Mr Robert Wiremu

BMus, DipMus

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Professional Teaching Fellow


Robert studied singing, music history, and composition at Victoria University of Wellington (with Emily Mair, Professor Peter Walls, Jack Body and Ross Harris), the University of Auckland (Beatrice Webster), and The Queensland Conservatory of Music (Gregory Massingham).

Robert has had a career as a performer (piano and singing), composer/arranger, and teacher. Robert has been on staff at the University of Auckland since 1998. In that time, Robert has taught in the core musicianship team: aural development, keyboard musicianship, and now applied musicianship (choral), but mostly coaches classical voice students. As staff advisor to the Tuakana Programme in the School of Music, Robert has developed an co-interest in emotional and instinctive approaches to learning musicianship. He has participated as an associate investigator in a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative through the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education on a teaching intervention to engage in a process of peer review with a view to developing ‘performance’ aspects in the teaching of history subjects. Submitted a successful Distinguished Visitor Scholarship submission so that Dr Simon O’Neill (honoris causa) could work with voice students at the University of Auckland, and perform as featured soloist in a concert with the Auckland Chamber Choir (conducted by Dr Karen Grylls, and accompanied by Rachel Fuller) and solo students (accompanied by Robert)

Robert’s diction model, The Wiremu Vowel Clock, was presented at the  at St John's (Hickory dickory dock - the mouse ran round the clock) was presented by Dr Karen Grylls at the International Symposium on Singing and Song II, in St John’s, Canada

Robert has an article that will be published in The Choral Journal about “Reverse appropriation as means of language preservation: a musical perspective.”

At the World Symposium on Choral Music, Robert will explore the conference's central theme 'he tangata, he whenua' (the people and the land), and focus on the relationship between voice and place, specifically in relation to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Robert has written orchestrations of Schubert Lieder and songs from the “24 Italian Songs and Arias”, originally edited by Alessandro Parisotti, for a collaboration between the Wairua Sinfonia and the voice students of the University of Auckland.

As part of an ongoing relationship with the Auckland Central Library, the voice students of the University of Auckland and ACCORD ensemble have performed in the lunchtime concert series. In 2019, ACCORD performed a recital to a capacity filled venue, where Robert accompanied some of the solo singing students and presented two impromptus based on well-known operatic melodies: “Bella figlia del’amore” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, and “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s “Rinaldo”.

In partnership with Dr Karen Grylls, there will be a presentation by the Auckland Chamber Choir of “Te Ihi, Te Mana, Te Wehi: a story of legacy”, a celebration of a 25 year alliance between Dr Grylls and the distinguished Wehi whanau – a relationship that forever changed the profile of NZ choirs both nationally and globally. Robert has collaborated as a choral arranger with young composer Tuirina Wehi on her pieces Waerenga-A-Hika (for the NZ Youth Choir) and Aio (for the Auckland Chamber Choir). This collaboration continues the legacy that was established by Dr Grylls and Dr Ngapo Wehi and Dr Pimia Wehi.

With Dr Morag Atchison, Robert will coordinate the “Beatrice Webster Memorial Concert: a story of legacy”. Mrs Webster was an important figure in the voice teaching community of NZ. She died in 2000, after a marvellous career teaching some of the leading singers in NZ and Australia – many of whom followed in her footsteps as university voice teachers – Robert and Morag among them.

Having been involved in the recording of Maori Songs with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in 2000, and as a consequence, Robert was asked to train the Opera Factory chorus for Kiri and Friends, at Vector Arena as part of the Rugby World Cup (2011) festivities. Again, for the Rugby World Cup, Robert performed in the Auckland Memorial Museum with Anna Pierard and Phil Rhodes, for the various heads of the participating rugby unions. For the sequel to Maori Songs, Robert was again asked to assemble and train the backing chorus for Waiata, in 2013. Robert was also integral to the collaboration between Dame Kiri and the national chamber choir, Voices NZ when they appeared together (conducted by Dr Karen Grylls and accompanied by Prof. Terrence Dennis) at the International Arts Festival in Wellington in 2016. In 2019, the ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre was renamed in honour of our most successful operatic star, and an artist with whom Robert has a 20 year history, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. It would now be known as the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre. It was an honour for Robert to be asked for two of his most well-known arrangements of Maori song, “Whakaaria mai” and “Hine e hine”. The plan was to have them orchestrated for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and performed with the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus at the beginning and end of the concert.

Robert and his accomplished singer cousin, April Marie Neho, first encountered He korero purakau, by celebrated New Zealand artist, Professor Michael Parekowhai, when they were asked to present a recital of Victorian parlour songs. Michael, and his sister remembered their Pakeha grandmother playing and singing these songs in their childhoods. When Michael launched his Venice Art Biennale submission to sponsors, he coordinated it as a party. Robert and Dr Te Oti Rakena played well-known party songs on two pianos in a Henderson shed, one of which was He Korero Purakau, except now it had been further intricately carved in whakairo style, and has become part of a tripartite work On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer. Robert, this time with singer/clarinettist Tama Waipara played on the instrument at the Christchurch Gallery launch and again in the Wellington launch at Te Papa. 


