Epit­ome of say­ing show must go on

Bush Telegraph - - FOCUS ON DANNEVIRKE -

ac­cor­dion, but things didn’t al­ways go smoothly.

“One evening at the Foun­tain Theatre in the dark on the steps, Elaine face-planted and ended up sprawled over the pi­ano,” Mitchelmore said. “But never mind, the first chord came out on time. Elaine was a friendly, will­ing mu­si­cian, even when she was the start, end and mid­dle of the orches­tra. She is the epit­ome of the say­ing, the show must go on.”

Tracey Friend of Tararua Fu­neral Ser­vices said over the years Elaine has helped at hun­dreds of fu­ner­als, of­ten tai­lor­ing the mu­sic to suit the de­ceased be­cause she knew them so well, go­ing the ex­tra mile for fam­i­lies.

“We’d give Elaine a cou­ple of days no­tice and even oc­ca­sion­ally call on her on a Wed­nes­day, her golf day,” she said. “She’s our un­sung hero, es­pe­cially at the Angli­can Church were she is hid­den be­hind the or­gan, but the mu­sic still flows out. Some­times it’s just the lit­tle things, but those lit­tle things have a huge im­pact on our com­mu­nity — they rip­ple out.”

Bar­bara Fer­gu­son of Dan­nevirke’s fe­male choir L’s Belles, said when the choir formed three years ago, they didn’t have a pi­anist.

“Elaine stepped in and at the end of this year we’ll have per­formed 48 times and Elaine has been with us for 47 of those times,” she said. “Once she took off to Aus­tralia, but recorded her mu­sic be­fore she left be­cause we couldn’t be L’s Belles without Elaine. She can play any song and we’ve been so lucky to have Elaine, so now we’ve re­named our choir, EL’s Belles be­cause we are Elaine’s Belles. “

Elaine played with the Dan­nevirke Brass Band at her own civic award cer­e­mony, shar­ing her gift and love of mu­sic.

“She’s asked lit­tle in re­turn and has an in­cred­i­ble skill and tal­ent and those who have learnt from her are ex­tremely grate­ful she’s so ex­traor­di­nar­ily gen­er­ous with her time,” Col­lis said.

Elaine said she was over­whelmed by the award.

“I learnt mu­sic when I was at pri­mary school and went to a great teacher who knit­ted dur­ing lessons and if I hit a wrong note, she hit me with her nee­dles,” she said. “When I read in the news­pa­per the band was ask­ing if any­one wanted to learn to play a brass in­stru­ment, I took my son along and sat in on the first les­son. At the sec­ond les­son I asked if they could give me some­thing to blow. Tu­tor John Thirkell had his head in his hands when we were try­ing to play a scale and said, ‘this is ter­ri­ble’ but we im­proved. I love play­ing the or­gan, it’s great fun and I’m there in church most Sun­days.”

Elaine said she had a great buzz when play­ing for pro­duc­tions of Chess and Evita.

“I’ve al­ready had a call about next year’s pro­duc­tion of Beauty and the Beast,” she said.

“You know, we are re­ally for­tu­nate to live in Dan­nevirke and it re­minds me of the words of the great philoso­pher, Fred Dagg, ‘We don’t know how lucky we are’.”

Jo Crosse, vicar of SHB and St John the Bap­tist Angli­can Church, said the church would be lost without Elaine.

“She has a great gift and she puts it to good use,” she said.

And while Elaine also plays at Dan­nevirke rest homes and for the late Miss Joan Irvine’s tap stu­dents, she’s been an ac­tive mem­ber of the Dan­nevirke Golf Club. But arthri­tis causes her to throw her clubs at times, with them spin­ning through the air like ro­tor blades and on one oc­ca­sion in Eke­tahuna, her club ended up in a tree. Elaine joined the Dan­nevirke Bowl­ing Club in 1994 and in 2012 was fill-in sec­re­tary. She’s still the fill-in sec­re­tary.

Dan­nevirke’s Elaine Swan­ney play­ing with the Dan­nevirke Brass Band at her civic hon­our cer­e­mony.

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