This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.
Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.
The earliest settlers in New Zealand, coming mostly from England, brought with them the musical traditions of a country which at that time, the middle of the nineteenth century, had its strongest roots in choralism. It was natural that a people nurtured on church music and on the widespread English taste for the singing of part-songs and oratorio should wish to transplant these arts to their new country. Thus the establishment of choral societies and church choirs took precedence among the musical activities of early New Zealand life. Busy colonists developed their vocal talents first, and instrumental development followed later – a pattern of musical progress familiar to most civilised countries.
As early as 1856 there was a choral society in Auckland giving a performance of Handel's Messiah. Wellington formed a similar society in 1860, and in the same year nine men in Christchurch founded a society called the Canterbury Vocal Union which shortly afterwards amalgamated with a St. Cecilia Society, male and female voices thus being brought together to form the nucleus of what is today the Royal Christchurch Music Society of some 220 singers. Dunedin had its Harmonic Society in 1856, and the Dunedin Choral Society was formed in 1864. Soon many smaller towns had similar organisations. Meanwhile, with the growth of population, there arose the male voice choirs, liedertafels, women's choirs, and amateur operatic societies, many of which have maintained their existence up to the present time.
In 1879 the Chapter of Christchurch Cathedral, then shortly to be consecrated, appointed Harry Wells, of England, to be its first choirmaster and organist. In the establishment of a full cathedral choir on English lines, it took a step that was to have a deep influence on the musical life of the country. Under Wells and his successors, G. F. Tendall, J. C. Bradshaw, and C. Foster Browne, generations of highly trained choristers have gone out to enrich both secular and church music of New Zealand. For the first hundred years of the country's history, Christchurch alone has maintained the traditions of a full cathedral service, brought up to very high standards during the long and distinguished regime of Dr J. C. Bradshaw.
Parallel with the development of church music went interest in organ playing, the organ recital reaching its peak of popularity in the first 30 years of this century. In addition to the fine organs in the cathedrals of Christchurch and Dunedin, there were first-rate instruments in the town halls of the four chief cities (the one in Christchurch was later destroyed by fire), and civic organists were appointed by the city councils to give regular recitals. Maughan Barnett in Auckland, Bernard Page in Wellington, J. C. Bradshaw in Christchurch, and Victor Galway in Dunedin for many years gave recitals which were a feature of musical life. Enthusiasm for these waned as orchestral and recorded music advanced. The municipal appointments have now lapsed, and the heyday of the organ recital seems over.
For reasons already outlined, orchestral music was slower to develop, and many orchestras which from time to time were established in the larger centres frequently met with difficulties which sooner or later brought about their disbandment. Among early orchestras were the Wellington Orchestral Society, founded in 1879, and the Auckland Orchestral Union, 1896. An Auckland Orchestral Society was formed in 1903, the decision being taken after a farewell concert to Arthur Towsey, a leading Auckland musician in the latter part of last century. The well-known composer Alfred Hill was appointed the first conductor of this new group, but his tenure was brief and he was followed by John Willaert, a Belgian oboe player who had come out to New Zealand some 20 years earlier. This orchestra was followed by the Bohemian Orchestra which, under its conductor Colin Muston, gave concerts in Auckland from 1914 until 1937, when it was disbanded. An Orchestral Society was founded in Dunedin in 1886 and there was a similar organisation in Christchurch. New Zealand's first professional symphony orchestra was formed for the 1906–7 Exhibition in Christchurch, with Alfred Hill as the conductor. Not until the National Orchestra was formed in 1940 did the country possess a similar institution again.
Visiting Companies and Musicians
In 1861 Charles Begg established in Dunedin the piano and general music firm which today has branches throughout the country. Music was already beginning to be a force in the colony, and it was not long before travelling companies and individual artists were including New Zealand in their concert tours. One of the earliest visits recorded was that of the Caradinis, who gave operatic concerts in 1863. The Lyster Opera Company made its first tour in 1864 with Il Trovatore and Daughter of the Regiment, and an Italian grand opera company paid visits in 1872 and 1873.
