Had he lived to receive a birthday letter from the Queen, the man many regard as the greatest New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, would have marked the occasion on 20 July, 2019. To celebrate the milestone, the Hillary Centenary Steering Committee (HCSC) is planning a series of events, with the first announcement being the composition of a symphony in memory of Sir Ed.
Renowned New Zealand composer Gareth Farr has received a Creative NZ grant to compose the symphony that was commissioned by the HCSC and will be performed by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in the centenary year. The commissioning of symphonies has become something of a rarity in New Zealand, and the HCSC sees the singular, special nature of the project as befitting Sir Ed’s unique position in global history.
Clive Gilson, Emeritus Professor at the University of Waikato and Co-Chair of the HCSC, says, “We are delighted that Creative New Zealand has supported the initiative to compose an original symphonic work, with the world premiere to be performed by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Entitled ‘Roar of a Thousand Tigers,’ the symphony will reflect the conquest of Everest and the completion of Sir Ed’s life’s journey that included well-documented adventures, personal tragedy and Herculean contributions to Nepal and the welfare of the Sherpa people.”
Mr Farr says, “Because this work is a celebration of one of the most famous New Zealanders, Sir Edmund Hillary, I feel that its potential for international exposure is almost limitless and this is one of the most important things for a new piece of music. Longevity and continued live performance ensures that a piece of music has genuine and lasting impact on society and that is our aim for this work.”
Gretchen La Roche, Chief Executive of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, says, “The CSO is very much looking forward to premiering Gareth Farr’s new symphony as part of the anniversary celebrations commemorating the birth of Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund continues to be an inspiration for many New Zealanders today and epitomised the values we recognise as New Zealand-ness – strength, humility, tenacity and commitment to public service. We’re honoured to be the orchestra chosen to perform this exciting new work in the newly re-opened Lilburn Auditorium of the Christchurch Town Hall.”
Beyond the orchestral performance, many celebration activities are being planned for 2019, to provide pivotal insight into New Zealand’s identity while profiling our special set of cultural values to the global community. These include international speakers, gala dinners, and commemorative treks in New Zealand and Nepal. Organisations with links to Sir Ed, iconic Kiwi businesses, schools, universities and workplaces are all encouraged to celebrate and mark this commemorative occasion.
The HCSC says, “The centenary offers a unique opportunity to leverage the positive sentiment the international community and Kiwis have for Sir Ed. The year 2019 marks the last significant date of celebration for those within living memory of Sir Ed’s contribution to New Zealand, Nepal, and the wider world community.”
Prue Smith, General Manager, Himalayan Trust and Co-Chair of the HCSC, says, “A New Zealand icon, Sir Ed summited the highest mountain and then encouraged us all to stretch beyond our limits, to believe that each and everyone of us could do extraordinary things. Sir Ed continues to be an influential figure all over the world, and his inspiration continues to resonate in the New Zealand psyche – admired for his leadership and adventurous exploits, and his philanthropic work in Nepal.”