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Olivier Messiaen "Quartet for the End of Time"



St Matthew-in-the-City

27 September 2023

Peter Scholes, clarinet

Simeon Broom, violin

James Tennant, cello

Stephen de Pledge, piano

with Poetry of Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafunaí

Narration by Elena Philp

On 27 September 2023, the St Matthew-in-the-City Climate Justice group hosted a performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with poetry of Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i as part of the Auckland Climate Festival.

On the evening Katherine Austin, piano, and Faumuina had to make late withdrawals with Covid. Stephen de Pledge was able to take over the piano playing that night, and, at short notice, Elena Philp did a wonderful job narrating the poems.

The quartet was composed in a prisoner of war camp in 1941 and first performed in the camp. It grew out of the despair of the time as Europe was again plunged into war. It was an apocalyptic time and he was inspired by the vision of the angel announcing the end of time from the book of Revelation.

We too, live in perilous times. A climate crisis is upon us, we have come to the end of this time of borrowing the wealth of the Earth’s energy resources. Earth’s recovery systems are under severe threat.

The music is full of bird song, there is fury, fear, and utter tranquility, especially at the end, the eighth movement, where violin and piano lift us from our everyday concerns to think beyond ourselves.

The poetry evokes the ways of life of the indigenous people of the Pacific. Our neighbours’ habitat and way of life is under threat with rising sea levels. Indigenous and ancient wisdoms hewed out of respect for seasons, of how to live with what there is, rather than striving for more, have been buried under the priorities of the consumer age.

The music is unusual, shared by various instrument combinations.

The first movement is like entering a birdsong filled forest. This pristine forest, rollicking with birds, is something as joyful as children in the playground.

Twice the Angel makes announcements of the end of Time in the 2nd and 7th movements. Twice in 2023, the General Secretary of the UN, António Guterres, made passionate statements, such as, “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy. No more excuses.”

In the Abyss of the Birds, 3rd movement, there is the long call from the solo clarinet of what sounds like the remaining bird, soft, lonely, and plaintive. But even the last bird can make a joyful song.

The question in the end is, can we live more generously towards each other and Nature, for without this there can be no certainty of continuing life on Earth.

Finally, we are pleased to announce that this performance has been accepted by Chamber Music NZ for a nation-wide tour in 2025.

Poetry for Quartet for the End of Time

The Tui and the Kahikatea

In the evening she visits 

just a tui dancing on kahikatea branches

that grow plump with slow wisdom

500 years of welcoming home kereru, kaka, and tui

She calls to the children skipping on the forest path

Take your steps with care

Many came before laden with a duty for the future

Weaving nations full of hope

Heeding the warning signs

Sacrificing the now pleasures

To usher in a world where the birdsongs
Could be heard again
And this song that delights you
Is full of aroha and gratitude
Take your steps carefully, she calls.

My Grandfather is a Canoe

People wonder why

My grandfather is a canoe

I am not confused but proud

Of the handsome tattoos of Haunui

His broad wooden back

The coconut sennit that lashes

The hulls of Pikikotuku and Wharetoroa
To his trim kwila torso


Grandfather is in good company
Because my nephew

Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa
Is a chiselled steering paddle
Who bucks and heaves

With youthful defiance
Until lulled by ocean swells


I also have a Papua New Guinea  friend

Who says his grandfather is a spear


Marshallese Blue

When there is more blue than green

More blue than brown

More blue than black

And in faraway places

White turning blue

The lagoon on my right

And the sea on my left

Will rise to claim me

Not because I have gills

Or a fin to cut the water

But because others like me

And unlike me

Have burned all that was green

Chopped down all that was brown

Dug up all that was black

Until all that covers my family

Is blue


If I could be so lucky

People tell me I’m lucky

To go travelling to the Pacific islands

To Samoa, Niue, Cook Islands,

Marshall Islands too - wherever that is

In Majuro I stay in a room

Above a shop and eat rice, 

canned tuna and cabbage

Every day, I drive to class

past lagoons rising

Coral dying

Rubbish piling

I played imagination games with my students

Imagine if we do nothing

What will your island look like in 50 years?

Who will live here?

What will you eat?

Where will you bury your family 

When the sea swallows your land?

When do you leave?

How do you leave?

You should leave?

You should leave.

You should leave. Leave NOW.

Find a rental unit,

A thriving developed nation

A street where people can’t pronounce your name


You go from being the holder of an ancestral name

To becoming Frank or Terry or Rita

And your grandchildren

Will be left to wave a flag that knows no home soil


Etu ‘Iti

I am taking your sister out of the sky

To hold her in my hand and show my son
He watches you with saucers in his eyes
Wide-eyed, tracing your whakapapa lines
Across the black black skies far from earth


Your sister, she is burning a hole in my flesh
It melts while I am caught in her trance

This tiny star, ‘Etu Iti, is a cosmic gift

Light that was sent thousands of years ago
When only Papuans and Yankunytjatjara
Were trekking in the highlands and deserts


‘Etu Iti where have you been, what sees you?
Who have you guided home or led astray
With your heavenly rise and rhythmic fall?

Whose constellation do you play with in the solstice?
Tautoru, Mataali’i, Te Matau a Maui

Are they your playmates?


