Faith and Commitment: Tony Vercoe and the Kiwi-Pacific Records Story

The Kiwi-Pacific Records Story
Tony Vercoe, talking with Tony Martin

Steele Roberts Aotearoa 2017

One doesn’t know whom to thank most heartily regarding the appearance of this book, “The Kiwi-Pacific Records Story” – perhaps the triumvirate of storyteller Tony Vercoe, interviewer Tony Martin and publisher Roger Steele deserves equal shared credit. It’s a book whose subject – the formation and development of a truly homegrown recording company determined to support the work of classical and indigenous composers, musicians, poets, artists and designers within Aotearoa – belongs with other inspirational histories of local artistic endeavours. These include Donald Munro’s Opera Company, Richard Campion’s New Zealand Players and Poul Gnatt’s Ballet Company, ventures which also helped change New Zealand forever during the 1950s.

When long-established publishers AH and AW Reed began Kiwi Records for educational purposes in 1957, the company envisaged certain projects involving music, but lacked any personnel with the experience and expertise to organise any such recordings. The right person in the right place at the right time happened to be Tony Vercoe, at that stage working for the Broadcasting Corporation in Wellington, and whom Reeds approached (on the recommendation of the legendary music scholar and broadcaster John A. Gray, who was also working for Radio) to handle the production of some of their projects on an ad hoc basis.

Vercoe, working in his spare time at first, was able to do this for a brief period until summoned by his Broadcasting bosses and told that his activities represented “a conflict of interests”. When Reeds heard about his predicament, the company offered Vercoe a full-time job, which, after careful consideration with his wife, Mary, he accepted, regarding the new venture as “a challenge and an opportunity”. That he, along with Mary’s unqualified support and assistance, made an enormous success of this venture up to his retirement from the operation in 1989, is the story that this book absorbingly tells.

It does so by reproducing a series of interviews between Vercoe and his nephew, Tony Martin which were begun in 2013. Though specifically concentrating on the story of the Kiwi-Pacific Records involvement, some of the background to the story is also covered, giving Vercoe’s decision to go with Reeds a “context” of previous experience, inclination and interest. Thus the book begins with his post-war years spent in London, his training as a singer at Trinity College and then at the Royal College of Music, and his experiences as a performer, both in the 1951 Festival of Britain and the 1952 Edinburgh Festival, with leading roles in a couple of productions. Mary had come to Britain in 1950 to join him, and they were married in London, and able to enjoy together the plethora of musical and theatrical activity which Vercoe later described as formative and, in retrospect, instructive regarding what he was eventually to become involved in with his management of Kiwi Records.

We learn about the circumstances accompanying the couple’s return to New Zealand at the end of 1953, a decision made upon expecting their first child, though Vercoe had by this time worked successfully, if intermittently, with the Old Vic Company for a period and had just received a singing job offer from the prestigious Sadlers Wells Opera Company. For some reason the narrative’s chapter order relegates the couple’s re-establishment in New Zealand to after a handful of chapters discussing Kiwi’s early Maori, Pacific and Folk and Country ventures – only after these are “done” do we get back into the “swing” of events that led to Vercoe moving from the broadcasting job that he’d taken on returning home, to full-time employment with Reeds Publishers and Kiwi Records. However, the book doesn’t pretend to follow strict overall chronologies, concentrating instead upon beginnings and developments within different individual themes and genres, making it more “accessible” as a reference source to any given vein of activity.

So, while not necessarily told in a conventionally “what happened next” kind of way, the thread of Vercoe’s progress from post-war London through those times of burgeoning creative and artistic activity in New Zealand during the 1950s and 1960s to the fully-fledged activities of Kiwi-Pacific Records throughout the 1970s and 1980s, can be found within the chronicles as tautly-wound and finely-tuned as ever, up to his retirement as owner-manager of the company in 1989. One gets the feeling because of this, that for Vercoe, the raison d’etre of the story’s retelling was never HIM, but the company and its different aspects under his stewardship. He reveals enough throughout, regarding his own attitudes and values, to shine forth as a personality, a determined and no-nonsense “mover and shaker” of things, principled and unswerving in his commitment to “the cause”. But we’re constantly being invited to focus on and admire the view, rather than the guide’s exposition of it.

For this reason one is stimulated, rather than disconcerted, by the book’s criss-crossing of general flow with specific detailings, perhaps generating something of the “what happens next?” aspect of the operation’s range and scope. Vercoe himself admitted, both in the book and elsewhere, that he didn’t envisage when taking the job on the extent to which the company would diversify its interest in creative homegrown activities, and that he “learnt by doing” for much of the time. Each of the categories he discusses and elaborates on regarding what took place has in the telling its surprises and unexpected twists and turns – something which Vercoe came to regard as “the territory” and accounting for his unshirking commitment to what Douglas Lilburn referred to as “our musical identities”, and more besides.

Entirely characteristic of Vercoe’s attitude in this respect was the outreach towards the sounds and music of the nearby Pacific Islands, hardly any of which had, if ever, been commercially recorded at that time, culminating in Kiwi Records’ coverage of the various South Pacific Festivals of Arts – an approach which pleased both academics wanting the preservation of traditional material and the general public who responded with obvious enjoyment to the entertainment. Of course, both traditional Maori and early Pakeha folksong material provided rich veins of material for the same reasons, Vercoe utilising the talents of performers as diverse as the great Maori bass Inia te Wiata and folksingers Neil Colquhoun and Phil Garland.  Each of these categories gave rise to the discovery of talents which flourished in other directions – Kiri te Kanawa, for example, made her first recording for Kiwi Records of “Maori Love Duets” with Rotorua tenor Hohepa Mutu; and songwriter/performers Peter Cape, Willow Macky and Ken Avery took New Zealand folksong into a more contemporary realm with the company’s support and espousal.

In the classical field, Kiwi’s first venture, helped by Vercoe’s “connections” with Broadcasting actually used an NZBS recording of Douglas Lilburn’s “Sings Harry”, an EP (extended play 7” disc) which became THE iconic recording, though the first orchestral LP also featured Lilburn’s music, containing as it did “Landfall in Unknown Seas”, with poet Allen Curnow reading his verses. Another iconic recording was that of David Farquhar’s  music for “Ring Round the Moon”, as was the first of Lilburn’s electronic compositions to be recorded, a setting of Alistair Campbell’s poem “The Return”. All of these and other ventures, along with descriptions of Vercoe’s dealings with individuals and groups whose names constitute a “Who’s Who” of New Zealand classical musicians, are described and placed in a context where corresponding activities such as recording steam trains, bird song and pipe bands were also given valuable time and effort.

