How Great Thou Art (Whakaaria Mai)

Howard Morrison, Music Video, 1981

“I hear the roooolling thunder”. Sir Howard Morrison’s classic bilingual rendition of the popular hymn comes from an October 1981 Royal Variety Performance, in front of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Morrison's performance  at Auckland's St James Theatre of 'Whakaaria Mai' marked a comeback for the veteran entertainer, who had been out of the spotlight working in Māori youth development. Released as a single a couple of months later, it topped the charts for four weeks, and led to the commissioning of a televised Howard Morrison Special in 1982.

Collection

Five Decades of NZ Number One Hits

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade  — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.  

The Sir Howard Morrison Story

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

This documentary tells the life story of entertainer Sir Howard Morrison. He discusses his Te Arawa whakapapa, whānau, and Anglican faith. Made by Bryan Bruce, it Includes footage of Morrison's investiture, a visit to his old school Te Aute, early performances by the Howard Morrison Quartet in Rotorua, and performances from throughout his career. Morrison is candid about his ego, his foray into film, and his marriage. An especially touching moment is a visit to an old Tūhoe friend (Morrison spent his early years in the Urewera) with a cloak made for his father.

Sir Howard Morrison - Time of My Life

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

Ol’ Brown Eyes celebrates 40 years in showbiz with this variety concert, alongside some of his mates including Ray Columbus and Bunny Walters. The show is mostly live entertainment, punctuated by a few nostalgic field stories where Sir Howard acknowledges his upbringing and Māoritanga. The show ends with the Morrison whānau performing, followed by the hymn that gave Sir Howard a number one hit in 1982: ‘How Great Thou Art’.  This TV special was dedicated to Sir Howard’s mother Kahu, who was an outstanding singer in her own right.

Artist

Howard Morrison

After honing his skills in the Awapuni Concert Party, Howard Morrison found fame in the late 50s with the Howard Morrison Quartet. Regularly on tour, the group ranged across pop, country, rearrangements of Māori standards, and parodies — including creating the lyrics for apartheid send-up  'My Old Man's an All Black'. Morrison continued to perform solo after he called time on the quartet in 1964; a number of his concerts screened on television. His biggest solo success was 1981 chart-topper 'How Great Thou Art'.  As a public servant, he worked to motivate Māori youth. Morrison passed away on 24 September 2009. 

Suzanne Prentice in Concert

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

Country music singer Suzanne Prentice is given the all-star treatment with this concert special. A major production from an apparently lost era of light entertainment, it was recorded at the Christchurch Town Hall by a crew who had honed their skills on That’s Country. Prentice is backed by the Roger Fox Band, vocalists The Yandall Sisters and Tom Sharplin, and a string section from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Elvis Presley hits and an Anne Murray medley feature in a set list which culminates in an epic version of ‘How Great Thou Art’.

Magic Kiwis - Howard Morrison

Television, 1990 (Full Length Episode)

This episode from Communicado’s series about popular culture heroes focuses on entertainment legend Howard Morrison. Presenter Neil Roberts finds him doing what he does best — performing live at the Huntly Working Men’s Club. He traces Morrison’s life from a Rotorua upbringing through stardom with The Howard Morrison Quartet, a solo career with appearances as The Sexy Savage in Manila, his smash hit ‘How Great Thou Art’ and work in TV and film (in his own feature Don’t Let It Get You, and as a singing shearer in Australia with a young Olivia Newton-John).

E Ipo

Prince Tui Teka, Music Video, 1983

Music legend Prince Tui Teka performs his greatest hit ‘E Ipo’ in this excerpt from a TVNZ special recorded at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom. Based on a traditional Indonesian folk melody, ‘E Ipo’ was written by Teka with Ngoi (‘Poi E’) Pewhairangi, when he was courting her niece (and his future wife) Missy. The two join Tui Teka on stage (along with Pita Sharples’ Te Roopu Manutaki cultural group) for a rousing rendition performed with his trademark verve and humour. The song reached number one, following te reo-dominated chart-toppers 'The Bridge' (sung by Deane Waretini) in 1981, and Howard Morrison's 1982 version of 'How Great Thou Art'.

Howard Morrison

Entertainer [Te Arawa]

His name was synonymous with entertainment in New Zealand. Dubbed Ol' Brown Eyes — Māoridom's version of Frank Sinatra — Howard Morrison's voice and charisma carried him through decades of success both here and abroad. From the Howard Morrison Quartet to time as a solo performer, Morrison's take on songs like 'How Great Thou Art' ensured his waiata an enduring place at the top of local playlists.

Tom Parkinson

Producer

Veteran producer Tom Parkinson has worked with some of New Zealand television's most popular comedians, including David McPhail, Jon Gadsby, and the late Billy T James (who he discovered in an Avondale Rugby League club). He also directed adventure series Hunter's Gold — whose international success helped launch a run of Kiwi-made children's dramas — and produced many international co-productions.