressions and ignite a profound appreciation for music, enabling every member to thrive as both an artist and an individual”.

As well as Fiona’s work at Westlake Girls’, recent highlights include last year conducting competition pieces with Voices NZ and composers at CANZ Composers Workshop in Wellington and working with community choirs for the Northland region local community. In 2022, Fiona shadowed Karen Grylls as Chorus Master for Voices NZ in concert with Eric Whitacre and his award-winning work, The Secret Veil. In 2021, she was Chorus Master for Voices NZ in concert with the APO for ‘The Blue


This year, Fiona’s been the Chorus Director for the recent New Zealand Opera Summer School and coming up soon, Fiona will be leading workshops and performance to open the Auckland Arts Festival in Choirs Aotearoa’s event Waiata Mai.



More about Fiona Wilson & Dr Karen Grylls

Fiona Wilson

Fiona has a Bachelor of Music from Auckland University, a secondary teaching diploma from Auckland College of Education and a Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of London Institute of Education (2002–2006). She is trained in the Kodály method of teaching music.

Fiona was a member of the BBC Symphony Chorus, London (1997–2001) with the choir included in annual concert programming for the BBC promos and touring to Istanbul and Vienna. She is a current soprano in Voices New Zealand choir and toured internationally including to the Tolosa International Choral Competition, Spain (1998). Fiona was a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir (1991–1996) and toured to the World Symposium of Choral Music in Sydney in 1996 and the World Symposium of Choral Music in Vancouver in 1993.

As director of the Westlake Girls’ choir Cantare:

2023: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Best Performance of Choral Art Song (joint winner)

2023: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir. Best Performance of an Unaccompanied Work

2022: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Best Performance of Choral Art Song

2022: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir

Best A Cappella Performance in Any Genre. Adjudicators Award for any Performance of a Single Work.

2021: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir.Spirit of the Festival Award.

2019, 2018, 2017: The Big Sing National Finale: Gold Awards

2018: Concert with Toronto Children’s Chorus on New Zealand tour

2017: National Choral Conference and ASPIRE Music Festival, Brisbane – Best Performance Award

2016 & 2015: The Big Sing National Finale: Silver Awards

As director of the Westlake Boys’ and Girls’ choir Choralation:

2023: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Auahi Kore Performance Award for Best Performance of a piece with text in Te Reo Māori

2023: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Program by a Mixed Choir. Adjudicators Award for any Performance of a Single Work

2023: Concerts with Auckland Chamber Choir, APO, recording and featured in the NZ film Tinā

Dr Karen Grylls CNZM

Karen founded Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir in 1998 and is its artistic director. Karen was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2023 for services to choral music. She led the NZ Youth Choir to international recognition as Best Mixed Choir at the 2007 Cantonigrós International Music Festival, Choir of the World at the International Eisteddfod and Overall Best Choir at Cantat Grand Prix in 1999. Karen was appointed Kaitiaki of Te Whānau Wehi and Waka Huia in 1999, bringing Māori music to the forefront of choral performance in New Zealand for more than two decades. She is founding director and Conductor Emerita of the University of Auckland Chamber Choir, having been principal conductor from 2006 to 2022. She established the University’s postgraduate choral conducting programmes in 2006.

Karen is also co-Artistic Director of the New Zealand Children’s Choral Academy founded in 2022. From 2002 to 2008 she was a Board member of the International Federation of Choral Music and has been a Founding Board member of the New Zealand Choral Federation since 1985.

CANZ seeks to protect and honour the national taonga of Te Ao Māori both when we perform with our national choirs and in our day to day operations.

We aim to:

– Increase our usage of Te Reo Māori in our daily operations, publications and concerts

– Publish an Interculturalism Policy

– Develop and enhance relationships with Māori composers

– Ensure all music that is attributable to, or derived from, Māori composers and lyricists is used with proper and appropriate permissions, payments, and attributions

We won’t always get it right and recognise there is a lot to do, so we welcome your ideas or feedback about how we can improve our approach.

