Saturday, May 18, 2024

Happy 50th Anniversary Pakuranga Choral

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The talented members of Pakuranga Choral have been proudly entertaining the local community for decades. Photo supplied
  • By Farida Master

Pakuranga Choral is celebrating 50 years of uninterrupted singing on Sunday, May 19, at 3pm at the Trinity Methodist Church.

The Choral Celebration will be conducted by renowned conductor David Hamilton to mark the milestone year.

“It’s the joy of singing that brings people together,” says Ann Day, Pakuranga Choral president.

“It’s good for your soul and your health. It’s great for your brain too,” says the St Heliers’ resident who loves driving to East City Wesleyan Church in Burswood every Monday evening to rehearse with her singing family from 7.30pm-9.30pm.

Ron Vandenberg, vice president of the choir, who hails from a family of male singers, adds saying that the choir members share a good sense of camaraderie and friendship over the years.

Of the belief that everyone can sing, Pakuranga Choral is very inclusive. 

They also enjoy teaming up with other choirs, be it the Manukau Symphony Orchestra, South Auckland Choral or the Franklin Choir. 

One of the challenges they face though is getting sponsors and younger members to join the choir. However, the 50th Anniversary concert is funded by a bequest by former chairperson Sylvia Jones. The concert will celebrate her work as well.

There have been times when they have been counting heads whilst the concert is on to make sure they can cover the expenses.

“While we do get a grant from the Howick Local Board, it’s not enough. It’s mainly the subscriptions and concerts that cover most expenses,” says Ron. 

Pam Sefton, one of the founder members of Pakuranga Choral Society says she remembers her first concert for more reasons than one.

“We were around 70-80 members when we started in the year ‘73. We had our first concert in May ‘74. It was at the Cathedral in Parnell.

“My dad Eric Speir was the foundation member of Pakuranga Choral Society. The rehearsal and concert were held at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell.

“After the actual concert ended our conductor, Ross Lewis, turned to face the audience and found that his knees had locked. They eventually unlocked and he could turn.”

The memory of that day is clearly etched in her mind.

“At that time, the cathedral was only partly finished and as we were singing Elijah, the rain thundered on the then tin roof. It was quite surreal!”

Having been with the choir for over 50 years, Pam who also finds time to devote to the Howick Singers and the Young at Heart, has plenty of anecdotes to share.

“We have also sung at the Old St Mary’s before it was brought back over the road to its current place, and we’ve rehearsed at St Columba Presbyterian Church until they moved to Botany.

“We then moved to Elm Park School Hall, later to the Methodist Church and now at East City Wesleyan Church.

Three of the group’s stalwarts. Times photo Farida Master

In the early years concerts were held at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Saint Kentigern College Chapel and Hall and All Saints Church. The lighter concerts were usually held at school halls.

“At one time during the rehearsal before the concert, the lead soprano didn’t show up. We continued without her. About half an hour before the concert she turned up and was told to go home.

“Never did we find out why she was late or what happened afterwards. At that stage we had about 80 members.”

Pam recalls that their first recording for Praise Be was held on the day of her father’s funeral.

“I was standing on the end of the front row but Lola Boswell, our deputy conductor decided I should be next to her in the middle of the choir surrounded by my friends.

“As I was taller than Lola, I had to take my shoes off and lowered my skirt, to cover my toes. What we do for our choir,” she laughs.

Over the years, there have been an interesting mix of people including politicians who have also joined the choir.

“One time Gavin Downie, our Pakuranga MP was singing the verses of one piece and three of us were joining him in the chorus. Val Sowerby played the introduction and Gavin came in at double the speed.

“Val didn’t miss a beat and we three joined later at the current speed. When we got off stage, we threatened him with violence if he ever did that again.  He got the correct timing the next week at our second concert,” smiles the Botany resident.

Pam considers herself very lucky that she’s had the opportunity to sing with both her father and her younger daughter, Leigh.

Importantly, she says that the choir has performed come rain or sunshine, the show goes on.

“Only one rehearsal was cancelled because of the rain but never a concert. At one concert, the choir sat in the rain and the orchestra was behind a plastic curtain to protect their instruments.

“That year one of the soloists was Dame Malvina Major. All the other soloists rehearsed behind the curtain, but she stepped forward, and said if it was good enough for the choir it was good enough for her.

“The following night our books were quite difficult to turn as the pages had all got quite wet.”

Celebrating 50 years of singing, Pakuranga Choral will present a special concert on Sunday, May 19, at 3pm, at the Trinity Methodist Church, on Pakuranga Road.

With accompaniment from a specially formed orchestra, the choir will present Vivaldi’s ever popular Gloria, and Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, sung by Morag Atchison.

A special feature of the concert will be a new work from conductor David Hamilton, The Song is but a Door, commissioned by the choir for the anniversary.

As with last year’s concert, Messiah, the choir is joined by Franklin Community Choir from Pukekohe. Tickets though choir members and at the door.

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