The story isn’t without its moments of drama and conflict, as with Vercoe’s initiative in arranging with the Russian record label Melodiya access for Kiwi to Russian recordings featuring the top Soviet artists of the day, and even pressing the discs here for distribution, an activity which, at the height of the “Cold War” inevitably earned Kiwi some attention from the SIS, the acency wanting to know about everything that had been discussed with the Russians, fearful of a possible “security risk”. Later than this and more profound in effect was a physical attack on Kiwi Pacific’s premises in Wellington’s Wakefield St. by the henchmen of a developer who wanted to occupy the whole of the building, and took umbrage at the Company’s refusal to give up its lease –  fortunately the damage wasn’t irreversible, and compensation was duly paid.

To anatomise the whole range and scope of the company’s activities as presented here would be pointless – better to read the original and enjoy what Douglas Lilburn’s “definitive interpreter”, pianist Margaret Nielsen, who commented to me on “the interplay between the two Tonys”, described as “like a superb piece of Chamber Music”. All credit, then, to Vercoe’s nephew Tony Martin, whose questionings allowed the process of interaction and flow of information full sway, and to Steele Roberts Publishers for producing a characteristically accessible, attractive and spontaneously-readable book, furthering their ongoing espousal of things which matter here in New Zealand. It’s an issue which I’m sure would have given Tony Vercoe himself immense satisfaction.


Jack Body – lightning leaping from the pages

JACK! – celebrating Jack Body, composer
edited by Jennifer Shennan, Gillian Whitehead & Scilla Askew
published by Steele Roberts, Aotearoa, 2015

Available from:
Steele Roberts Publishers,
Box 9321, Wellington, Aotearoa, New Zealand
e-mail: info@steeleroberts

Wednesday 10th June 2015

This beautifully-prepared and richly-annotated volume contains a remarkable array of testaments of love and regard for a man whose life and work deeply touched not only immediate friends and colleagues, but many people involved with music in New Zealand, throughout South-East Asia and around the world.

Happily, it appeared while its subject, Jack Body, was still very much alive, by all accounts – an acknowledgement is made by the editors to the composer’s “stamina and concentration” in making every effort to assist with the work. Hence the opening pages proudly carry the dedication “To Jack and Yono, with love” (Yono Soekarno being Jack’s long-term partner).

Appropriately heading the list of names on a subsequent “Acknowledgements” page is another Jack – a long-time friend and supporter of Body’s, and much-esteemed arts patron Jack C.Richards, recipient of the 2014 Arts Foundation Award for Patronage, and whose support for this project made the book’s publication possible.

A feature stemming directly from the attitude of the book’s subject to biography is its avoidance of what one of the editors, Jennifer Shennan, calls “conventional ordering”. In citing Body’s “low tolerance for boredom, cliche and comfort zones”, she relishes all the more his initial response to the project – “Oh, I don’t need a book – better to have a concert!” – before recording the composer’s inevitable “day-follows-night” movement towards interest and enthusiasm for it all.

It follows that the finished work is, like its subject, a unique phenomenon, inviting no comparisons and following no formulae – it assuredly won’t be the last word on Jack (other biographers will see to that!) but his proximity to its “making” gives it all extraordinary resonance, his presence almost talismanic throughout its many adroitly-woven parallel strands which cluster around and about “pools” (well, oceanic lakes, really!) of deep-currented osmotic activity.

The composer’s actual biographical details can be found amid these different contexts, both via a section of its own called “Beginnings: family and music” (significantly, NOT at the book’s very beginning!) and a transcript of a landmark interview of Body’s with Elizabeth Kerr, as part of Radio NZ Concert’s “Composer of the Week” Series during 2014.

So, Jack himself tells some of his own story, but by far the bulk of the observations regarding his life, activities and achievements are made by the hundred-plus people whose contributions (mostly the written word, but also photographic and musical) give the reader something of the true measure of the man’s manifold accomplishments regarding his own and other people’s music, his range and scope of things in those areas alone being positively Lisztian!

One would think that the impression made by such and so many laudatory statements would begin to pall upon a reading-through of them – but Jack’s net of contact with people was obviously cast so widely and deeply (and cross-culturally), that one is struck as much by the variety of response as by its positive consistency. As individuals recorded their responses so must they have been encouraged from the start by Jack’s openness and warmth to be themselves with him deeply and utterly – so what comes across is a rich diversity and vibrancy of response that simply encourages one to read more – and more……..

There are more gems of individuality among the tributes than I can list, but I offer a few, nevertheless – “musical spark-plug” – “a true rangatira” – “visionary nation-builder” – “bottomless bounteousness” – “a great “zhi yin” (bosom friend) of Chinese music” – “the song-catcher” – “totally subversive” – “gift of a man” – “changed my life by 180 degrees” – “wonderful Body-parts”……one senses that Jack’s inspiration often gave rise to creative impulses of affection and admiration for which music was only the starting-point.

Speaking of starting-points, one such is the direct initial impression made by the publication, a volume without a dust-jacket but still nevertheless eye-catching in appearance with its gold-leaf title “Jack” embossed upon an (appropriately?) burgundy-hued cover containing also a white-pencil sketch of the composer’s face, featuring the characteristic moustache. Inside, the paper is pleasing to the touch, and the fonts with their few variants are attractive and clearly set, invariably on white backgrounds, and never against colours or hues which clash with and obscure the letters.

The words having been given their dues, the accompanying graphics are telling and vivid throughout – each of the sections features an introductory title page bedecked with designs or motifs characteristic of and readily suggesting its subject, and almost every contributor is represented by a photograph, colour, sepia and/or black-and-white. Some bring a smile, while others raise the eyebrows with a start – a particular favorite of mine features Body as a mad, google-eyed gamelan player delightedly unnerving two hapless members of the ensemble.

In short, it’s a book which to my mind has considerable visceral appeal, even before one begins reading – one enjoys the ready “chaos of delight” of colours and textures which blaze forth, but is then drawn into the “mix and mingle” to find method in the tumbling warmth of it all, the strands encircling the different pools and resonating with the sounds of voices and music suggested by the words.

