28 June 2013


In August 1989, Johnny was 14, Helen 12, Eddie 9, and Adele almost 7 - and all were by now quite accomplished musicians.  I think Helen had, by now, played show music in the Pukekohe Light Opera Club, and Adele may have done as well - if she had not then, she did soon after.  I'm not sure how far they had progressed in acquiring qualifications ('grades' from Trinity College) - eventually Helen did grade 8 both in flute and piano (and, I think, theory); Adele the same in trumpet and piano (though she may have stopped with grade 7 in piano - not sure).  The boys were good musically, though they did not do the 'grades' thing.

But they were all playing music a lot - and the focus was still the Papakura Saturday Music School.  Every Saturday Susan took them to Papakura (whilst I worked at my part-time job).

One day she told me the following story.  Eddie's regular violin teacher (he is now still a stringed instrument musician - but the strings are made of metal and the instrument is amplified :-)) was away.  Mr Cooper was filling in for the regular teacher (whose name I have forgotten - but no doubt Eddie remembers).  Somehow she learnt that Mr Cooper played in the Papakura Civic Orchestra:

Sue: "Oh, interesting!  My husband used to play the horn."
Bill Cooper: "Really?!  He should start again and think of playing with us."
Sue: "Oh, it has been a long time since he played - and he doesn't have a horn of us own."
Bill: "Well, our orchestra happens to have a horn that is not being used.  He should try that."
Sue: "OK, I'll tell him!"

Yeah, right!  I played the cornet from about age 8 or 9, and the horn from 14, both quite seriously until the end of 1962, when I left University and had to give back the horn.  Get serious, Sue!  After 27 years??!!

I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Before the following Saturday, I said to Sue to tell him that, oh, well, I'd love to see what it would be like to have a horn again to fiddle with - but don't count on anything!

It was, in fact, pretty awful - but I was astonished to find that, although, naturally, my embouchure was non-existent, my diaphragm made of jelly, and my fingers like clubs - still, that I had no problem knowing what to do - and perhaps practice would give me the power to do it.

I am surprised to find, looking at timing, what a short time I actually played in the orchestra.  I played my first concert with them in early 1990; I played my last in late 1993.  By the end of that time, I was beginning to be not a bad horn player.

I stopped for a number of reasons.  I think the primary one was that in the middle of 1993, we had a conductor (we did not have a regular conductor - various people were brought in) who had a plan - a good one, I thought - rather to help us become more serious and better as an orchestra.  He offered to be our conductor for all of 1994.  My understanding of what happened - and I must point out that I could be wrong; I was not on the committee - was that our committee at first agreed with him, offered him verbally a one-year contract - and then changed their mind.

I do not mean that I left as some sort of protest.  I did feel, however, that we were missing an opportunity in rejecting this plan.  There were other matters - for one thing, our rehearsal schedule was becoming burdensome - every Wednesday evening.

Nonetheless, I would not, I am sure, have left the orchestra had it not been for something new coming up.  Helen was, by this time, receiving flute lessons from Uwe Grodd - who was the University's flute and conducting teacher.  In October, 1993, she and Adele played in an inaugural concert with a group called, at the time, the Manukau City Symphony Orchestra (since minus the 'City' since we are part of an extended Auckland now).  Uwe was conducting.

They loved it.  Somehow Terry Spragg contacted me.  Perhaps Helen had told her I played the horn.  Why didn't I play with them?

No horn!  I had been using a single-F Yamaha horn belonging to the Papakura Orchestra.

No problem.  Terry was at the time in charge of the Howick School of Music.  They had a horn - an old Meister Hans Hoyer - which I could hire from them very cheaply.

So I did.  It has been a wonderful thing.  I played my first concert with them in early 1994.  Tomorrow evening we will play:

I now own my own horn (a Hoyer as well - but newer :-)).

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