The Royal English Opera Company toured in 1874, Simonsen's Opera Company in 1876, and the Lyster company again in 1879. During the next 20 years light operas, including the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, seem to have been more popular. Between 1880 and 1902 the Pollard Opera Company staged no fewer than 42 different productions. A notable event was the staging in 1904 of Tapu, an opera by the New Zealand composer Alfred Hill, and in the next year the same composer's A Moorish Maid introduced Rosina Buckman, a New Zealand dramatic soprano who was later to achieve fame overseas.
To complete the history of opera up to the present time mention may be made of the visits of the first J. C. Williamson Grand Opera Company in 1910, the Gonsalez Italian Opera Company in 1927 and 1928, the J. C. Williamson Imperial Grand Opera Company in 1932, another Williamson company in 1949, and the National Opera Company of Australia in 1954. The centenary celebrations of New Zealand in 1940 included a production of Faust, for which the principals, Isobel Baillie, Gladys Ripley, Heddle Nash, and Raymond Beatty, were brought from England, together with the New Zealand bass Oscar Natzke, while local singers provided the chorus for the performances in each of the cities, a procedure followed again in 1947 when Carmen was given. An important development in 1957 was the establishment of the New Zealand Opera Company, a small but capable group which is now taking opera to all parts of the country.
As travel became easier a steady stream of concert artists toured the main centres. Early visitors were the songwriter W. H. Jude, who in 1892 gave organ and song recitals, and Charles Santley, greatest English baritone of his day, who toured in 1897. Other notable artists to tour in the early part of this century were Dame Nellie Melba, Ada Crossley, Mark Hambourg, Percy Grainger, all in 1903, Paderewski in 1904, and Dame Clara Butt and Jan Kubelik in 1908.
One of the greatest events of the years preceding the First World War was the visit of the Sheffield Choir in 1910, under Sir Henry Coward. The years between the World Wars brought the New South Wales State Orchestra of some 80 players under Henri Verbruggen, the Sistine Choir soloists, the Westminster Glee Singers, the Don Cossack Choir, and a large number of solo artists, among whom may be listed Moiseiwitch, Kreisler, Backhaus, Toti dal Monte, Heifetz, Galli-Curci, Levitski, Cherkassy, Peter Dawson, Pouishnoff, and Yehudi Menuhin.
Other events of the 1920s were the start of the boom in cinema entertainment and the beginning of broadcasting. The silent films had brought a demand for picture-theatre orchestras which lured away so many talented players that this was the principal reason for the difficulties which led to the disbandment of many symphony orchestras in the cities. Broadcasting was placed under Government control in 1932, and for the last 30 years the National Broadcasting Service may be said to have been the chief purveyor of music to the country, both through its radio network and through its agency in bringing distinguished artists on tour to New Zealand.
The Second World War naturally put the brake heavily on musical progress. Many societies had to curb their activities, and the stream of visiting artists was almost entirely stopped. The cessation of hostilities, however, was followed by a period of intensive development. Air travel has brought New Zealand easily into the concert artist's orbit, so that the years since 1945 have seen a steady stream of world-famous musicians touring the country. Among these may be mentioned the pianists Solomon, Lili Kraus, Colin Horsley, Simon Barere, Moura Lympany, Alexander Helmann, Louis Kentner, Hepzibah Menuhin, Jan Smeterlin, Josef Iturbi, Eileen Joyce, Bela Siki, Julius Katchen, Malcuzynski, and Niedzielski; the singers Todd Duncan, John Charles Thomas, Isobel Baillie, Ninon Vallin, Gerard Souzay, Tito Schipa, the Trapp Family, Victoria de los Angeles, Yi Kwei Sze, Paul Robeson, and Rita Streich; the violinists Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Max Rostal, Alfredo Campoli, and David Oistrakh; and the Russian violincellist Rostropovich.
