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Creating a National Spirit: Celebrating New Zealand's Centennial

17: Centennial Music

page 232

17: Centennial Music

The broad outline of what became the centennial music festival of June-July 1940 was foreshadowed in a proposal which a deputation from the Royal Wellington Choral Union placed before Parry and Heenan in August 1936. The union had taken the opportunity to be advised by Dr Malcolm Sargent, the eminent English musician who was at the time conducting orchestral concerts in the country, and he attended with them. One of the union's aims was to get an early decision from Parry in the hope that Sargent might be invited to return in 1940 to take charge of the musical festival outlined in their proposal. Lindsay Buick was a member of the deputation and it is probable that he and Heenan had had some prior discussion, so closely was the proposal in tune with Heenan's views for celebrating the centennial.

The deputation emphasised that they were not seeking to monopolise public discussion nor did they want Wellington interests to dominate. A centennial musical festival, they said, must be a 'national and not merely a Wellington one'. The various choirs in the four main centres should be 'induced to sink their identity' in a festival choir which would be supported where possible by local orchestras, and they should start straight away to build up a repertoire. A leading English conductor should be brought out to conduct choral and orchestral concerts, and a couple of leading English soloists should also be invited to perform in them, with other soloists to be selected from 'local talent'. The festival would take place in the four main centres and, if possible, in 'lesser cities and towns', and excursion trains could be run to bring people in from outlying places. The aim should be to give as many people as possible 'the opportunity to hear the best music' on a scale not previously attempted. After the festival the soloists with the addition of a pianist or violinist could tour smaller centres as a 'ballad concert party'. Any profit from the festival could be used to inaugurate musical scholarships for promising young musicians to study abroad.1

There would be obvious merit in holding a festival when good weather could be expected but it had also to be borne in mind that June, July, and August were the months when English musicians were most likely to be available. The festival could be organised by local committees but 'some controlling mind' might also be needed. It would, for example, be desirable for the Wellington festival to be planned in association with the organisers of the Centennial Exhibition. Perhaps the minister page 233 might call a national conference to get things under way. Dr Sargent entirely agreed. During his time in New Zealand, he told Parry, it had become clear to him 'that there was a desire among the people for first-class music. There was a definite audience [for] such music given in the proper way5.

Parry was clearly sympathetic to the proposal, which was also well received by leading musicians from other centres.2 Heenan brought Professor James Shelley, Director, National Broadcasting Service, into the discussion and he responded in March 1938 with a proposal for a centennial music festival and some cost estimates. Shelley incorporated the choral union's proposals and added some of his own: an opera to be performed in the four main centres, a chamber music festival, competitions for musical compositions, a radio play and a stage play, a dramatic festival, Maori music, one or two instrumentalists to be brought from overseas, and an invitation to a lecturer or lecturers 'of literary distinction' ('such as Masefield, Guadella, Beverley Nicolls, etc.') to tour the country.3

Shelley proposed that the National Broadcasting Service be 'the controlling mind' for the festival. The broadcasting service, he wrote, 'is a State organisation providing for all types of musical and dramatic entertainment', it dealt with all leading musicians and musical organisations, and it was 'ideally placed' to manage a centennial musical and dramatic festival. He also had aspirations for the future of a centennial orchestra once the music festival was over. He had on his appointment said that the time had come for a national conservatorium of music, and he believed that the broadcasting service should bring it into being. The centennial orchestra he had in mind would have a core of twenty-five full-time members, supplemented with temporary players in each main centre, and the permanent players should become a permanent part of the National Broadcasting Service after the festival.

Heenan agreed with Shelley's proposal but wanted the addition of provincial music committees in the four main centres and a Centennial Music Committee to coordinate arrangements. Parry got cabinet approval in March 1939. By then, however, the country had a balance of payments crisis and, to reduce the cost of sterling exchange, Shelley's proposals for one or two instrumentalists and the lecturer of literary distinction were dropped. The Centennial Music Committee was set up with Shelley as chairman and Heenan a member, and one representative from each of the four main centres. On Shelley's nomination the provincial members were Dr Galway (Dunedin), Dr Hight (Christchurch), Professor Hollinrake (Auckland), and D. A. Ewen (later W. M. Page), Wellington.4

At its first meeting in April, the committee approved Shelley's 'skeleton programme of music and drama', arranged for local committees to be convened, and set to work in close cooperation with them to work up a national music festival that would make use of the centennial musical director and the visiting soloists in performances by local musical groups. Malcolm Sargent was no longer available, so the committee invited Anderson Tyrer to be its music adjudicator and conductor of the centennial orchestra.

