Auckland Philharmonia to premiere "Tiraki"

I am super excited to have my work for organ and orchestra, "Tiraki", premiered next week by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with the superb Nick Forbes on organ. APO Organ

Organ Spectacular - 8pm, Thursday 23rd May, Auckland Town Hall, BUY TICKETS HERE


  • David Hamilton, Chimera, John Wells
  • Anthony Young, Theme & Variations for Organ & Orchestra, Rachael Griffiths-Hughes
  • Robbie Ellis, Relish in Immature Bombast, Timothy Noon (+ Jono Sawyer drumkit)
  • Ryan Youens, Tiraki, Nicholas Forbes
  • Ben Hoadley, Huia, Indra Hughes
  • Chris Adams, Mahuika, Nicholas Sutcliffe

Here is a collation of various details about my work:


'Tiraki' is a verb meaning 'to clear the sky of clouds'. In it I have explored the different layerings and textures created between the organ and orchestra, illustrating the nature and behaviour of the clouds. The work is structured in three sections and focuses entirely on the programmatic meaning of 'Tiraki'.

The first 'rather angry' section is very dense and fast moving with surprises along the way - representing a storm. The middle 'mysteriously calm' section is the calm after the storm - the music empties out but retains a slightly ominous feel to it. It finishes with a 'pleasantly refreshing' section where the music, and the clouds, gather life and a playful spirit once again.

It has been an absolute pleasure combining the two kings of music - an organ and a symphony orchestra - with an idea that had been simmering away for some time. Huge thanks goes to Nicholas Forbes who has been a superb collaborator and to the Auckland Philharmonia for this opportunity.


1.  You’ve talked about using single-note melodies in the organ part – do you also use a range of organ stops to compare with various orchestral instruments? 2.  What particular ideas did Nicholas bring to the development of the piece? 3.  What do you want listeners to take away with them after hearing the piece?


1.  things you discovered about the Town Hall organ After my first tour of the organ I was absolutely blown away with its complexity and beauty - which of course most people never get to see. While the possibilities are (almost!) endless, it became clear early that I was never going to be able to show off all of it and I needed to stick with the sound world of 'Tiraki' and the stops that supported that.

2.  what you utilised in particular of the organ in your piece There are huge heavily chordal climaxes in 'Tiraki' where the organ can easily overpower the orchestra, then there are light, playful, polyphonic passages where the organ is on par with the woodwinds. So I've utilised the massive capabilities of volume and texture and also the function that goes with that - where the orchestra and organ can really fight each other and develop huge tension, or can work together amazingly well towards a single goal.

3.  how your piece may have evolved as you learned more about the organ I really had no idea how an organ worked before this opportunity. That soon changed, but with loads of experience in orchestral writing, the initial orchestrations are what gave me my first insight into how the piece was going to evolve. I knew I didn't want the organ always in the forefront, but rather let it have moments and then let it sink into the texture and play other functions above that of a soloist. So I think what developed during the process for me was how quickly and easily you could change colours, the extent in which you could change them and how much those changes affected where the organ sat in the overall texture.

4.  what you like most about the organ part for your piece One of my favourite passages is in the middle of the work where the strings have sustained chords mixed with glissandi and the organ has high, clean and clear thematic lines, occasionally highlighted by the woodwinds, over a very low, very breathy and pulsating rumble - such contrasts which are only simultaneously possible on the organ.

5.  what you are looking forward to most about the performance of the piece in May Just to hear a really great concert of new organ music - the pieces are all so different so it's going to be a great night. Us composers have all heard the pieces in various stages during 2012, with different ideas being tried and options explored - so I'm just really looking forward to hearing the final versions, to see how we've all used the organ differently and how we've all tamed the beautiful beast that is the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

See you there!

2010 through the eyes of a blog

monkey-thinkingIt is December 31 and I just wondered "what exactly has happened this year?" So through the eyes of this blog, let's have a look. We'll start with January and the tail end of our South America trip, along with the workshopping and recording of my music in Brazil.

January 4th Leg Four – Argentina to Paraguay to Brazil January 11th Leg Five – Rio de Janeiro to Paraty to Auckland January 12th A day with Sphaera

After spending too many hours hunting down good repertoire for my school orchestras, in February I explored the efforts of conducting. I also set up my newsletter with MailChimp.

February 20th Conducting – 90% perspiration, 10% exhilaration February 26th Automating the monthly issue

It was a plentiful month of posts in March, many on great discoveries I recently made but also highlighted a new piece, Picture for Emily, for my niece.

