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Songs my Grandmother Taught Me

Part of the Across the Bridge Festival

Wednesday, 7 Oct, 2:00pm

Coronation Hall – Tickets $25, Seniors $20


Inspired by memories of their grandmothers, Rowena and Douglas will perform a programme of songs and piano solos based around Pakeha musicians who have travelled across the Otago landscape, including Rosina Buckman, Julius von Haast, and Llewellyn Owen. Douglas’ grandmother in Newfoundland loved listening to Brahms, while for Rowena’s grandmother in New Zealand it was the Scottish folksongs that brought a tear to the eye. They will introduce the music with histories and herstories, and they will also perform two beautiful pieces by living New Zealand composers, Gillian Whitehead and Anthony Ritchie. 

The programme will include the following pieces: 

Thalia waltz (Owen) 

Il Bacio (Arditi) 

Impromptu in Ab (Schubert) 

Ständchen, Minnelied and Intermezzo in Bb (Brahms) 

Milking before Dawn (Ritchie) 

Postcards from Harwood (Whitehead) 

Gentle Maiden (Irish song) 

Ye Banks and Braes (Scottish song) 


Douglas Mews and Rowena Simpson have developed a deep rapport as a performing duo over the past twenty five years. During the past decade, they have worked together in two touring shows written and directed by Jacqueline Coats: ‘Home’ (2010-12), which toured to 17 NZ centres including with Arts On Tour NZ, and ‘Lines from the Nile’ (2014-15) which won the award for ‘Best Music’ at the NZ Fringe Festival and toured to the Taranaki Arts Festival and the Adam Chamber Music Festival. In 2018 they toured to 20 NZ centres with Robert Ibell as Hammers & Horsehair. 

After graduating in musicology from the NZ School of Music and in singing from The Royal Conservatory in The Netherlands, Rowena has developed her career in NZ across chamber music, choral music, opera, oratorio and teaching. Douglas Mews studied keyboards with Anthony Jennings at Auckland University followed by harpsichord studies with Bob van Asperen at The Royal Conservatory in the Hague. He is now a freelance musician, teaching at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington and directing the music at St Teresa’s Catholic Church.