Please contact us at or, or feel free to have a chat with us when you’re at our next concert!


Ka manaakitia, ka whakamānawatia hoki e CANZ te taonga o te ao Māori ina i ā mātou whakaaturanga me ā mātou mahi o ia rā.

Ka whāia e mātou:

– Te pikinga o te whakamahinga o te reo Māori i ā mātou mahi o ia rā, ā mātou whakaputanga, ā mātou whakaaturanga hoki.

– Tētahi kaupapahere whanaungatanga te tuhi.

– Te whanake me te whamana i ngā whanaungatanga ki ngā kaitito Māori.

– Ngā kaitito me ngā kaiwhakaari Māori te whakamana ki ngā whakaaetanga tika, ngā utu tika, ngā mihi tika hoki.

Kāhore mātou e tika ana i ngā wā katoa, ka mutu, e mōhio ana he nui ngā mahi kei mua i a tātou nō reira e pōhiritia ana ō whakaaro mō tō mātou whanaketanga.

Hena koa kia whakapā mai ki a mātou ki ki rānei, e pai ana hoki kia kōrerorero ki a mātou i ā mātou whakaaturanga.

Chamber Music New Zealand ‘Reimagining Mozart’, Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, Karen Grylls (Music Director), Robert Wiremu (composer). Wellington, October 29, 2023.  


Elizabeth Kerr: 

Voices New Zealand: Mozart’s Requiem tells a tragic story

“Wiremu’s reimagined Requiem uses Mozart’s glorious and familiar music throughout, though not always in the order Mozart intended. Telling the story of the Erebus disaster, Wiremu, singer and composer, uses highly imaginative instrumental and vocal timbres, depicting both the scenes and the anguished emotions of the story.
There’s no doubt that direct use of Mozart’s music by Wiremu to tell this tragic story is culturally and musically audacious. It would be easy for it to become merely obvious and literal, or perhaps overly and mawkishly sentimental. Making changes to the composition of a master like Mozart could seem presumptuous. Threading Māori concepts through the whole narrative might risk cultural overload.

With great subtlety and imagination these pitfalls are avoided in this profoundly moving work of art which held the audience’s hushed attention throughout”.

“…and when a small child wailed in the audience near the end, it felt as if that crying represented our collective grief. Many in the full house rose to their feet, tears in their eyes, for a standing ovation”.

You can read the full review here! 


Peter Menchen: 

Robert Wiremu’s REIMAGINING MOZART – a mind-enlarging expression of human tragedy in music

“Apart from it all having  a superlatives-exhausting effect from a critical point of view, I found as an audience member, composer Robert Wiremu’s “reimagining” of sequences from Mozart’s final work, his “Requiem”, a profoundly engaging and deeply moving experience. It was thus on so many levels, though naturally the presentation exerted its fullest and deepest effect with all things considered – the atmosphere of the venue (the beautiful St.Mary of the Angels Church in Wellington), the cultural merging of ritualistic procedures, European and Maori, the idea of a “requiem” in the presence of karanga (call), kaupapa (matter for discussion) and poroporoaki (leave-taking) relating to and delivered by the composer in relation to  his subject matter, the use of both specific and “re-presented” parts of the Mozart work, both the overall and specific parts of the presentation’s “narrative”, the technical prowess of the performers, the beauty of their singing and playing, and, of course the skills and complete authority of Music Director Karen Grylls. All of these things interacted to present a work whose range and scope was breathtaking, both when experienced in situ and in subsequent resonant reflection”…

Read the full review here! 

Chair of the Choirs Aotearoa NZ Trust, Amanda Barclay, expressed the organisation’s gratitude, saying, “It’s been our privilege to benefit from Dr Karen Grylls’ expertise through her musical direction of Voices New Zealand and the NZ Youth Choir, and as Artistic Director of all four of our national choirs. Karen is a tireless promoter of choral music and brings a great deal of heart to her unrelenting pursuit of choral excellence. On behalf of the Trust Board, I congratulate Karen on this well-deserved honour.”

