NZSSC JAN Posters Lndscp

New Zealand Secondary Students Choir

International Tour - Farewell Concert


July 2024


To be selected from the following: 


Kanaval – Sydney Guilliame

Ah! si mon moine voulait danser - arr Donald Patriquin

Spring Rain - Eriks Esenvalds

O Magnum Mysterium - Chris Artley

Kahu Atangatanga - Tihi Puanaki & the Puanaki Whānau

Jesus bleibet meine Freude - JS Bach

True Colours - arr. Matthew Brown

O Maia soma e/ malie Tanifa - Steven Rapana

You will be found - Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Scarborough Fair – arr. Stephen Smith

Come Fly With Me - arr. Mac Huff

We Will Remember Them - Edward Elgar

Sechs Sprüche No. 1, 4 & 5 - Felix Mendelssohn

Hymn to the Virgin – Benjamin Britten

Abide with Me - arr. William H Monk

Ubi Caritas - Ola Gjeilo

I’ve got the World on a String - H Arlen arr. Mac Huff

Mo Li Hua - Hyo-Won Woo

Cloudburst - Eric Whitacre

Music Down My Soul – Moses Hogan

Tāne Mahuta – Te Huaki Puanaki

Did you enjoy the concert?

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We're going to China!

Soon enough, we will be on our way to China, and we could not be more excited!

Want to see what we're up to? We've got a packed schedule across our two-week journey, check it our below!

5th July: AUCKLAND
- Farewell Concert !! We're so glad you're here!


7-10 July: SHANGHAI
- Take part in the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre Chorus Exchange
- Perform for the New Zealand consulate.
- Do a cultural exchange with the Shanghai Youth Choir
- Perform at the “Music in the Summer Air” festival at the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall.

11-13 July: HANGZHOU
- 3rd Annual Chorus and Conducting Art Conference

14-19 July: BEIJING
- 17th China International Chorus Festival

20th July: Fly back to NZ with all our amazing memories (and souvenirs!).

International Tour Fund

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We're calling out to YOU!

Now is your chance to get in behind the taonga that is the NZ Secondary Students' Choir and their 2024 International Tour!

Your sponsorship will help us to deliver the activities of NZ Secondary Students' Choir  in 2024 amidst rising costs of touring. Your support will go straight towards CANZ's ability to facilitate our singers’ travel, accommodation, tuition, sheet music and food costs. This will help them to deliver the excellence and beauty of ensemble singing to everyone they meet in China!

Make a donation here! 

Artistic Staff


Sue Densem - Music Director and Conductor


Susan is conductor, singer and multi-instrumentalist. She began her professional singing career in 1986 with Canterbury Opera and has performed with Queensland Opera and New Zealand Opera. Susan has sung as a soloist for many choral societies within New Zealand and Australia, touring extensively overseas with a number of ensembles.

After completing her music degree and teaching qualifications in Christchurch she studied voice at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. In Queensland she worked with the Queensland Arts Council and Opera company performing opera in schools across the state.

Susan currently works as an Itinerant Teacher of Music at Burnside High School where she teaches voice and conducts two award winning choirs. She is a past Music Director of the Jubilate Singers and the University of Canterbury Chamber Choir (Consortia).

As a chorister Susan has sung in the Jubilate Singers, The Queensland University Chamber Singers, the New Zealand Youth Choir and is a current member of Voices New Zealand.



Brent Stewart - Assistant Conductor and Accompanist

Brent Stewart is currently Orpheus Choir Wellington’s Music Director, Orchestra Wellington’s Principal Percussionist, and NZSSC’s Assistant Director. On the side, Brent also serves as NZSO’s director of filming. Brent was HoD Music at Wellington East Girls’ College from 2010-2019 and Music Director of the Hutt Valley Orchestra from 2007-2017. Coming up, Brent will be conducting Benee’s New Zealand tour with the NZSO and Auckland Philharmonia, plus the NZ Synthony tour with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington and APO. Brent is also conducting Red! with New Zealand Opera in August and preparing for a French programme with the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra in September. Also on the calendar to conduct this year is Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Bach’s B Minor Mass with Orchestra Wellington and Orpheus Choir Wellington.