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It also sought the immediate appointment of Maurice Clare to audition and bring together 'the nucleus of the string portion' of the centennial orchestra.

Tyrer typified the imperial influence on music teaching in this country. He was a pianist, conductor, and composer who had trained under the great Hans Richter and had once been an assistant conductor to Sir Thomas Beecham. He had visited New Zealand in 1933 and again in 1938 as an examiner for Trinity College, London, and during his second visit he conducted a performance of his symphonic poem 'Dr Faustus', which he dedicated to Shelley. Shelley's biographer noted wryly that Shelley repaid the compliment 'by inviting Tyrer to conduct the centennial orchestraV Tyrer would become the dominant figure as conductor of most of the orchestral and choral performances in the festival. In May 1939 he was about to leave London to examine music students in Ceylon, India, and South Africa, but he had time to prescribe the set works for the centennial choral and string quartet competitions and negotiate contracts with Isobel Baillie, soprano, Gladys Ripley, contralto, Heddle Nash, tenor, and Oscar Natzke, bass. Natzke, aged twenty-seven, the one-time blacksmith from the Waikato, had made a big impression in English musical circles and was already being compared to Chaliapin. His career, Tyrer wrote, was taking off and New Zealand was lucky to get him before his diary of engagements filled up.6

Maurice Clare typified the Scottish strain of the imperial influence. A gifted violinist, he had arrived in Christchurch in 1938 at the age of twenty-four after studying with leading European violin teachers of the day. Shelley appointed him
Oscar Natzke. A welcome return for one of our own. Peter Downes Collection.

Oscar Natzke. A welcome return for one of our own. Peter Downes Collection.

page 235 conductor of the 3YA string orchestra. He would lead the centennial orchestra and have a profound influence on playing standards in this country.7

The Centennial Music Committee began what would be very effective working relationships with provincial musical committees in the four main centres. The festival would take the form of an intense week of musical performance in Dunedin, Christchurch, Auckland, and Wellington, and dates were agreed for each centre between the middle of May and the end of July. The Dunedin committee said it wanted to perform Gounod's opera Faust and, with the promise of assistance from the broadcasting service, plans were laid to perform it in all four centres. The Christchurch committee received a sympathetic response to its recommendation that 'a standard work by an English composer, preferably Elgar' be chosen for the choirs to sing. The Wellington committee was 'strongly of the opinion' that no works by German composers be included.8

Meanwhile the Centennial Exhibition Company was planning musical activities to be associated with the Centennial Exhibition at Rongotai. Concerts had been an important feature of the international exhibitions held in Dunedin and Christchurch but the assembly hall planned for the Centennial Exhibition was not thought by the directors to be 'quite suitable' for musical performances.9 Whether it reflected the interests of the directors of the company or of Anscombe, their architect, cannot be said, but the buildings were planned for bands and other forms of outside performance. Anscombe designed two soundshells, one or other of which could be used depending on whether Wellington's notorious wind was northerly or southerly. 'The Soundshell', he told the directors, 'is the modern equivalent of the old style Band Rotunda, and most [overseas] cities of importance possess one or more.'10

As a drawcard for the exhibition, the directors decided that they would invite a leading British band with the widest popular appeal to give concerts. Shelley, with his preference for serious music, proposed a 'wind band', which would have flutes, clarinets and other woodwinds as well as brass. He had his way, and the band of the Welsh Guards was invited. But their tour was cancelled when war broke out and local bands gave concerts instead. The Port Nicholson Silver Band tried out the soundshell in February 1939 and they and their audience were pleased with the result. The same band performed a fanfare for the start of the official opening of the Exhibition on 8 November, played the hymn tune 'Old Hundredth' and accompanied a combined choir in Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' in a variety concert in which the Regimental Band of the First Battalion, Wellington Regiment, and the Pipes and Drums of Wellington City also performed. A dance band played daily during the exhibition, and there were regular concerts by local choirs and bands and by Maori performers. There was, however, no shelter associated with the soundshell, and unseasonable weather during the summer and autumn months put a damper on outside performance.

