GNZMS 296, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

GNZMS 296, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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GNZMS 296, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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Music for 'God defend New Zealand'

Author: Joseph J. Woods
Ref No: GNZMS 296
Date Added: 1878
Date Created: 1876

On the 1 July 1876, Thomas Bracken published a five-stanza poem of his own composition titled ‘National Hymn’ and announced a contest with a prize of ten guineas for the person who composed the best air to accompany his words. The judges were trio of reputable Melbourne-based German-born musicians: Herr Zelman, Herr Siede and Herr Zeplin. They unanimously chose by an entry submitted by John Joseph Woods, head teacher at St Patrick’s Catholic School in the town of Lawrence, ninety-six kilometres north of Dunedin. Born in Tasmania, Woods was a versatile musician who could play several instruments and also served as choirmaster of Lawrence’s Catholic church. In later life he described how he arrived at his melody to the publisher A. H. Reed: ‘On reading the beautiful and appealing words, I immediately felt like one inspired … I set to work instanter and never left my seat ‘til the music was finished late on in the night.’

God defend New Zealand was first performed in public at Dunedin’s Queens Theatre on Christmas Day, 1876, sung by the Lydia Howard Burlesque and Opera Bouffe Troupe, backed by the Dunedin Royal Artillery Band. Although it proved popular with the general citizenry from the outset, official recognition was a long time coming. It was not until 1977 that the New Zealand government granted the song equal status with God save the Queen as a national anthem.

When Sir George Grey visited Lawrence, as Premier of the country, in March 1878, a large gathering of local school children sang God defend New Zealand to him, with Woods conducting. Deeply moved, he asked the composer for the original music to add to his collection of New Zealand artifacts. He later wrote to Bracken requesting the original manuscript of the words. Both are now in the Library’s safekeeping.

The God defend New Zealand original score and lyrics were recently inscripted on UNESCO's Memory of the World register in New Zealand, recognising their significance and value to New Zealand Aotearoa's cultural heritage.

Tags: 3vwncy, 8sdqh, anthems, bcz6v, be94yp, dlr7y, fahrq, fy4vy, hduzex, mmjays, music, national, New Zealand, ohdtu, ojid9l, p8uxn, patriotism, pdlb8y, ptifkeziwppodcdqdoq, r2cg5p, rh3yi, songs, sxdg9, thah2e, ua0qva, uq5wo2, vhqdxu, yhdza

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