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