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The cover of A. H. Pettitt's prize-winning 'New Zealand Centennial March'. Alistair Gilkison Collection.

The cover of A. H. Pettitt's prize-winning 'New Zealand Centennial March'. Alistair Gilkison Collection.

As its contribution to centennial musical competitions, the company ran a competition for a march and the music firm Charles Begg & Co undertook to publish the winning entry in arrangements for piano, orchestra, band, and military band. Mr A.H. Pettitt of Dunedin won and his march was published.

As well as the preparations for the Centennial Exhibition and the centennial music festival, another matter of both musical and national importance claimed some public interest in anticipation of the centennial year. This was the question of a New Zealand national anthem, upon which there were differing views among musicians and within the wider community. Sir George Grey, when Premier in the late 1870s, had declared 'God Defend New Zealand', words by Thomas Bracken and music by J. J. Woods, to be the New Zealand national anthem. The piece was often sung on public occasions page 237 but by the 1930s its official status was uncertain. It was included in the Dominion Song Book which, first published in 1930, was used in schools throughout the country, and so was regularly sung at important school functions. Sports teams and other organised groups were travelling overseas as New Zealand representatives and were being expected to be identified on formal occasions by a national anthem. New Zealand boy scouts sang a Maori version of 'God Defend New Zealand' at an international jamboree in England in 1929.11 'God Save the King' was played at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when Lovelock received his gold medal, but within the imperial family cGod Defend New Zealand' was played at the Empire Games in Glasgow two years later.

But 'God Defend New Zealand' was by no means a universal favourite. Some objected to the sentiment of Bracken's poem, others to Woods's setting, and others again to both words and music. Grey may well have designated it our national anthem but there were those who argued publicly that 'God Save the King' was the national anthem and no other piece of music should replace it or detract from it. Whatever the verbal niceties, however, it was as 'the national anthem' that 'God Defend New Zealand' was regularly referred to in the press.

Dr Galway gave notice of his attitude when, in welcoming the decision to have a centennial music festival, he said he hoped the time had come for the country to 'have a really worthy New Zealand national anthem'.12 The Centennial Music Committee of which Galway was a member considered four unsolicited proposals at its second meeting in August 1939 and decided to take no further action on any of them.

By then, however, the government had already decided to endorse 'God Defend New Zealand' as 'the national song'. Its champions had been active. The Centennial Council at its meeting in August 1938 received a proposal for the piece to be given that status and, with Parry in the chair, had unanimously supported Heenan's motion that the government be asked to endorse the singing of 'God Defend New Zealand' at centennial functions. The government agreed but was careful not to muddy the waters of imperial sentiment. 'God Defend New Zealand' was to be the national song, not the national anthem. It would be sung before the national anthem on public occasions and would not replace it.13 The government purchased rights to the music from Charles Begg & Co for a nominal sum. Gladstone Hill of Wellington arranged the song for alto solo and male choir. Miss Eva Rapley with the Bohemian Male Choir made a recording and, with funding from the National Patriotic Fund Board, copies were made available for general use.14

The outbreak of war in September 1939 cast a brief shadow of uncertainty over centennial arrangements but the government soon decided that all national celebrations would go ahead. The Auckland provincial committee cancelled its provincial functions but agreed to continue with its contribution to the centennial music festival. Anderson Tyrer began work in February. Choirs in the four centres page 238 were already busy rehearsing. Isobel Baillie, Gladys Ripley, and Heddle Nash arrived in April after a hair-raising crossing of the Atlantic during which their ship was shelled by a German U-boat. They were joined in Wellington by Oscar Natzke and the Australian bass Raymond Beatty and were all treated to a parliamentary reception hosted by the Prime Minister, Peter Fraser.15

