The Home Front Volume II
CHAPTER 23 — The Arts Survive
The Arts Survive
WHEN the war began New Zealand writing was on the move. Overseas literary and social-political influences were guiding writers into new styles and subjects. The Depression reinforced worldwide literary interest in the poor, the under-privileged, the misfits, the inarticulate, the tough, in the special victims of an economic system whom hard work could not save or who had ceased to believe in hard work. In both poetry and prose there was direct and implicit protest against a system where want and frustration rewarded effort, where prices and mortgages defeated those who worked the land and where there was hunger in the midst of surplus. The Spanish war, which strongly affected many influential English writers, drew very little mention in New Zealand.1 Of direct social satire there was little. The Sky is a Limpet, A. R. D. Fairburn's brilliant Joycean slash at Savage, was a solitary comet; for the Press from 1939 and the Listener from 1941 Allen Curnow as ‘Whim Wham’ made regular, often piercing, comment in verse on news, both overseas and local.
There was however, strong and conscious groping for expression of New Zealand identity, breaking clear of literary colonialism. There was search for awareness of the land and its occupants, for the human condition which had come out of the environment and the past. For some, this search was quickened by 1940 being the centennial of organised British settlement, with the question ‘What are we, after a hundred years in this land?’ asked at many levels. At their most literary, these ideas found clearest expression in three essays by M. H. Holcroft2 —The Deepening Stream (1940), The Waiting Hills (1943), The Encircling Seas (1946)—and one by Roderick Finlayson3 Our Life in this Land (1940); in Fairburn's Dominion (1938) and page 1184 in poems by Allen Curnow and Charles Brasch.4 In many other places they sounded more faintly.
The centennial produced many books. There was a large crop of histories—of provinces, towns, churches, societies. ‘Books are being printed and published in New Zealand at a greater rate than ever before’, declared John Harris,5 librarian and reviewer, in April 1940. Besides the histories there were biographies, studies in economics and education, and a good deal of verse.6 Government centennial publications, attractively produced, which summarised development over various fields, included Eric McCormick's7 formative critical survey, Letters and Art in New Zealand.
In 1942 John Harris, examining the large increase in local publishing since 1933, as recorded in General Assembly Library copyright lists, noted that 305 books were published in 1940, 238 in 1941. There was relatively little imaginative work. By far the greater number were informative, with scientific and technical works leading the field. Most of them were commissioned by institutions or official bodies such as the Cawthron Institute, the Dairy Research Institute, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, other government departments and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. History writers were generally commissioned by the government for centennial purposes, or by local historical committees.8 Later copyright lists for the war period show that publishing totals for 1942–3 did not fall much below those of 1941 and that in 1944–5 they rose to 270 items.
Apart from the Government Printer there were several sizeable publishing firms, notably Reed's, which matured in the centennial boom, and the veteran Whitcombe and Tombs. They concentrated on factual works about New Zealand, scientific, technical, educational and professional works (including weighty legal tomes), books on history and natural history, on Maori subjects, on many aspects of farming and on baby care. In 1945 a Whitcombe's manager spoke of the ‘Rescue the Perishing Department’ which reprinted books considered worth preserving, such as Maning's9 Old New Zealand page 1185 (1922 and 1930), Satchell's10 The Greenstone Door (1935) and The Land of the Lost (1938), and Jane Mander's11 The Story of a New Zealand River (1938). Over the years the firm had published a number of novels; ‘the results have been patchy and this has taught us caution.’ It was usual for a London publisher on receiving the manuscript of a New Zealand novel to consult with the London office of Whitcombe and Tombs which, if it approved the book, would arrange to take a few hundred or a thousand or so copies, which would be printed in addition to those destined for the British publisher's usual markets.12
In 1935 John Lehmann,13 editor of England's New Writing, began his search for imaginative work, especially of prose which in length or style was too unorthodox for established magazines. This search included work from colonial and foreign countries. Later, in his biography, he wrote that there are no satisfactory explanations for sudden flowerings of talent but that once the process starts it generates its own momentum, with people coming forward who might never have thought it worthwhile to develop those gifts in themselves or even to realise that they possessed them.
Why was it then that out of all the hundreds of towns and universities in the English speaking lands scattered over the seven seas, only one should at the time act as a focus of creative activity in literature of more than local significance, that it should be in Christchurch, New Zealand, that a group of young writers had appeared, who were eager to assimilate the pioneer developments in style and technique that were being made in England and America since the beginning of the century, to explore the world of the dispossessed and under-privileged for their material and to give their country a new conscience and spiritual perspective.14page 1186
Lehmann attempted no answer to his question but explained that his friend William Plomer15 had shown him a little pamphlet. Conversations with my Uncle (1936), from an admirer in New Zealand, Frank Sargeson.16
I was struck at once by the wit and the style of the short pieces, the skilful use of the vernacular idiom, and the tension between rebellion and acceptance underneath which lay an extraordinary warmth of feeling for the New Zealand scene….
Sargeson became a frequent contributor to New Writing and his letters led Lehmann to a circle of young writers of like mind and to publishing poems and stories by Brasch, Finlayson, Curnow, Fairburn and Glover.17
Sargeson, who claimed that he was strongly influenced by Sherwood Anderson18 and that during the slump he was ‘more continuously in contact with the social nondescripts and misfits for whose company I always had a strong predilection’,19 was at the start of a long, luminous and very influential career. For most of the war period he was known mainly for his short stories, though by 1944 his novel That Summer was appearing in English New Writing. Both by example and by direct help and encouragement he was already influencing many other writers in New Zealand.
With few local publishing outlets, most non-factual writers' overseas appearance preceded or kept pace with New Zealand publication and recognition. Most novels, such as John A. Lee's Children of the Poor (1934) and The Hunted (1936), Robin Hyde's20 Check to Your King, Passport to Hell (both 1936) and The Godwits Fly (1938), John Mulgan's21 Man Alone (1939), found English publishers. Poets such as Robin Hyde, Eileen Duggan,22 Gloria Rawlinson23 and the youthful Fairburn had slim volumes published overseas; others, such as R. A. K. Mason, had poems accepted in English anthologies. A few small books of verse emerged during the page 1187 1930s and'40s from one or two private presses, such as the Handcraft Press, Wellington, and between 1932 and 1943 a Wellington journalist, C. A. Marris,24 annually collected a book of conventionally poetical Best Poems. Poems and stories also appeared, under the same literary editor, in Harry Tombs's25 quarterly magazine Art in New Zealand.
The new poets and writers had little use for or place in these pages, satirised by Denis Glover in his Judgment of Paris (1938). Those who 30 or 40 years later were to be the grand old men of New Zealand's established literature were then struggling prophets, with little honour, save among the literary elite, in their own country. From 1934 until it was suppressed, for anticipated sedition, in June 1940, the radical fortnightly Tomorrow was the main platform for the lyrics and lampoons of the poets, the sketches and stories of prose writers. The New Zealand Listener, begun in June 1939, printed poems and stories from time to time. In its earliest years, the prose was often humorous, but some was edged, such as Sargeson's ‘Two Worlds’, A. P. Gaskell's26 ‘The Picture in the Paper’, Leon du Chateau's27 ‘The Law of the Tribe’ and Finlayson's ‘The Everlasting Miracle.’28 In Auckland, the short-lived Phoenix quarterly in 1932–3 had brought together some stirring minds, and later the printers Ron Holloway and Robert Lowry, with their own distinctions and very narrow means, offered a few of the rising authors to a limited public in works such as Sargeson's Conversation with my Uncle, Gaskell's Brown Man's Burden (1938), Fairburn's The Sky is a Limpet (1939), and Finlayson's Sweet Beulah Land (1942).
In 1936 in Christchurch the Caxton Press, run by Denis Glover and a few others, emerged from a year of stabled infancy. With commercial work providing its bread and butter, Caxton began its crusade to print whatever in prose or verse its directors considered worth printing. In its first years it was notable for its elegant small editions of poetry, produced with little expectation of profit. Glover's special interest apart, poems required less print than prose. Allan Curnow in 1945 remarked that of Caxton's 39 publications between 1935 and 1941, 25 were of verse. He added that their publication page 1188 created an audience for verse; ‘Some verse they actually called into being because they were at hand to print it.’29 Its poets were almost a club: Mason, Glover, Fairburn, Curnow, Brasch, Dowling were core members, with a few somewhat older such as Ursula Bethel30 and J. R. Hervey,31 and a fledgling or two, such as Anton Vogt,32 gathered in their company. Caxton also produced prose works, among them Sargeson's A Man and his Wife (1940), G. R. Gilbert's33 Free to Laugh and Dance (1943), the first and last volumes of Holcroft's trilogy, G. M. Smith's34 successive vigorous Notes from his back-block hospital in Hokianga, Professor F. Sinclair's35 spirited prejudices, Lend me your Ears (1942), and Randal Burdon's36 New Zealand Notables (1941 and 1945).
