Mu­si­cal river still runs

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Weekly Life -

Eighty-two-year-old Wolfie Lehmkuhl has en­dured more dra­matic events in his life­time than many younger peo­ple in Perth could imag­ine.

He sur­vived three World War II bomb­ings in Berlin where the fi­nal one crushed his six-year-old chest, and his fa­ther, a Ger­man sea cap­tain in Eng­land when war broke out, was rounded up and trans­ported to Canada, where a Ger­man U-boat tor­pe­doed the ship.

“He was the only sur­vivor out of 2000 and swam in the At­lantic Ocean for eight hours be­fore be­ing picked up by an Aus­tralian war ship that brought him to Mel­bourne,” Lehmkuhl said.

“We got a note that he’d drowned at sea and then when the war fin­ished we got an­other note that he was alive and to get in con­tact with him in Aus­tralia.

“It took quite a few years be­cause I wanted to fin­ish my school­ing and also with immigration we had to go through a lot of tests. It took us un­til 1951 un­til we came out to Aus­tralia when I was 16. I was three when dad left, so couldn’t re­mem­ber him when I was a kid.”

Lehmkuhl’s first Aus­tralian home was Syd­ney, where he stud­ied women’s hair­dress­ing be­fore mov­ing to Perth with his part­ner, the na­tional sales man­ager for Singer sewing ma­chines, in 1990.

The openly gay cou­ple (Lehmkuhl came out to his par­ents in the 1950s) be­gan at­tend­ing WASO con­certs soon af­ter their move to WA and in 1993 a re­tired Lehmkuhl de­cided he would like to vol­un­teer for the or­ches­tra.

“I learnt mu­sic in Ger­many when the war was fin­ished,” he said.

“I still can’t play a thing and I can’t sing but re­mem­ber the first piece of mu­sic we had to learn was The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana.

“It’s about a lit­tle trickle of a stream up in the moun­tains of Prague that be­comes the river. I ac­tu­ally went on an opera and con­cert tour in 2007; it started in Berlin and fin­ished in Prague where we were taken to that lit­tle trickle in the moun­tains. That piece of mu­sic is still very sig­nif­i­cant to my love of mu­sic.”

Lehmkuhl vol­un­teers his time for of­fice du­ties at WASO one morn­ing a week and con­cert go­ers will reg­u­larly find him in the Perth Con­cert Hall Pa­tron’s Lounge to ex­change views about mu­sic.

“Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent taste and some­times we clash, but it gives me com­fort and I get a lot out of it,” he said.

“My part­ner passed away from lung can­cer in 2002 and it gets me out of the house; I don’t like sit­ting at home twid­dling my thumbs, so I’ll con­tinue to vol­un­teer for as long as I can walk.”

This month is WASO’S Com­mu­nity Sup­port Month which high­lights WASO’S be­lief in the life-chang­ing power of mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences and con­tri­bu­tions are wel­comed.

“If you like clas­si­cal mu­sic, I think it’s very im­por­tant to help,” Lehmkuhl said.

“WASO has im­proved over the years, es­pe­cially since Asher Fisch be­gan con­duct­ing; now the or­ches­tra has im­proved out of sight.”

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