Robert was the first person to have been a member of the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir (under Roger Stevenson), a member of the musical team (under Elise Bradley), and then as interim director. It was in this last role that Robert led the choir on a mini tour of Brazil and Argentina. Robert was central to choosing his successor, Dr Andrew Withington.

Having met in that first choir, Simon O’Neill and Robert met as naïve but enthusiastic teenagers. As the world’s leading Wagnerian tenor, Dr Simon O’Neill invited Robert to accompany him in An Evening with Simon O’Neill – a gift concert for his sponsors, supporters, and friends.

After a life changing term in the NZ Youth Choir and after returning to NZ after a 7 week tour of North America. Robert focussed all of his attentions on singing. As an alumnus of the New Zealand Youth Choir, Robert was asked to record Douglas Mews’ The Lovesong of Rangipouri with them (conducted by Dr Karen Grylls) - as baritone soloist. He eventually became a member of the vocal consultancy team, and as interim assistant conductor on a tour of Asia.

After a period as a singing member of the national chamber choir (Voices NZ), serving as choir leader, Robert also joined this choir’s vocal consultancy team. He is currently artistic advisor to the umbrella organisation, Choirs Aotearoa NZ, under which the NZ Secondary Students’ Choir, the NZ Youth Choir, and the national chamber choir, Voices NZ are managed. In that capacity, he has been a consultant for the Chamber Music NZ sponsored tour of Voices NZ for their programme, Taonga Moana. In 2018, Robert was commissioned to write a response to Hodie Christus natus est for the national chamber choir, Voices New Zealand. It has been performed in Auckland in a mid-winter Christmas programme with 5 other commissioned responses by NZ composers. It was also performed in the NZ Youth Choir’s Fortieth Anniversary Concert in December of 2019 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell.

Since 2018, Robert has been a member of the governance board of the NZ Choral Federation. Their two major projects are: the annual Big Sing Event, a national festival for high school choirs and a taonga in the NZ cultural profile; oversight of the coming World Choral Symposium, bringing the world’s best choirs and choral practitioners to Auckland to exchange ideas and learn the latest practices and techniques. Robert’s particular interest is youth engagement. Robert will also contribute to the central commissioned work of the symposium as arranger and composer.

In 2011, Robert trained the backing vocalists for the NZ leg of George Benson’s tribute to Nat King Cole. Prior to his tenure as artistic director, Robert coached the V8 Vocal Ensemble for  Berio’s Sinfonia with James Judd and the NZSO. It was for this ensemble that Robert wrote many new arrangements, many around the commemorations of the end of World War 1, and others including a setting of Gallus’ Ecce quomodo moritur justus which was cleverly paired with What a wonderful world. This piece was written when Nelson Mandela had become very ill, and was a personal tribute to him and has been performed at the Graduation Gala of the University of Auckland and by Voices NZ on their national tour for Chamber Music NZ, Taonga Moana

Research | Current

  • Singing Technique and Practices
  • Operatic Repertoire and Pedagogy
  • Linguistics for Classical Singers
  • Choral Repertoire and Pedagogy
  • Vocal Coaching

Teaching | Current

Vocal Coach

Conductor - ACCORD choir

Applied Musicianship (Choral)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Grylls, K. L., Johnsson, C. J., Wiremu, R., & Brodie, S. Taonga Moana: A love letter to the oceans [National tour], 4/10/2019. [Staged Choral Work], (80 minutes), Taonga Moana - National Tour, Civic Theatre, Invercargill Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin The Piano, Christchurch Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton Theatre Royal, New Plymouth Globe Theatre, Palmerston North MTG Theatre, Napier Nelson School of Music, Nelson Holy Trinity Church, Gisborne. Commissioning body: Chamber Music New Zealand and Choirs Aotearoa Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Grylls, Catrin Johnsson
  • Grylls, K., Atchison, M., & Wiremu, R. Simon O’Neill in concert with the University of Auckland Chamber Choir, 20/3/2019. [Recital], (75 minutes), Simon O'Neill in Concert, St. Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland, New Zealand. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Grylls, Morag Atchison
  • Grylls, K. L., & Wiremu, R. Recital "Water's Journey" Auckland Chamber Choir, School of Music and Sing Aotearoa SA16, Rotorua: Karen Grylls, Artistic Director and Conductor, 15/10/2016. [Live Choral Recital], (1.5 hours), Water's Journey, Music Theatre, 6 Symonds Street; Convention Centre, Rotorua SA16. Commissioning body: School of Music & SA16
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Grylls
  • Grylls, K. L., Te Kanawa, K., & Wiremu, R. A New Day, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Voices NZ Chamber Choir, 13/3/2016. [Recital], (2 hours), A concert recital "A New Day", Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand. Commissioning body: New Zealand Festival Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Grylls
  • Grylls, K. L., Wiremu, R., & Atchison, M. 30 Years under the Grylls, 7/6/2015. [Live performance], (2 hours), 30 Years Under the Grylls: a concert and celebration., St.-Mary's-in-Holy-Trinity, Parnell, Auckland. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Grylls, Morag Atchison

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 9, Room 909
New Zealand