Can You Feel the Aroha?

Cobham Intermediate students recording at Orange Studios
Cobham Intermediate students recording at Orange Studios
Sounds engineer Thom O'Connor at Orange Studios
Ali Harper’s tale is inspiring. We saw her work and asked her to tell her story on The Big Idea. We are so glad she did.


That night in Christchurch at the end of that epic day I was seriously shaken. My children were tucked in bed. It hadn’t been easy hearing that my 9-year-old has had to pee in a bucket. The teacher gave him a lollipop when he used the bucket in the corner of the classroom with a makeshift blanket hanging for privacy in the lockdown.  I found myself trawling through the social media posts, when I returned home, just trying to make sense of the experience.

So it is with the Artist’s Way (a course I am in the middle of), I responded. As darkness set in there was a stirring inside of me. Something new. I questioned it. Then surrendered. I went to the room which I use to create. A simple desk looks out over a part of my garden. It’s quiet. I didn’t turn on the lights. My husband would feed the boys. I unlock my sorrow and I write. In my darkened hideaway I pour all my heartache into the words of a song. My husband comes down to check on me. I feel self-conscious. I don’t really write songs. I perform other people’s songs, use their words. This is personal. I tell him I just need another hour or so. He leaves me alone.

Magic of Calling in Favours

All my instincts are urging me on, persistently telling me to continue. I text my friend and pianist David Sidwell that night. Someone I trust. I tell him I have written a song and ask would he do an arrangement for me. I text Jennifer Ward-Lealand to write the te reo for a verse. Later my friend Tānemahuta Gray contributes.

Then things really begin to flow faster…the arrangement is done, passed on to my Christchurch pianist Richard Marrett, the recording session is booked at Orange Studios. Cobham Intermediate School kids arrive in buses to record the song with me. My dear friends - singer Frankie Leota and videographer Tane Hipango fly in from Wellington. Eleven days after the Mosque shootings we are in the studio pouring all the aroha we have into our song.

Hymn of Aroha

I stood on stage with a 9-piece band and 2 gorgeous backing vocalists and sang my song ‘Release our Love.’ It’s the 3rd song I have ever written in my life. I felt so much gratitude and a sense of release as I gave all I had to the studio audience and the TV cameras. It wasn’t about me, it was about a message that I feel passionate about, the people who collaborated with me and the power of aroha.  

Privilege and Playing a Part

Am I a naïve, white, privileged New Zealander who has not had to suffer because of an accent, skin colour, religion? Yes. I try live my life to be kind and compassionate. I am not a surgeon, an emergency nurse, a first responder, a policewoman. I wish I was in times like these so I could assist those in need. The part that I can play is to direct proceeds to where they need to go right now - the Victim Support Givealittle page.

"Let’s stand together

Unite as one

Hands held together

Releasing love

Open hearts make a better world

This is what we must all do now

Open eyes to what our neighbours see

Is the path we must all take now

We’re Aotearoa, we’re gonna make a change" 


You can listen to full the song here:

‘Release Our Love’ will be next featured at the KIA KAHA Concert in Christchurch on Saturday 4th May, as well as on Ali’s show Legendary Divas on Saturday 27th April at The Court Theatre, with the proceeds going to the first responders St John Ambulance.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

17 Apr 2019

The Big Idea Editor

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