Longview piano silent

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS DANDO

Clif­ford Matthews would love to keep go­ing, but his hands hurt too much.

The 86-year-old was hon­oured with a lunch at Longview Home in Tawa on Fe­bru­ary 22, bring­ing to a close his 38 years of vol­un­teer­ing there.

The mod­est Whitby res­i­dent said his fort­nightly piano ses­sions were ‘‘just a bit of fun’’, but Longview’s re­cre­ation of­fi­cer Mar­lene Bowles said they were ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated by many peo­ple.

‘‘It was more than just turn­ing up and play­ing the piano - he built re­la­tion­ships, he talked to res­i­dents and en­riched their spir­its,’’ she said.

Matthews, who worked in the tele­phone ex­change in Stout St in Welling­ton for much of his life, said play­ing at Longview hap­pened by chance.

‘‘It was 1981 and Longview, which was a hos­pi­tal for the blind then, were look­ing for vol­un­teer driv­ers,’’ he re­called. ’’I saw they had a piano in the lounge, and the rest is his­tory.’’

Matthews has been play­ing since he was 11 and is en­tirely self-taught.

He can’t read sheet mu­sic but can lis­ten to some­thing and pick it up eas­ily.

Most of his tunes come from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and for many years at Longview he was ac­com­pa­nied by so­prano Mar­garet Cooney.

‘‘Noth­ing more mod­ern than that era - I like the clas­sics and so do the folks I play for.

‘‘I love to see the smiles on their faces and you feel a sense of sat­is­fac­tion at the end, even if some of them may be asleep in their chairs.’’

One of his favourites to play was The Bea­tles’ Yes­ter­day, which was com­pli­cated but a crowd favourite, along with Oh, You Beau­ti­ful Doll.

He re­called Longview res­i­dent Arthur Barnes, who al­ways re­quested In­ver­cargill March.

‘‘If it’s a piano with soft keys, I’m OK, but th­ese days the reg­u­lar pi­anos are just too hard.

‘‘My hands hurt too much after­wards.’’

PHOTO: CLIF­FORD MATTHEWS

Clif­ford Matthews gets some crowd par­tic­i­pa­tion go­ing at one of his ses­sions at Longview, in 1996.

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