Waitaki Boys' High School 125th Anniversary Recital





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Songs May Be Sung...



A Celebration of the Contribution of Waitaki Boys' High School to

the Search for National Identity



Hall of Memories

5 July, 2008



In Memoriam:


Master 1936-1970

Deputy Rector 1961-1970



Under the inspiration of Rector Frank Milner (1875-1944), Waitaki Boys' High School grew from being merely of local interest into a widely-reputed, fertile ground of cultural, academic and sporting achievement. Of the many who went forth to make great contribution to national and international life, the names of poet Charles Brasch (1909-73) and composer Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001) will long be remembered as two whose honest re-appraisal of what it means to be a New Zealander shed light on our road from colonialism to life in the second half of the twentieth century.


Whereas Brasch came to Waitaki from a large and prosperous Dunedin German-Jewish family and could clearly trace a long and rich literary and cultural heritage, Lilburn was sent down from a North Island sheep station and attributed his commitment to the serious study of music to the arrival of this pipe organ in this Hall of Memories in 1931. He would have witnessed its installation and eventually its opening by Dr John C. Bradshaw, Organist of Christchurch Cathedral, on December 8th. Lilburn was the first student allowed to practise on this instrument, and would have become familiar with the beginnings of what grew to be a large stock of music still stored in the cupboard beside the organ console. He left Waitaki to study with Bradshaw at Canterbury University, and then with Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London 1937-40.


Milner fostered a love of great literature, not least by way of a small coterie of talents he nurtured in the Rectory drawing room: Brasch went on to study at Oxford University from 1927 at his family's expense, and James Bertram (Rhodes Scholar for 1932) and Ian Milner (Rhodes Scholar for 1934) followed, where they become part of a tradition of influential Kiwi Oxonians known as the "New Zealand mafia". These three created the first issue of the short-lived literary periodical Phoenix at the Milners' bach at Waianakarua in 1932, precursor of Brasch's own Landfall which he founded in 1947 and was to edit for almost twenty years.


Brasch was at Waitaki 1923-26, and Lilburn 1930-33: both were in London during the War but met for the first time at the home of Frederick and Evelyn Page in Governors Bay in 1946. In a lecture Lilburn gave to the first Cambridge Summer School of Music that year he wrote:

    I want to plead with you the necessity of having a music of our own, a living tradition of music created in this country, a music that will satisfy those parts of our being that cannot be satisfied by the music of other nations. I feel that a musician in this country must develop his awareness of the place he lives in, not attempting a mere imitation of nature in sound, but seeking its inner values, the manifestations of beauty and purpose it shows us from time to time, and perhaps using it as something against which he can test the validity of his own work. And if we can discover these rhythms of our ways of living and our relations to the environment about us, then we will see the beginning of a music of our own, a music that will to some extent satisfy that spiritual need I think we all have, that sense of belonging somewhere.

Through his patronage of artists such as McCahon and Woollaston, and his editorship of Landfall, Brasch took over Milner's role of mentor and encourager; he wrote of these and others in a poem published after his own "landfall," his return home after the War:

    I think of your generation as the youngest

    That has found itself, has seen its way in the shadows

    Of this disconsolate age, this country indifferent

    To all but the common round, hostile to every

    Personal light men would live by. You may not be many,

    You that have groped through the stifling dust of existence

    And found water - you, shall I say, of the promise,

    Scattered, one here and one there, the length of these islands;

    To yourselves fumbling, fallible, often bewildered,

    Oftener discouraged, your lives strewn with disorder,

    And weak, and alone; yet to me as to others the lanterns

    We look to, certain stars in a cloudy twilight,

    More precious because of your weakness, because you stand single.

And of Lilburn in particular:

    ... that forced listener to the virgin-moded

    Tongues of these airy latitudes - grave or smiling

    He listens, watchful, bow-strung to attention

    Between our human talk and that world-tremor,

    Half heard, he conjures into rites of music.

Lilburn and Brasch were to submit their work to each other for critical comment from this time; although Lilburn collaborated with a number of other poets, musicians and artists throughout his career, he is not known to have set any Brasch poem to music.


Milner's empire at Waitaki may have appeared somewhat derived and contrived to the younger blood, and while he did not live to taste the rich harvest he had sown (his death in 1944 a poetic end to an epic life,) we sense it still. His grand piano, mute witness to many an imperial visitor, many an impassioned declamation is with us now in this Hall of Memories, and shall perhaps stand in for him.

Floreat Waitakia.


God save our gracious Queen,

Long live our noble Queen,

God save the Queen!

Send her victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us;

God save the Queen!


Milner March Newton 2008

Composed for the School's 125th anniversary


To the Wind Brasch 1924

Written at Waitaki at age fifteen


Prelude in C Minor Vaughan Williams 1921, revised 1930

Composed for organ, and arranged for orchestra in 1930; performed from Archie Gibb's own copy


Cape Wanbrow Brasch 1932

Dedicated to Ian Milner, Waitakian and academic


Fantasia on Greensleeves Vaughan Williams 1936

Arranged from the orchestral incidental music to Sir John in Love


Waianakarua Brasch 1939

Dedicated to Winsome Milner


Overture: Aotearoa Lilburn 1940

Composed in two weeks for the New Zealand Centenary Matinee in London 15 April 1940


Waitaki Revisited Brasch 1939

Dedicated to James Bertram, Waitakian and poet


Waitaki School Song Lilburn 1943

Milner's words were revised by Walter Brookes and set to music by Lilburn for the School's 60th anniversary


Songs may be sung of the past and its glory,

Boastful of breeding, of race and of clan,

We shall not envy them, brief though our story,

Greater than these is the heart of the man.

Floreat Waitakia, esto perpetua,

Strong to endure in the task she began.


Men and their toil are her lasting foundation,

Wide is her aim in the service of all,

Moulding her sons for the hope of a nation,

Brave when the need of the people shall call.

Floreat Waitakia, esto perpetua,

May we have faith that her work shall not fail.


Facing the future with nought to dismay us,

We shall not fear what the years may unfold;

Ever her courage and strength shall array us;

We shall remember the words we were told;

Floreat Waitakia, esto perpetua,

Guarded and held in our hearts as of old.


The Silent Land Brasch 1945


Prelude and Fugue in G Minor: Antipodes Lilburn 1944

Winning entry of the inaugural Philip Neill Memorial Prize, composed in May 1944, and first performed in Dunedin 1 October 1944


Forerunners Brasch 1939-45


E Ihowa Atua,

O ng a iwi m atou r a,

ata whakarongona;

Me aroha noa.

Kia hua ko te pai;

Kia tau t o atawhai;

Manaakitia mai



God of nations at thy feet

in the bonds of love we meet.

Hear our voices, we entreat,

God defend our free land.

Guard Pacific's triple star

From the shafts of strife and war,

Make her praises heard afar,

God defend New Zealand.


Organ: Dr Ron Newton

Readers: Sam Sutherland, Byron Millard, Mephi Stewart, Joel Richards

Transcription of Overture: Aotearoa, with permission of Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust Board

Excerpts from A Search for Tradition by Douglas Lilburn 1946, with permission of Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust Board

Excerpts from The Estate and other Poems by Charles Brasch, with permission of Alan Roddick

Photo credit: Mark Smillie

Text: Dr Ron Newton

Design: Warwick Smith