Events of particular note in these post-war years have been the visits of the Boyd Neel String Orchestra in 1947, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1959, the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1960, and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra in 1961. In this same year Igor Stravinsky arrived to conduct the New Zealand National Orchestra in two concerts of his own compositions.
The strength of a country's music depends primarily, however, on its own musicians who by their teaching and leadership, their founding or conductorship of societies, and their own skill as executants do much to raise the general standards. In this brief historical survey, and in the associated articles, mention is made of the names of several outstanding leaders in their respective spheres. Among others who have played an important part in this development may be mentioned the following: In Auckland: G. A. Paque, a conductor and 'cello player; W. H. Webb, who in the early part of this century had a school of music in which most of the players of the day were trained; Arthur, Cyril, and Patrick Towsey, three generations of piano teachers; Herbert Bloy, an English violinist who played a prominent part in many early orchestras; George Poore, for more than 60 years a leading flautist; Georg Tintner, conductor of the Auckland Choral Society and the Auckland String Players; and H. C. Luscombe, teacher and conductor.
In Wellington: John Prouse, for many years the leading bass-baritone of New Zealand; Robert Parker, C.M.G., justly known as the “grand old man” of New Zealand music which he served for more than half a century; John Bishop, conductor; Stanley Oliver, O.B.E., conductor of the now defunct Schola Cantorum which won a reputation beyond New Zealand for fine choral singing; Ava Symons, violinist; H. Temple White, teacher and conductor; L. D. Austin, teacher and writer on music; Leon de Mauny, violinist and conductor; and Harry Brusey, conductor.
In Christchurch: H. M. Lund, piano teacher and music critic; Alfred J. Bunz, piano teacher and conductor; F. M. Wallace, teacher of strings and conductor; Victor Peters, O.B.E., conductor of the Christchurch Harmonic Society; Alfred Worsley, conductor of the Christchurch Liedertafel and the Liederkranzchen; and Ernest Empson, for many years a leading piano teacher and founder of the Eroica Club.
In Dunedin: C. N. Baeyertz, editor and critic of The Triad, a musical magazine which for many years provided pungent criticisms of performances; Sidney Wolf and James Coombs, choral; R. Squarise, teacher and conductor; A. J. Barth, Max Scherek, and Mrs Levi (née Blanche Joel), piano teachers; Ernest Drake, teacher of singing; Alfred Walmsley, conductor and teacher of singing; John Leech, teacher of singing; G. W. Johnstone, teacher of singing; and Mary Pratt, New Zealand's leading contralto.
Alfred Hill stands alone as the only composer of note in the early period of New Zealand history. Apart from his music, which frequently sought to catch the spirit and flavour of Maoriland, there has been no strongly marked tendency to develop a nationalist school of composition. The most significant composer of recent times is Douglas Lilburn, of Wellington. Others include T. Vernon Griffiths, H. C. Luscombe, Ronald Tremain, Dorothea Franchi, Edwin Carr, John Ritchie, Leslie Thompson, David Farquhar, and David Sell.
Already several New Zealanders have made their mark as performers outside their own country. They include the soprano Rosina Buckman, the pianist Vera Moore, the bass Oscar Natzke, the tenor Andrew Gold, Inia Te Wiata (the first Maori singer to achieve distinction overseas), the pianists Richard Farrell and Colin Horsley, the violinist Alan Loveday, and the conductor Warwick Braithwaite.
Music – Academic
Chairs of music are established in the universities of the four chief cities, and provision is made for music to be taken as a subject for all stages of the B.A. and honours degrees as well as for the degree of Mus.B. The degree of Mus.Doc. may also be conferred after examination. A school of Music was founded at Auckland University in 1889, at first under a lecturer, Carl Gustav Schmitt. A chair was established in 1902, with W. E. Thomas, Mus.Doc., as the first professor. Subsequent holders of this chair have been Professor H. Hollinrake (died 1955), and Charles Nalden, Mus.Doc. (appointed 1956). Canterbury University founded a lectureship in music in 1891, to which G. F. Tendall, MUS.BAC., was appointed. A chair was created in 1938, with J. C. Bradshaw, Mus.Doc., as the first professor. He was succeeded by T. Vernon Griffiths, Mus.Doc., who retired in 1961. By the benefaction of John Blair, a lectureship in music was founded at Otago University in 1925. Victor E. Galway, who was appointed to this lectureship, became Blair Professor of Music when the chair was established in 1939. Victoria University, Wellington, founded a Department of Music in 1946, in charge of a senior lecturer, Frederick J. Page, who became the first professor when a chair was created in 1957.