Between 1942 and late 1944, with Glover away in the Navy, the Caxton Press reduced its output of imaginative work, and at this stage co-operative efforts developed, bringing new life into the publishing scene. Before the war, there were three separate co-operative bookshops—Progressive Books in Auckland and Christchurch and Modern Books in Wellington—each publishing a few pamphlets. In 1942 they combined to form the New Zealand Progressive Publishing Society in Wellington. The Society believed strongly that more local publishing was needed if New Zealand were to develop an independent and native literature. Having very little money, it had to publish work which did not use up much capital and brought quick returns. It concentrated at first on topical booklets chosen by an able selection committee, which had the help of informed readers, all voluntary workers. It published over a wide range. There were informative booklets such as H. Belshaw's37 A General Survey of Problems of Reconstruction; D. Robb's38 Health Services and the People; L. Hearnshaw's39 Hours of work in Wartime; The Shadow over New page 1189 Zealand: venereal disease (1942); W. B. Sutch's40 Workers and the War Effort (1942) and his Goodbye to Gold, a guide to the International Monetary fund (1944); Christina Guy's41 Women on the Home Front (1943), a discussion on help in the home; R. Gardner's42 Industrial Development in New Zealand (1944), R. L. Meek's43 Maori Problems Today (1944). It also produced A. R. D. Fairburn's reflections on national character, We New Zealanders, and his rejection of jingoism, Hands off the Tom-Tom (1944).
It reprinted in cheap editions several Caxton Press publications, also Stella Morice's44 The Book of Wiremu (1944), a children's story, centred on a Maori boy, already serialised in the Listener (April– June 1941) and destined for a long life. It also printed new work such as Curnow's Sailing or Drowning, Holcroft's Waiting Hills, Clyde Carr's Poems, Burdon's Outlaw's Progress, Isobel Andrews's45 play about women, The Willing Horse (1944), Arthur Barker's46 translations of French poems, Twelve Echoes from France and Twelve More Echoes (1943 and 1944), and New Zealand New Writing (1942–5).
During 1945 financial difficulties pressed upon the Progressive Publishing Society and unpaid effort could not endure for ever. Towards the end of the year it closed down, but its current publications were taken over by one member, Blackwood Paul,47 returned from AEWS to civilian life as a Hamilton bookseller. He established a publishing side to his business, preserving the Society's ideals for the promotion of New Zealand literature and history. Beginning modestly, Paul's during the next 25 years produced handsomely many books which in earlier decades local publishers would not have attempted. Its enterprise in this area was in time shared but not equalled by other firms.
The Progressive Publishing Society's series of stories and verse, New Zealand New Writing, edited by Ian Gordon, the young Professor of English at Wellington's university, was an echo of the English production edited by John Lehmann. Its first number, produced late in 1942, declared that it was an experiment not so much page 1190 in writing as in publishing; some of its authors were well known, a few pieces had already appeared in other pages. It hoped to attract readers and encourage writers but at first no payment could be made. The Listener was pleased that during 1942, ‘in the worst crisis of our history’, someone had found time to assemble and edit a ‘distinctly better than average representation’ of local writing talent, and that someone else had found paper on which to print it.‘New Zealand has not so far been inarticulate, but it has not talked to itself. Now it proposes to do so.’48
Contributors to the third and fourth issues received modest payments and though the struggles of production permitted only four issues, the last in March 1945, a number of writers had gained a wider public. Some of these authors, and others, were also published by the Caxton Press: 15 appeared in Speaking for Ourselves, edited by Sargeson in 1945. The Caxton miscellany Book, which had paused at No 6 in September 1942, was revived and expanded in February 1946 and No 9, the last, in July 1947, consisted mainly of short stories.
In all, the war years saw increased outlets for New Zealand poems and short stories whose brevity made them easier to publish than novels. The short story directly reporting an incident or episode was an inviting means for presenting a slab-of-life, its realism groomed by creative perception. War experiences, with service atmosphere and language at hand, were obvious themes, but they did not swamp the field. Glover's D-Day (1944), the essence of action, did not have a host of followers. In New Writing stories of fighting and of ships bombed were a modest minority; in Speaking for Ourselves there were no combat stories but three on the jangles of homecoming (dislocated values, bad memories, strangers in marriages, banal talk); one on an airman's off-duty adventures, and Gaskell's ‘Purity Squad’, where a Home Guard lunch is the setting for male gossip. His ‘Tidings of Joy’ (New Writing No 4), about a 1941 Christmas party in a farming community darkened by news of two men lately killed, is powerful in its understatement and faithful in its record.
A literary score-keeper, Professor Robert Chapman,49 in 1953 noted that out of the contributors to New Writing, Speaking for Ourselves and Book 9, 25 made no further appearance but 12 others, in the second half of the 1940s produced novels or short story collections or fiction in Landfall, the enduring quarterly begun by Charles Brasch in 1947, which on average printed two short stories or extracts from page 1191 novels in each issue.50 Chapman also noted that of ‘considerable’ fiction, always an arbitrary listing,51 the period 1940–6 saw the appearance of only three novels and three collections of short stories.52
Between 1946 and 1951 eight New Zealanders published ten novels53 and three story collections.54 Two of these novels— For the Rest of Our Lives and Brave Company —were about the war, both giving it almost documentary treatment. About half the stories in Davin's55 The Gorse Blooms Pale were of war, the others were set in Southland or elsewhere. Sad, off-duty airmen and men with scarred minds moved through most of Cole's56 It was so Late; Gaskell stayed with his footballers and Home Guardsmen.
Apart from fiction, accounts of war experiences by New Zealanders soon appeared, augmenting the crop from overseas. Among them, in 1944, were A. S. Helm's57 Fights and Furloughs in the Middle East and F. Martyn's58 Tripoli and Beyond. In 1945 came two that, in very different ways, held with authority the spirit and atmosphere of 2NZEF at its best: Jim Henderson's59 Gunner Inglorious and James Hargest's60 Farewell Campo 12. Some, such as Passage to Tobruk: the diary of a Kiwi in the Middle East and Air-gunner, the adventures of Flying Officer H. Lyver, both by Francis page 1192 Jackson,61 published in 1943 and 1944, were very popular. In Passage to Tobruk comradeship and badinage were wrapped around the main events up to Sidi Rezegh in November 1941, and a Singapore refugee ship's escape from a Japanese submarine is folded into the return voyage of the wounded from Africa. It had 143 small pages and eight drawings by Peter Mclntyre,62 official war artist; in its first few months nearly 12 000 copies were sold.63
Top sales were claimed by The Book of the Guard, 36 pages with text by Ian Mackay,64 some self-confessed doggerel, with photographs and cartoons and drawings by several local artists.65 In April 1944 a notice in the Listener claimed that this was the ‘funniest book the war has brought out so far. Sales and advanced bookings have already reached 25 000—the present is the third printing with no indication that it is slowing down. At 2s it is the cheapest book of laughs on the market.’66 John Mulgan's Report on Experience, the outline of a book he had hoped to write, looked at war as it happened about him, relating it to the background of soldiers in New Zealand and in Britain. But perhaps the war's most notable book was Infantry Brigadier, written by the Territorial soldier who was to become in turn a wartime hero and editor-in-chief of the official war history, Sir Howard Kippenberger.67 Infantry Brigadier, published in 1949, became both a popular book and something of a text book.
The war produced a publishing hybrid till then unknown in New Zealand: fiction printed locally for English publishers. Losses by bombing and shortage of paper and manpower obliged British publishers to send out only a small proportion of the books called for. To keep their names and their authors before the public, some publishers took the unprecedented step of having popular books set up and printed in New Zealand for sale there. The authors chosen included Frances Parkinson Keyes, Louis Bromfield, Warick Deeping, H. E. Bates, Peter Cheyney, Anne Duffield, Agatha Christie, page 1193 John Brophy and Helen Ashton. Some of the printings were large— up to 10 000 or 15 000 copies. Such sales, it was remarked, had never been enjoyed by New Zealand novelists, although Nelle Scanlan's68 Pencarrow trilogy and Ngaio Marsh's detective stories were popular on the world market. During the war years Nelle Scanlan's March Moon and Ngaio Marsh's Colour Scheme and Died in the Wool were printed locally and sold well, but not at the rate of Frances Parkinson Keyes, whose ‘good stories’, without advertisement, topped selling lists.69
In all it could be said that in the war New Zealand writing did not wither and that in publishing, as in other fields, shortage of overseas supplies stimulated local production. Factual writing was only slightly less than in preceding years, for poetry and short stories outlets increased modestly, and in the topical booklet field, in which many ideas were stirring, Progressive Publishing offered readier channels to bookshops than had existed previously.
