Retirees recall keyboard’s heyday
Gather and play for fun
Meet Frank Haworth. He’s 92, knocking on 93, and he’s one of a dwindling number of keyboard enthusiasts who gather regularly around our district for a day of music and memories.
Last week, about 40 musicians from Wanaka, Queenstown, Alexandra and Cromwell came together at Wanaka’s Presbyterian Church Hall.
The members’ average age is about 65, several are in their 90s and all are retired.
Haworth’s been involved in the Central Otago Keyboard Club for about 30 years, taking up the organ after Audrey Henderson of Kelvin Heights invited him for afternoon tea one day.
‘‘Audrey had an organ and it was something I had wanted to do all my life, to play an instrument, and she said: ‘I’ll teach you’.
‘‘I must have been one of the most difficult pupils she ever had. Nothing seemed to go right, not to my way of thinking anyway,’’ Haworth said.
‘‘About a year or two later a group of people came down from Christchurch for a wild weekend of music away from home. They met at the hotel at the base of Coronet Peak.
‘‘One of them was John Hore. And I was impressed [by the blind musician]. So I decided to practise for two hours every day after breakfast.’’
Eventually Haworth was proficient enough to perform an organ solo on stage at the Arrowtown Autumn Festival.
He began attending national keyboard conventions with hundreds of musicians.
He recalled conventions involved a Friday night gettogether or dance and a Saturday sightseeing trip or music workshop for those who wanted one.
On Sundays there would be another workshop and an afternoon concert by the host club.
He recalled the day organs were overtaken by the modern keyboard.
‘‘It was at Ashburton convention, I remember the keyboard appeared for the first time. Everyone was taken by them.
‘‘At the next convention in Oamaru, there were a whole heap of them there. [Music instrument shops] were selling them as quick as they could. What you bought today was out of date tomorrow . . . Keyboards took the country by storm. They could be moved around from place to place and they were light. You could take them everywhere.’’
Even more musicians started attending conventions.
‘‘They were enormous things with clubs in Invercargill, Gore, Dunedin, Oamaru, Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch, Blenheim and Nelson. Each town had its turn . . . You had to be in quick and get your name into the convention to be accepted.
‘‘We are a dying art. There is no doubt about that. Cromwell aren’t here today. We are all getting older. But there is no doubt the wonderful things that have happened over the times.’’
Trevor Williams, of Wanaka, went to a few conventions with Haworth in those days but hasn’t been to one for a while.
Williams said there is concern for the Cromwell club, which used to have 10 members but has just one active member now.
But monthly district gettogethers are still going strong in people’s homes.
‘‘Young people today are more interested in jumping up and down and flinging their arms around than playing music,’’ Haworth said. Williams agreed. ‘‘These things [keyboards] take a while to get a result. And it is very hard to get young people interested in the sort of music we like playing. The Bee Gees, they are pretty high end with us just now. Some of their music is at least 40 years old now,’’ he said.
Haworth’s former teacher is still keen but with a broken arm was unable to play last week.
‘‘I tripped over my keyboard shoulder strap. I caught my foot in the strap and was over, bang,’’ she said.
Economic strategy debate tonight
The district’s draft economic strategy is up for debate from 4pm till 6pm today at the Lake Wanaka Centre. The Queenstown Lakes District Council drop-in session precedes the Shaping Our Future economic forum at the same venue from 7pm. The strategy was prepared by consultants Martin Jenkins & Associates, following an earlier Shaping our Future forum. Former Deutsche Bank chief economist Ulf Schoefisch co-authored the report and will be at the Wanaka sessions.
Enthusiasts: Audrey Henderson of Queenstown and Frank Haworth of Wanaka.
Enjoy: Helen Hillary of Queenstown.