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NZ Songbook goes live: invitation for all of Aotearoa to sing together

16 Feb 2024
New Zealand Songbook He Iere Waiata is a free digital resource with all the tools to teach or learn a new song – and sing it with others.

With the launch of the New Zealand Songbook He Iere Waiata today, Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand is inviting all of Aotearoa to learn popular songs and waiata that strike a chord with this country. In partnership with the launch – and on the opening night of the Auckland Arts Festival, 7 March – Aucklanders will come together in Aotea Square for a mass singing event called Waiata Mai. So far, nearly 400 people have registered, with rehearsals taking place on the weekend of 1–3 March in four Auckland locations. This will be the first time we’ll see this New Zealand Songbook in action.


Spearheaded by acclaimed conductor and Choirs Aotearoa Artistic Director, Dr. Karen Grylls, the New Zealand Songbook is a free resource with all the tools to teach or learn a new song – and sing it with others: schoolmates, colleagues, family, friends or whanau. 


“We are a nation of many singers,” says Karen Grylls, “but we don't have a songbook that we can just pull out whenever we want to sing together – a songbook that holds the songs that unite us and are important to our identity.”


This online New Zealand Songbook will launch on with four iconic kiwi songs, all arranged by Brent Stewart, Music Director of New Zealand's premier symphonic choir, Orpheus Choir Wellington, and Assistant Director of the NZ Secondary Students’ Choir. The songs are: “Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi”, “Sway”, “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” and “Slice of Heaven”. The New Zealand Songbook includes lyrics and musical scores as well as online tutorials, pronunciation sheets and vocal exercises from some of New Zealand’s most experienced vocal consultants.


“This is only a starting point,” says Choirs Aotearoa CE, Arne Hermann, “The first instalment of four songs was chosen in partnership with the Auckland Arts Festival for the super-massed-choir in Aotea Square, Waiata Mai. We intend to add new songs every year, and we want to hear from the public about what those songs should be.”


The New Zealand Songbook is set up so there are lots of ways for people to interact and give their feedback and suggestions on the songs they like and the songs they want to be considered for the next instalment of new titles. It will also be active on Tik Tok and other social media for the public to share their singing with everyone.


The original concept was funded by The Stout Trust and initially involved a process of testing out the idea around the motu. With future developments, the New Zealand Songbook will become a valuable and meaningful resource for schools, community and ‘couch’ choirs.