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Toitu's Song for SSA choir and piano

by Jenny Powell and Anthony Ritchie Opus 202

Commissioned by the (Dunedin-based) Saturday Morning Music Classes to mark their 50th anniversary.
Toitu is a stream in Dunedin, "chosen as a metaphor for Dunedin's Saturday Morning Music Classes. From such small beginnings, as in the youngest children who learn the basics of beat and rhythm (like Toitu travelling through the green heartbeat of the town belt), Toitu, and the older children, carry on to develop new elements in their stream of musical learning until the can freely participate in the wonderful global language that music offers. For a number of children, the significance of Saturday Morning Music Classes is considerable, allowing dreams to turn into a musical reality."
Jenny Powell

Programme Note

The Words
the name 'Toitu' was gifted to the Otago Settler's Museum, various meanings of the word came to light; toitu ("kept pure") and in its component parts, the idea of "artistic pursuit" and knowledge (toi) being preserved or "held on to forever" (tu). Toitu is also the name of "a small stream feeding into the Otago Harbour at the original landing place of Dunedin at the top of Water Street, which had cultural significance as a pure water spring".

Tributaries that feed into Toitu can be found in Dunedin's Town Belt. One of only three town belts in the world, it is a special part in the physical and historic landscape of Dunedin.

I chose Toitu as a metaphor for Dunedin's Saturday Morning Music Classes. From such small beginnings, as in the youngest children who learn the basics of beat and rhythm (like Toitu travelling through the green heartbeat of the town belt), Toitu, and the older children, carry on to develop new elements in their stream of musical learning until the can freely participate in the wonderful global language that music offers. For a number of children, the significance of Saturday Morning Music Classes is considerable, allowing dreams to turn into a musical reality.

Can you hear us?
Can you hear us?

Drip drop drip drop
Slip slop, never stop, never

We're the trickles of beginning
the flicker of a sound,
We're the fingers of a flow
the breath for seeds that grow
in the centre of the city
where our green heart beats.

(Chorus)
We are the notes of the sea
We are the words of the land
We are playing under trees
We are rising up from sand
We will sing our song in time
We will sing the song of time.

Listen to us now!
Listen to us now!

Burble bubble blip
Gurgle giggle glip

We're the water music playing
with the rising of a splash,
we're the glisten of a spring
joining in the stream of knowing
running onwards to our sea
we're the dreams that set you free.

We are the notes of the sea
We are the words of the land
We are playing under trees
We are rising up from sand
We will sing our song in time
We will sing the song of time.

Jenny Powell

The Music
Picking up on Jenny's thoughts about the text, I imagined a 'snowball' effect in the music, starting with one voice line and growing into a full orchestra of hundreds. In the piano version this is, of course, not possible! However, I used the river imagery to create a flowing effect in the music, along with a folk-like melody that suggests Nature. The song is also an affirmation of young life.

The song was written for children's choir but can be performed by any age. Although written for S.S.A. it is mainly unison and simple 2-part.

Anthony Ritchie

To Purchase

This is the piano version of the song. Choose from the download permissions below:

Purchase the right to make/use copies for your choir

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