One of New Zealand’s most distinguished daughters paid a visit to her old school on November 19.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa visited St Mary’s College in Ponsonby, Auckland, the place where she learned to sing under the guidance of the legendary Dame Sr Mary Leo.

Dame Kiri told TVNZ One’s Seven Sharp she hoped that the students at the St Mary’s “reach their hopes and dreams, that they do achieve, whether it be a mother and having six children or not, whether it’s having a start-up company that succeeds”.

According to an article on the TVNZ website, after a special assembly at the college, which included a pōwhiri, Dame Kiri, who lives in England, told the students, “You always come back to your roots, no matter what happens — your land pulls you back.”

“I don’t care how many people say, ‘Well, I’m happy over here’ — New Zealand is my home, it always will be, and this is most probably where I will end up.

“I’m not sure if it will be in a box, or it will be while I’m still living, but I’m not planning on that just yet.”

After the visit, Dame Kiri reportedly received an ovation, and expressed a wish for those applauding her.

“They lead a good life. And New Zealand has a chance. We can all lead a good life.”

According to the college’s facebook page, Dame Kiri toured the campus — walking among familiar and unfamiliar buildings and heard at the assembly that the legacy of music at St Mary’s College continues.

“A very special day for us all,” the post stated. One of the buildings she visited was the Stella Maris Hall, where she had been guest of honour when it was reopened in 1996.

According to a college newsletter, Dame Kiri had some “very good advice” for year 9 students, when she spoke to them at a rehearsal.

She told the students: Don’t use the word “awesome”. God is awesome and nothing else measures up to God; Don’t say “um”; Don’t let people refer to you as “guys”.

An award has been created, the St Mary’s College Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Award for Exceptional Vocal Performance. The physical award will be developed next year with input from the students, the newsletter stated.
The theatre at the Aotea Centre in Auckland city is
to be called The Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre.

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