The festival programmes reflected the strength of the country's choral tradition, rooted in church choirs and the social ritual of the oratorio. The town halls in Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin, with their big pipe organs, tiered choir stalls, and stages for soloists and orchestra, had all been built for massed choirs and large audiences. The King Edward Barracks in Christchurch Barracks served a similar purpose. The centennial music festival marked the high point of the oratorio tradition. Dunedin had a festival choir of 400 voices. Auckland mustered 500 for its final concert. The soloists were an excellent match. Isobel Baillie was renowned as an oratorio soloist, and Heddle Nash, Gladys Ripley, and Raymond Beatty were also distinguished in the genre. The works they sang were evergreen favourites: Mendlesohn's Elijah in Dunedin and Christchurch; Elgar's King Olaf in Christchurch and his Dream of Gerontius in Auckland, Faure's Requiem in Wellington.16 Choral concerts were also given by choirs in each centre: The Royal Auckland Male Choir with Isobel Baillie, Heddle Nash and the Dorian Choir, in Auckland; the Schola Cantorum in Wellington; the Christchurch Musical Society (giving a concert performance of Bizet's Carmen), the Liederkrantzchen and the Orpheus, in Christchurch.

Immediately after the final festival concerts in Wellington, Isobel Baillie, Gladys Ripley, Heddle Nash and Oscar Natzke set out on a concert tour of provincial towns in both islands. They were accompanied by the pianist Clifford Huntsman, and four first-desk string players from the Centennial Festival Orchestra (Vincent Aspey, Harry Ellwood, William McLean, and Francis Bate) performing as a string quartet. This ensemble travelled 2250 miles in twenty-five days and gave fifteen concerts. The tour was the forerunner of the recitals and plays that would become an important feature of provincial and rural life after the war under the aegis of the Community Arts Service of the Department of Internal Affairs.17

The highlight of the festival was the staging of Faust, which was given three performances in each of Dunedin and Christchurch, and four each in Auckland and Wellington. The fourth performance in Wellington was added to meet popular demand. Tt has certainly put the name of "Faust" into the musical vocabulary, large and small, of nearly all New Zealanders,' the Listener reported. It was a tribute to all concerned, it continued, that 'each performance reached a standard previously unequalled'.18 An unexpected delight for the opening night audience in Auckland was to have the second-act garden scene conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, who was passing through Auckland to Sydney. Tyrer tried to persuade him to conduct the entire performance but settled for the garden scene in which only the soloists are on stage. 'Stepping down to the orchestral pit,' Owen Jensen later recalled, Beecham page 239
Vincent Aspey, Harry Ellwood, Francis Bate and William McLean, the members of a string quartet that took part in the tour of the provincial towns. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Aspey Collection, PAColl-0294, F-57270-1/2.

Vincent Aspey, Harry Ellwood, Francis Bate and William McLean, the members of a string quartet that took part in the tour of the provincial towns. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Aspey Collection, PAColl-0294, F-57270-1/2.

'glanced at the score, closed it up, had a word to Maurice Clare [the first fiddle] .. . and proceeded to give an electrifying performance.'9

Compared with vocal music, standards in instrumental music were much less well developed. Looking back in 1960 on his visit in 1936, Sir Malcolm Sargent said politely that the orchestra had made up in spirit for what it lacked in quality. Woodwinds were a particular problem.20 The YA studio orchestras were beginning to provide part-time employment for some string players. Shelley saw the centennial orchestra as a first step in the right direction and looked forward to the day when a national conservatorium of music and the spoken arts would provide a necessary training ground.21

The centennial orchestra had a core of thirty-four players: six first violins, four second violins, three violas, three cellos, two double bases, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, two trombones, one tympanist/percussionist, and a harp.22 Local players were added in each centres, and there were ninety players for the Auckland concerts: 'in short,' the Listener put it, 'a full symphony orchestra such as Auckland has not heard before.'23 Its concerts combined symphonic works with pieces that also showed off the visiting soloists.

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The Centennial Music Committee had hoped that the orchestra would present some modern works as well as more familiar ones but, for whatever reason—the unavailability of scores, shortcomings in the orchestra, or the conductor's preferences—Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Sibelius, and Tyrer himself, were the only twentieth-century composers played. There was one work by a German composer, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony but, ironically, its inclusion served a patriotic purpose. 'V for Victory' was the slogan of the moment, and the symphony's arresting opening four-note figure, repeated many times, tapped out the letter V in Morse code.

The Tyrer work was his Dr Faustus, a symphonic poem for orchestra, narrator, and choir, with James Shelley as narrator. Two choral works by New Zealand composers were also performed.24 'The Burial of King Cormac', by Harry Luscombe, an Irish legend for baritone, chorus and orchestra, was given in Auckland by Luscombe's choir, the Dorian Singers. 'A Delightsome Land', by Stanley Oliver, a piece for choir, was performed in Wellington by the Royal Wellington Choral Union and the Schola Cantorum conducted by Oliver, their conductor.

