Poster_Voices_when light breaks_5

From Bach to today! In a daring reimagining of early music, join Voices New Zealand as they take an emotional journey through song. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, with surprising arrangements of traditional choral works in beautiful settings. 

Conductor and Music Director Karen Grylls is excited to bring this new show to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch: "'Der Weg' by Leonie Holmes, alongside Bach’s 'Komm, Jesu, komm', newly commissioned for this occasion, will be a real highlight of the concert."

Directed by renowned Opera director Jacqueline Coats, the journey of the concert will be guided by puppetry from Little Dog Barking Theatre Company, a first for a Voices New Zealand concert.

Content warning advised: Themes of grief and loss

Karen Grylls ONZM - Music Director's Notes

My inspiration for this May concert When Light Breaks began long ago and 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 newly commissioned works has always been a clear and familiar path for composers and choirs.

In this recital you will hear: Renaissance music by Victoria, Byrd and Purcell; music by Bach; and music by contemporary composers, Andrej Makor (Slovenia), Reena Esmail (India-America), Leonie Holmes ( New Zealand), Bob Chilcott (UK) and Jan Sandström (Sweden). We are particularly excited to present Leonie Holmes’s newly commissioned work Der Weg (for double choir and marimba) which references Bach’s double choir motet Komm, Jesu, komm BWV 229 and is to be performed alongside it.

How do we make this music relevant for the 21st century? Two creatives, musical director, Karen Grylls, and stage director, Jacqui Coates, have collaborated to bring you an experience around five stages of the ritual of grief, of a woman dealing with loss. The music either expresses the emotions of the woman or is offered as a balm in her journey towards acceptance. What is broken at the beginning, when light comes in at the end, begins to heal.

And Jacqui brings this to the stage with her own inspiration! This concert also features Eric Renick (marimba) and James Bush (violoncello), as they bring their own instrumental commentary to the journey and feature in works with the choir.

Expect the unexpected!

Jacqueline Coats - Stage Director's Notes

When Karen Grylls approached me about staging this concert, I first spent time listening again to the reflective early works that make up this programme, as well as experiencing, sometimes for the first time, the modern composers’ contemporary

responses to them. And as I listened, I became drawn to the words that the renaissance and baroque composers had chosen to set to music, and slowly these became my entry point into the work as a whole.

Mostly religious in nature, the words spoke to me about the darkness of loss and grief, of human beings being broken. From the pleas of “see my sorrow” in O vos omnes, to “my body is weary” in Komm, Jesu, komm, I became aware of a person in despair, asking to be heard, asking for help. And as I continued to listen, I sensed in the music the desire to find a path to lightness, through choosing a “way” in Der Weg by Leonie Holmes, to finally finding the moment when “the heart starts to sing” again in Reena Esmail’s When the violin.

I was reminded of that famous quote, “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” We all experience darkness in our lives, we all know how it feels to be broken. And at these times, most of us will turn to music to help us through, to find solace, to heal us. The music becomes the light that shines through the cracks, and so it is with this staged concert that moves through the five stages of grief, from the darkness of denial to the light of acceptance.

In thinking about a universal way to express this theme, I turned the ancient art of puppetry to create a story of a woman dealing with loss. I believe puppets have a magical quality to them – they are familiar, but somehow unfamiliar. They require us to engage our imaginations, and by doing this, we find ourselves opening our eyes and ears to watch and listen in new ways. I especially thank Kenny King and Little Dog Barking Theatre Company for helping me explore the themes of this work in this way.

It is always a pleasure to work with Karen Grylls and the wonderful musicians of Voices NZ, and I thank them for asking me back. It has been a joy to collaborate with them, and also with Eric Renick and James Bush, on this special project.


Soloists and ensembles for each piece are marked by numbers


Tomás Luis de Victoria – O vos omnes (1)



Kapsberger – Toccata Arpeggiata

Improvisation on Praetorius – Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen (2)

Sandström – Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen (3)



Bach – Andante from Viola de Gamba Sonata

Bach – Crucifixus

Bach – Jesus bleibet meine Freunde



Bob Chilcott – My prayer (4)

Henry Purcell – Hear my prayer (5)



Bach – Komm, Jesu, Komm

Leonie Holmes – Der Weg (World debut)



Byrd – O lux beata trinitas (6)

Reena Esmail – Where the violin (7)

Makor - O lux beata trinitas

Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir



Celia Aspey-Gordon (5)

Nicola Holt (1,2,4,5,6)

Luana Prictor (1,6)

Emma Roxburgh (3,4)

Chelsea Whitfield (1,7)

Fiona Wilson



Helen Acheson (3,6)

Andrea Cochrane (1,5)

Megan Hurnard (1)

Keani Taruia-Pora (6,7)

Jess Wells

Thomas Woodfield (1,5,6)



Matthew Bennett (5,6,7)

Philip Collins (1,6)

Jared Corbett (1,6)