Reflecting on this significant recognition, Dr Karen Grylls shared her deep appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to choral music in New Zealand, saying, “I am deeply honoured to receive the CNZM in the King’s Birthday and Coronation Birthday Honours, 2023. I consider myself very privileged to have worked and performed with so many choral musicians, and to be a voice for choral music in Aotearoa.

In receiving this award I acknowledge these many musicians and colleagues who have supported me along the way: composers, singers, stage directors, international and national conductors and pedagogues and the many managers who have made it happen. This award honours them also.”

Dr Karen Grylls’ passion for singing and its transformative power has been a driving force throughout her career. “The opportunity to have worked with and trained ensemble singers and conductors over several decades as part of my long-standing work with Choirs Aotearoa NZ has given me the greatest opportunities which I acknowledge here with heartfelt thanks.” She expressed her hope that young musicians feel empowered to lead and become global musical citizens themselves.

As Dr Grylls looks forward to the immediate future, she eagerly anticipates the upcoming tour with Voices New Zealand and Chamber Music New Zealand. The tour, titled ‘Reimagining Mozart,’ features a new full-length work by composer Robert Wīremu for choir and instruments promising to be a captivating exploration of Mozart’s timeless Requiem from a fresh perspective.

We extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Karen Grylls on this well-deserved honour. Her unwavering commitment, extraordinary talent, and visionary leadership have elevated choral music in New Zealand and beyond, leaving an indelible impact on the cultural landscape.


For media inquiries, please contact:


Arne Herrmann

Chief Executive
Choirs Aotearoa NZ

027 276 1751


About Dr Karen Grylls:

Dr Karen Grylls is an acclaimed conductor and the Artistic Director of Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand. She established the renowned Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir in 1989, which she continues to lead. Dr Grylls’ pioneering efforts have made an indelible mark on the international choral music landscape, and her visionary leadership has shaped the future of choral excellence in New Zealand.

My inspiration for the May and October concerts, especially, comes from the whakataukī  (Māori proverb) Ka mua ka muri  (walking backwards into the future) where the past and the future intertwine, where those in the present stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, where our composers carry ideas from early music and classical composers into their new kupu and new works. This inclusion of works from the choral canon into the newly commissioned works has always been a clear path for composers and choirs.

At the May Concert, Early Music Reimagined, you will hear Leonie Holmes’s new work Der Weg alongside Bach’s double choir motet Komm, Jesu, komm BWV 229.This concert will feature Eric Renick (marimba, percussion) and James Bush (violoncello), directed by Jacqui Coates, and will present new views of old music and new compositions connected to these works. Expect the unexpected!

The theme continues with the October Concert Mozart Re-imagined, a new work commissioned by Chamber Music NZ from our very own NZ composer, Robert Wiremu. This will be an exciting opportunity for Robert to write a work for 18 voices and instrumental ensemble, with his relevant and contemporary view which references Mozart’s Requiem.

The orchestral collaborations give us the chance to perform Beethoven 9 with the Auckland Philharmonia and Mahler 3 with NZSO featuring an upper voice choir and a children’s choir.

This is indeed an exciting year for us all. See you at the concerts!


Karen Grylls ONZM



Music Director, Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir

Artistic Director, Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand

I am genuinely excited to share our 2022 season with you all. These concerts showcase the magnificence of two monumental requiem settings by Verdi and Mozart, The Sacred Veil, composed and conducted by Eric Whitacre, a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana performed by our three national choirs, and a production for sixteen Voices New Zealand singers, Voices Love Opera, staged by the award-winning opera and theatre director, Jacqueline Coates.

Such collaborations as this season offers give us the point of difference as national choirs. The opportunity to work with the NZSO and their newly appointed Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor, Gemma New, to perform Mozart’s Requiem and with the APO and Music Director, Giordano Bellincampi, for a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform Verdi’s Requiem are priceless opportunities for our singers and audiences alike.