The centennial music competitions included sections for original composition as well as for choirs and string quartet. Unlike earlier international exhibitions it had no sections for solo singers or instrumentalists, even though annual competitions were a well-established musical activity. For the choir competition Tyrer had chosen two test pieces: his own cMusic When Soft Voices Die', and Stanford's 'Diaphenia'. For the string quartet competition he chose the first movement of Haydn's quartet in D major, 'The Lark', and the first movement of Brahms's quartet in A minor. The response to both competitions was disappointing: amateur string quartets who played
Anderson Tyrer and members of the Centennial Symphony Orchestra. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Archive.

Anderson Tyrer and members of the Centennial Symphony Orchestra. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Archive.

page 241 primarily for pleasure did not think themselves good enough to enter; choir masters, particularly in Otago and Southland, did not want to take the risk of having their choir placed anywhere but first.25 The dominion finals were held in Wellington on 2 August at what Hon H.G.R. Mason, Minister of Education, who represented the government and presented the prizes, called a 'musical feast' and a very fitting end to the music festival. The concert was broadcast. The first prize for choirs went to the Christchurch Orpheus, with the Wellington Schola Cantorum second and The Auckland Dorian Singers third. The first prize for string quartet went to the Christchurch String Quartet, the second to the Auckland String Quartet.26

The competition for original musical compositions marked the arrival of Douglas Lilburn on the New Zealand musical scene. He took first and second prize in the orchestral section with his 'Drysdale' and 'Festival' overtures, and first prize for choral work with The Prodigal Country, written for baritone soloist, choir, and orchestra. Tyrer, who was chief adjudicator, was full of tempered praise. The composer, he said, would need to hear more music and see more of life 'but if the quality of these works continues, he should go far'. There was 'a good sense of form and a sound knowledge of the orchestra' in the 'Drysdale' overture, though it might need some 'pruning'. The sincerity and earnestness of the 'Festival' overture was 'commendable', though it had some cloudy passages. The same musicianship was 'manifest' in The Prodigal Country: it 'had an excellent vocal line, was never stodgy, and as a whole showed fine writing and judgment'.27

The Prodigal Country was Lilburn's musical response to his sense of himself as a New Zealander. It was his composer's answer to the same questions of identity that Robin Hyde, Allen Curnow, Charles Brash and other poets were also struggling with. Its first two sections are musical settings of poems of Robin Hyde's 'Journey from New Zealand' and Allen Curnow's 'New Zealand City' The third is from Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself. Lilburn's home thoughts from afar are caught in Robin Hyde's lines:

I too am sold into strangeness,
Yet in my heart can only dissolve, re-form
The circling shapes of New Zealand things28

Douglas Lilburn composed these prize-winning works in London. He returned to Wellington in August to a full-page biographical piece with photograph in the Listener under the headline 'Enter the Man Who Won the Laurels'. It had become common 'knowledge', it said, that Lilburn had won 'overwhelming success' in the centennial musical composition competition. The National Broadcasting Service then arranged for all three of these works to be broadcast. On the evening of 23 November 1940, in what it billed as 'the first concert of its kind since Kupe touched New Zealand' the main YA stations broadcast a concert of New Zealand music. The programme included works played by prize-winners of the choral and string quartet sections page 242 from the centennial competitions as well as Lilburn's three works, and the second-prize-winning piece in the choral section, Spackman's 'The burning of the House of Hades', a work based on Maori legend.29

The performance of The Prodigal Country, conducted by Anderson Tyrer was, John Mansfield Thomson later wrote, 'perfunctory' and the piece had to wait thirty-eight years before Sir Charles Groves revived it with a performance that made a strong impression.30 The 'Festival Overture' was, however, immediately popular.

