Works with Don McAra


Don and I met as we started our teaching careers in 1962 at Linwood High School, Christchurch. He was and is a multitalent in English, Drama and Painting. No sooner had we met than he had me acting  - as Othello! Later as he began producing plays in the city he asked me for music. Later still we were colleagues again at the Teachers Training College where we were able to mobilise students to take part in various projects: The Bacchae, 1789, etc. Probably the most interesting of all the stage works that I was involved in were productions of Brecht plays - which call for frequent “Verfremdungseffekte” through the songs that the players have to sing. Don produced The Good Woman of Setzuan and Mother Courage. I later arranged a group of songs from the latter play for soprano and piano. Here are two of this cycle of six songs: Here’s Mother Courage and On the Highway sung by Fiona Powell with pianist Annette Burkhard.

Don also produced several of my stage works including the comic opera The Fisherman and his Wife and the Christmas oratorio Christophorus.

In 2002 when I turned 65 I was officially farewelled from the Zurich Conservatory and was honoured by a concert of works of mine and by contributions of different sorts including a special painting by Don McAra showing some of my works especially from my time in New Zealand: I am portrayed as Christophorus (with the Christ child on my shoulder), sitting on my arm are the three gods from The Good Woman of Setzuan, under them is a Norman boat from Harold and William (Linwood HS production) and under this Shen Te also from The Good Woman. Below her some of the log drums I made while at the Teachers College and at the bottom left corner is Ahknaton and his sun god (also a Linwood HS production) and at the end of the sun’s rays are stones like those on the stone curtain of my Stone Poem. Works on the right of the picture starting from the top are: WHALE, The Fisherman and his Wife (with a large man-eating fish constructed by Don for the performance) and under my left hand Hubert the Clockmaker, The Bacchae and Mother Courage (sitting on her wagon).

Don and Kit in Eglisau, 1992. Our house to be (from 1996 on) with the black roof in the background

  1. 3.On the Highway

In March a tree we planted to make the garden gay.

In June we were enchanted:

a lovely rose was blooming,

the balmy air perfuming!

Blest of the Gods are they who have a garden gay!

In June we were enchanted.

When snow falls helter skelter and loudly blows the storm,

our farmhouse gives us shelter,

the Winter’s in a hurry

but we’ve no cause to worry,

cosy and warm are we tho’ loudly blows the storm,

our farmhouse gives us shelter.

1. Here’s Mother Courage

Here’s Mother Courage with her wagon,

Hey! Captain, let them come and buy!

Beer by the keg and wine by the flagon,

let your men drink before they die.

Sabres and swords are hard to swallow,

first you must give them some beer to drink,

then they can take what’s to follow,

but let them swim before they sink.

Christians awake! the winter’s gone,

the snows depart, the dead sleep on,

and though you may not long survive,

get out of bed and look alive!

Your men will march till they’re dead, sir,

but cannot fight unless they eat.

The blood they spill is red, sir,

what fires that blood is my red meat.

Meat and soup are jam and jelly,

in this old cart of mine are found,

so fill the hole up in your belly,

before you fill one underground.

Christians awake!…