Stealing Tutunui is a programmatic depiction of the Maori legend about a chief, a priest and a whale.
Following the birth of his baby son, Tinirau secured the services of a neighbouring priest named Kae, who performed the baptism ceremony. Afterwards, Tinirau summoned his pet whale, Tutunui, and cut off a piece of flesh, which he gave to Kae as payment. Kae asked if he could ride home on the whale’s back. Tinirau reluctantly agreed, giving explicit instructions that when they neared the shore and the whale shook himself, Kae must disembark.
Despite these instructions, Kae drove Tutunui towards the shore and beached him. The whale was cut up and cooked in the village ovens, and the aroma of the flesh was brought by the winds to Tinirau’s home. Learning of the creature’s fate, the chief’s wife convened a group of women to travel to Kae’s home and capture him. Unsure what Kae looked like, the women were advised to make the villagers laugh – they would be able to identify Kae by his ugly teeth.
When the women arrived at Kae’s village, they were welcomed and everyone gathered in the meeting house for the evening’s entertainments. The women danced and told stories, and eventually got Kae to laugh so they could see his ugly teeth and confirm his identity. Then they cast sleeping spells on everyone, removed him from the house and placed him on a canoe, taking him while he slept to Tinirau’s island and into a house identical to his own. When Kae finally awoke, he wondered why Tinirau was sitting in his house. Tinirau killed Kae and avenged Tutunui’s slaughter.
Stealing Tutunui was commissioned by Symphony Australia in 2000 for the New Voices composer development program in Perth, and premiered by WASO, conductor Kenneth Young. In 2001 it was re-orchestrated for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. It has been performed by WASO, the TSO, and recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Instrumentation: 2*.2*.2*.2. 22.214.171.124 tmp+1 hp str