As for reading in general (apart from the restraints of censorship70), the position for booksellers and librarians during the war could be summed up as ‘fewer books, more readers’. The Southland Times, in June 1940, reported that paper shortage in England had reduced the books available, especially cheap reprints and first novels.71 Of Britain Angus Calder wrote:
Publishers were limited, first to sixty per cent, then to forty per cent, of the paper they had used before the war. At the peak of the war effort, when official publications were accounting for a hundred thousand tons of paper a year (and the War Office alone was using twenty-five thousand tons), less than twenty-two thousand tons were available for books. On the one hand, many well-loved children's comics had disappeared entirely; on the other, important publishers of serious books found it hard to keep them in print. The blitz made matters worse. Twenty million unissued volumes were lost. A species of black market publishing arose. Mushroom firms which, because they had not existed before the war, had no quota and need not declare their stocks, found stray sources of paper in the hands of jobbing printers, and published much trash. Meanwhile a thirst for classics was impossible to page 1194 slake, new copies of novels by Trollope and Jane Austen were eventually quite unobtainable.72
New Zealand restrictions imposed at the beginning of 1940, to conserve sterling funds, reduced the importation of books and periodicals by each bookseller and library to 50 per cent of the value of those imported during the year ending 31 March 1938. Under persuasion, Nash, Minister of Customs, allowed libraries to import the same value as before, with the stipulation that the second 50 per cent was to comprise only material certified by a special bureau of the Education Department's Country Library Service as of worthwhile character. An allied purpose was to prevent overlapping in the purchase of expensive works, necessary for reference but required by only a few libraries. Many librarians were not happy about submitting lists of desired imports to a government department, seeing this as suspiciously like a censorship organisation, but they accepted it as a means of getting more books on their shelves. Booksellers spent their available funds carefully, reducing numbers of copies rather than numbers of titles, and inevitably tended to pass over highpriced books of limited appeal, concentrating on those of more general interest.73
The Southland Times in June 1940 reported that Invercargill libraries and bookshops showed that ‘in keeping with the trend which has been noticeable throughout New Zealand during the past few years, the reading public is turning more and more to non-fiction which deals in an interesting manner with the international situation, and to fiction with a setting in spy intrigue or international politics.’ Books like Nemesis by Douglas Reed and Failure of a Mission by Sir Nevile Henderson (formerly ambassador to Berlin) were in keen demand, as was non-fiction written in frank, outspoken style from a personal and fresh viewpoint, such as Margaret Halsey's With Malice towards Some. Others in demand were Philip Gibbs's Broken Pledges, a biography of Göring74 by H. W. Blood-Ryan, Martha Dodds's My Years in Germany, Nora Wain's Reaching for the Stars, John Gunther's Inside Europe and Inside Asia, Douglas Reed's Disgrace Abounding and Hitler's Mein Kampf. Doctors' biographies, such as The Healing Knife and Leaves from a Surgeon's Case Book by James Harpole, were also popular. In fiction the public appetite was for page 1195 spy dramas and international intrigue such as A. G. Macdonnell's The Crew of the Anaconda and Dennis Wheatley's The Scarlet Imposter.75 Three months later Invercargill's city librarian confirmed that there was a big increase in reading, with books about espionage and the Gestapo high in popularity.76
There were similar reports from other centres, Auckland book clubs found much more demand for popular non-fiction dealing with world politics and war.77 The public librarian of Christchurch in May 1940 noted more interest in books on Balkan and Baltic countries, on the last war and on Egypt; in November statistics showed that Christchurch library issues during the past four months had exceeded those for the corresponding months of 1939, books on foreign affairs being largely responsible.78
A year later in October 1941, when the war had settled more heavily, Wellington's city librarian, J. Norrie, believed that, although major events always captured attention, people were not reading the war news in detail or listening to the long overseas broadcasts as they did a year before, when these had been eagerly appreciated. As relief from the daily bombardment of harrowing reports, through press, radio and speech, people were reading more but reading less about the war, ‘though, of course, books of the Douglas Reed, John Gunther, Philip Gibbs and Strasser type are still in demand…. Last year a great many people used to take out books bearing on the war, but this year that seems pretty well confined to broadcasters and school teachers.’ The public was turning more and more to good fiction, biography and cultural literature ‘for relief from the strain imposed on the mind by last year's concentration on war news and war books, almost exclusively.’ It was noticeable that films and broadcasts of good Victorian novels and plays attracted attention to such works and other ways of escape were found in greater attention to books on music, which had become an important section of the library, of drama and even of poetry.79
In April 1943 the Listener questioned several librarians, who said that there was no slackening in demand for political or semi-political books by writers such as Gunther, Reed and Quentin Reynolds, and there was keen demand for books about Libya, New Guinea and other countries which were being fought over. There was also notable demand for Tolstoi's War and Peace. There was less interest in specific topics, such as air raid shelters, which had been rushed in 1942. page 1196 Interest in Douglas Credit, theosophy and the occult had waned— ‘fantastic things that flourish in peace time don't seem to have survived the times of worry.’ Keenness on compost, however, was ‘on the up and up’, as was planting by the moon and stars. A senior group of librarians claimed that there were two reactions: among the young, a sense of responsibility was disappearing; among adults it was growing. Many people found that they could not read fiction any more but must have more serious material.80
In mid-1943 the Dunedin Evening Star, commenting on publishers' rationing of popular novels, said that libraries were obtaining only half or less of the copies formerly available. Recent books by such authors as Frances Parkinson Keyes, Eric Knight, Georgette Heyer, Douglas Reed, A. J. Cronin, Anne Hepple had long waiting lists. Older Westerns and detective stories were being read more, and earlier authors such as Trollope, Belloc, Bennett, Begbie, Mulford, Punchon, Charlotte Bronte, David Lyall were coming back into favour.81 Meanwhile trade in second-hand books, where prices had increased but little, was growing, with special interest in art books, New Zealand and political history.82 Also, by special arrangements with overseas publishers, new editions of popular small books were being printed in New Zealand.
By mid-1944 in Wellington's Central Library shelves the children's and popular sections looked fuller than they were: there were books only on the higher shelves, nothing near the floor. Half of the children's room was out of use and much of the remaining shelf space was empty. Quick turn-round of books meant less time for repairs and the bindery was short-staffed. Though their prices were high, wartime books with poorer paper and narrow margins could not stand repeated repairs. Many were draggled and worn. But already rationing was less severe than it had been 18 months earlier when if a dozen copies were ordered two or three might arrive. American books were more plentiful and of better quality than British; though more expensive and more difficult in licensing they were better value for libraries because they stood up to wear better.83
Auckland also reported recent slight improvement in supplies, partly the result of increased production both locally and in Australia, but supplies still lagged far behind demand and were largely a matter of chance. Still, the city librarian said that publishing houses had treated New Zealand very fairly and practically no important page 1197 books published during the war, fiction or non-fiction, had failed to reach New Zealand.84
In some places where labour pressures were acute, staff shortages curtailed services. In July 1944 Wellington's Central and branch libraries decided to have shorter hours ‘for the duration of the war only’. From Monday to Friday they would close at 8 pm instead of 9.30 pm and on Saturday at noon instead of 9.30 pm. The Central Library would close on Sunday as it was not much used by people living in rooms, for whom this day's service had been expected to prove a great boon.85 Despite the reduction in service hours, Wellington reports in 1944 and 1945 told of increased use, notably in suburban libraries.
