Claire at work Claire at work CREDIT: Auckland Council
Claire composing with helper musicians Joel Beeby and Scott Satherley. Claire composing with helper musicians Joel Beeby and Scott Satherley. CREDIT: Auckland Council

Making music at Mahurangi

Tuesday 14 February 2012, 3:20PM
By Auckland Council


Composer Claire Cowan will be premiering her work as the 2011 regional parks artist in residence at a special concert on the Mahurangi Harbour next month.

Claire’s music is flavoured by her eight-week residency at the Scott Homestead at Scotts Landing (Mahurangi Regional Park) in October and November 2011 and appears on a specially produced CD titled Toast and Ghosts.

She spent the first few weeks of her residency exploring the park and local area on foot and by motorbike. She met some of the locals, took photographs that now adorn the CD cover, wrote snippets and ‘collected’ the seeds of her songs.

Claire selected mainly wooden instruments for her work, including guitar, cello and piano, crediting the historic wooden homestead with her choice.

“Somehow wooden instruments seemed the right choice for a studio with wooden floor, ceilings and walls,” she says.

“Initially, the compositions were fragile but when I played them to, and with, fellow musicians they became stronger – playing a piece of music with others seems to establish it.”

One drawback of working so close to nature was the intrusiveness of ambient bird calls around the homestead when tracks were layered, therefore recording often took place at night.

The outcome is a mix of styles with touches of Mahurangi ambience. Although mostly reflective in nature, each of the compositions has a strong momentum and a hint of the bittersweet.

Councillor Sandra Coney, Chair of the Auckland Council’s Parks, Recreation and Heritage Forum, says this is the first time a composer has taken up the residency.

“Claire has interpreted the feeling of this regional park in a very unique way and we congratulate her on the release of her CD,” she says.

Free tickets are available to Claire’s concert on 4 March at Mahurangi’s Scott Homestead. Due to the intimate nature of the venue, tickets are limited and bookings are essential. Phone 09 301 7230 for further information and to book tickets.

To buy the Toast and Ghosts CD, email Claire at; listen to one of the Mahurangi tunes at and see some of Claire’s residency blogs at

Applications are now open for the 2012 regional parks Artist in Residence. For more information go to and click on ‘call for proposals’.