Cleverly, we’re taken to each of the different areas of exploration and activity Body involved himself in and with, beginning the process with a section devoted to Indonesia, the first of the composer’s “exotic” explorations, and here subtitled “discovering a new sensuality”. As well as warm and grateful tributes from his indonesian mentors and students, there’s a detailed appreciation of his work from a fellow-ethnomusicologist, who did work for the Smithsonian “Folkways” set of recordings from the USA. This was inspired by Jack’s recordings of the country’s ethnic music, his American colleague admiring the “integrity” of his gathered material and his methods.

And so the book proceeds through the various “theatres” of Body’s work, by way of similar sections devoted to China and to Cambodia, as well as activities and projects back in New Zealand and elsewhere.  In the “China” chapter, events of vital significance to this country’s cultural heritage, such as the premiere of Jack’s opera “Alley”, are highlighted. The premiere’s conductor Peter Walls thoughtfully and beautifully equates the genesis and societal context of the work with that of Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” in seventeenth-century Italy. Another section, “In performance – embracing the world”, brings into focus Jack’s relationship with groups such as the Kronos Quartet, for whom he wrote a number of works that have since been performed in places far removed from New Zealand.

Running alongside and through these sections is the inspirational Radio NZ Concert interview with Body, conducted with insight and sensitivity by Elizabeth Kerr – again, no mere retelling of a life’s minutae, but one furnishing so many insights per minute (rather than the other way round!). I found most illuminating the sections where the composer outlines and explores his compulsions to firstly explore material and then use, or (as he puts it) “reinterpret it”. He goes on to confess, openly and modestly, that the music is transformed through his actions  to reveal something of himself, with all his limitations.

What’s refreshing is the candor of the man, a composer who doesn’t hesitate to express his creative angst of having to fill emptiness, and therefore turning with relief to something that’s already there and refashioning it “nearer to the heart’s desire”. And what about any associated “crises of confidence”? – in the same utterance they’re characterized as “no bad thing” for a composer, which is remarkable as a metaphor for strength of will overcoming self-doubt. It’s also part of the demystification processes which Jack Body saw as central to his particular “heart’s desire”. And this book gives us many such instances of the essence of Body’s particular no-holds-barred brand of creativity.

The most complimentary thing I can think of saying about the book is that it’s enabled me to feel as though I now know Jack Body a whole lot better than I did. People who knew him well will be far less surprised by what’s covered here, but to others like myself whose contact with him consisted of meeting occasionally at concerts, registering, however briefly, his warmth and friendliness, and who know some of his music through live performances and recordings, the sheer range and depth of his activities here presented is nothing short of revelatory – as fellow-composer Helen Bowater said about meeting him for the first time, it’s like “being struck by lightning – never the same again!”.

Editors Jennifer Shennan, Gillian Whitehead and Scilla Askew can, I think be extremely proud of the result of their labours, in tandem with Steele Roberts Publishers. Together they have done for Jack what he himself repeatedly did in his own work – expressed essential and enduring things, which his friends already knew, but which people such as myself can now discover and realize more fully for ourselves throughout these lively, warm-hearted and inspiring pages.





The Ginger Series tackles classical music with a captivating, oblique apologia

How to Hear Classical Music by Davinia Caddy
No 11 in The Ginger Series
Published by Awa Press, Wellington

Book review

One has waited quite a while for this brilliant little series of monographs to find a writer able to deal with what the media likes to suggest is about the most intractable (and irrelevant) of artistic fields: classical music.

The many subjects covered so far have included such quirky topics as bird watching, watching video games, how to pick a winner, fishing, as well as more serious matters like listening to pop music, reading a book, watching rugby and cricket, looking at paintings.

So I was delighted when this book appeared, in large part because a few years ago Mary Varnham of Awa Press had invited me to try my hand at the subject. It attracted me greatly because I have developed quite strong views on the nature and importance of music, especially over the 25 years that I have been writing music reviews.

But although I had clear ideas as to the style and tone of a book that would match the excellence of those that were appearing in this series, what I wrote persisted in deviating from that path. The temptation to self-indulgence (as will be in evidence below), to draw too much on my own memories and experience of exploring and discovering music, not to mention becoming unduly polemical, proved too strong, and I also came to realize that the job of being entertaining, of employing lots of amusing and relevant anecdotes, and vivid examples that would hold the reader’s attention, called for time-consuming research that I never made space for.

A quick skim through Davinia Caddy’s achievement, however, showed me how it should be done.

What struck me first was her avoidance of any predictable organization of material either chronological or by topic. So the chapters deal with notions and conceptual things that are usually introduced by an anecdote, often drawn from the writer’s own experience as a student or as a teacher.

The uses of classical music
Nothing could have been as arresting as story No 1: the author, house-hunting in Auckland, comes across the full score of Massenet’s little-known opera, Esclamonde, sitting ostentatiously on a piano in an evidently pretentious house for sale. It leads obliquely to a consideration of one of the uses of classical music – ostentation.

It was the entrée to chapters that sought to discover whether there were more important reasons for its continued relevance, indeed for its indispensability to civilization and to the fulfilment of human desires and needs.

The next chapter was entitled ‘Play me, I’m yours’; it described a phenomenon that has yet to reach New Zealand: the placing of old pianos, tolerably playable, in public places. The writer’s first encounter was with one on the approach to the Millennium Bridge in London, where she watched people play it shyly, tentatively, confidently, virtuosically (the small George dashes through the fiendish last movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata).   There are scores of such pianos in public spaces round London and in many cities round the world; the inspiration of British artist Luke Jerram, it’s clearly a growth industry.

Davinia observes that the pianos, in unusual places, and the music that people play on them has a remarkable social impact, and quotes thinkers from Plato on who have recorded the powerful spiritual force of music. Classical music has a hold over listeners.

Later chapters too, deal with aspects of music’s uses, starting with early Christian and Renaissance music, but somewhat surprisingly Davinia explores Ockeghem’s Missa Prolationum somewhat analytically, discussing the use of canon and other technicalities. Ultimately she reveals her reason for employing such an example – ‘you can float away on the soaring phrases’, and it leads to recalling Baudelaire’s understanding of the character of Wagner’s music which acts in a similar way.

