Jack Body has died after a long battle with cancer, leaving a musical legacy unsurpassed in the history of composition in New Zealand. In spite of illness Jack was active to the last, closely involved in the production of the festschrift publication Jack!, with the realisation of two CDs of his music and with the tying up of loose ends from a career spanning five decades.
In the year before his death Jack was the subject of a number of concerts, radio programmes and news articles and in his final days he was made an Icon of the Arts Foundation, an honour afforded to only twenty living New Zealanders. Jack received his Icon Award medal at a function by his hospice bed from Mary McFarlane, Ralph Hotere's partner, who was the previous holder of that medal.
Jack leaves behind his life partner Yono Soekarno and a music scene forever and immeasurably enriched by his involvement with it.
The Steele Roberts publication JACK!, a festschrift celebrating Jack's life and work, was launched in Wellington. The evening featured performances of music written in tribute to Jack by Gillian Whitehead, Ross Harris, Jose Evangelista, Somei Satoh and Frederic Rzewski, performed by Mere Boynton (voice and poi), Jian Liu (piano), Debbie Rawson (bass clarinet) and Krysta Martynes (bass clarinet).
Speakers were Euan Murdoch, Roger Steele (MC), Elizabeth Kerr, Steve Garden and Sir Eion Edgar. Jack could not attend but the audience heard his voice in the form of a recording made at his hospice bedside.
View complete footage of the event above.
Major New Zealand labels Rattle and Atoll have each released new CDs of works by Jack Body.
Rattle’s Passing By is a two-CD collection of Jack’s most loved and highly acclaimed chamber and electroacoustic music, with reference performances by the Kronos Quartet, NZTrio, the New Zealand String Quartet, Stroma, Nomad Ensemble, Del Sol Quartet, Stephen De Pledge (piano), David Radzynski (violin) and the late Alexander Ivashkin (cello).
Atoll CDs’ Songs of Death & Desire offers studio renditions of the powerful arias from Jack’s Songs and Dances of Desire: In Memoriam Carmen Rupe. Vocalists Mere Boynton, Anna Pierard and Xiao Ma are accompanied by New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conductor Kenneth Young.
The Arts Foundation of New Zealand, which made Jack a Laureate in 2004, bestowed its highest honour, the Icon, to Jack in a private ceremony at Mary Potter Hospice. This award is held by only twenty living New Zealanders, with the Icon Medallion passed to a future recipient following the death of a holder. Jack's medallion formerly belonged to the artist Ralph Hotere and it was Hotere's partner, Mary McFarlane, who presented the award. Jack responded by expressing his great admiration for Hotere, with whom he had collaborated on the work Song Cycle.
Friend, fellow composer and Arts Foundation Laureate Gillian Whitehead then read a statement that began with the following words:
I'm so pleased you've been made an Icon of the Arts Foundation - the first composer to be so recognised - and if anyone deserves such an award, it's you. You have all the attributes of an Icon, and more - a significant body of work of outstanding quality (tick), a major contribution to the artistic and cultural life of New Zealand (tick), an international reputation (many ticks), and so on, and so on. But it's bittersweet to learn of it on the day I also heard that you are stopping chemotherapy, and won't be with us for much longer. Wellington will be a sorry place without your presence, energising, guiding, cajoling.
Gillian's full tribute can be read here.
A capacity audience at the Auckland University School of Music's Theatre was treated to a night of celebration of the life and music of Jack Body. In the composer's presence some seven works composed by Jack were interspersed with spoken and musical tributes from his friends Gillian Whitehead, Helen Bowater, Lyell Cresswell and Phil Dadson.
Jack was also awarded the Composers Association of New Zealand's highest accolade, an Honorary Membership.
William Dart's Herald review of the concert can be read here.
Eve de Castro-Robinson (concert organiser) spoke with Radio New Zealand Concert's Upbeat about Jack - listen below:
The full concert may be viewed above.
The New Zealand School of Music hosted a special concert event in honour and acknowledgement of Jack Body’s far-reaching influence on the direction of music making and creation in New Zealand as well as the way New Zealand music is received and respected globally.
The New Zealand String Quartet, quartet in residence at NZSM, performed three works that represent a cross-section of Body’s work: Saetas, A House in Bali, and three shorter works gathered together under the title Yunan Sketches (including the guitar of Christopher Hill). Richard Greager, Margaret Medlyn and pianist Jian Liu then concluded the programme with Body’s Songs My Grandmother Sang.
Read Peter Mechen’s review of the concert here.
Photography by Stephen Gibbs of the New Zealand School of Music.