It must be remembered that the war years preceded the era of free public libraries and highly trained librarians with their sophisticated catalogues and indexes. In 1934 Ralph Munn86 of the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, and John Barr87 of Auckland Public Library had probed libraries in the main towns, reporting very many weaknesses. Their report, said the president of the Library Association in 1943, was the ‘forcing-bed out of which has grown modern library development in New Zealand.’88 They stressed the need for a central organisation to buy books and circulate them through public libraries, increasing supplies while reducing wasteful buying, and they condemned the subscription system.89
In New Zealand, unlike Britain and the United States, in general borrowers from public libraries paid subscriptions, while newspaper rooms and reference sections were open to all. These libraries were also supported by money from local authorities, the pro rata amount varying considerably from place to place; subscriptions, as the apostles of freedom urged, reduced the number of people using libraries and channelled the selection of books to ‘what our subscribers like’.90 Local authorities were not permitted to levy rates of more than 1d in the £ for library purposes until 1939, when 2d was permitted.91page 1198
Movement towards freedom was helped by the Country Library Service, a government service established in 1938 under the Minister of Education, which began its work with the smallest rural libraries. Originally towns with fewer than 2500 people could have free loans of books, 15 per 100 of population, changed periodically by travelling vans, on condition that the local authority made its library free and gave a reasonably efficient service.92 Its range was gradually extended: in 1943, in 43 towns with populations of less than 10 000 there were free libraries; by December 1945 62 towns of fewer than 15 000 people had them.93
The Country Library Service also helped small independent subscription libraries. For £3 a year 100 books were lent and changed. In 1942–3, amid the tyre and petrol shortage, 368 of these libraries had 26 410 books circulating. In addition, to isolated groups of readers hampers of books were sent and remote individuals could get books by post from headquarters. In 1943 there were 70 groups on hampers and 250 individual readers. The Country Library Service then had 118 204 books, including 42 857 in the children's section, 43 295 non-fiction, 32 049 fiction. In 1945, 491 subscription libraries, 66 groups and 567 individuals were linked to the Service, which also acted as an interloan agency for scarce and wanted books.94 In 1942 the School Library Service, financed by the Education Department and administered by the Country Library Service, was inaugurated as one of its most important services. By December 1945 some 1019 schools, representing 58 152 children, were receiving books.95 The Country Library Service had other functions. From 1942 it supplied books to the AEWS which circulated them to the forces. Its Central Bureau for Library Book Imports has been noted.96 Cards from the Bureau were filed and helped to begin the union catalogue of book holdings of the major libraries; other bibliographical projects were cherished as far as means allowed. Its work in many areas was greatly helped by the five-year appointment, beginning in 1940, of a liaison officer between itself and the New Zealand Library Association. Miss E. J. Varnell, with distinguished experience in England behind her, was a vigorous and skilful apostle of free public libraries and of librarian training.97page 1199
Amid all the shortcomings imposed by tradition, the Depression and the war the New Zealand Library Association, an enlightened nucleus, heartened since 1939 by a Carnegie Corporation grant, strove for improvement. In March 1943 its president said that in the past year the democracies' preoccupation with winning the war had behind it the no less important aim of re-adjusting society afterwards. The problems of rehabilitation and of other increased demands for library information services were kept in view. Spadework was being done towards ensuring that all necessary books should come into the country and be readily available where wanted.98 In 1941 a Book Resources Committee had been set up to strengthen, co-ordinate and exploit the book resources of New Zealand. Its work concerned book purchases by libraries, inter-library loans, accessibility of books to readers and the compilation of union catalogues. Plans for a union catalogue of books, based on microfilm copies of catalogues of major libraries, very hopeful in 1941 when a Carnegie grant promised a microfilm camera, were deferred because that camera could not be obtained until after the war, but from 1944 many libraries began sending copies of their new catalogue cards for inclusion in the union catalogue.99 In 1939 a union list of serials was begun in Dunedin and its first mimeographed Check List appeared at the end of 1942. An index to New Zealand periodicals was begun in 1940, again in Dunedin, with 12 selected periodicals, and in 1941 the work moved to Wellington. Several quarterly issues appeared before war preoccupation made indexers very scarce in 1943, but the ground was ready for more intensive work after the war.100
Training for librarians was a crucial factor. A Training Committee of the Association worked out a syllabus which was discussed and approved in 1941.101 It was a correspondence course, with notes, reading lists and monthly assignments. A year's work gained a General Certificate; a further year would earn a Diploma. School Certificate or University Entrance were the basic qualifications for librarians already on the job, and 42 embarked on the course in August 1942. A difficulty soon apparent was that of finding enough tutors, especially for the Diploma course, among the few senior and qualified librarians in the country. In October 1944 the Association asked the government, in consultation with its Training Committee, to establish intensive training facilities in Wellington under the page 1200 guidance of Miss Mary Parsons,102 who was then the Director of the United States Information Service Library, opened in Wellington early that year. In 1946 the Library School began training 30 graduate students in a year-long course. Its director, until the end of 1947, was Mary Parsons whose talents and drive were backed by teaching experience in library schools in Paris, Canada and the United States. ‘It is hard,’ wrote the historian of the Association some 15 years later, ‘to estimate the benefit that librarianship in New Zealand derived from her fortunate presence here at a critical time.’103
The Library Association's Diploma was abandoned in 1945, superseded by the Library School diplomas, but this did not remove the Certificate course for training library assistants who came to their posts from secondary school. The two training courses have co-existed helpfully ever since, with some distinguished librarians qualified only through the Association and experience.
A National Library was to remain a long-standing dream, but some of its functions were assumed in 1945 by the National Library Service. This had three divisions: one took on and developed the bibliographical projects already nurtured by the Country Library Service; that Service's lending work was extended through regional depots; the library school opened in 1946.104
Libraries, despite diminished book supplies, did not stand still during the war. They were favoured by a number of informed, devoted workers, by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and by a Prime Minister who had profound belief in books and in their being accessible to people.
When the war began, New Zealand's musicians had just worked through a lean decade. Teaching was the mainstay of the profession. The advent of sound films had meant that by 1930 a large number of theatre musicians faced a bleak future.105 Some obtained work in the newly formed YA broadcasting stations orchestras, some turned to teaching, some were driven to other jobs. Concentration on private chamber music, with occasional broadcasts to quicken zeal, gave valuable experience to a few, and some dedicated persons embarked on intensive training in order to be ready for professional playing page 1201 when it came.106 It was believed that broadcasting would employ more musicians in the future.107
At levels varying from place to place and with many limitations, musical activity struggled on in a hard climate. Many towns, large and small, had choirs and the main centres each had several. There were some chamber music groups; the British Music Society, formed in 1932 and dedicated to the promotion of good music, not exclusively British, had many branches;108 there were symphony orchestras in the main centres and a few elsewhere: Hawera, under the inspiration and tutelage of an enthusiast, mustered 50 players and a local paper spoke with pride of their range of instruments, including those rarities, the bassoon and the oboe. ‘Mr H. C. A. Fox, who has played professionally every wind instrument’, had taught all the brass and woodwind section and, working through school groups, had given orchestral training to all the cello and viola players, to the leader, Mr Louis Fox, and 60 per cent of the violin players. A concert in August 1940 included ‘From the Country Side’ by Eric Coates and ‘Serenade sous les Étoiles’ by Rarini; the intermezzo from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, for woodwind and strings only, which called for ‘delicate treatment and close timing’; selections from ‘La Boheme’, with popular arias represented by violin, oboe, cello, clarinet and trumpet solos. It finished with Ketèlbey's ‘In a Persian Market’ with percussion prominent and market cries sung by male voices.109
Limitations were imposed both by the instrumentalists available and by the abilities of players. In a 1940 review, F. J. Page110 remarked that Christchurch was lucky to hear a quartet by Haydn once in five years.111 Sometimes the need to reduce large-scale music to small-scale means exercised the national habit of improvisation. Thus, regularly, on Good Friday in Christchurch Cathedral, Bach's ‘St Matthew Passion’ was performed. Properly, this would take several hours, a large chorus and orchestra, 10 solo singers and an organ; the Christchurch effort was achieved in one and a half hours with a choir, soloists, an organ and a piano. ‘This is all we can afford ourselves in New Zealand, but it is surprising how a competent presentation with these means can give us a sense of the immense page 1202 wealth of the music; a less competent performance would bring us instead to a realisation of our musical poverty.’112 Not that the whole ‘Passion’ was unknown. Wellington had its first entire performance in April 1941, by the Schola Cantorum, under Stanley Oliver.113 The Schola Cantorum had started in 1936 and was known as a ‘carefully tutored mixed choir… which has opened the door on a great deal that is beautiful in music, apart from that most commonly known.’114 ‘St Matthew Passion’ was performed with an orchestra and 30 voices, only one soloist being an outsider, packed into the Dominion Museum Hall. It began at 5.30 pm and finished about 10 o'clock, audience and performers sharing tea on the premises during an hour's break; it cost £70 to put on and the net profit was £2 13s 5d.115 A few months later, in December 1941, the choir gave the first performance of another Bach work, the ‘Christmas Oratorio’. It was sung in a church, then an unusual event, cost £93 and made £24 profit.116
At the war's start, there was widespread stimulation from the music festival which was part of the centennial celebrations. During 1939, as a beginning, a National Broadcasting Service string orchestra was selected by Maurice Clare,117 an experienced English violinist then living in New Zealand, with 12 players, 10 of whom had previously worked in theatre and radio orchestras. This was the nucleus around which in April 1940 the Centennial Orchestra of about 30 players was established, the process revealing how limited were New Zealand's musical resources.118 Anderson Tyrer,119 an English pianist and conductor, visiting as an examiner for the Trinity College of Music, became first adviser, then director, of the festival, and conductor of the orchestra. Tyrer's musicality was to be questioned later, but his enthusiasm and energy were undeniable.120
As the war in Europe quickened to the 1940 crisis, the Centennial Orchestra toured New Zealand, its own performances buttressed in page 1203 the four main centres by local musical activities. Four overseas musicians, Isobel Baillie,121 Gladys Ripley,122 Raymond Beattie123 and Heddle Nash,124 and the English-trained New Zealand bass Oscar Natzke,125 sang arias and various other songs. They also joined with local choirs in presenting Gounod's Faust, in gorgeous raiment and very popular, Elgar's King Olaf and The Dream of Gerontius, Mendelssohn's ‘Elijah’ and Brahms's ‘Alto Rhapsody’.126 At Auckland an unexpected highlight was the brief appearance of Sir Thomas Beecham127 who was passing through on his way to England. He attended Faust and consented to conduct the second act, in which only solo singers were involved, producing an ‘electrifying performance’.128
In the whole festival the contributions of local groups were substantial. For Auckland's nine-day season, besides the Centennial Orchestra those involved included the Royal Auckland Choir, the Auckland Choral Society, the Dorian Choir, the Chamber Music Society, the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, the Operatic Society and the 1YA Orchestra. There were four presentations of Faust, choral and symphony concerts and a chamber music concert.129 The programme of the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, included Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, ‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius and Mozart's ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’.130 At Christchurch a concert version of Bizet's Carmen was presented by the Royal Christchurch Musical Society along with Charles Wood's cantata ‘Eden Spirits’, sung by the Christchurch Liederkranzchen.131 The larger provincial centres such as Nelson, Greymouth, Timaru, Masterton, Rotorua and Whangarei were not forgotten. The visiting vocalists toured them, assisted by an accompanist and a string quartet.132
The musical celebrations included competitions for string quartets and choirs and for compositions of orchestral overtures and choral works. The Orpheus Choir of Christchurch and a quartet drawn from the Laurian Club, a string orchestra also of Christchurch, were page 1204 the winning performers. Douglas Lilburn,133 then studying in England but soon to return, scooped the composition pool, taking a first and second place with his overtures ‘Drysdale’ and ‘Festival’ and a first with a choral work ‘Prodigal Country’.134
There was widespread enthusiasm for the Centennial Orchestra and among those who thought that it should be the harbinger of a permanent national orchestra were such influential persons as James Shelley,135 Director of Broadcasting, J. W. Heenan,136 Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, and Peter Fraser.137 Meanwhile many of its players remained active as the National Broadcasting String Orchestra under Anderson Tyrer. The music critic of the Listener in June 1942 reported that the Orchestra had lately visited the four main centres, ‘virtually the same combination that toured New Zealand during the Centennial celebrations’.138
After the centennial singers had departed, for several years there were very few visits by overseas musicians. In 1941 the J. C. Williamson Opera Company from Sydney presented Gilbert and Sullivan shows to audiences that did not expect to enjoy them again for some time.139 Harold Williams,140 an Australian baritone, toured late in 1941, joining in Wellington's annual ‘Messiah’, the Schola Cantorum's ‘Christmas Oratorio’ by Bach, and a concert with Ignaz Friedman141 and the symphony orchestra under Anderson Tyrer.142 Early in 1942 the fortunes of war, including the Pearl Harbour raid, sent Thomas Matthews,143 lately leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and his pianist wife Eileen Ralph,144 from Hawaii to New Zealand and for a time he was guest conductor of the 1YA orchestra at Auckland.145 The veteran singer Peter Dawson146 toured through enthusiastic patriotic concerts in mid-1942.147 Ignaz Friedman, an page 1205 eminent Polish pianist who during the war settled in Australia, toured New Zealand several times exciting large audiences and contributing to patriotic funds.148
An informed observer of the musical scene, F. L. W. Wood,149 wrote in 1943:
An overseas artist, well advertised, can fill the biggest hall in any New Zealand town; and amid the general approval of anything he may do, he may well overlook the keen criticism of an alert minority. A New Zealander, returning from overseas, will get a flying start over equally accomplished artists without handles to their names, though even then familiarity will soon breed, if not contempt, comparative disregard. This substitution of overseas recognition for local achievement is one factor helping to produce a general slackness in standards. There is no focus for local talent, for the conservatorium planned by the National Broadcasting Service must await happier days after the war. Meanwhile the Service is tempted to give the public what it imagines the public wants rather than to head a discriminating drive in the interests of New Zealand music.150 Three of the four university centres teach for a musical degree; but their work is mainly academic, and they have not in the past effectively drawn together the threads of musical activity in the community. Yet there are many competent and energetic music teachers in all the main towns; and numerous private organisations—like the Music Teachers' Association and the various branches of the British Music Society— do something to bring together those who are interested and to bridge the gap between professional and layman.