Scope of Courses
Recent developments in university music have extended the scope and activity of the courses offered. Canterbury University, in addition to the purely academic syllabus, has a Music Leadership course designed to train students in all branches of educational and public music. This university also maintains a professional university chamber-music trio and provides a series of weekly public music recitals. Auckland University has an Executant Diploma course, for which it provides vocal and instrumental teaching available to outside students as well as to those enrolled for degrees.
To some extent, therefore, an attempt has been made to provide for the teaching normally given by a conservatorium. For many years there has been strong advocacy for the establishing of a national conservatorium, but this has not so far come. A Nelson School of Music, designed originally to fulfil the functions of a conservatorium, was founded in 1893, with Michael Balling as its first principal. In 1896 he was followed by another German musician, G. Handke, and in 1899 the post was taken over by Julius Lemmer, who occupied the position for more than 50 years. Today this school of music is merely a centre where several private music teachers give their lessons. Another school of music of note is that of St. Mary's College, Auckland, where the gifted teaching of Sister Mary Leo has produced many fine singers in recent years.
The Music Teachers' Registration Board of New Zealand, created by an Act of Parliament in 1927, is responsible for the registration of the many private music teachers throughout the country, registration conferring added professional status and some privileges. The interests of music teachers are also promoted by the various societies of registered music teachers, whose activities are coordinated by the New Zealand Federation of Registered Music Teachers.
Bursaries and Awards
For several years bursaries for outstanding students of music and other arts have been granted by the Government, making overseas study possible for deserving candidates. These may be for amounts up to £500 for study in New Zealand, and up to £500 in addition to a grant for travelling for those going overseas. The awards were formerly made by the Arts Advisory Council of New Zealand, a body which consisted of five members nominated by the Government and five nominated by representatives of the arts, with the Minister of Internal Affairs as the chairman. Its functions have now been taken over by a newly constituted body, the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council.
Apart from the already mentioned Executant Diploma examination at Auckland University, New Zealand has not yet set up an examining body for practical performers, This work is carried out by the Royal Schools of Music, London, and Trinity College London, both of which send out examiners each year.
Cities and towns throughout New Zealand have their quota of societies catering for various musical interests. Oldest of these are the city choral societies already mentioned – the Auckland Choral Society, the Wellington Choral Union, the Royal Christchurch Music Society, and the Dunedin Choral Society. Among many other choral groups may be mentioned the Christchurch Harmonic Society (1927) which under its first conductor, Victor C. Peters, O.B.E., reached a very high standard, the Royal Auckland Choir (1893), Christchurch Male Voice Choir, Christchurch Liedertafel (1885), the Wellington Phoenix Choir, the Auckland Dorian Singers, Christchurch Liederkranzchen (1934), Christchurch Orpheus Choir (1936), and the Royal Dunedin Male Choir which has an unbroken record since the 1880s.
Chamber music societies, all in flourishing condition, exist in each city, with their activities coordinated by the New Zealand Federation of Chamber Music Societies.
There is a branch of the I.S.C.M. at Wellington, and Auckland has a Society for Contemporary Music, founded in 1959. Grand opera societies in Auckland and Dunedin promote interest in opera and in the work of the New Zealand Opera Company in particular, whose headquarters are in Wellington. Amateur operatic societies, chiefly concerned with the production of light operas and musical comedies, are to be found in most towns. Some, such as the Auckland Amateur Operatic Society (1919), have a long record of successful productions.