March 14th Sibelius First – if you’re so inclined March 15th Moana Ataahua programme launched March 16th Picture for Emily – aiming for the small market March 16th Scoring Avatar March 18th My indispensables March 19th If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

In April it was all about preparing Moana Ataahua for its massive premiere at the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival.

April 24th Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ) April 28th Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

I explored digital music stands in May, how they compare and how I wanted one. Do I still want one now? That is another post!

May 15th Digital music stands, hook me up – Music Pad, Music Reader, eStand

I summed up the Moana Ataahua premiere in June and did a very popular post on music apps for your iOS devices.

June 1st Moana Ataahua, the premiere June 2nd iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

It was great to see plenty of music getting performed through July.

July 12th Wild Daisies premiere July 18th Breathe In, Breathe Out – a concert of overtures and finales July 27th SoundCloud, move your music July 29th Three pieces performed by Brazil’s Sphaera Ensemble

The Auckland schools orchestra festival happened in August, so did some pondering on music theory.

August 27th Sounds great! I want it, I want it now August 30th KBB Music Festival 2010, thumbs up August 31st Music theory, do we need it or not?

Spent a fantastic few days in Wellington in September recording Rakaia with the NZSO. Also, Rhian Sheehan's amazing score for The Cult, which I helped out with, won best score!

September 9th More iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional September 20th The Cult wins at Qantas Film and Television Awards September 23rd NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

In November I did a three part post looking at music printing, engravers, copyists and how things are changing. I also hooked up Sibelius users with some great resources!

November 29th So, you’re a Sibelius user? November 30th Music printing, a journey for engravers (part 1 of 3) November 30th Music copying and confusion (part 2 of 3) November 30th Changing times for music preparers (part 3 of 3)

As you would expect, I got festive in December but also looked at a new feature for

December 7th A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians December 24th SOUNZ moves forward, again December 24th Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone!!

SOUNZ moves forward, again

SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, has a fantastic new addition to their website - Until now you have had three ways to explore New Zealand music - via browsing the music, the people or the events. Now, with thanks to NZ On Air, you can actually experience it.

This is a great new addition, here is why. No matter how amazing a piece of new New Zealand music is, people always seem to be cautious about grabbing hold of it and giving it a life. Looking at a sample score often doesn't allow you to imagine it, reading about it or hearing from somebody else that it is a great piece doesn't help either. To give you confidence you really need to have experienced the music yourself.

With this new addition you can do exactly that, view videos and experience the music - see the mallets moving, see the staging, feel the atmosphere and be introduced to new music in comfort. Chris Watson, a New Zealand composer, knocks it on the head by saying:

"I think moving pictures are, short of getting bums on seats in concert halls, the most effective way of communicating contemporary composition – and the YouTube/Vimeo paradigm provides an international, 24/7 audience."

Of course composers with their own websites have been implementing video for some time, but for New Zealand music to have a central resource where you can put your feet up and experience the music is fantastic.

This new addition is aligned with two other projects: digitisation of audio held by Radio New Zealand Concert - a joint project between the Alexander Turnbull Library, Radio New Zealand and SOUNZ. And Resound, which is reactivating recording licences and auditioning them to get them on to Radio New Zealand Concert and making them available online such as on the SOUNZ website. Excellent!

So, go experience.

NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

I'm sitting on the plane after a fantastic two days in Wellington at the 2010 NZSO/SOUNZ Readings. It seemed very relaxed this time around as the format was slightly different. Usually the pieces are purely workshopped and are often early on in their development. This time the pieces were chosen from previous NZSO/SOUNZ Readings to be recorded properly and then released. So it was a nice relaxed atmosphere with no nervous composers, or players for that matter. Also the fact that one piece had pulled out meant all of the other pieces got extra time, which made it even more stress-free.

NZSO SOUNZ readings 2

The pieces were a nice mix from Tom McLeod's epic film work, to Claire Cowan's very clever Legend of the Trojan Bird, to the heavier pieces by Gillian Whitehead and John Rimmer. All fantastic composers, so it was great to hear their recordings being created.

My piece, Rakaia, went really well. I knew everything worked, so it was just a matter of getting a good solid recording. Well, what do you know? After rehearsing a few spots, they nailed it very early on. I was very pleased - it sounded incredible.