Meanwhile there is intense, though uneven, musical activity among the people. Connoisseurs, deprived of first-rate orchestras and full of intolerance for anything New Zealand could possibly do, turn into gramophone fans. The highbrow collects records as a philatelist collects stamps. He sharpens his thorn needles to the finest point, waxes his discs, puts his loudspeaker in the ceiling, and knows the date of every recording. And alongside the classicist page 1206 is the swing fan who scents new records with the same clairvoyance. There are many young men and women who listen to the performance of the best American swing orchestras with a critical ability based on real knowledge both of composition and performance.151
Of a Wellington Town Hall concert in February 1943 which combined the talents of pianist Friedman and a symphony orchestra under Tyrer, the Listener's reviewer wrote:
In a country where concert-going is a rare experience, it is not surprising that we arrive late, stamp down the aisle, and sometimes applaud in the wrong places… but we surrendered to the music when it was not too profound. We frankly liked the fireworks, too, so we didn't forget to applaud (at least twice) the Tchaikovski Concerto…. But most of us are sensationalists at heart. We ask for rhythm and speed before subtlety, for ‘The Bartered Bride’ Overture in preference to ‘A Walk to the Paradise Garden.’152
Throughout the war years the orchestras at the radio centres continued to work and local musicians, including singers, broadcast their recitals, solo, in pairs and in small groups. Occasionally they sang or played music by New Zealanders, with Lilburn's looming high in merit over the rest.153 In the Listener from early 1942 a critic, ‘Marsyas’ (Antony Alpers154), wrote freshly and candidly about recordings and local broadcasts and concerts, irritating some readers and generally stimulating musical awareness.155 The many choral groups continued valiantly, though after mid-1941 soprano sections overwhelmed the tenors.156 Whatever else faltered, Handel's ‘Messiah’ was faithfully performed in the Christmas season.
The war years saw increased learning of music, then as now directed towards English examinations. More children than ever before learned to play the piano and some turned to stringed instruments such as the violin and the guitar.157 Parents, earning more, could give their children this cultural opportunity and there was feeling that musical interests would counter the disturbance of the times, would provide a steadying and enriching influence. Some adults, previously more or less skilled, took up playing and singing again as relief from page 1207 tensions and for home entertainment. Music teachers were very busy, some unable to fit in all would-be pupils.158 There were heavy demands for second-hand pianos—imports had ceased early in the war—and other instruments were very scarce. Those most in demand were piano accordions, guitars, ukeleles, and all band instruments such as clarinets, trumpets and saxophones. There was great shortage of accessories such as steel strings and reeds, though for saxophones plastic reeds had been introduced. Some instruments, such as guitars, drums and bagpipes, were made locally. For records and for sheet music demand exceeded supply, though some music, by arrangement with English publishers, was printed in New Zealand.159
In primary schools the place of music was enlarged. Broadcast lessons gave more children training in singing and appreciation than was possible when classes and schools were limited by the musical skills of their own teachers. Annual music festivals drew hundreds of children together, singing the songs learnt during the year.160 In secondary schools, strongly directed towards academic examinations, music was largely regarded as relaxation and each depended on its own teachers, with, in consequence, wide variations in activity. Encouragement of young players took various forms. In the main centres there were annual music competitions and these did not slacken in the war years. Dunedin had the first junior orchestra, with players for most instruments, and was followed by Christchurch. The Christchurch group, which began at Linwood school, by 1941 had gathered 50 string players and was about to add a woodwind section.161 At Auckland in 1944 the Society of Music Teachers proposed a series of concerts to introduce talented young singers and players to the public.162
In February 1943 inquiries in the four centres by the Listener found variations in the effect of the war on amateur music societies. In choirs, successive ballots might weaken tenor sections and leave the basses untouched, or essential work might remove the only contralto capable of the solo part in a projected concert. Orchestral societies had suffered more noticeably than had choral groups. Women preferred string instruments, so woodwind players were scarce and brass players even more so, brass instruments not being played by women— ‘No, not so much too spitty as too heavy. The physical page 1208 strain is too great on a woman,’ said Colin Muston,163 the Auckland conductor. The Auckland and Wellington symphony orchestras and the Christchurch Laurian Club had gone into recess, though the Auckland string players kept in training, waiting for the war's end. Male choirs here and there had submerged their identity temporarily in larger and therefore more stable groups. In the Royal Wellington Choral Society older members had returned to fill gaps; it had more tenors and drew fuller audiences than had attended during the previous war when heavier casualties had kept people away from entertainment. In Christchurch two male choirs were still functioning at the end of 1942, while the Royal Christchurch Musical Society and the Harmonic Society showed no signs of going under; 40 men had taken part in ‘The Messiah’ of Christmas 1942. Dunedin's Choral Society had gone into recess as far as subscriptions and major works were concerned, but its singers still worked together. Membership of the British Music Society had not declined.164 The Schola Cantorum went into recess in 1942 though monthly practices kept the choir alive until it regained its full voice in 1945.165
Chamber music, with only a few players in each group, was the form that prospered best under war conditions. In Britain, amid the bomb raids of 1940, the pianist Myra Hess166 and Kenneth Clark,167 director of the National Art Gallery, had replaced the treasures of the Gallery, removed to safe keeping, with the treasures of chamber music in hour-long lunchtime concerts. These had proved a brilliant success. In the winter of 1941 the idea was echoed in Wellington: a series of Sunday afternoon concerts in the Art Gallery had the triple object of attracting visitors to the Gallery, promoting good music and raising patriotic funds. These concerts, begun in mid- June under vice-regal patronage, drew audiences of more than 500.168 Later, at concerts by many of the same musicians, organised as the Chamber Music Club, smaller city halls were packed to hear trios, quartets and quintets by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven. Occasionally an oboe or clarinet player borrowed from the Air Force Band widened the range.169 Among the refugees from page 1209 Hitler's Europe were some very talented musicians with distinguished training and experience who as performers and teachers enriched the music field. Wellington in particular was blessed with the cellists Marie Vandewart and Greta Ostova170 and the violinist Erika Schorss, who played often with local musicians and usually in support of patriotic funds.
