Now Is the Hour
"Now Is the Hour" is a popular song, though often erroneously described as a traditional Māori song. It is usually credited to Clement Scott (music) and Maewa Kaihau & Dorothy Stewart (arrangement and lyrics).
- Po atarau
- E moea iho nei.......
- Now is the hour,
- when we must say goodbye......
The tune of the song first became known in 1913 when it was published by W.H. Paling and Co as a piano-variations piece in Australia, called Swiss Cradle Song and credited to "Clement Scott". Some sources say that, after a tour of New Zealand, the British music critic and travel writer Clement Scott wrote the tune to the "Swiss Cradle Song". However, the family of an Australian, Albert Saunders, has long claimed that the "Clement Scott" who wrote the tune is a pseudonym for Saunders. In any event, the piece consisted of eight variations to the main 16-bar theme. Paling sold 130,000 copies of Swiss Cradle Song.
Māori words were added around 1915 and the tune was slightly changed. It became known as Po Atarau and was used a farewell to Māori soldiers going to the First World War. After this, some white New Zealanders "mistakenly thought [the song was] an old Maori folksong". One claim attributes the first words to two Māori groups of sheep shearers, the Grace and Awatere families, of Tuparoa.
In 1920 Maewa Kaihau wrote an opening verse in English as "This is the hour.." for her daughter who had become attached to a member of a visiting royal party, who was shortly to leave. She also modified the Po Atarau tune and added another Māori translation. When it became popular, Maewa Kaihau claimed the words and tune as her own work, but then Paling asserted their copyright for the tune. Nevertheless Maewa Kaihau's words were copyrighted in 1928. In 1935 Kaihau modified the Po Atarau version again to become the Haere Ra Waltz Song, which was performed as the last waltz at dances and farewells.
The song was first recorded by Ana Hato in 1927 with minor variations in the lyrics. English singer, Gracie Fields, learnt Haere Ra on a visit to New Zealand in 1945 in Rotorua. While travelling in her car, her driver taught her a version of it and it became a world-wide hit in 1948. Fields' manager, Dorothy Stewart, is credited with amending to the opening line to Now is the Hour, and with adding another verse. Other recordings of the song were made by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Eddy Howard, Kate Smith, and Gale Storm. Hayley Westenra, a soprano from New Zealand, sang the song at the closing of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
- "Music: Now Is the Hour", Time Magazine, January 19, 1948
- Scowcroft, Philip L. "A 206th Garland of British Composers", June 2001, MusicWeb International, accessed 1 May 2014
- Smyth, Terry. "Unsung hero", Sunday Star-Times, 13 December 2009, accessed 1 May 2014
- New Zealand Folk Song Site
- New Zealand History Web Site
- “Search Me, O God” at the Cyber Hymnal.