The versatility and panache of Voices New Zealand singers is captured in Jacqui’s staging for Voices Love Opera. The show is one of the funniest and most engaging we have presented and I’m very proud of the ensemble singers and the professional soloists who bring the stories of the lovers and their various successes (or otherwise) to life. The excerpt from Nico Muhly’s The Two Boys exposes the horrors of relationships in chat rooms and gives the show a particularly contemporary and poignant twist.

Most significant for 2022 are the opportunities for our national choirs viz. Voices New Zealand, New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, and New Zealand Youth Choir to perform together. First, the opportunity to present two recitals conducted by Grammy award-winning American choral composer, Eric Whitacre, will give the choirs and the listeners the opportunity to hear the first New Zealand performance of The Sacred Veil, a profound meditation on love, life, and loss. Then all three choirs join, together with alumni soloists Natasha Wilson (soprano), Oliver Sewell (tenor) and James Harrison (baritone), in the dramatic and intense work by Carl Orff, Carmina Burana which I will conduct in Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Can’t wait to share this with you all. See you at the concerts!

Karen Grylls ONZMArtistic Director

Manager, NZ Secondary Students’ Choir

Wellington based

(part-time 0.6)

 If you like variety, travel, and working in small teams for something utterly beautiful, read on!

After nearly 13 years in this job, our staff member has decided to change roles within our organisation. We are looking for a new team member to manage all activities of the iconic New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir.

We are working out of a groovy office in the Wellington Central delivering the management of our three internationally-awarded national choirs (New Zealand Youth Choirs, Voices New Zealand and NZSSC).

Your role would be to manage the logistic preparation and planning of all NZSSC’s activities, travel arrangements, scheduling and administration. You would also tour-manage these choirs within New Zealand and occasionally overseas and lead the touring party and artists on the road. If you like good systems, have attention to detail and work well with creative people, this job could be yours. Work experience with secondary school aged teenagers highly preferred!

This is a fantastic opportunity to work for an iconic national organisation and grow as an arts manager in New Zealand’s vibrant creative sector.

You can find more info about this role in this JOB SCOPE

Get in touch now or send your application to no later than Wednesday 19 January 2022.

Just in time for the festive season, we’re proud to present ‘Follow That Star’, a southern hemisphere Christmas collection of New Zealand Choral Music. In the midst of the pandemic, six New Zealand composers (five are represented here) were commissioned by Voices New Zealand and Artistic Director, Karen Grylls, to reimagine familiar Christmas tunes. The new works set old tunes, some with the atmosphere of centuries old traditions and some with the stories and traditions from New Zealand.

You can read more of Artistic Director Karen Grylls thoughts here.

Stream now on all your favourite music platforms.

  1. Commission new works

The national choirs regularly commission work from New Zealand composers which they perform publicly, take on tour and often record. To promote a musical legacy for the choral sector in New Zealand we have also established an annual composition competition for composers under 30 years of age, Compose Aotearoa!. Support from the Amplify Collective makes commissioning new work possible and enables us to create meaningful opportunities for established and emerging composers.


Thank you to the many individuals and choirs who have supported this initiative and ordered masks over the past 8 months.

We are no longer accepting individual orders – the minimum order is now 8 masks.

If you are a choir or group wanting a large number, please contact us directly before ordering as we may need to have them made specially, which could take some time.


In this new environment of uncertainty, we are dedicated to keeping our singers safe. In stylish black, all our national choirs will be wearing our uniquely designed mask for singers. These masks are designed to hold the fabric away from the mouth, and allow for full jaw movement.

Our singers and artistic staff have all reported back that they are far easier to sing in than normal masks as the singer is not constantly inhaling fabric.

They include a label to mark the singers name.

Please note: If you are purchasing a mix of SMALL and LARGE masks, only select shipping once.


$35 (incl GST) plus shipping

Quantity 8-10



Quantity 11-20



Quantity 20+