‘Concert halls, blow ‘em up’
The matter of where music is played reappears later, in a chapter, ‘Concert halls, blow ‘em up’. A follow-up of Boulez’s famous recommendation for opera houses, she hesitates at that but perhaps shares a tendency to denigrate the normal concert hall environment: dim light, silence, quasi-religious, seeming to ignore the fact that crowds still happily inhabit these places, enjoying the whole experience of dressing up a bit, talking to others before, during and after, interval drinks; just the whole thing. (I was not born into affluence or high society, yet I never remember, as a teen-ager, feeling in the least inhibited in going to concerts in the Town Hall). Pop concerts too take place in the same halls. However, she does advocate widening the range of places where classical music happens and enlivening music with the help of other art forms; she tells pertinent stories of The Rite of Spring performances in London and Auckland where young dancers and spontaneity brought different experiences to listeners.

‘Performance anxiety’ begins with the question about the place of performers between composer and listener, concluding that our era has elevated the performer’s role to stardom compared with the view a century ago that ‘a work’s meaning lay in its internal qualities and technical innovations rather than in its social function and expressive qualities’; thus its performance was a matter of little import. It’s this emphasis today on the importance of performance that has led to seeking for historically informed performance of earlier music, particularly the baroque and ‘classical’ periods and she writes engagingly about John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. Under this heading too, is reference to the remarkable Los Reciclados, an orchestra, the Landfillharmonic, formed by deprived children living on a landfill in Paraguay who have created instruments from recycled rubbish. See interalia:…/landfill-harmonic-an-upcoming-documentary.

Classical music for beginners
A book like this needs to offer a bit of guidance to the sort of music the tyro might be attracted to, blown away by. The little diversions in that direction read a little like self-conscious parentheses: composers’ dates of birth, and dates of pieces of music, but it’s often the musical examples that look odd, for they are generally there just to illustrate an argument rather than as recommendations that will change your life.

As a result the names sometimes appear slightly arcane and rather much attention, interesting in itself, is devoted to music unlikely to win over novices to classical music. Thus the range of actual suggestions is limited, and there is little room to describe what they are like and what they might do for or to you. Though when she does offer descriptions they are colourful and evocative.

I often wonder at the neglect these days of much of the music that took me by the throat in my teens, and still has a hold. Leaving aside the major symphonies and concertos: a variety of arias and choruses from Bach and Handel, Bach’s concertos, Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks, Wagner’s arrangement of the overture to Iphigenia in Aulis, overtures of Mozart, Beethoven, Boieldieu, Weber, Rossini, Auber, Hérold, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Wagner’s Rienzi and Tannhäuser, Offenbach, Brahms’s Academic Festival, Dvořák; Beethoven’s Archduke Trio;  Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola, the clarinet concerto and quintet; Schubert: many songs, Trout Quintet, Violin sonatina in D; quite a lot of Chopin’s, Liszt’s and Schumann’s piano music; Berlioz’s Hungarian March, Minuet of the Will-o’-the-wisps; and the Trojan March and ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ from Les Troyens; Tchaikovsky: 1812, Romeo and Juliet, Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, the ballet suites; Franck’s Symphony in D minor; Sibelius’s Finlandia and the Karelia Suite; Vltava, Symphonie fantastique, Schumann’s songs, Carnaval and Fantaisie, the Piano Quintet; Les Préludes; pops like España and Fête polonaise of Chabrier, Polovstian Dances, Widor’s Toccata from his fifth organ symphony, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol, Gaité Parisienne and Les deux pigeons ballet suites, The Bartered Bride dances, ballet music from Meyerbeer’s Les patineurs, and Offenbach’s ballet, Le papillon, Poulenc’s Les Biches; Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, Clog Dance from Zar und Zimmermann, Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper by Weinberger; ballet suites from music of Boccherini, Domenico Scarlatti, Gluck, Bach and Handel; waltzes of Johann and Joseph Strauss, Waldteufel, Lumbye and Ivanovici’s Donauwellen; Richard Strauss: Rosenkavalier suite, Till Eulenspiegel, Also sprach Zarathustra and Don Juan...   [I could go on; but sorry about the proliferation, the flow became uncontrollable].

The nature of opera
Opera tends to be the target of particular attack in many quarters, criticized as irrational ever since it first appeared. Caddy deals with this up to a point, though failing to note than most opera is based on plays, poems and novels which appear not to attract the same scorn by reason of improbability; suspension of disbelief is a pre-requisite of most art.

And this chapter is distracted by consideration of the occurrence of songs within an opera that are directed within the drama rather than at the audience.  Many plays have songs in them, but opera is singled out as irrational because its medium is also that of certain parts of the story, the term is apparently ‘diegetic’ music. Her example: Carmen singing to Don José; there are lots of others: the Italian tenor in Rosenkavalier, Cherubino’s ‘Voi che sapete’, the Don serenading Elvira’s maid: ‘Deh vieni alla fenestra’. And how about Walther’s Prize song in Die Meistersinger?

So this section falls short perhaps of generating an overwhelming compulsion for the reader to become an opera fanatic.

The most fruitful pages are those where the author demonstrates how media reports of the death of classical music are stupid and wrong. In drawing on examples such as Mozart to demonstrate how classical music had not traditionally been considered elitist, navel-gazing, complex and difficult, she stresses how composers till the last century wrote music to make a living and used popular musical forms and tunes routinely. Thus it had to please the audience, and what’s wrong with that?

The problem of ‘modern’ classical music
In contrast, she quotes, approvingly, a description of much ‘modern classical’ music as ‘scientific experiment’, taking apart a piece by Milton Babbitt of no audible beauty, quoting remarks that such music is for the academic musician and not to be played in public.

Yet much unlistenable music is dutifully included in public concerts and is sometimes justified, Caddy explains, alleging that traditional sounds in music have become impossible for a serious composer in the wake of the horrors of 20th century wars. (Earlier war horrors did not impinge on Purcell or Bach, Mozart or even Beethoven or the French composers such as Offenbach, Franck, Bizet, Fauré, Saint-Saëns and Massenet who lived through the Franco-Prussian war and then the Paris commune with no marked effect on their music. Why make an exception of the late 20th century to justify the creation of ugly music?)

Clearly, she shares the view that this stuff has contributed largely, along with the huge growth of popular music and many changes in society, to the alienation of the general population from, not just the ‘classical music’ of today, but through collateral damage, to the standing of great, classical music in general.

Another major element in the decline of classical music, as well as of all the arts and literature generally, as Caddy reflects, has been their virtual banning from the school curriculum. If humans aren’t exposed to certain experiences, like music, poetry and foreign languages, in childhood and youth, they can well remain blind and deaf to them throughout life.

And finally, she deals with the civilizing benefits of classical music, tongue-in-cheek perhaps with regard to curing physical and psychological problems, but she successfully establishes, nevertheless, its ubiquity, universality and sheer indispensibility.


Organ Megalomania: Christopher Hainsworth courtesy Maxwell Fernie

Maxwell Fernie Trust

Chris Hainsworth, organ

Alex Lithgow (1870-1907): Invercargill March
The Four Seasons: Grieg: Spring; Cedric Hargraves (1921-2010): Summer Idyll; Joseph Kosma (1905-1969): Autumn Leaves; Antoine Vivaldy [sic]: Winter
Bach: Sinfonia; Chorale Prelude; ‘Jig’ Fugue BWV 577
Handel: ‘Jug’ Concerto in Bfl., Op.4 no.2 (2 movements: Grand Overture & Allegro)
Lefébure-Wély: Spring, Andante
John Wells: Kokako Fanfare and March
[Hainsworth]: Fantasia Super Quindecim
Théodore Salomé: Prélude-Cantilène
Édouard Batiste: Postlude and a bottomless epilogue
Grand Megalomaniacal Improvisation

St. Mary of the Angels Church

Sunday, 17 February 2013, 7.30pm

Chris Hainsworth believes that organ recitals should not be solemn, passive affairs. Wisecracks and commentary from the organ loft (not all of which could be heard toward the front of the church) and jocular groupings of pieces in the printed programme (e.g. The Four Seasons – NOT by Vivaldi; Strictly for the Birds and Grand Megalomaniacal Improvisation) gave the flavour. However, the layout on the printed page was not helpful in some cases in identifying what pieces went with which group titles and which composers.

As a former pupil of Maxwell Fernie (as I am), Hainsworth was, through this recital, supporting the Maxwell Fernie Trust, that assists young organists. A welcome innovation, only previously seen by me in the Wellington Town Hall, was to have a screen at the front of the church showing the image of Hainsworth playing the organ. The side-on view showed both feet and hands well. I’m told the camera operator was Maxwell Fernie’s son.

Hainsworth’s sense of humour was immediately apparent when his ‘pipe-opener’, the well-known brass band piece by Lithgow (internationally well-known, according to Chris Hainsworth), was introduced by the opening of Strauss’s familiar Also Sprach Zarathustra (known to many as the theme music for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey). This rousing start continued straight on to the March; some might say ‘from the sublime to the cor blimey’, but the March is certainly a grand piece of band music.

The Four Seasons was an innovative and rich mixture of pieces, from Grieg’s well-known piano solo, in which the rhythm of the quavers was frequently uneven, to variations on the popular and attractive Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma. In between was a contemporary piece by Cedric Hargraves, and the quartet ended with one movement of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ concerto.

Composer Nicolas Chédeville (1705–1782) arranged some of Vivaldi’s works and mixed them with pieces of his own; he spelt the Italian’s name in Frenchified fashion, as above. (Wikipedia, compared with Chris Hainsworth, makes his sin not plagiarism but arrangement of the older composer’s music, and ingratiating some of his own work into it.)

Bach’s ‘Jig Fugue’ is a lively and technically demanding piece. It came after a Sinfonia from Cantata no. 29 (arranged for organ by a Frenchman) and a chorale prelude. The Sinfonia was taken at a brisk pace, with even separation of notes; a crisp 2-foot stop added brilliance to the sound. The chorale prelude was ‘Liebster Jesu, wie sind hier’ (BWV 731), a most lovely one, and the first Bach taught to me by Maxwell Fernie – and one I always enjoy playing. Here again, the quavers were not always even when they should have been – not that I’m in favour of strict renditions any more than Maxwell Fernie was. Rubato, yes; slight accelerando, yes; but phrases of quavers should be even in rhythm. However, the splendid organ was shown off well, and changes of registration in the fugue were most effective; the playing was always lively. What a heritage Maxwell Fernie gave us in the interpretation of Bach’s organ music!

The ‘Jig’ of Bach was followed by the ‘Jug’ of Handel. His concerto is apparently nicknamed the ‘Jug’, although I could not find any reference to this on my recording, in Grove or Wikipedia. However, Chris Hainsworth justified this name by telling the audience that the composer relished the good life, and perhaps after a concert enjoyed a drink of Handel’s lager. Hainsworth played the sprightly, tuneful two movements, full of appealing melodies and rhythms, with contrasting registrations and elegant baroque style and flair.

The avians flew in (no pun intended) in both exotic and native dress. The Spring and Andante of Lefébure-Wély featured haunting flute stops (just a few pipes were not speaking properly) and were followed by John Wells’s Kokako Fanfare and March (do kokako march?). I found the registration of the fanfare a little strident for the clear-toned kokako – but perhaps it was honouring the bird rather than imitating it. Plangent flute sounds towards the end of the piece were more kokako-like.

Fantasia Super Quindecim was obviously an ingenious construction of Chris Hainsworth’s own; a ‘hommage’ to New Zealand rugby (the title denoting five Super Rugby teams of fifteen players each – thanks to a friend for pointing that out). We had ‘Highland Cathedral’, ‘March of the Crusaders’, The Birth of the Blues’ ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Mooloo’ movements.

The provincial appellations are eminently obvious, and some of the music was too: the bagpipes of the first movement sounded thoroughly authentic in tone and manner; the imposing, British imperial style of the march was magnificent, sweeping all before it. The Aucklanders – sorry, Blues – had a bassoon sound intoning the tunes (or was it the blues?), followed by much swinging in and out of the swell pedal (very obvious on-screen) to typify the capital. Perhaps I was not listening closely enough to hear any bovine sounds for Hainsworth’s former home territory. There succeeded intimations of Widor, the New Zealand National Anthem, and Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ to bring battle to a conclusion.