From early 1943 the British lunch hour concerts were directly imitated. A year before, in February 1942, Stanley Oliver had wondered how many Wellington people would welcome half-hours of string music or song once or twice a week, saying that these would calm frayed nerves, strengthen determination and increase efficiency.171 Lunchtime concerts started in Auckland in January 1943, with Owen Jensen172 prominent in their organisation and with hope that they would encourage the talents and appreciation of young people. They were, said Craccum, the student journal of Auckland University, the sort of pioneer work that deserved the OBE, or knighthood.173 Auckland's lead was followed by Christchurch, then by Dunedin, and in October 1944 Wellington launched six Friday noon-time concerts in the Central Library lecture hall. Admission was one shilling, profits went towards buying a piano for the hall, and the series was highly successful.174 These concerts were resumed in February 1945 with hopes of permanence.175
In one way and another, music's flags were kept flying. In small halls, to enthusiastic audiences, musicians such as Maurice Clare, Vincent Aspey,176 Frederick Page, Dorothy Davies, Marie Vandewart, Erika Schorss, Greta Ostova, May Hyams, Frank Hoffey, Vivien Dixon, Owen Jensen and many others, singly or in pairs, ably presented good music, often including works not yet familiar to local concertgoers. Paul Schramm,177 a distinguished Austrian who had lived in New Zealand since 1938, returned to concert-giving late in 1944, displaying ‘pianistic pyrotechnics’ in works well removed from page 1210 the deep groove worn year after year by other celebrated concert pianists in their periodical visits, including those of Ravel, Bartok and Prokofiev, Debussy and Poulenc.178
In the last days of the war the virtuoso pianist Isador Goodman,179 trained in London and lately emerged from Australia's Army education service, toured New Zealand, drawing enthusiastic thousands, hungry for overseas talent, to hear old favourites played with bravura.180 Nearly 3000 people heard Goodman's second Auckland concert, while to hear him Wellington advanced like an army on its town hall.181
A firm framework for chamber music began in Wellington with a decision, late in 1944, to co-ordinate and organise musicians and their supporters in a society able to hire a large hall. Formed in March 1945,182 it made vigorous growth. Other centres started similar societies and together in 1950 they formed the Chamber Music Federation that, with broadcasting support, ensured the visits of overseas groups which increasingly sophisticated audiences accepted as normal. In 1961 John Beaglehole recalled that after a concert by a group in Wellington in 1944
someone remarked that there were other musicians in Wellington and New Zealand, and would it not be a good idea to co-ordinate and organise—in short, start a chamber music society and hire the concert chamber of the Town Hall which held not seventy-five people but six hundred? So it was done; the Wellington Chamber Music Society brought Maurice Clare and Frederick Page From Christchurch for the first concert, in 1945; the amazing career Had begun. Amazing because the Society's membership rapidly rose to the maximum the hall could take, and did not thereafter fall off—there has always indeed been a waiting list; after pre liminary hesitations other places started societies; in 1950 the societies formed a Federation… [which] provided a regular circuit of engagements for visiting groups of players who now with the assistance of NZBS… could be brought from afar; and in increasing numbers, for good and ill, they were brought…. The Wellington Chamber Music Society was formed to co-ordinate and organise players and teams of players already in existence in New Zealand… to cultivate, as it were, a native growth; which page 1211 is precisely what it has not done…. Before very long the performance by the home-grown group was the exception.183
In 1945 the thrust towards a national orchestra gained strength. Abroad, it was firmly stated that during this most destructive of wars there had been in England, America and the Commonwealth countries a great surge forward in music; it was no flash in the pan but a real musical renaissance. New Zealand's full-time orchestra aspirations, suspended since 1940, were renewed and were endorsed by overseas visitors. Sir Malcolm Sargent,184 in Auckland on his way to Australia, believed that New Zealand could and should have a first-class permanent orchestra. He saw the lack of a competent woodwind section as the greatest difficulty and thought that English professionals might be brought out to fill that place while they trained local players. He added that he would be happy to conduct the first performances of such an orchestra.185 Isador Goodman pointed to Australia's state-subsidised school of music, which was the basis of a good orchestra, and thought that directional heads for New Zealand's orchestra should be imported from overseas to bring new ideas in music.186
Stanley Oliver spoke of orchestral matters as they stood in August 1945. The lack of players for several instruments made it virtually impossible anywhere in New Zealand to present any major choral work with its proper orchestral accompaniment. Even for ‘The Messiah’ in Wellington in 1944 it had been necessary to ‘doctor’ the accompaniment because instruments were missing; in Dunedin there was no oboe player and one of the two cellists had also to play the second bassoon to avoid ‘holes’ in the harmony. He spoke also of the almost unprecedented wave of desire among the people as a whole for artistic expression or appreciation, shown, for instance, by the largest halls being packed for an eminent solo pianist and the over-subscribed list of patrons for Wellington's new chamber music society. ‘Let not those who have been conditioned to think of nothing but their own material interests, and who pride themselves on being “practical”, sniff at the word “art.”’ The rank and file were fed up with the muddlement of material existence; for nine-tenths of the people, modern machinery had taken all artistic expression out of their functional lives and human personality must be rediscovered in the use of spare time, which was bound to increase. It was time for plain speaking and for concentration on the orchestra.187page 1212
The New Zealand Air Force Band, the essential and inspiring centre-piece of so many wartime occasions, was to make up for some orchestral shortcomings. For some years it had provided several of the country's most promising young wind players with instruments and full-time work under the direction of H. Gladstone Hill;188 they emerged as competent players of clarinets, horns, oboes and bassoons.189 Calls to seek a conductor overseas were disregarded. Anderson Tyrer was on the spot, the Prime Minister had full belief in him, and Sir Thomas Beecham, consulted, cabled back the two-edged phrase, ‘Just the man for the job’.190 The orchestra, ‘bred by enthusiasm out of democracy, with no background of tradition or experience’, gathered together, 65 strong, in October 1946.191 On 6 March 1947 it gave its first concert and, wrote John Beaglehole, ‘a tremendous, an intoxicating, and if one could hear it now, one would no doubt say pretty rough, experience it was.’192 It was, however, an orchestra in being with long, rich growth before it.
The end of the war saw music starting in a new field. In April 1943 the Listener had reported that BBC experiments over three years of ‘music while you work’ programmes had shown that production, especially in monotonous work, was increased by up to 15 per cent when music was played for about two and a half hours, part at the beginning, part near the end, of the day. Loudspeakers should be small and well placed about the factory, tone level should be constant and the melody should be clearly defined, riding over factory noises. Dance music, Viennese waltzes, light opera selections, musical comedy and brass bands were the most popular.193
By April 1945 the Industrial Psychology Division of the DSIR, using a gramophone in a small munitions factory, had decided that New Zealand girls liked music while they worked; their output increased by up to 10 per cent when music was played for two and a half hours in a normal day or three and three-quarter hours when overtime was worked. Their choice, in order, was for current hits by singers like Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and Vera Lynn; light music such as waltzes, musical comedy and dance music; Schubert songs and popular classical pieces; swing music of the Duke Ellington and page 1213 Archie Shaw type. Different groups of workers had various preferences: young girls usually wanted popular tunes, older women favoured light music; only Strauss waltzes had universal appeal.194 It was the beginning of a new era in work-place sound.
New Zealand's real national music is the music of brass bands and the pipes of the many Highland associations. A centennial contest was held in 1980 by when some then world-renowned bands could trace their existence back, through name changes and reorganisations, to the beginning of the century or even earlier.195 The 1908 Cyclopaedia of New Zealand recorded that very many small centres had their bands, often already mature in years. Besides municipal and suburban area bands, there were work-group players such as the Wellington Tramways Band (forerunner of Onslow), the Wellington Waterside Band, the Roslyn Mills Band. Their steady existence drew and was maintained by a steady flow of keen recruits. Traditionally, at all civic occasions the band was a welcome feature. In many public gardens in centres large and small the band rotunda was a centre of Sunday entertainment, and during the national centennial celebrations at Wellington in the summer of 1939–40 open air music was provided by eight brass bands and six pipe bands from Wellington and the Hutt Valley.196 A gauge of their place in public enjoyment was the part that hard-working bands played in the victory celebrations.197
Let me talk about brass bands—an excellent part of New Zealand musical life. Just consider for a moment the amazing standard achieved by brass band players. All these players are amateurs in the true sense of the word, but how much more advanced they are than the amateur string orchestra in the country…. The excellence of the brass section of the National Orchestra is the result of the good work done by brass bands in this country.199 page 1214 During the war, when their fit young men were drawn into the forces, some bands became inactive but many carried on: older players came back, young ones could join earlier. Pre-war, New Zealand bands were a male preserve and women were not recruited to fill the ranks, but a few women's bands were formed. During 1940–1 in Dunedin, favoured then by the presence of Arthur Hodgkins who had already achieved success with women's bands in Canada, England and Australia, 40 girls, all of them (except the conductor's daughter) beginners on brass, worked with such enthusiasm that within nine months they surprised their first audience, prepared to be tolerant and sure that tolerance would be needed, with what the Listener called a ‘full-bodied, mature performance’.200 The Wellington Ladies Highland Pipe Band had its beginnings, in military style uniform, in 1944.