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Benjamin Madden - Assistant Conductor and Vocal Consultant

Benjamin Madden is a proudly born-and-bred Dunedin tenor trained by Pat Scally-Richardson and Judy Bellingham. Since finishing vocal study at the University of Otago, Benjamin has been working as a freelance singer, a choral director and private singing tutor in Dunedin. Ben currently teaches singing and directs choirs for Otago Boys’ High School and Otago Girls’ High School, and teaches instruments (guitar, drums, keyboard and singing) at Abbotsford Primary School and Mornington Primary School. Benjamin has enjoyed the opportunity to work with the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir as a conducting intern, guest vocal tutor and now as Vocal Consultant. Benjamin is an alumni of the NZSSC, the New Zealand Youth Choir, and a current member of Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir. Benjamin works with the New Zealand Choral Federation as a mentor for primary school singing leaders as part of their ‘Singing Matters’ programme. Benjamin was delighted to work with City Choir Dunedin in a vocal coach capacity in 2020. Outside of singing and teaching music Benjamin is an avid endurance athlete and rock climber, enjoying running distances up to and beyond the marathon.

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History of the choir

The roots of the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir can be traced to a choral course for secondary students in the 1960s, and a performance in 1967 with the Wesley Chapel Choir in Wellington, under the musical direction of Malcolm Rickard.


Dr Guy Jansen, MNZM (1935-2019) founded the choir, although it wasn't called the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir

until 1987. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Guy was the National Officer for Music for the Department of Education, providing opportunities for school choirs by facilitating holidays courses. Guy had already formed the National Youth Choir (now New Zealand Youth Choir) in 1979.

With the demise of the choral section of the Westpac School Chamber Music Contest after 1986, Guy also had the support of the New Zealand Choral Federation, which was trying to establish a national festival (eventually evolving into the 'NZ Secondary Schools Choral Festivals' and then 'The Big Sing').

Listen to a tribute to Guy Jansen on RNZ Concert with NZ Choral Federation CE, Christine Argyle.


Guy Jansen appoints Roger Stevenson  (NZCM) as NZSSC's first Musical Director. Roger remains with the role until 2000.

Throughout 1987, planning was underway for the 1988 New Zealand Secondary Students Choir performance for the New Zealand visit of well-known British conductor, organist and music educator, Sir David  Willcocks. The 1988 choir came together as a 'one-off' choir solely to perform with the National Youth Choir and NZSO at this very special concert in honour of Sir David Willcocks. The choir performed two works, Prodigal  Country by Douglas Lilburn and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Following this concert, the 1988 choir disbanded.

In 1990 and 1992, NZSSC represented New Zealand at the Pacific Basin Choral Festival and was named Outstanding Choir of the Festival. In 1990 Roger also won the Best Director Award. Auditions for the 1989/90 membership, the first face-to-face auditioned choir, involved Roger hitting the road visiting towns and cities across the country. 1989/90 was also when Roger introduced the eighteen-month membership cycle, a formula that is still in use today.

The choir toured to Singapore in 1994, where NZSSC performed with the Singapore Youth Choir, and in 1996, the choir won gold again in Hawaii.

The 1997/98 choir went to Australia, performing in Brisbane and Canberra as part of the Australian SME conference in Canberra, finishing the tour in Sydney including a performance at the Anglican Cathedral in Pitt St.

Roger’s final choir went to Canada in 2000, at the invitation of the Canadian Government as part of the Millennium Celebrations. They attended a choir festival in Toronto and a massed choir with Swedish conductor Robert Sund. In Calgary, they were guests of the Calgary Youth Choir during ‘stampede week’, a time when everyone dresses up in cowboy uniform.

The NZSSC trust board was formed in 1997, the first chairperson was Bruce Murray.


Elise Bradley (MNZM) is appointed as Musical Director for the 2001-2002 choir and remained with the choir until 2007, when she took up the role of Artistic Director of the Toronto Children’s Chorus.

In 2002, the choir took part in the Australian National Choral Association conference in Brisbane.

2004, the choir toured to the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon, USA and then to the International Choral Kathaumixw in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. In Canada the choir took three first place awards (Mixed Voice Adult Choir, Youth Choir and Folk & Cultural Traditions). In this, the 11th biennial Kathaumixw, NZSSC earned more awards than any other choir in any year over the history of the competition, a record which still stands.

2005/06, the choir competed in the Hong Kong International Youth & Children’s Festival where it took the top award and won the title “The World’s Choir”. Following this the choir travelled to Xiamen, China, where it competed in the World Choir Games, gaining a Gold Award (Champion Mixed Voice Youth Choir) and a Silver Award (Folk and Ethnic Music). Significantly, 148 choirs performed during the first week of these ‘olympics’ and of these only eight received championship awards.


Robert Wiremu was appointed interim-Artistic Director, leading the choir on its tour to Brazil and Argentina. The choir participated in the Melodia 08! Music Festival and sang in Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis, Buenos Aires and La Plata.

Late 2008

Andrew Withington was appointed Musical Director.

The 2009/10 choir toured to Canada, again achieving great success at the International Choral Kathaumixw. The choir won the Adult Mixed Voice competition and came second in both Youth Choir and Folk And Cultural Traditions competitions. A new award was created especially for the NZSSC, the People’s Choice Award, as a result of the way thousands of people at the Kathaumixw responded to their music, as evidenced by standing ovations at every concert, including some audiences of over 2,000 people.

The 2011/12 choir sang in Auckland, in Christchurch as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival and Christchurch Sings, the one year commemoration to the September 2010 earthquake, in Ashburton, in Napier, and in Wellington. Andrew Withington led the choir on a tour to the Ihlombe Music Festival in South Africa, singing alongside international and South African choirs. This was an extraordinary musical and cultural experience for our members.

The 2013/14 choir sang in Wellington, Tauranga, Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Alexandra, Christchurch. Highlights included performing at the ANZAC Dawn Parade in Wellington, 2014, and appearing on What Now children's television show! The choir toured to Singapore, performing at the Orientale Concentus Festival, and in Malaysia.

The 2015/16 New Zealand Secondary Students Choir enjoyed another very successful international tour to the International Choral Kathaumixw Festival in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada, this time as Guest Choir. The festival finale was a massed choir concert of one thousand voices led by the innovative Finnish conductor, Sanna Valvanne

In 2016, NZSSC marked its 30th birthday with the establishment of a Student Support Fund and a concert at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Wellington, where the choir was joined on stage by some of its alumni, including former director, Roger Stevenson.

In 2018, NZSSC toured to Hong Kong to work with the Wah Yan College Kowloon Boys' Choir on a new commission by David Hamilton and attend the Belt and Road  World Choir Festival as Resident Choir.  Then it was on to Shanghai for three more days of musical and cultural adventures, including a performance at NZ Central and working with local choirs including the Vienna Boys Choir Shanghai Choir.

During this period, Artistic Director Andrew Withington completed his PhD, focused on creating his own system to teach choirs to more reliably and consistently sing in tune. Listen to an interview with Andrew discussing this research with Kim Hill on RNZ.

Watch Andrew Withington's final concert with NZSSC: Big Sing Finale 2018, courtesy of NZ Choral Federation


Sue Densem was appointed Music Director of the NZSSC.

In July 2019, the choir worked alongside former NZSSC Music Director Elise Bradley and the Toronto Children's Chorus at NZ Choral Federation's Choral Connect, and later that year toured in the South Island (Dunedin, Christchurch and Timaru).

Before Covid-19 struck in 2020, the choir held a residential course in Napier, with concerts in Napier and Palmerston North. However, singers and staff were devastated at the cancellation of the tour to the Czech Republic and Dresden, Germany in April/May 2020, which would have been the choir's first ever tour to Europe.

The 2019-20 choir was able to end on a high note, with an Auckland / Wellington tour in December 2020. Alumnus Simon O'Neill sang with the choir at a stunning concert in Auckland and again at Government House, Wellington, hosted by NZSSC Patron, Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor General of New Zealand.

The 2021-22 choir first gathered at the Choirs Aotearoa NZ Choral Academy in Auckland, January 2021. In April the choir was honored to be invited to sing at two high profile, national events: the New Zealand memorial service for the Duke of Edinburgh, and the national ANZAC commemoration.

Watch NZSSC perform at the 2021 National ANZAC Commemoration, Wellington, April 25 2021. Wairua Tapu by the Wehi Whanau, arranged Kate Bell, in Māori with NZ sign language.

In July the choir gathered in Auckland and performed at the NZ Choral Federation's Choral Connect closing concert, Cultural Connections.