Fifty years of con­cert party an­tics

Napier Courier - - NEWS -

For half a cen­tury the Taradale RSA Con­cert Party has been rais­ing smiles — lots of smiles.

The con­cert party is a unique col­lec­tion of about 30 ta­lented vol­un­teers who are pas­sion­ate about en­ter­tain­ing.

And as they have for the past 49 years, they are at it again for their 50th year, and their au­di­ences are de­lighted.

They may be in their “se­nior” times but age has cer­tainly not wea­ried their re­solve to put on a show to raise laugh­ter and ap­plause.

They also raise funds through do­na­tions to keep the costs down, but then give the rest away.

As Ivan Wood­ham, who has been part of the happy crew for 20 years said, when they take their shows to other venues they ask for do­na­tions and they are suit­ably re­warded.

“And at the end of the year we sort out a wor­thy cause and we do­nate to them,” he said.

Is it a lot of fun be­ing part of the con­cert party? “Oh yes . . . tell me about it,” he laughed.

He re­called how, 21 years ago, they were seek­ing some­one to step in and play piano for them and his wife hap­pily obliged. “And she’s still do­ing it.” The Taradale RSA Con­cert Party is pretty well the only one of its kind still per­form­ing af­ter so long, and there is no sign of them slow­ing down.

As sec­re­tary Peter Raw­strone said, they aim to put on about 20 per­for­mances a year, and with all the plan­ning, re­hears­ing, trav­el­ling and per­form­ing that means a lot of time and devo­tion.

“It’s not all hard work for the mem­bers, most of whom are over 70, with some over 80, as there is al­ways the friendly ban­ter that goes with any group meet­ing.

“The fel­low­ship comes as we have re­fresh­ments, a few laughs and a meal at the RSA after­wards.”

Peter said they all had unique tal­ents and liked to share that with oth­ers, and some were in de­mand to per­form out­side the con­cert party in pri­vate func­tions and cabarets.

“Many were in­volved in the op­er­atic or the the­atre world in their younger days and this gives us the ad­van­tage of the mem­ber’s vast ex­pe­ri­ences, en­sur­ing a qual­ity per­for­mance.”

For their 50th an­niver­sary, the con­cert party is stag­ing a show ti­tled Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney, which is di­rected by Peter and He­len Hill, and like the pre­vi­ous highly ac­claimed shows is filled with songs, sketches, dance, magic and com­edy.

“It is a pro­duc­tion which takes the best from past shows and will also present a bracket of army songs and rou­tines to re­cap­ture the spirit of An­zac in this 100th year since Armistice Day,” Peter said.

It fol­lows a sort of Vaude­ville path with plenty of va­ri­ety that will in­spire the au­di­ences to join along in song and get the hands clap­ping.

The ori­gins of a con­cert party date back to the days of the Tin Hat clubs.

These were lo­cal groups who en­ter­tained thetroops dur­ing World War II.

The Taradale RSA Con­cert Party was formed in 1968 when 17 peo­ple an­swered a call for those in­ter­ested to at­tend a meet­ing.

It was de­cided to go ahead with the group and the first re­hearsal was held at the RSA in March, with the first of­fi­cial per­for­mance on An­zac night the fol­low­ing month.

“The late Ge­orge Coldicutt was the first pres­i­dent, and, to this day as far as we know, we are the only per­form­ing con­cert party left in New Zealand,” Peter said.

“Our mem­bers are mainly re­tired and this year we wel­come back our youngest mem­ber, Peter Coldicutt, the son of the foun­da­tion mem­ber, Ge­orge.”

Peter said the con­cert party had its own light­ing, sound equip­ment and stage cur­tains with each mem­ber hav­ing a job to do when set­ting up.

“We can set up in an hour and be ready to per­form not long af­ter,” he said.

“We also have our own band con­sist­ing of a pi­anist, a bass player, a gui­tarist and a drum­mer.”

He paid trib­ute to the great sup­port they got from the Taradale RSA which had pro­vided them with two con­tain­ers to house their equip­ment, cos­tumes and props, as well as a trailer.

“Each year a dif­fer­ent show is pro­duced and mem­bers start prac­tis­ing three months be­fore the show is pre­sented to the pub­lic,” Peter said.

“We per­form at rest homes and clubs, both in Napier and Hast­ings and we also go away to the Waikato, Manawatu¯ , Tau­ranga, Wairarapa or Wan­ganui ar­eas for two or three week­ends each year, when we put on three shows at dif­fer­ent clubs or RSAs.”

The week­end of No­vem­ber 10 and 11 is when the group will be for­mally gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate their 50th ju­bilee.

“Mem­bers and ex-mem­bers will be in­vited to a din­ner and en­ter­tain­ment at the Taradale RSA on the Satur­day and Sun­day will be the time for rem­i­nisc­ing over pho­tos and re­new­ing great friend­ships made over many years of be­ing a mem­ber of the Taradale RSA Con­cert Party.”

So 50 years have passed for the con­cert party, and there’s plenty more to come. Peter said the mem­bers were hope­ful that some younger men and women will step up and join the group.

“This will en­sure that the con­cert party will con­tinue to en­ter­tain peo­ple for many more years,” he said.

The cheer­ful and de­voted Taradale RSA Con­cert Party crew.

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