The recognition of Lilburn's musical voice came to be seen as the outstanding feature of the centennial music festival, on a par with the wider national recognition of Frank Sargeson's literary voice in his prize-winning short story 'The Making of a New Zealander'. The rest of the festival was a pre-dawn rather than the dawn of the country's musical future. Its importance lay in its national impact. Thanks to very full reporting in the Listener and to radio broadcasting, preparations for the festival and the events of the festival itself became a matter of nationwide interest. The strengths of the festival were those of amateur choral music-making. The performance of some of the great works of the choral repertoire supported by orchestra and distinguished professional soloists made a deep impression on choristers and audiences. But Shelley's idea of assembling a carefully selected centennial choir of sixty voices, and having it perform in the four centres came to nothing, and with it any hopes he may have had for the National Broadcasting Service to follow the example of the BBC and establishing its own broadcasting choir.

The cancellation of the visit of the band of the Welsh Guards meant that bandsmen and followers of band music did not get the excitement and sense of uplift enjoyed by those whose musical interests were catered to by the festival. Except for the professional wartime Royal New Zealand Air Force Band, conducted by Gladstone Hill, playing in a band, like singing in a choir, continued to be an amateur activity. Orchestral players, on the other hand, would have a future as professional musicians, but only for a handful until after the war.

For audiences, the festival brought something new and important in concert programmes. During the country's first century the typical concert was a variety concert in which solos, duets and works for small or large choral groups found a place with dramatic recitations, dramatic scenes, skits, mimicries, and other entertainments, sometimes with a bit of magic as well. Interestingly, this characteristically colonial form of concert had an outing at the heart of the empire when New Zealand performers gave a centennial concert in London in April 1940. Lilburn conducted the Sadlers Wells Orchestra in his 'Aotearoa' overture, Hugh Walpole gave a talk, Hinemoa Ratieur, Stella Murray, Dennis Dowling, and Ian Coster sang, Rosina Buckman explained why she would not be singing, Colin Horsley played a Chopin etude, David Low did some lightning sketches, and some Maori soldiers in uniform performed haka. A variety concert was by then very much out of style in musical circles in the great metropolis but for friends away from home it page 243
Douglas Lilburn returned to New Zealand in time to hear his prize-winning compositions performed by the Centennial Symphony Orchestra. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-5469-010.

Douglas Lilburn returned to New Zealand in time to hear his prize-winning compositions performed by the Centennial Symphony Orchestra. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-5469-010.

was a heart-warming way of enjoying each other's company while celebrating their country's centennial. For the expatriate novelist James Courage, however, 'it was all I had feared and worse—some of it much worse'.31 It was the variety that embarrassed him. He would have been more 'at home' with the orchestral concerts given during the festival in his homeland because they conformed to what listeners expected to hear when they went to hear a symphony orchestra or a chamber music concert.

Performances by professional musicians were a specialised musical activity and audiences came to them with expectations that excluded everything that fell outside the standard musical forms. The programmes by the centennial orchestra would not have been out of place in London. Some members of the audiences would have recalled the concerts given two decades previously by the New South Wales State Orchestra but for most it was through hearing an orchestra of their own that they were inducted into the special world of professional orchestral performance.

Audiences liked what they heard and wanted more. At the conclusion of the Auckland festival, the Town Clerk telegraphed Parry: 'Full houses, enthusiastic audiences, expressions of admiration for Centennial Festival Orchestra.'32 That enthusiasm continued despite the war. An influx of talented European refugee musicians gave a fillip to the public performance of chamber music in the four main centres during the war. To mark the tercentenary of Abel Tasman's rediscovery of page 244 New Zealand, Douglas Lilburn composed another impressive work in his incidental music to the words of Allan Curnow's 'Landfall in Unknown Seas'. Frederick Page promoted a concert devoted to his works in Christchurch in 1943.

Then, with the war over, the years of suspended animation were also over. Music-making continued at local levels but it began to do so in relation to a vital, new national dimension. Owen Jensen initiated the first national school of music at Cambridge in 1946 and invited Douglas Lilburn to take a leading part in what John Mansfield Thomson later described as 'a historic gathering which brought together all the musicians who were to become leading figures over the next decades'. A talk given by Lilburn was 'the cry of the watchman who heralds the dawn'. 'I want to plead with you the necessity of having a music of our own,' he said, 'a living tradition of music created in this country, a music that will satisfy those parts of our being that cannot be satisfied by the music of other nations.' He did not advocate nationalism in music of the nineteenth-century kind that had been so important in the development of Spanish, Russian, and other national forms of music. 'We have no folk-song, nor characteristic rhythms of the kind that arise from folk dance, and without these two things a national music in the accepted sense is out of the question . . .' He was not wanting to 'raise the old controversy of nationalism in music'. But he had come to see that 'the music of the great classical masters or of the modern English school is not in itself sufficient to satisfy us—that being what we are, and living where we do, there must be parts of ourselves that remain strangers to it'.33

