cave dances

Cave Dances

For clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano
Commissioned by the Chamber Music New Zealand Trust in 2020

While much of the world was enjoying the roaring ‘20s, in New Zealand one of the hottest tickets was to a ball held regularly in a giant cave on the remote northern tip of the Manukau Harbour. Guests arrived on horseback and by ferry to Whatipū Lodge, and then walked in their finery for more than a kilometre through the rugged coastal terrain to reach the cave, named Te Ana Ru, to dance well into the early morning to music played mostly on accordions. 

The dances remained wildly popular for many decadeshistory that sits uncomfortably now when one considers that the area is of huge spiritual and ecological significance.  

While definitely giving a nod to the 1920’s, my piece Cave Dances doesn’try to reconstruct the popular dance music of the time, but rather aims to evoke the mood of these events, the picture I have in my mind of them, and just the sheer incongruity of the venue. Written in three parts, I’ve woven narrative into the music, but invite listeners to imagine their own images while hearing the work. The outer movements are obviously the more dance-like, with the middle movement suggesting the dark corners of the cave and surrounding beach and bush to which couples would often disappear into during the evening. 


Ben Hoadley has lectured at the University of Auckland since 2007, and since 2019 at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He holds degrees in bassoon performance from the Sydney Conservatorium and the New England Conservatory in Boston, and has received fellowships at the Australian National Academy of Music, Tanglewood Music Centre and Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. Ben studied composition with Edwin Carr and later at the University of Waikato receiving a Master of Music with first class honours, and the Lilburn Composition Prize.

Ben’s works have been performed by the NZSO, Auckland PhilharmoniaAuckland Chamber Orchestra and include commissions by the Sydney Omega Ensemble, Professor Jack C. Richards and the bassoon section of the Sydney Symphony. Ben’s chamber opera “Miss Brill” (based on the Mansfield short story) was premiered at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, as the opening concert of their 2018 “Resonate” series. In 2020 Ben was awarded first place in the SOUNZ/BBANZ/CANZ Brass Composition Prize and the NSW Flute Society Composition Contest. 

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