Ben Madden (1,3)

Steven Rapana

Richard Taylor (5)



Arthur Adams-Close (1,3,6,7)

Gregory Camp (1,2,6)

Rowan Johnston (5,6)

Blake Nicolson (1)

Jono Palmer (6)

James Butler (5)

World Debut - Der Weg from Leonie Holmes

Leonie Holmes has written works for orchestra, chamber, choral, vocal and solo instrument, and receives frequent commissions from both professional and community groups in the fields of orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal and solo instrumental music. Recent works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, BBC singers, Aventa Ensemble Canada, Zephyr Wind Quintet, NZ Trio, Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, Toronto Children’s Choir, Auckland Chamber Orchestra, Estrella Quartet and Jade String Quartet.  Her orchestral music has been released on the Atoll CD Solstice, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei, and a compilation of her chamber music has been released on the CD When Expectation EndsChamber Music of Leonie Holmes.

She has twice been nominated for the SOUNZ/APRA Contemporary Award, for Aquae Sulis in 2014 and Dance of the Wintersmith in 2018.

Stemming from her work as Composer-in-Schools in the 1990s, she is also interested in music education and in developing a musical language that will engage and challenge non-professional players.  She has written many works for school and community groups and is active as a speaker, adjudicator and teacher at all levels and age groups within the New Zealand music community.

E23NZC02WLB (230)

Contributing Artists and Staff

Cello James Bush

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, James studied with Ellen Doyle before leaving to complete his undergraduate studies with Christopher Bunting and Derek Simpson, graduating with first-class honours from the Royal Academy of Music, London. This was followed by a Master of Music degree with Timothy Eddy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. James later studied baroque cello with Phoebe Carrai and Markus Möllenbeck at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin.

Winner of the Television New Zealand Young Musicians Competition and the National Concerto Competition of New Zealand, James has appeared as soloist with all of New Zealand’s major orchestras.

James has been invited to teach, coach and give masterclasses in situations as varied as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the University of Hong Kong, the National Youth Orchestra of Catalonia and within New Zealand as a special guest at the IRMTNZ National Conference.

James’s long and continuing association with the Swiss-based Jonas Foundation, a foundation working to combat the social exclusion of young people through music, led him to found a music school in the poorer eastern suburbs of Berlin, which he directed for 7 years.

Advanced studies in England, America and Germany, have given James a broad knowledge of the prevalent streams of pedagogical thinking. His teaching philosophy includes a special interest in encouraging children to learn to improvise within classical models.


Marimba Eric Renick

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s Principal Percussionist since 2010, Eric is originally from Indiana in the USA.

In 2007 Eric was awarded a Fellowship with the New World Symphony (NWS). Eric has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Zealand symphonies; Hong Kong Philharmonic and Malaysian Philharmonic; and Grant Park, Breckenridge and Spoleto (USA) festival orchestras.

Eric is a regular collaborator with cross-genre musicians as well as film scoring and presenting concert performances with digital/electronic elements. In 2017 he performed the Southern Hemisphere premiere of Rautavaara’s Incantations, a concerto for percussion and Orchestra and in 2018 performed Michael Torke’s Mojave (a marimba concerto) on a tour to China with the New Zealand Chamber Orchestra


Puppetry Kenny King, Little Dog Barking Theatre Company

Kenny graduated Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 2000. In 2005 he started working for Capital E's National Theatre for Children under the direction of the late Peter Wilson. In 2010 Peter started Little Dog Barking Theatre Company and Kenny took on the role of Senior Puppeteer.

He has worked there ever since. His work has taken him to China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and Australia. In 2008 Kenny won the inaugural Critics Choice award at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for his puppetry in End Game, produced by Capital E. His work has helped Little Dog Barking to achieve Best Drama and Best International Drama awards at the Nanchong International Puppet Festival in China. Kenny is also a long standing member of The Improvisors, Wellington's premiere improv troupe and does the occasional radio voice over.


Vocal Consultant Catrin Johnsson

Catrin Johnsson, mezzo soprano, was born in Sweden and trained at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm and at the Royal Academy of Music, London. In 2018 she was awarded an ARAM. Other awards include the prestigious Christina Nilsson Award. She has worked as a principal artist for companies such as English National Opera and Opera Holland Park and in 2016 Catrin made her debut for NZ Opera in their production of the The Magic Flute as Second Lady. In concert she has performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and St John’s, Smith Square in London. Catrin is a Performance Teacher in Voice and Stagecraft at the University of Auckland, is language and vocal coach for Voices NZ Chamber Choir and the Auckland Chamber Choir and is Principal of Faculty and Curriculum for the New Zealand Singing School. In 2017, Catrin was National Adjudicator for the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition. Catrin is also an accomplished organist who began her professional career at the age of 15 years.


Manager Voices New Zealand Louise Jakeway

More details on Voices New Zealand staff here

Tour support by: