Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969
By T.A. MORESBY, Mus.B., L.R.S.M.
(We are indebted to Mrs. Silcock and Mrs. Reid for introducing "Musical Memories" in our last Journal [see in Journal 10: Early Musical History Paeroa - E] but apologise for the printers errors which were not corrected owing to hasty inclusion. Now Mr. Moresby continues that story over a period of another 20 years.) Ed.
Today, we are uneasy unless bolstered by a perpetual noise about us and when the Radio is silent, and the meaning of life has been shattered or has disappeared, leaving a stark, drear, and unbearable silence in its place. Yesterday, not missing what we never knew, it was routine to accept the long day, followed by the quiet of the evening. Hence it was a very real pleasure to receive an invitation to a musical gathering perhaps at the house of a friend.
For those who could, here was an opportunity to perform, to listen to, and to appreciate the performances of other musical amateurs, all helping to keep music alive in the community, immediately to do some extra practice, or to work with singers and instrumentalists needing an accompanist. Sometimes it was necessary to make long walks to the friend's house on a wet day made disagreeable by the lack of a proper foot-path, or if at night, even more so, because of the insufficient light of the old familiar lantern. Once safely arrived however, all these discomforts were soon put by in the pleasure of preparing for the coming performance.
The Musical Evening
So the musical evening was a social occasion. If given in Winter a fire dispensed cheer, once lanterns, overshoes and coats had been safely deposited and the guests assembled. As a very small child at home and in bed at Wood Street, I would be awakened from sleep by sounds of music. After letting my presence be 'heard' I would be wrapped in a blanket, and carried into the drawing room where a Mr. Ernest Quick took charge of me on his knee.
Later and of course older, I heard much music performed in that same room. Mr. T. W. Midgley was organist at St. Paul's Anglican Church. He was also a proficient pianist and one of his solos was the now familiar Prelude in C sharp Minor of Rachmaninoff. He was always asked to repeat it later in the evening, Mr. E. Quick had a pleasant light baritone and gave the ballads of those days. The Misses Irene and Mary McCarthy were pianist and violinist respectively, who gave musical and meticulous items, "Finchs" and "In the Shadows", being favourites. Mrs. Arthur Bush, contralto with a sensitive and beautiful voice would sing, perhaps, "Three Fishers" by Hullah. Miss Marion Aitken, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Aitken of the Gold Extraction Works, and a good pianist would play Raff's "La Polka de la Reine", which was no mean feat.
Upon other occasions the following performers would contribute Miss Adeline Coote, a musician of deep sensitivity who played the piano excellently and in particular the works of Schubert. She was also organist at St. Paul's for a term. Daisy Evans (afterwards Mrs. Brassey) was a good pianist, Gweneth, her sister (Mrs. Hague-Smith) a soprano of great talent, as was Mrs. Edith Reid (nee Hubbard) and Mrs. Lithgow of Waikino. (One can remember "The Rosy Morn" as a request). Mrs. F. S. Budd was greatly talented both as singer and pianist. At concerts for the Troops during World War One in the old Criterion theatre, she would always be asked for "Hallo Tu-Tu." Miss Florence Dobson, daughter of the Rev. Vicar, played the piano extremely well. (Mr. E. Harston, a cellist and noted musician always performed at concerts, though not within my memory). The Misses Alice and Lena Cock the latter (afterwards Mrs. Denton) for years staunch members of St. Paul's Choir were often heard in duets. Mr. Edwin Edwards possessed of a pleasant and musical voice was often heard at concerts, "The Trumpeter" and "Come to the Fair" will be remembered.
Other Musical Sources
Amongst many who took no part in public performances, Mrs. A. Wilson (of the Bank of New Zealand) who had a good Broadwood piano played very well, and she was a sincere musician. She introduced me to the "Sea Pieces" of Edward MacDowell. Mrs. Henry Bush did not perform but she gave musical afternoons. Upon one occasion quite by chance, no less than five singers came armed with a "latest" song, "The Perfect Day" by Carrie Jacobs-Bond. The five performances were good-naturedly permitted. Mrs. Alice Black also gave afternoons of music at her house on the Thames Road. She owned a baby Broadwood Grand which although old, was pleasant and full-toned, Mrs. Parker, the wife of Mr. W. J. Parker the dentist, had been a pupil of Herr Lemmer at the Nelson school of Music and played certain sonatas of Beethoven very efficiently.
Problems of Music Making
With no music shop nearer than Auckland immediate supplies of new music, or indeed of any music, could have raised problems for the music lovers, if the expedient of borrowing had not been resorted to. Music was thus lent to, and borrowed from others willingly and gladly, not only because of the pleasure given by so doing, but also because of the interest in hearing what another would make of it, thus giving an opening for a profitable discussion upon interpretation. The piano tuner came rarely, unless one had an arrangement with him for visits when he would come only if sufficient work offered. There was always a sufficiency. Some years later Miss L. S. Marshall, who had a shop in the main street began to stock a small supply of music. This consisted largely of dance and popular music with a sprinkling of classical. She would however, order any music required by her customers. Amongst unlikely items one would expect to see in a country town, were the two albums of Pastorals for piano, by Frank Bridge and the Country Dances by Beethoven. These items I have still, with the stamp of Miss Marshall's shop imprinted upon them.
The Criterion Theatre
This theatre (owned by Mr. Asher Cassrells) made a considerable contribution to the music of Paeroa which was fortunate indeed in having it. The stage compared in size with that of "His Majesty's" in Auckland. Not only was there the theatre proper, but a Concert Hall as well upstairs. This ran parallel to the street and was the entire width of the building. It was used for smaller occasions and also as a supper room if a ball was held in the large theatre. Local competition societies, small concerts and other parties used it, for it had an upright piano in it. The large theatre accommodated theatrical companies, school concerts and recitals by visiting performers, as well as the shows by hypnotists, and of course, the local cinema.
Some performances which I recall include no less a pianist and musician than Percy Grainger. The Westmister Glee Singers, recruited from Abbey and Cathedral choirs from England and conducted by Edward Branscombe, delighted their audiences with the programmes they gave. Herr and Madame Wiellart pianist and singer, with a violinist, another German made two or three appearances before being interned during World War One. The Cherniavsky Trio (violin, cello and piano) paid us two or three visits and the Fiske Jubilee Singers, who sang negro spirituals, introduced most of their audience to both the existence and the charm of their music.
A local Operatic Society gave The Pirates of Penzance, in which Miss Gweneth Evans sang "Mabel" and my father "The Major General", ran for a small season. It may have been this same society which presented "Dorothy" both in Waihi and Paeroa. The music for the cinema, the old silent films, was provided on piano by Mrs. W. Cook who had mean talent and again Paeroa was fortunate. Every mood of the film was caught and deftly illustrated by music immediately fitted to it by this clever musician adding very greatly to the patron's enjoyment.
The Gramophone and the Player-Piano
During the reign of the Gramophone, the recordings, were far below present day standards as concerns surface noise, but had the compensation of allowing the hearing of music performed by world artists, with the resultant benefits to keen music lovers. In this way the gramophone added its quota to the musical life of the community. Mr. R. W. Evans, County Clerk, a sincere lover of music, gave gramophone evenings at his home, "The Wilderness" out of town on the river bank across the Te Aroha railway line. It was a hazardous place to get to, for after groping along the railway line, one had yet to traverse a swamp over which was a bridge of single planks. Sometimes he gave evenings in the more accessible Parish Hall to which all were invited. The Player-Piano, never a really successful instrument, was naturally much more limited in appeal. Mr. Lewis Cassrells of Thames Road, and Mr. J. L. Hanna, also of the same road, gave many a pleasant evening during which a singer would sometimes provide variety.
Student days and Students
At the local Convent, Sister Mary Eustelle was a teacher of considerable ability. One pupil, Miss Mowhatu Nicholls (the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholls who lived at the junction of the old and new Te Aroha Road) who died very young, had a real and vital talent. Miss Lois Vincent, I remember for her lucid and excellent renderings of Scarlatti and Bach. Miss Dorothy Miller, played with very considerable efficiency and a lad, William Stanton, had a fair measure of talent. Miss Alma McGruer of Karangahake, singer and pianist, introduced me to the music of Claude Debussy. This took much understanding in those days on account of its harmonic novelties. It was great fun for pupils to prepare items for the occasional concerts given by Sister Eustelle in the Wharf Street Hall. Solos, duets, trios, between other items, were carefully briefed behind stage, by the Sister.
The local Churches contributed their offerings to music in their several ways. The Salvation Army band, no doubt, gave to many a child and adult too for that matter, the first sight and sound of a band, a small, but efficient, band of players. This picture of many instrumentalists making concerted music, must have had its value educationally speaking quite apart from the religious and musical significance. The Methodist Church choir like any other country choir, had its ups and downs regarding both numbers and qualities of members, but when on form could and did give creditable performances. Sir John Stainers' "Crucifixion" and other works were devotionally and musically rendered under the conductor, Mr. Leo Foster. St. Paul's Anglican choir under the conductorship of Mr. R. W. Evans, would present Maunders "Olivet to Calvary" in the Lenten Season. Mr. Harold Hill, possessor of a fine tenor voice sharing solos with those for soprano voice, which Miss Grace Johnson contributed. The choir had three settings at its command for the Choral Eucharist, the most ambitious, E.H. Stammer, in E flat being reserved for the greater Feast Days.
Later a Church Choir Festival for the Anglican choirs of Waihi, Te Aroha, Thames and Paeroa was held annually at Thames which town with its large church, and pipe organ seemed most suitable for the purpose. Much preparation was called for and it was gladly given. The Festival was conducted by the organist of St. George's, Thames, Mr. A. Webbe. Of church organists at St. Paul's I recall Mr. Midgley, Miss Adeline Coote, Miss Ethel Hart (for many years). I, myself, succeeded Miss Hart.
Progress brought electric light, motor cars, street lights and other signs of enlightenment, and once present, they seemed to have been there always. With musical new comers came the musical winds of change and e.g. song-cycle such as "The Indian Love Lyrics" by Woodforde Finden, gave place to one by Coningsby-Clarke, or even better still to one by Roger Quilter, If not sung at concerts the new composers were certainly sung and appreciated at private evenings. The Manager of the National Bank, Mr. C. Topless and his wife were discriminating and keen musicians; both sang and both were advocates of newer songs and composers. The Clerk of the Court, Mr. Carver and his wife gave many an enjoyable musical evening.
I am all too conscious of the fact that, many a singer and instrumentalist has been overlooked, and this I greatly regret, for it is so very essential and important to remember that all made a contribution to the fostering of music in the community. One cannot begin to estimate how much of benefit accrued to so many from the simplicity, earnestness and sincerity of all those who saw to it that music, and the performance of it, had its due and rightful place in life of those early days in Paeroa.