NZSO SOUNZ readings 1


You've got to wonder what these players, and conductor Luke Dollman, are made of, as the NZSO/Todd Young Composer Workshop was (rather ambitiously) scheduled in the two days before the SOUNZ workshop. All up, in four days they recorded fifteen pieces - pretty good effort and great to see so many New Zealand works getting workshopped and recorded.

During the trip I managed to pop in and see the new SOUNZ office. They are now nicely situated just off Cuba Street and they've got a wonderful view of Wellington City. Also great to finally meet Julie Sperring, the new Executive Director of SOUNZ, who's going to be a superstar ambassador of New Zealand music.

Another recording down, bring on the next one...

Sounds great! I want it, I want it now

I have had quite a few enquiries as to where to buy or hire some of my pieces lately, so here is a reminder. First stop is SOUNZ. Here is a list of titles they currently have:

If they don't have it, then contact me and I will sort you out no problem!

Moana Ataahua, the premiere

On Saturday 8th May, Moana Ataahua, the 2009 SOUNZ Community Commission, was premiered at the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival by the Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band, and Tauhara College Stage Band and was conducted by Justin Gibbs. Before we get to the concert, the day before we had a final rehearsal and the recording. The recording

It was such a special project and one that so many people were involved with, so making a recording to keep as a memory was an absolute must. I have not personally heard it yet, but I have been told that it sounds great. See all the photos from the evening here, a selection is below:

Moana Ataahua, the recording 17

Moana Ataahua, the recording 7

Moana Ataahua, the recording 12

Moana Ataahua, the recording 14

Moana Ataahua, the recording 13

Moana Ataahua, the recording 15

Moana Ataahua, the recording 18

Moana Ataahua, the recording 4

Moana Ataahua, the recording 20

The concert

The morning setup and sound check went well and the weather (thank goodness) was pleasant. The concert was the groups all performing their own set, leading up to Moana Ataahua at the end. They absolutely nailed it! Far better than the recording the night before and by far the best they ever performed it. Stephen Gibbs at SOUNZ said:

The well-rehearsed group gave a committed and enthusiastic performance of the work that was equally well-received by the audience. The compositional skills that Ryan brought to the work were apparent in the way that he was able to layer, mix and blend relatively straight-forward musical lines for such a wide range of voices and instruments. The result was a work full dynamic changes: verve, interest, subtlety, and volcanic energy leaving performers and audience with a suitable sense of grandeur.

"If Lake Taupo were a piece of music, what would it sound like?" was the Festival's introduction. Ryan provided an apt answer.

See the entire SOUNZ article here. Here are some photos from the setup:

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 4

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 5

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 15

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 17

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 7

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 16

The concert selection (see most photos here and the rest here):

Moana Ataahua concert 29

Moana Ataahua concert 27

Moana Ataahua concert 23

Moana Ataahua concert 10

Moana Ataahua concert 9

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 8

Moana Ataahua concert 2

Moana Ataahua concert Taupo 13

Moana Ataahua concert 1

It was such a big project for the community, they were proud of it, they put so much rehearsal time into it, and all stops were pulled so to see the polished and fine performance at the end of the journey was just fantastic. In the weeks leading up to premiere I was looked after so well by the ERUPT festival and the community so a huge thank you to everyone. A big thank you must also go to festival director Drew James who thought of the project and SOUNZ for making it happen with their community commission.

Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

Two weeks ago I travelled down to Taupo for the first big rehearsal of Moana Ataahua. Brilliant. Really good. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, thank goodness, and managed playing it well on first attempt. Justin Gibbs, the conductor, says:

"Smoldering, bubbling, swelling and ultimately eruptive! Moana Ataahua (Beautiful Lake) by Ryan Youens embraces all that Taupo represents. The violent yet beautiful geological processes that have heaved up and carved out our part of the world are represented here in music. Thundering percussion, shrill woodwind, triumphant brass and lyrical, arching melodies in the choir unite to create a composition that leaves you breathless until the final thump. Written with an intimate understanding of how community music operates, Moana Ataahua is sure to release an eruption of pride in our town."

Here some photos from rehearsal number one:

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ERUPT rehearsal-130

ERUPT rehearsal-92

ERUPT rehearsal-135

ERUPT rehearsal-148

ERUPT rehearsal-8

ERUPT rehearsal-170

Rehearsal number two, a week later, was a huge step up in standard. The orchestra started to become very tight and the choir, as you will notice in the photos, tripled in size from the first rehearsal so the balance was much better. The community seems to be really enjoying the project, some very good musicians just turned up and wanted to be involved. Here are a few pics of this second rehearsal:

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It is an absolute joy to be at each of these rehearsals and see the work progressing. Heading down again this Sunday for a final rehearsal, ahead of the recording next Friday and premiere next Saturday:

  • Saturday 8 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Weather postponement: Sunday 9 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours
  • Venue: Unison Amphitheatre Riverside Park
  • Price: FREE

Huge thanks and congratulations to all those involved. I look forward to rehearsal three in a few days.

Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ)

SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, who commissioned Moana Ataahua for the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival with their SOUNZ Community Commission, published an article about the project on 19th April, 2010:

"If Lake Taupo were a piece of music, what would it sound like?

An answer to this question will be given by more than 150 musicians on the afternoon of Saturday 8 May when, as part of the ERUPT Festival in Taupo, they present a free concert in the Unison Amphitheatre on the banks of the Waikato River. The highlight of the concert will be the premiere performance of Ryan Youens’ Moana Ataahua (beautiful lake), the musical result of a 2009 SOUNZ Community Commission.

This new work is the epitome of what the SOUNZ Community Commission is about bringing together the Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band and Tauhara College Stage Band under the musical direction of Justin Gibbs who is Head of Music at Tauhara College and conducts four of the above groups.

Ryan also involved the wider Taupo community in the early stages of the work’s conception. “Last year, in September,” Ryan explains..." the whole article here...

If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

Find that out on Saturday 8th May when Moana Ataahua is premiered at the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival. It is written for the Taupo community and commissioned by the SOUNZ Community Commission. Over the last two months I have been writing, writing, writing this piece day and night and finally on Friday it was complete and in the post. We described it in the programme as "a spectacular mix of symphonic, choral and percussive elements that will erupt into an exciting finale" and that surely is what it is. It is 14 minutes in duration and works through various pictures of Taupo as expressed to me by four local poets, whose texts are used throughout the work.

The piece will be performed by a 150 strong ensemble ranging from young players to professional players and involves five community groups. It was a joy to write - knowing the players, venue and occasion made the ideas flow nicely.

Rehearsals are underway and in the next week or two I may go down to help out and see how it is all going.

Here is the huge amount of music printed and prepared for each ensemble, and all set for the post.



Some ERUPT festival links:

Stay tuned.

Moana Ataahua programme launched

(courtesy of

If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

New Zealand composer Ryan Youens’ mass musical work, commissioned especially for ERUPT 2010 through the SOUNZ Community Commission, takes its inspiration from the people and places of Taupo.

Featuring lyrics submitted by local writers, Moana Ataahua is a spectacular mix of symphonic, choral and percussive elements that will erupt into an exciting finale.

Drawing together musicians from Taupo Choral Society, Tauhara College Choir, Great Lake Big Band, Taupo Youth Wind Band, Taupo Concert Band, and Tauhara College Stage Band, a 150-strong ensemble will premiere Moana Ataahua in the picturesque surrounds of the Unison Amphitheatre on the banks of the Waikato River.

Auckland-based Youens has arranged for concerts, films and publishing, including arrangements on Rhian Sheehan’s soundtrack for TV2’s The Cult, and his own compositions have been performed throughout New Zealand, Europe and South America.

Bring your cushions and rugs, enjoy the blaze of autumn colours and celebrate the spirit and beauty of Taupo.

  • Saturday 8 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Weather postponement: Sunday 9 May, 2 – 3.30pm
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours.
  • Venue: Unison Amphitheatre Riverside Park
  • Price: FREE

SOUNZ supported composition for ERUPT 2010

(written for, and published at ERUPT Festival blog, 22 December 2009 - image courtesy of

The SOUNZ Community Commission ( is supporting a new piece from me for the 2010 ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival. This is a fantastic project which I am very happy to be involved with. The piece is written for the community and they will perform it. It also involves text written by those in the community.

The piece is currently being written and although I don't want to give much away ... it will certainly be a celebration of Taupo. I have always loved Taupo and have stayed there many times. Recently when I visited Taupo to meet many of the musical groups there, I was completely blown away by the amount of musical activity. This alone is reason to celebrate.

The lake and the river will help to characterise the work, which will involve numerous groups from the community, who will be announced publicly later.

I have been involved with several projects writing for community groups and so I have enjoyed hitting this one with full force. Writing music is what I do full-time - as well as copying and arranging other peoples music. I also conduct several groups in Auckland. For any more info, or for my blog, see

I look forward to this project evolving further, and for it to explode into ERUPT 2010!