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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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Music society marks 40th season Rosalie Willis For a small society, the Waikanae Music Society has been punching above its weight for many years. Opening its first season on April 23, 1978, the society is now hosting its 40th season. This season will start with one of New Zealand’s most well renowned pianists, Michael Houstoun, and will feature a host of world-class performers from New Zealand and afar including the New Zealand String Quartet and the Amici Ensemble who will be playing a commissioned piece by up and coming New Zealand composer Salina Fisher. The society’s first major milestone was the purchase of a first-class grand piano in 1983 which enabled the society to attract high calibre pianists. Concert manager Wendy van Delden, who has been part of the society since its inception, remembers it well. Starting in 1978, Wendy was a member from the get-go and began organising concerts in 1982. “In the first years, right from the start it was obvious that the society needed a piano. “The very first concert was held in the old Waikanae Memorial Hall and a couple of days after the first concert, the hall burnt down which was a great blow.” Consequently, for the first

HANDMADE: Concert manager Wendy van Delden with the Waikanae Music Society’s Italian handmade Fazioli piano. PHOTO: KAP120218SPLWENDY few years after astounding interest and gaining over 200 members, the organisers were hunting around the district trying to find venues for the concerts. Concerts were held at Southward Theatre, Kapiti College and churches around the district until the new Waikanae Memorial Hall was built. The society was lent a piano until 1983 when they had raised

enough money for their own. As soon as the first piano was bought a new fund was immediately started for the next piano which has since been purchased. “When we knew that we finally needed another piano, the fund had grown enough that we were able to purchase it.” This was another milestone for the society as they were able to purchase a Fazioli.

“It is an Italian, handmade piano which is not made on a production line, there are only a few in New Zealand.” One of the concerts this year features Ammiel Bushakevitz an internationally acclaimed Israeli-South African pianist who got in touch with the society after finding out the society had a Fatzioli. “He approached us asking if he could come, he almost begged

us,” Wendy said. The largest concert came just over 10 years ago after John Chen won the Sydney International Piano Competition. “We didn’t actually know what our capacity limit for seating was. “We kept putting more chairs in around the sides and people just kept arriving. “It actually became a little frightening. “Afterwards we had to contact the council and even got the fire service involved to make sure we knew the safety limits.” Another crucial part of the society’s work over the last 40 years has been the establishment of the Waikanae Music Society Charitable Trust for young musicians in 2008. To celebrate their 30th anniversary the society set up the trust to award scholarships to promising music students. “We gave three awards of $4000 each last year, which might seem like a lot but it’s really a drop in the bucket in this industry. “They need all those drops if they’re travelling to auditions overseas or to get lessons, make audition tapes or to go to specific music festivals. Now reaching an average attendance of 300 for each concert, the society is highly respected in the New Zealand musical community and is one of the country’s most successful societies outside of the main cities.

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