Or do you instead

Prefer to follow the ocean tides and swells?
Watch the people with their busy busy lives
Always looking down, feet on the ground


I am Sieni

I am Sieni

My mother is Sieni

My grandmother is Sieni

We were all born in the same house

We all swam in the same sea

We all grew taro in the same swamp

We all drank coconuts from the same plantation

We all stood on the same table 

when the king tides swept into our house

We all climbed onto the same roof 

when the sea waters flooded our home

We all waved goodbye from the same plane 

when we were forced to leave our island 

We all cried when we saw our house in New Zealand 

with neighbours we did not know, 

surrounded by a sea of concrete, 

and people who could not pronounce our name


I am Sieni

My mother is Sieni

My grandmother is Sieni

And this here, inside me, is my daughter Sieni

She will never know our little house, 

the warm embrace of our sea, 

plant her own swamp taro, 

and rip the husk off coconuts from our plantation

She will never be we 

And we will never be she


Think like a Fish
Think like a fish he said If you want to save the ocean
*He was an old man
Wise with his thinking. Clever with his words

What does a fish need To live, to breed, to breathe
What about the earth?
What about people?
How do we save them?
Think like the soil?
Think like a bird?
Think like a baby Born a century from now

What does the soil need To live, to nurture, to breathe
What plants should there be?
What about insects, animals
Shouldn’t they all be valued
As part of this story on Planet Terra
What have we done?

To turn the rising tide Into acid ebbs and flows
We shoot black gas into blue skies
Harvest coal from open mines 

Only to burn Through tomorrow’s credit
Our thirst for all things dairy
Is leaching into watertables

While draining our rivers dry

How should I think about this?
Write country policy, 
International protocols
Set targets to reduce
Or negotiate to retain
A human right To dominate, to rule 
This earth inherited

He didn’t answer me
I think he was waiting
For the rest of us To stop
Close our eyes 

See the fish swimming
In a gyre of plastic
While estuaries spew oil viscous thick
And carbon dioxide rains electrifying teardrops
Heating the ocean depths
While whales are hunted, Sharks finned
And tourists tan on white beaches
Unaware the tide is flooding into the homes
Of Pacific Islands nations 
Some to be native-less Never to be voice-less
Or our mother will be life-less

Think like a fish he said
If you want to save the ocean
He was an old man
Wise with his thinking
Clever with his words

wayfinding and wayfinders

My ancestors voyaged across an ocean:

One third of the earth; One blue highway; One Sea of Islands 

Navigating mindful memories, apprenticed to the wind, the swells and the heavens.

And so, I am born a daughter to this legacy, the house of the foaming ocean,

Scientific  genius transferred to each generation

Until wooden desks and blackboards replaced our canoes

Yet tomorrow those same stars will rise

To new eyes and minds seeking solutions

in Wayfinding philosophies.

A way that teaches see the island, leave your doubts behind

To know yourself, your knowledge and your skills, the abundance and the lack;

To know your crew, both present and future, to uplift and guide; 

To read the cultural, political and economic weather;

the environmental pulse;

To know you cannot control the wind, only which way your canoe is facing;

To learn life is multiple tacks; that A to B only exists in the English alphabet.

And once, you are provisioned, pull up the anchor, choose courage over fear,

Feel the wind on your face; submit to the journey, to the island in your heart.

Realise that earth and home, friendship and love

Make a more certain compass than north and south, east and west.

The book My Grandfather is a Canoe can be purchased here:

Statement of Intent

St Matthew's made a submission to the government prior to the UNCOP26 Climate Conference.

This Mission Statement of Intent in response to the Climate Crisis has evolved from that process.

It is intended as a living document.



Season of Creation 2021



Our Season of Creation 2021 took place in lockdown with the theme, 'A Home for All: Renewing the Oikos of God'   

You can watch the Reflection from each of three weeks in September 2021:

5 September 2021

We explored the bias of worldview on our understanding of home. 

12 September 2021

The challenge of mutual respect and inclusion when power is unequally shared.

The impact of this on our relationships with one another and with creation.

19 September 2021

As we are more aware that we can choose differently.

Season of Creation 2020

Over the first three Sundays of September 2020 we celebrated the Season of Creation at St Matthew’s.

Lock down levels meant we had to join on our learning journey over Zoom.


Each week, following a short introduction, we spent  time conversing, considering, choosing and challenging ourselves,

and each other, to change, even if just a little, for the good of our planet.


On September 6 Richard Milne and Alan Broom led us to look at our use of energy and modes of transport.


Care of Creation Pledges (Week 1)


Richard Milne     Journeying Together: Energy & Sustainability


Alan Broom     Travel



On September 13 Bobbi Laing and Cathy Bi-Riley led us to look at our food choices and disposal of waste.


Care of Creation Pledges (Week 2)


Bobbi Laing     Journeying Together: Food & Sustainability


Cathy Bi-Riley     Waste



On September 20 Richard Milne and Richard Le Heron led us to consider ways to advocate for change.


Richard Milne and Richard Le Heron     Journeying Together: Advocacy


Reflections and Commitments



Each week participants sent in commitments they’d make, shared resources and information to extend the debate.

On Sunday November 15 we will look back, celebrate the steps we’ve taken,

reflect on the power of joining together to effect change. We plan to document this in image and story.


Given our context of sacrament and ritual these words of Wendell Berry seem most fitting

“It is a contradiction to love your neighbour and despise the great inheritance on which their life depends …

It is possible – as our experience in this good land shows – to exile ourselves from Creation,

and to ally ourselves with the principles of destruction …

If we are willing to pollute the air – to harm the elegant creature known as the atmosphere –

by that token we are willing to harm all creatures that breathe, ourselves and our children among them.

There is no begging off or “trading off …” To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation.

When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skilfully, reverently, it is a sacrament.

When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.

In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness and others to want.”

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