For most music-lovers, however, the seminal event was the founding of the national orchestra the following year. Shelley had been able to retain the string ensemble of the Centennial Symphony Orchestra for broadcast performances. He had strong backing from Fraser, who saw the creation of a national symphony as a symbol of the country's cultural maturity. The first concert of the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Anderson Tyrer on 6 March 1947, was a gala occasion. As an enthusiastic audience left the Wellington Town Hall a cabinet minister was overheard to say : 'This is the birth of a nation.'34

1 Minutes of meeting of members of the Royal Wellington Choral Union with Minister of Internal Affairs, 8 August 1936. Internal Affairs IA 1,62/59/1 Pt.l, National Archives (NA); letter from T. Lindsay Buick , Dominion, 21 August 1936.

5 Ian Carter, Gadfly: The Life and Times of James Shelley (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1993), p.216.

2 Dominion, 2 September 1936; The Press, 9 March 1938.

3 James Shelley to Heenan, 28 March 1938, IA 1, 62/59/1 Pt.l.

4 Loc. cit., Cabinet Paper, Centennial Music 1940, expenditure, [March 1939].

6 John Mansfield Thomson, The Oxford History of New Zealand Music (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1991), p.84; New Zealand Listener, 12 April 1940, p.9.

7 John Mansfield Thomson and Janet Paul ed and arrangement, Frederick Page: A Musician's Journal, 1905-1983 (Dunedin: John Mclndoe, 1986), pp.83-7.

8 Mulligan to Shelley, 19 July 1939, IA 1,62/59/1 Pt.2.; minutes of meeting of Wellington Provincial Centennial Committee, 2 February 1940, IA 1, 62/59/1 Pt.3.

9 Ibid., C. P. Hainsworth to Mulligan, 5 July 1939.

10 New Zealand Centennial Exhibition Company Ltd (NZCECL), box 2A, item 107, Edmund Anscombe to Hainsworth, 11 August 1937.

11 New Zealand's National Anthem, Bernard Magee, Otago Daily Times, 17 December 1938.

12 The Press, 9 March 1938.

13 Minutes of meeting of Centennial Council, 8 August 1938, IA 1, 62/71 Pt.l; Hon W.E. Parry, Press release, n.d.

14 Evening Post, 9 April 1940.

15 Thomson, Oxford History of NZ Music, p.84.

16 New Zealand Listener, 10 May 1940, pp.8-9.

17 Michael Bassett, The Mother of All Departments: The History of the Department of Internal Affairs (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997), p. 138.

18 New Zealand Listener, 5 July 1940, p. 18; New Zealand Centennial News {NZCN), no.14, 15 August 1940, p.30.

9 Ibid., C. P. Hainsworth to Mulligan, 5 July 1939.

20 Ibid.

21 Patrick Day, The Radio Years: A History of Broadcasting in New Zealand, vol.1 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1994), p.249.

22 Music Festival Programme, IA 1, 62/59/1 Pt.4.

23 New Zealand Listener, 10 May 1940, p.9.

24 New Zealand Listener, 12 April 1940, p.9.

25 Minutes of meeting of National Centennial Music Committee, 4 June 1940,1A 1, 62/ 59/1 Pt.4.

26 NZCN, no.14, 15 August 1940, p.30.

27 New Zealand Listener, 16 August 1940, p.17.


Ibid., 15 November 1940; Thomson, Oxford History of New Zealand Music, pp.229-30.

29 New Zealand Listener, 15 November 1940, p.14.

30 Thomson, Oxford History of New Zealand Music, p.230.

31 Thomson, Oxford History of New Zealand Music, p.228.

32 T. W. M. Ashby to Parry, 24 June 1940, IA 1, 62/59/1 Pt.4.

33 Douglas Lilburn, A Search for Tradition (Wellington: Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust, 1984), introduction by J. M. Thomson, pp.9-10, 3.

34 J. C. Beaglehole, 'Reflections on an Orchestral Performance', New Zealand Listener, 2 March 1947.