Bringing music to the Bay

Bringing music to the Bay

My birthplace is Gore, but I shifted to Dunedin when I was nearly two, and apart from two years in Wanaka as a year 2 and 3 teacher, and two years “OE” spent mostly in the back of a VW Combi in Europe and the UK in 1976-77,  I’ve lived (and taught and played music,) all of my 77 years in Dunedin.

My holidays were spent mostly in Wanaka, where in the early days of there being one speed boat and one launch on the lake. Wanaka sadly (over the next 50 years) became too busy.  After selling up in Wanaka and spending most of our holidays in Waianakarua (no shops, 16 houses alongside a river, the only hassle being the bellbirds  bullied a bit by the tui) we (my wife Paddy Richardson and I) said to ourselves: why have a holiday house at all?; We could live out of town a bit on the Peninsula and not have to go away for holidays at all!!

This happened.  We rented John and Gwyneth’s handsome Broad Bay property in Moerangi Street, then bought  land in Oxley Crescent with a view to building. Then we saw a house for sale down a bit closer to the harbour (and the bus route) on more level ground (a friend pointed out to us that a level section on the peninsula warrants careful consideration). We bought 4 Frances Street, built in 1950 for  Hyacinth Henderson, a midwife who had distinguished herself by bringing to public attention a large number of birth abnormalities in Taranaki. Her tenacity resulted in a very large drug company being exposed as causing the abnormalities by its contamination-causing disposal of dioxin.

In front of our house, at 2 Frances Street, was Nobby’s Retreat, a cute little holiday house owned by Jeff McLean who very proudly installed an impressive flagpole. To mark the opening I played a medley of national anthems on my saxophone while Jeff and his wife served paua patties and a stubbie or two of Speight’s ale (a fitting choice, as Charles and Jessie Speight had built a wonderful summer retreat in Waikana Street where, later, Sue More adapted one of the garages on the property to establish the very popular Broad Bay China).

Beside Nobby’s retreat is the Fletcher House, the first home built by the young James (later Sir James) Fletcher.  It has beautiful chimneys which catch the evening sun . Over our back fence is the charming Church of St Hyacinth (also named Mary, Queen of Peace) which was bought in halves from Waihola where it had been built by Polish immigrants. This church has a fascinating story of its own , while for me it was the annual Christmas Carol services that were most memorable. Peter Hayden of radio, theatre, TV and film fame, told the congregation of the ill-fated Christmas period spent by Scott in Antarctica, reading excerpts from his diary.

Our 4 Frances St home underwent extensive alterations. Taking out the steel-framed windows and replacing with double glazed windows was absolutely worth the considerable expense. Broad Bay gets great sun – so now we could enjoy it so much more!

In 2012 the BBC Boatshed Orchestra eventuated. Walking down to the cemetery I got talking to Mark Strang who said he’d like to sing with the group. It turned out his late father was Harvey Strang, a viola player friend and long serving member of the Dunedin Symphony  Orchestra.

We rehearsed with enthusiasm in the little methodist church in Grieg Street (now Shukuru’s place) aided by Jenny Winter who enjoyed helping organise things. (How welcome was Jenny’s call to see if she could be of help!) We had Janine Benson, a harpist from Papanui Inlet, another harpist, Helen Saville-Cook from Portobello, Lyndsey Garden and Terri Woods on flute, Ainsley Tucker from Waverley on violin, Paul Wheeler from Macandrew Bay on piano, Keith Waites from Virginia Ave (occasionally) on bass guitar. We should have renamed the group “The Broad Bay Community Boatshed Orchestra and Chorus” … the BBCBOAC … as we also had singers Nyree McInally (between exhibitions of pots and figurines), Mark Strang, Jenny Winter, Elspeth McLean and Thérèse Sharma. Vic Mills ( a virtuoso spoons exponent) was a guest feature item.

The group debuted in the community hall with a moderately well attended early evening concert (highlighted by a medley from Forest Gump).

Unfortunately the Methodist Church sold its Grieg St property, and  faced with unsuitable alternative venues the BBC Boatshed Orchestra faded.

Fresh from playing bass clarinet in a group at the top of Mount Kosciusko Graham Wood, a retired statistician living in Oxley Crescent, spread the word that he had room for a group to meet at his house…..thus (at his suggestion – he had a way with words ) Harbour Tones was formed.

The Harbour Tones playing Christmas Carols at Broad Bay beach domain

Principle flute was again Lyndsey Garden from Frances Street: Lyndsey had played with me in the original Dunedin Civic Orchestra the 1960s. We had two more flutes – Terri Woods from a wonderful property above Maramoana Picnic ground near Pineapple Rock, around 3km from Portobello, and Ian Frazer from Oxley Crescent.  Phil Redford of Mac Bay on clarinet (he played lead in the spectacular Handel “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” performed with gusto at Marne Street Hospital). Graham Wood was MC. A humorous accompaniment to Teddy Bear’s Picnic enhanced its status as a firm favourite with audiences.

Chris Baillie, immediate past GM of Orokanui Ecosanctuary arranged a gig for us alongside a vocal group which raised a healthy contribution for takahe and kaka welfare. Also memorable was a standing room only gig at the then Penguin Cafe in Portobello. An ongoing tradition is the Christmas carols , an itinerant session well supported by locals, who attended sessions at various venues: the Broad Bay Boating Club, Yellow Head Cemetery, Bacon Street track, and Lyndsey’s house.

Neville Peat’s enthusiasm for the Smith Creek recreation area resulted in a sing along session of popular songs – guitar (Neville), flute (Ian Frazer), me on clarinet, Ruth Seeney on ukulele by spontaneous invitation. FUN!

By Jim Mackay

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