Throughout the recital, Chris Hainsworth revealed a splendid technique with plenty of detachment of notes, but always with musical integrity and in keeping with the style of the composers. That the performer is a thoroughly knowledgeable musician was always apparent.

Pieces by two minor French composers came next. That by Salomé was very attractive, featuring delightful registrations, principally reeds and flutes; a mainly quiet, contemplative piece. In contrast, the Batiste was bombastic and rousing, letting the organ have its head. (Richard Strauss would have been amused at the juxtaposition of these two composers’ names!)

As a finale, there was the improvisation. As a piece of theatre, the ploy of Hainsworth fishing up a sealed envelope containing the theme upon which to improvise with a line from the organ loft down to the theme’s deviser, Douglas Mews, was fun. Hainsworth played the theme, then immediately rendered it in modal fashion. That was followed by a birdsong version with chordal accompaniment.

More variations followed, working up to something reminiscent of Widor, and a return to modal tonality. A fanfare sounded an introduction to a section with thundering pedals, fading somewhat into a bouncy rhythm with much harmonic modulation and use of all three manuals for different effects; in fact, playing in a bunch of keys.

A brassy episode appeared, with the theme played on the pedals – this ended with another echo of Widor, and more unexpected modulation. The ending was rather too drawn out for my liking, but the whole was a considerable tour de force, to end a memorable recital.


LDA rides again – a new lease of life for a life in music

LDA – L.D.Austin’s life in music

(edited by Allan Thomas)

Steele Roberts Publishers 2012

Review by William Green

Louis Daly Austin – London-born teacher, composer, New Zealand pianist, columnist and inveterate letter-writer – lived a long and productive life … too long and too productive would be the opinion of his detractors, and it would be fair to say that there were many. Readers of newspapers and of the Listener during the 1950s and 1960s would no doubt remember being subjected to a barrage of sharply-worded letters from Austin (or ‘LDA’) expounding in no uncertains terms his typically reactionary views not only on musical matters but on anything which had provoked his ire. Often others would fire salvos back at him, not always seriously, as the following example illustrates. Austin objected to the carillon in Wellington, recommending that it be dismantled and reassembled on Somes Island, in Wellington harbour. Someone replied that it would surely be cheaper to take L.D. Austin and reassemble him on Somes Island.

But what shaped this trenchant critic into the controversial figure many knew only through his later correspondence? We now have musicologist Allan Thomas to thank for bringing Austin’s hitherto unpublished memoir to light – nearly fifty years after it was written – in a volume published by Steele Roberts. Allan edited the manuscript and provided an introductory paragraph but due to illness he was unable to see it through to publication. We owe a debt of gratitude to his family for bringing the project to completion after his death in 2010.

Far from being solely an excuse for airing a collection of firm opinions, the memoir reveals a colourful and varied life with a generous sprinkling of encounters with the good and the great, and a substantial fund of anecdotes, many of which – detractors take note – are surprisingly humorous. Being born into a wealthy and cultured family in London in 1877 predisposed him to a love of the arts and from an early age he attended a great many concerts, recitals and theatre performances. His depiction of musical life in London during the 1890s and early 1900s is rich in detail – he describes it as “the richest musical period of my whole life” – and one can sense his excitement at hearing such luminaries as Paderewski, Rachmaninov, Casals and Caruso first hand.

In 1908 however, he made a complete break with his past and travelled first to Australia and then on to New Zealand, where he discovered his true calling as a cinema musician. For nearly thirty years he worked as a pianist, orchestra director and arranger for silent film in various parts of New Zealand. This chapter of his life, in turn, ended with the advent of the ‘talkies’ and at nearly 60 years of age he forged a new career as a teacher, radio broadcaster and music columnist, penning his last column the night before his death in 1967 at the age of 90. This later period also saw him flourish as a composer and several of his pianistically written (if conservative) compositions were played by Moura Lympany and Louis Kentner.

His middle period, as it were, gives us an insight into early cinema days in Australia and New Zealand and also provides us with some of the more unusual anecdotes. During a mining strike in Newcastle he and his fellow musicians were pelted with lumps of coal by nearly 1000 drunk miners, and while playing solo on a later occasion – and having unknowingly replaced a band of five musicians who were bent on revenge – he was bombarded by ” a curtainfire of orange-peel, banana-skins, odd pieces of confectionery, empty chocolate boxes, ice-cream cones and other miscellaneous ammunition”. Fire, wind blowing music off music stands and a plague of water rats added to the challenges of the job, as did a bevy of colourful colleagues and employers. On two separate occasions he was swindled by the same violinist and once got into a fist fight with an Italian flautist who, he decided, was deliberately playing in his face. An earlier incident where he tore a cigar out of a manager’s mouth and slapped him hard across the face did him no favours. His ‘Irish blood’ was boiling, he states by way of explanation.

However, if we wish to understand Austin the later reactionary we must turn back again to that golden era of his life, the London of the 1890s and early 1900s. It was a magical time for him, not only of witnessing great musical performances but of meeting Sir Arthur Sullivan, thrilling to the acting talents of his godfather Sir Henry Irving and finding himself at Clara Schumann’s funeral, standing at the graveside next to a blubbering Brahms. And how many others can claim to have been snubbed by Moritz Rosenthal? It was in this cultural melting pot that he felt at home musically, and all subsequent composers’ works were measured against its conservative standards – and often found wanting. “Thus was my musical taste firmly established” he writes of this period. With Brahms firmly ensconced in his mind as “the last of the great composers” it’s little wonder that someone like Aaron Copland was seen as ‘cacophonic’, or that ‘Bartokery’ was something to be railed against at every available opportunity. He regularly lambasted the works of Douglas Lilburn, although the latter is given no mention in the memoir despite most of his instrumental music having been performed by the time of LDA’s death. One can’t help but wonder what kind of apoplectic spasm would have befallen the old man had he heard the composer’s electronic music. Needless to say, popular music doesn’t get off lightly either. Jazz is sheer degeneracy and in 1958, the news that a radio station in America intended to smash every rock and roll record in its collection was greeted with euphoria.

