I was here from 1962-65 and from 1968-75. At the beginning I met Don McAra, Rod Harries, and Ian Bamford, people who are still very important friends. During the first period the music in the school was managed exclusively by Brian Barrett, a brilliant pianist, singer, conductor, timpanist - in short a very sensitive and capable all round musician. Although one had the feeling he would have been much more at home at the university, he never found a place there, and he never complained about having to teach class music - something which would have driven me mad. Occasionally I visited his classes with my clarinet and he also performed my setting of Psalm 8 with his University Singers. During my two years in Europe 1966 / 67 he left Linwood for a job in Perth. I was never to see him again—he was there for only a short time before he died of cancer and his wife, Mary, and three children had to return to Christchurch without him.
When I returned to Linwood in 1968 a young lady teacher had been appointed to replace Brian. Suddenly those of us who knew anything about music realised what an impossible job Brian had been expected to do. Because he had been such a formidable musician nobody would ever have dared offering to help him. But with this new lady we had no inhibitions. I offered to form a choir, Lester Davison a brass band and Rod Harries and I planned a new Hymn book which would be used in the assemblies. Don McAra had left to join the Teachers College and had been replaced by John Kim, a theatre man whose business had gone bankrupt. There was also a clever new art teacher, Gavin Bishop, and so with all these new strengths we planned our version of Total Theatre.
These were very busy and intensive years for me writing music for total theatre. The first was The Odyssey, a two hour long work in which all the wanderings of Odysseus were shown in a 40 minute mime sequence to the accompaniment of orchestra choir and soloists. The next year we read the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, studied the Bayeux Tapestry and created a piece around the events of 1066: Harold and William. The following year the team was enlarged by the arrival of Graeme Tetley who suggested a setting of Grimmelshausen’s Simplicius Simplicissimus. Here I tried involving the pupils with writing some of the music, something which was even more time-consuming than writing it myself. However I was to learn a lot in the process: Norrie Gibson, a student, had the job of writing a piece for Simplicius’ awakening after he’d been sewn into a fool’s costume. His piece was for girls’ chorus and it required them to sing clusters. We talked about giving each of the girls a chime bar with their note (each girl sang only one note in the whole piece—but a different one from all the others) but finished up giving them tuned pipes—off-cuts of plastic down-pipe which resonated with their note. I later used similar pipes for the Royal Chch Musical Society in my Ever-Circling Light. Without Norrie's influence this work would have been quite different and not as good.
The next big total theatre piece was Akhnaton. The basic idea came from Rod Harries who had been studying comparative religion and was fascinated by this first attempt at monotheism in ancient Egypt. Helping behind the scenes of this production was a new science teacher: Philip Woollaston.