Often bandsmen entering the forces did not lay aside their music. Provision of instruments was an early and prominent target of patriotic funds and 25 brass bands were equipped for service in the Middle East and the Pacific.201 Some military bands included woodwind instruments and some reached high standards, with the RNZAF Band under the baton of Flight-Lieutenant Gladstone Hill conspicuously in the lead. Its players thrived on the war-given opportunity of working together and the Band gained high reputation overseas.202 When the National Orchestra was created in 1946 its brass, clarinet and timpani sections were greatly strengthened by musicians from the Band.203 Frank Gurr, a foundation member of the Orchestra, recalled in 1977:
when I turned 18 in 1943, I was lucky enough to get into the Air Force Band. I'd been playing the clarinet for a very short time but going into the band put me in contact with the leading players in the country, clarinet players like Jack McCaw and Ken Wilson and a lot of other very fine musicians and I was able to learn a great deal from them.204
One way and another, music grew in New Zealand despite the war. At grass-roots, there was money about to pay for children's music lessons. Radio provided bread-and-butter and audiences for a considerable number of musicians. Enough people believed that the lights of civilisation should not be dimmed but cherished in dark days for small groups to play good music and for concerts to be page 1215 given. Hitler's exiles, both as performers and teachers, brought in a new wave of knowledge, skill and standards. The bands played on. By 1945 the chamber music movement was growing and would soon form the federation that has enriched the post-war decades. The National Orchestra began in 1946; so did the Cambridge music schools, the summer gatherings where young musicians were quickened by experienced teaching and all were enlivened by being together. Brass bands, beginning with St Kilda's success in Australia in 1949, were to win multiple honours overseas in years ahead. The economist J. B. Condliffe205 has written that New Zealand emerged from the war taut with suppressed inflation.206 It could almost be said that it emerged taut with musical energy.
By 1940 painters, like writers, were identifying more and more with New Zealand and this, indirectly, was enhanced by the war. Previously, besides their formal training at Auckland's Elam School, the Canterbury School of Art and at Dunedin's Technical College, most had sought further study in Europe. The war, cutting off Europe, reinforced the conscious exploration of New Zealand landscape and made painters like Rita Angus,207 Toss Woollaston208 and Colin McCahon209 find ways to abstract rather than report. These three, who exhibited with The Group, Christchurch, were to find the most symbolic and telling images, but their idiom was not readily grasped by the public. Eric Lee-Johnson210 in 1938, returning to his King Country homeland, was startled into realisation of its distinctive forms; by 1942 he was exhibiting water-colours of ravaged landscapes, burnt trees and seedy rural buildings. These were more immediately understandable. Together all these paintings caused many viewers to look about them with sharpened vision.page 1216
In Auckland a group working around John Weeks211 explored urban subjects with richer colour and cubist-influenced forms. This Rutland group included John and Charles Tole,212 Ida Eise,213 and Elise Mourant.214 The most original of them was Lois White,215 the only New Zealand painter to make explicit anti-war and social comment, in pictures such as ‘The War Mongers’, ‘Collapse’ and ‘Controversy’, which did not find favour with reviewers or the public.
Most painters continued more traditional work in landscapes, still-life and portraits, exhibiting through local art societies and the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, a main venue of sales and reputations. Oils and water-colours were by far the main part of these shows; there were only a few etchings, woodcuts and linocuts, a very few pieces of sculpture, wood carving, pottery and craftwork.
Veterans dominated: in reports of sales leading names included Sydney Thompson,216 T. A. McCormack,217 John Weeks, H. Linley Richardson,218 Cedric Savage,219 A. F. Nicoll,220 Cecil and Elizabeth Kelly,221 Sidney Higgs,222 Marcus King,223 R. J. Waghorn.224 In a private exhibition Nugent Welch225 could sell 40 out of 44 water colours.226 There were other painters, some with fresh eyes and vigorous futures, apart from the innovators already mentioned. Among page 1217 those listed in sales of pictures were Evelyn Page,227 S. B. McLennan,228 W. A. Sutton,229 Mervyn Taylor,230 Louise Henderson,231 Olivia Spencer Bower,232 Helen Brown,233 Bessie Christie.234
Two soldiers, Peter McIntyre in the Second Division and Russel Clark235 in the Pacific, became official war artists. Others such as Robin Kay,236 Austin Deans,237 W. A. Sutton (in New Zealand), A. B. Barnes-Graham238 and James Coe239 painted from the ranks. Some of their work appeared in special displays and among collections of pictures by British war artists which toured the country. Otherwise the war was a theme that concerned painters very little. Occasionally men in uniform appeared in portraits, such as Edith Collier's240 ‘Sergeant Pilot Carey Collier’241 and W. A. Sutton's ‘On Furlough in Central Otago’ showing two motor cyclists in khaki,242 and in drawings by R. Stenberg243 and U. Moller.244 A pen-and wash drawing by Barc (Helen Crabb245), ‘The People at War’, showed page 1218 sad faces, some uplifted, some bowed;246 others made minor references, such as a map of Europe behind a portrait.247
Most painters who came within Manpower range were part-time artists, with occupations which satisfied National Service requirements. Rita Angus was probably alone in appealing as a pacifist against Manpower direction to a rubber mill or any other essential employment. Her appeal was dismissed,248 but she was not actually obliged to perform any work.
The public showed more interest in its painters. Possibly this may have been stimulated to some extent by the centennial art exhibition, showing a century of New Zealand painting, which toured during 1940 and was reshown later. In mid-1942 when the National Art Gallery in Wellington was taken over for war purposes the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts moved to smaller but more central quarters in the disused tearoom of a large city shop, the DIG. It still managed to display 236 paintings at a time;249 it had more viewers and more sales. At its annual exhibition in 1942, 85 pictures netted artists more than £1,000, a record; pre-war a total of £300 had been considered quite good.250 The next two years saw sales reaching £1,200.251 Behind the boom there was, besides increased interest in New Zealand painting, the lack of imported goods; further, as Lady Newall pointed out, pictures did not need coupons.252
1 But all proceeds from John Beaglehole's slim volume of poetry, Words for Music (1938), went to Spanish medical aid, and John Mulgan's important novel, Man Alone (1939), ended with Johnston headed for Spain.
5 Harris, William John: b 1903; librarian & bibliographer; Librarian OU 1935–8; Pres NZLA 1946–7; Librarian University of Ibadan 1948–68, Pres West African Library Assn 1954–8; Prof Lib Studies, University of Ghana 1968–70; Librarian University of Technology, Benin, Nigeria 1970–3, Vice-Chancellor 1973–4
13 Lehmann, John Frederick, CBE('64): b 1907; Mnging Dir John Lehmann Ltd from foundation to 1952; Ed London Magazine from foundation to 1961, founder & Ed New Writing, Orpheus, partner & Gen Mngr The Hogarth Press 1938–46, Advisory Ed The Geographical Magazine 1940–5; first publication 1931
14 Lehmann, John, The Whispering Gallery, p. 263. Allen Curnow, quoting this passage (Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1960), p. 55), pointed out Lehmann's pardonable error in lodging all the group in Christchurch; various places could claim them but Denis Glover's Caxton Press in Christchurch published them all.
15 Plomer, William Charles Franklyn, CBE('68) (1903–73): writer; Pres The Poetry Society from 1968.
17 Lehmann, p. 264. Glover, Denis James Matthews, DSC (1912–80): poet, former journalist, university lecturer; founded Caxton Press 1936, to Pegasus Press 1953, Wingfield Press 1955; served in RN 1942–4; first publication 1936
19 Author notes in New Zealand New Writing, no 3, Jun 1944, p. 68
20 Hyde, Robin (1906–39): nee Iris Guiver Wilkinson; b South Africa, educated NZ; novelist, poet, journalist; first verse published 1929, prose 1934; d in England from illness incurred during war in China
26 Gaskell, A. P. (Alexander Gaskell Pickard): b 1913; teacher 1937–73; first publication 1947
27 Chateau, Leon Leopold du (1874(?)–1957): b England, educ Aust, actor 1894ff; to NZ c. 1900 as producer and teacher dramatic art.