There are several elements in the memoir which aroused my curiosity. One is the use of language, which is distinctly ‘olde worlde’ and which sometimes makes for a quaint and stilted read. For instance, one particular host’s casual clothes were described as “somewhat plebeian habiliments” and the effect on a listener of many hours of non-stop opera is described as being “apt to pall upon a sensitive organisation”. Another curiosity (also noted by Allan Thomas in his introduction) is the complete absence of any mention whatsoever of his wife Hilda and his five children, reminding me of the wife of a certain famous man who, when asked for comment on a draft of her husband’s autobiography, remarked, “marvellous dear, but tell me – did you ever marry?” One would imagine this ommission was deliberate but to me the inclusion of family life would have made for a more 3-dimensionally character, and would have counterbalanced the descriptions of his early upbringing and family (which he does deal with, although not in great detail). Opinions are valued more than wives and children evidently, and LDA has an occasional tendency not to let the facts stand in the way of a cherished belief. As a pianist himself, he is convinced that members of this august profession live long and robust lives and by way of proof, offers us a list of great pianists who, he confidently assures us, “all passed the 80 mark.” His list includes Rachmaninov and Godowsky, who died aged 69 and 68 respectively.

In summary, while the memoir appears to have some gaping holes (in the ommission of his later family life) it is a full and fascinating record not only of musical life in London around the turn of the twentieth century, but also of the developing musical scene in this country. We can see his constant agitation in later life, both in the Listener and in newspaper columns, as being that of an irascible old curmudgeon stuck in a time warp; or of someone “obsessionally retrogressive” as John Mansfield Thomson described him in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography; or even as someone seeking status and attention. It does seem that some of this agitation, for example on behalf of emerging artists, and in support of a national orchestra, did bear some fruit, and one must admire his courage and persistence. The New Zealand musical scene would surely have been less vital without him, and as former Listener editor Monte Holcroft comments in his autobiography ‘Reluctant editor: the ‘Listener’ years, 1949-67′, “he was a character, one of the people who now and then brought colour and presence to the 1950s.” Perhaps we should leave the last word to Allan Thomas, who despite ill health took the trouble to rescue this stimulating and valuable memoir from obscurity. “LDA’s writing provides a window onto a world of music making in New Zealand that continued the romantic tradition.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

(Another review, by Peter Mechen)

Louis Daly Austin (1877-1967) was undoubtedly one of the great characters of the musical scene in New Zealand for many years. His own memoir, hitherto unpublished, has now appeared in print, beautifully annotated by the late, lamented ethnomusicologist Allan Thomas, and expertly and attractively presented by Steele Roberts Publishers.

The author, writing in the book’s final chapter, sums it all up in a nutshell:

Anyone who essays the task of reviewing his lifetime experiences, as I have done, must necessarily face the risk of appearing egotistical, and I am no exception.

Austin’s writing is self-revelatory, and in much more than a time, place and events sense – throughout the memoirs we get something of the character of the man as described in editor Allan Thomas’s introductory section, thus:

a controversial figure in New Zealand music for more than four decades……provocative and extreme opinions….extraordinary recall of the detail of his earliest music experiences…tremendous enthusiasm for music….

The book consists of that editorial introduction, followed by LD’s memoir, written up to the age of eighty-seven as a more-or-less continuous span (though there’s far less detail in the narratives dealing with his later years). There’s also a chapter-like section towards the end containing various extracts from Austin’s long-standing  (1929-1967) music column which ran in Dunedin’s “Evening Star” newspaper, thus providing examples from his career as a music journalist.

Had this section been more extensive (perhaps even including selections from his numerous letters to the newspapers), then the reader would have been presented with an even stronger, more pungent idea of Austin’s ascerbic personality and critical style. I did wonder whether editor Allan Thomas, having introduced this element (successfully, in my view) into the book, might have thought at any stage about amplifying this section even further along similar lines?

As demonstrated repeatedly in the course of the memoir Austin had a well-developed sense of his own worth, both as a musician and as a journalist; and of course his reactionary views regarding modern music (which he called “Bartokery”, and which included jazz and “pop” music) became widely known over the years. He revelled in his opinions, and in response to a query regarding his damning criticisms of modern music he said that he could be compared to medical practitioners working to eradicate disease.

But, as previously mentioned, LD’s memoir concentrates mainly and mostly upon the first two periods of his life, before he became a music critic – firstly his early years as a child in London and his student experiences on the Continent; and secondly his emigration to Australasia, and his taking up a career, mostly in New Zealand, of “playing for the pictures” in the heyday of silent film. These are the experiences that Austin brings most vividly and entertainingly to life, whirling us through sequences of evocative description and tales of incident-packed events.

Time and time again, LD’s compelling storytelling style captures the reader’s attention, his skills managing to transcend what comes across in places as an almost compulsively egotistic manner. Perhaps, as with beauty, such is “in the eye of the beholder” – for some people LD’s frequent self-congratulatory paeans will seem like proper self-respect, while to others they will smack of either naïve narcissism or pompous arrogance. It’s a tribute to his genuine talents that such things seem far less important than do the stories of his experiences he recounts so enthusiastically.

And what experiences they were – to add to the more personalized tales of interactions with family members, fellow pupils and teachers and friends, there were accounts of attending concerts by people such as Clara Schumann and Edvard Grieg in London in 1889, and also of hearing Tchaikovsky conducting one of his own concertos. And then, the following year there was pianist Ignaz Paderewski playing in London in his prime, an experience the youthful LD recalled as “imcomparable”. (LD’s later, somewhat disconcerting encounter with a much older Paderewski in New Zealand is also mentioned in the book),

The wonderment of those times wasn’t merely musical – Austin devotes some of his narrative to accounts of his boyhood explorations in “England’s Home of Mystery”, an exhibition near Piccadilly featuring magical entertainments, courtesy of John Nevil Maskelyne (who also invented the pay toilet!), and whose installations featuring life-like mechanical figures were renowned throughout the land.

Just as diverting were LD’s recountings of his experiences while at school in Europe, and his return to London, therein to witness an embarrassment of riches vis-à-vis many renowned musical and theatrical performers – in fact, a veritable roll-call of famous names of the period, too numerous to replicate here. Austin also had an interest in extra-musical activities (he was the godson of the famous actor Sir Henry Irving), and along these lines were experiences such as his attendance at the first performance of Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest”, followed, of course, by the shock of hearing of the unfortunate playwright’s subsequent downfall and degradation. By contrast, out-of-doors, there were the notable on-the-field exploits of the most famous cricketer of the day, W.G.Grace, whom Austin witnessed scoring his thousandth run of the 1895 season.

