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Sir Howard Morrison - Rotorua's favourite son

Ngāti Whakaue,

Ngāti Maniapoto


Sir Howard Morrison was born in 1935 in Rotorua. As he grew up he spent much of his time around performers. While still at secondary school firstly at Te Aute College, and then Rotorua Boys' High, he performed in cultural groups, concert parties and show bands.

In 1955 Sir Howard formed singing groups to perform at the local rugby club socials. In 1956, he went to Australia as a member of the Aotearoa Concert Party where he gained more experience. He then formed the Ōhinemutu Quartet with his cousin John, brother Laurie and Gerry Merito.


The quartet changed its name to The Howard Morrison Quartet and soon won a recording contract. The group became well-known for their smooth harmony and cheeky and humorous style of entertaining. These qualities set them apart from their contemporaries and they became very popular.


Following great success and extensive touring, the Howard Morrison Quartet broke up. Sir Howard then set out on a very successful career as a solo entertainer. He had fans all over the world and travelled a great deal to perform for them.


The performance he is probably best known for is his rendition of 'How Great Thou Art/Whakaria Mai' which he performed for a television special in 1982. This is widely considered one of the greatest New Zealand live performances ever filmed. This song stayed at number one in the New Zealand song charts for five weeks.


In 1976 Sir Howard was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and in 1990 he was knighted for his contribution to New Zealand entertainment.


Sir Howard Morrison used his fame to highlight some of the problems he saw in the community such as the struggle many young Māori people were having doing well in their learning.  He set up wānanga and education programmes and visited schools to encourage young people. He was involved in charity work until he passed away in 2009 when he was 74 years old.


In 2014, the Rotorua Convention Centre was re-named the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre in remembrance of all that he gave to the arts and community.

Qualites: innovation, identity

Did you know:

You can watch the full length 1966 film Don’t Let it Get You starring Sir Howard and set in Rotorua on NZ On Screen?

More to watch:

Here’s a great documentary special about the history of Te Arawa hosted by Sir Howard written and directed by Paul Gittens and made available by NZ On Screen:


Choose from a number of other television specials about and starring Sir Howard:


From Rotorua Library:


To Sir with love [video recording (DVD)]: a tribute to Sir Howard Morrison (Sir Howard Morrison, Television New Zealand)


More to read:

From Rotorua Library:

Howard: The life and times of Sir Howard Morrison (Sir Howard Morrison, John Costello)


This entry is related to these other entries:

For the love of Rotorua;



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