28 These appeared on 7 Nov 41, 13 Feb 42 and 18 Feb, 14 Jul 44 respectively
29 A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–45 (1945), p. 42
30 Bethel, Ursula Mary (1874–1945): b England, to NZ 1876; first publication 1924
33 Gilbert, Gavin Robert: b 1917; first publication 1942
35 Sinclaire, Frederick (1881–1954): Prof English CUC from 1932; author, ed, essayist; first publication 1920
37 Belshaw, Horace (1898–1962): Prof Economics AUC 1927–44; Internal Sec Institute Pacific Relations 1944; Prof Umv California 1946; Prof Economics VUW from 1951; UN positions 1947–53; first publication 1928
38 Robb, Sir George, Kt('60), CMG('56) (1899–1974): surgeon, member Medical Council NZ, Pres BMA 1961; first publication 1940
39 Hearnshaw, Leslie Spencer: b England 1907, lecturer Psychology VUC 1939–47; Dir Industrial Psychology Div DSIR; first publication 1942
40 Sutch, William Ball (1907–75): economist: b England, educ NZ; member internal economics/trade organisations from 1935; first publication 1940
41 Guy, Christina K.: first publication 1943
43 Meek, Professor Ronald Linley: d 1978 aet 61; to Tyler Chair Economics Leicester Univ 1963; first publication 1943
51 He ignored Helen Wilson's Moonshine, a story of the Eighties to which Joan Stevens gave honourable mention (The New Zealand Novel 1860–1960, pp. 64, 67). He also found place for R. M. Burdon's Outlaw's Progress (1944) while quoting his own later opinion that it was a ‘damn bad novel’. Ibid., p. 64
52 Chapman, pp. 71–2, 75. The novels: Sargeson's That Summer and When the Wind Blows (both were published in Penguin New Writing, That Summer in 1943, nos 17–19, the other in 1946, nos 27–9) and Dan Davin's Cliffs of Fall (1945); the story collections: Finlayson's Sweet Beulah Land (1942), G. R. Gilbert's free to Laugh and Dance (1942) and Sargeson's Speaking for Ourselves (1945)
53 Davin, For the Rest of Our Lines (1947) and Roads from Home (1949); James Courage, The Fifth Child (1948) and Desire without Content (1950); D. W. Ballantyne, The Cunninghams (1948); Finlayson, Tidal Creek (1948); E. C. I., de Mauny, The Huntsman in his Career (1949); Wilson, Brave Company (1951); Ruth Park, The Witch's Thorn (1951); Sargeson, I Saw in my Dream (1949) with When the Wind Blows as its first part
57 Helm, Arthur Stanley, MBE(‘59): b 1914; government positions, Antarctic organisations, Sec Ross Sea Cmte, Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955–8; 2NZEF 1939–45; first publiccation 1945
58 Martyn, Furneaux (cf Martin Uren): b 1918; 2NZEF 1939ff
59 Henderson, James Herbert: b 1918; journalist in NZ and overseas; ed ‘Open Country’ radio session from 1961; 2NZEF 1939–43, prisoner of war; first publication 1945
60 Hargest, Brigadier James, CBE, DSO & bar, MC, mid (1891–1944): farmer; MP 1931–44; 1NZEF 1914–20, 2NZEF 1940–4, prisoner of war 1941–3
61 Jackson, Alan Francis: first publication 1943
62 Mclntyre, Peter, OBE('70): b 1910; official war artist 2NZEF 1940; first private publication 1962
63 Bagarag, Shible, ‘Boom in New Zealand Books’, NZ Magazine, Jan–Feb 44, vol 23, no 1, p. 39
65 Published in 1943
67 Kippenberger, Sir Howard, KBE(‘48), CB('44), DSO & bar, ED, mid (3 times), LM (US) (1897–1957): barrister; Rangiora Borough Cncl 8 years; 1NZEF 1916–17; battalion, brigade cmdr 2NZEF, Greece, Crete, Middle East, Italy 1941–4, GOC 2NZ Div 1943; Editor-in-Chief, NZ War History from 1946; Dom Pres RSA from 1948; Trustee Nat Ait Gallery 1949
69 Bagarag, pp. 38–40; Hurst, Maurice, ‘Book Boom in New Zealand’, ibid., Sep–Oct 1945, vol 24, no 5, p. 11; Auckland Star, 8 Aug 44, p. 4
72 Calder, p. 511
74 Göring, Reich Marshal Hermann W. (1893–1946): German Nazi leader; Pres Reichsrag 1932–45; Min for Air 1933–45, also C-in-C German Air Force; member Cabinet Cncl 1938–45; Pres Council for War Economy 1940–5; dismissed from all offices 1945; tried and condemned to death as war criminal at Nuremburg; committed suicide 15 Oct 1946
76 Press, 19 Sep 40, p. 6
78 Press, 10 May, 11 Dec 40, pp. 10, 10
91 Introduction to New Zealand, p. 204
92 Yearbook1940, p. 202
98 Ibid., vol 7, Mar 43, p. 101
99 McEldowney, pp. 41–2
100 Ibid., p. 39
103 McEldowney, pp. 47–9
104 Ibid., p. 51
105 Walsh, David Baillie, ‘A Survey of orchestral activity in New Zealand’, unpublished thesis, pp. 67, 69
106 Ibid., pp. 77, 68
108 Its branches continued to spread even during the war. In April 1941 organisers asked Wellington members to supply the names of friends at Timaru and Levin who might be interested in forming local branches. Ibid., 1 Apr 41, p. 12
109 Taranaki Daily News, 7 Aug 40, p. 9
110 Page, Frederick Joseph, Polish Order of Merit: b 1905; lecturer Music CUC 1941–2, senior lecturer VUC 1946, Prof 1957–70, Emeritus Prof VUW; Pres NZ br Internat Soc Contemporary Music 1954–65
111 Press, 19 Sep 40, p. 2
118 Walsh, p. 96
119 Tyrer, Anderson (1893–1962): pianist, conductor, composer, music examiner; musical adviser, conductor NZ Centennial Music Celebration 1940; guest conductor, solo pianist, composer with Aust, Canadian, S African, NZ broadcasting; invited to form, organise, conduct first NZ Nat Symphony Orch 1946
121 Baillie, Dame Isobel, DBE('78): b 1895; soprano
130 Ibid., 16 Jun 40, p. 4
132 Ibid, 12 Jul 40, p. 13; Star–Sun, 1 Jul 40, p. 9
134 Press, 5 Aug 40, p. 5
137 Jensen, pp. 17–18
149 Wood, Professor Frederick Lloyd Whitfield, CMG('74): b Aust 1903; Prof History VUW 1935–69, Prof Emeritus 1969
150 The Director of Broadcasting, Dr James Shelley, when asked to reconcile his spoken views on ‘Art and Life’ with the ‘rubbish’ that came over the air, declared that it was his job to cater for everybody and that he would not presume to judge what was good and bad in music. Letters of appreciation for classical concerts, he said, were the exception, but hundreds were received about popular and swing programmes. Dominion, 18 Jan 44, p. 4
151 Wood, Understanding New Zealand, pp. 156–7
153 Ibid., 3, 10, 17 Jul, 4 Dec 42, pp. 11, 11, 7. 10, 15 Oct 43, p. 13
154 Alpers, Antony Francis George: b 1919; journalist 1936–47, 1952–8, School Publications Branch Dept Educ 1958–60; Ed Caxton Press 1963–6; Assoc Prof English Queens Univ, Kingston, Ontario from 1966
160 Wood, This New Zealand (Understanding New Zealand, revised), p. 153
161 Press, 14 Jul 41, p. 9; Wood, Understanding New Zealand, p. 157
165 Howe, pp. 25–6
167 Clark, Kenneth Mackenzie, OM('76), Baron ('69): b 1903; Dir Nat Art Gall UK 1934–45; chmn Arts Cncl UK 1953–60; Slade Prof Fine Arts Oxford 1946–50, et al
173 Craccum, 31 Mar 43; Auckland Star, 22 Jan 43, p. 2
175 Ibid., 17 Feb 45, p. 9
176 Aspey, Vincent, MBE(‘58): b UK 1909, to NZ aet 2 years; violinist; lead violinist Aust Broadcasting Orch from 1928; leader 1YA Studio Orch 1936, NBS String Orch 1940; principal NBS String Quartet; leader NZ Nat Orch 1948, NZBC Symphony Orch to 1967
177 Schramm, Paul (1892–1953): b Vienna; pupil of Leschetizky; piano virtuoso in Europe until 1932; formed Batavian Symphony Orch 1933–7; in New Zealand from 1938, solo recitalist and, with wife Diny Schramm, duo pianist; died Australia
178 Auckland Star, 29 Nov, 8 Dec 44, pp. 6, 3; Press, 6 Jun 45, p. 5
187 Ibid., 25 Aug 45, p. 8
188 Hill, H. Gladstone, MBE('61) (1880–1977): b UK, to NZ 1886; Pres, chmn NZ Patriotic Soc WWI; Lieut-Bandmaster 16th Waikato Regimental Band, conductor Hamilton choral, operatic socs, male voice choir; Bandmaster, Dir Music to RNZAF 1940–5
189 Jensen, p. 21
190 Ibid., p. 20
191 Ibid., pp. 1, 31
195 Wright, A. G., and Newcomb, S. P., Bands of the World, p. 51
196 Hurst, M., Music and the Stage in New Zealand, p. 87
198 Braithwaite, Henry Warwick. FRAM (1898–1971): b NZ; conductor UK operatic, musical societies, orchestras from 1919 including Welsh Nat Orch, Sadler's Wells Opera Co. and ballet, Covent Garden; Conductor Nat Orch NZ 1953–4; conductor's posts Europe, Australia, S Africa
200 Ibid., 2 May 41, p. 43
203 Jensen, pp. 15, 21
204 Concord of Sweet Sounds: the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at 30, edited by Keith Hambleton, pp. 9–10
205 Condliffe, John Bell: b 1891; b Aust, educ NZ, INZEF 1917–19; Prof Economics CUC 1920–6, o'seas positions Honolulu, LoN, London School Economics, New Delhi, USA from 1927, consultant Stanford Research Inst, Menlo Park 1975, Prof Emeritus Univ California, Berkeley 1959
206 Condliffe, The Welfare State in New Zealand, p. 99
238 Barnes-Graham, A. B.: b 1906; studied overseas; portraits
241 Art in New Zealand, no 68, Jun–Jul 45, pp. 22, 25
246 Reproduced in Art in New Zealand, no 51, Jun 41
247 Press, 9, 10 Mar 42, pp. 3, 8
248 Ibid., 31 Oct 44, p. 2
252 Ibid., 30 Nov 42, p. 4