The second “phase” of LD’s career came with his emigration in 1908, firstly to Australia and thence to New Zealand, beginning a whirlwind course of events involving the young man’s involvement as a performing musician with the silent movies. Again the storyteller’s gift is strongly in evidence as Austin recounts an absorbing saga of numerous hirings and firings, boom-times and bust-ups, satisfactions and frustrations, a pattern that seemed to bedevil LD’s efforts in this particular field. But some of the descriptions, especially of venues in Wellington long since obliterated, are fascinating and invaluable. At the end of this career-phase he had played for “the pictures” for no less than 27 years.

Interestingly, the third and last phase of LD’s life is the least well-documented within the author’s own memoir. Allan Thomas also points out a curious anomaly regarding Austin’s life-chronicles:

 – there is nothing written of his marriage, the birth and education of five children, frequent moves….or the difficulty of making a living in the final decades of his life….he separated the family scene from his musical life…..

And yet he was described as “a genial man at home” who played the piano for his and others’ enjoyment. He gave many of his piano lessons at home, and often used the wind-up gramophone owned by the family to help him make his arrangements for the theatre orchestra.

Regarding the lack of detail in the third part of the memoir, it’s probable that Austin “spent himself” in other writing activities, such as his frequent letters, and his writings for both the “Evening Star” and “Music in New Zealand”. So, in a sense the present publication is one “going with” what LD did write, rather than seeking to “beef up” the content – and for what has been made available at last we must be truly grateful! – with the help of Allan Thomas’s family, LD’s daughter-in-law Lola Austin, and Roger Steele, publisher, this book’s happy leap into the light of day has been brought about in great style.

If one’s interest is music, or history or biography or rattlingly good storytelling, then this book will please and delight for many a day. It can be requested readily as an order through Unity Books in Wellington City.







Anna Leese and Terence Dennis in wonderful recital at Waikanae

Waikanae Music Society
Anna Leese (soprano) accompanied by Terence Dennis (piano)

Mozart: Ch’io mi scordi di te… Non temer amato bene (K.505)
Schubert: Fisherweise; An die Muik; Die Forelle
Debussy: Nuit d’étoiles; Beau Soir; C’est l’extase languereuse
Richard Strauss: Das Rosenband; Morgen; Zueignung
Tchaikovsky: Tatyana’s Letter Scene (Eugene Onegin)
Smetana: Our Dream of Love (The Bartered Bride)
Dvořák: Song to the Moon (Rusalka)
Canteloube: Baïlèro (Songs of the Auvergne)
Mascagni: Son pochi fiori (L’amico Fritz)
Puccini: Donde lieta (La Bohème)

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday 10 February 2013, 2.30 pm

What an interesting programme this was, with a nice mixture of songs and operatic arias! The known and the less-well-known.

Anna Leese’s voice has developed even more since I last heard her, in the role of Tatyana in Eugene Onegin in Wellington, in 2009.  One of the impressive factors in her singing is her ability to modify style and tone for the character, text and music of each individual song.  Speaking of text; she sang in no fewer than 7 different languages; only one item was in English.  To my ear, her languages were impeccable, and her words clear.  Songs or groups of songs in the first half were introduced with a few words, which were informative but not excessive; similarly, the programme notes were concise and interesting.

From the very first note, Terence Dennis’s accompaniments were exciting to hear.  His outstanding pianism had me in thrall – and not me alone, I discovered in the interval.  He is a national treasure, and to hear (and watch) him play is to rediscover what the piano is all about.  Such is not always the case with pianists.  His pianissimos are to die for.  One factor I noted was that the piano lid was held open on the short stick.  Of course, acoustics vary from hall to hall, but I have often found the other two possible positions unsatisfactory for accompanying singers.

In the lengthy Mozart recitative and aria (a later addition to the opera Idomeneo), Leese made a great contrast between the declamation of the recitative and a smooth rendition of this difficult aria.  Both here and early in the second half of the programme, she had a little difficulty in sustaining the breath, but this problem was brief.  Terence Dennis had to combine orchestra and obbligato piano into one; it was a magnificent outcome.

Schubert’s songs were sung in an appropriately simpler style than was employed for the Mozart.  Here, the partnership between singer and pianist is more equal.  The excellence of Dennis’s playing brought out the many delightful features that Schubert put into the accompaniments and thus their place in the total music more completely than I think I have heard before in live concert.  He put me in mind of Jörg Demus, and even of the great Gerald Moore.  We are very lucky that Dennis chooses to remain in New Zealand.

Debussy’s songs are heard too infrequently (and indeed, how seldom these days, compared with the old days of the NZBC, do we hear professional song recitals).  Those sung by Anna Leese were particularly lyrical and appealing.  Again, the language was beautifully produced, and the accompaniment was never too loud, but gave the music written for the piano its full due.  Debussy’s setting of the words was a joy, and the sensitive performance utterly satisfying.

To many people the two well-known Strauss songs are at the pinnacle of the German song repertoire; “Das Rosenband” was  also a splendid setting.  “Morgen” and “Zueignung” never fail to move.

After interval, we were in the world of opera and therefore piano versions of full orchestral scores (including for the Canteloube, which is not opera).  Tatyana’s Letter Scene must be quite familiar to Anna Leese now, and her Russian language sounded very thoroughly learned and mastered.

Affecting, too, was the lovely ‘Song to the Moon’ from Rusalka, following the very characterful aria from The Bartered Bride, which was sung in English.  Every role was well characterised, making for great variety in the concert.

Terence Dennis was a whole orchestra in one person; dramatic when required to be, and obtaining great contrasts.  This was particularly true in the well-known ‘Baïlèro’.  Here, Anna Leese paid tribute to her accompanist saying that she could only sing a programme like this one because of him.  He certainly had the greater part of the work to do, with lavish orchestral flourishes, while the song’s vocal line was relatively simple.

The aria from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz was not familiar to me, but nonetheless enjoyable.  The Puccini aria was immaculate, and demonstrated the lovely shine on Anna Leese’s voice.

The audience was privileged to hear such a recital, and was rewarded with an encore – an aria from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

There were over 400 people in the hall and they were very attentive – a factor I’ve noticed frequently at Waikanae.  What an inspiration the concert turned out to be – a marvellous celebration to open the Music Society’s year.