The existence of the National Orchestra has in recent years tended to diminish interest in less complete local orchestras, several of which disbanded after many years of concert giving. The leading groups of the present time, apart from those on a national basis, are the Alex. Lindsay String Orchestra, of Wellington, and the Auckland String Players.
A Recorded Music Society is to be found in many centres. The Auckland Organists' Association and similar groups foster interest in organ playing, and societies of registered music teachers look after the interests of professional music teachers, and by scholarships, prizes, and the promotion of concerts encourage young performers. There are also a number of societies for jazz enthusiasts.
For many years music had small recognition as a subject in the curriculum of the majority of New Zealand schools. Its teaching in the primary schools is perfunctory and confined mostly to haphazard class singing, more often than not directed by unqualified teachers. In most secondary schools it had no place at all in the syllabus, so that such music as was done came only through out-of-school activities, and through the work of private music teachers. In 1926 the New Zealand Government took a step that was to change the whole scene greatly. It approached Sir Walford Davies, a leading English authority on music in education, and asked him to select an Adviser a Music to the Department of Education. On his nomination E. Douglas Tayler was appointed, and the work he did from 1927 to 1931, when he left to go to California, had far-reaching effects. Lectureships in music were established at the teachers' training colleges in each of the four cities. Horace Hollinrake, appointed to Auckland, and T. Vernon Griffiths to Christchurch, both subsequently became professors of music in these cities. Ernest Jenner was appointed to Wellington and was later transferred to Christchurch. Similar lectureships have since been established at the newer training colleges of Ardmore and Palmerston North.
In the economic depression of the early 1930s the Government found it necessary to make retrenchments and the axe was laid to school music as well as to many other departments. The music lectureships at Wellington and Dunedin were abolished. Out of this apparent disaster, however, much good was to come. Vernon Griffiths joined the staff of the King Edward Technical School at Dunedin. There he evolved a pattern of school music-making that was to make its influence felt throughout the country. The “Griffiths Scheme”, as it became known, has since been adopted in several of the larger secondary schools. Vernon Griffiths, who had already shown in Christchurch the effectiveness of group teaching both of choral and of instrumental music when directed by enthusiastic leadership, aimed to make music “a basic activity equal in importance to the traditional school subjects” (the quotation is from his An Experiment in School Music-making, published by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 1941). In a short time he had hundreds of children in his school either playing in a massed orchestra or singing in massed choirs.
At the same time the influence of Horace Hollinrake and Ernest Jenner brought about rising standards of singing, particularly in the primary schools.
The position of music in schools was greatly strengthened by the decision of the Minister of Education in 1944 to make it a core subject of the compulsory syllabus laid down for all schools. This means that it is obligatory for all children up to at least their third year of secondary schooling to have some instruction in music. Other important decisions made at that time were to appoint full-time music specialists to school staffs and to allow instrumental class tuition, paid for by the Government, as part of the curriculum, this latter benefit applying to State schools only.
More recent developments have been the founding of a New Zealand Association of School Music Teachers (whose principal aim is the raising of the standard of educational music), the institution of holiday courses for young orchestral players, and the formation in some cities of junior symphony orchestras which will continue the instrumental work done in the schools.
The present Adviser in School Music to the Director of Education is W. Walden Mills, appointed in 1958 to the position which had been in abeyance since the departure in 1931 of E. Douglas Tayler.
The competition festival movement has been strongly established in New Zealand since the early part of the present century. Each of the cities and many of the smaller towns has its competitions society which annually organises a festival. Almost always these festivals are held in the school holidays, May, August, and September being the usual months in which they take place. Their duration may be anything from three or four days in the smaller centres up to a full fortnight in a major city festival.
The oldest society is that of the city of Dunedin. It was founded in 1901 and has had an unbroken record for 60 years. Christchurch took up the movement in 1911 and Wellington shortly after that. Other towns, quick to see the value of competitive work in developing performing standards in the arts and in providing incentives for the thousands of young persons engaged in cultural studies, soon followed the examples of the southern cities. Today all these societies are linked in the New Zealand Federation of Competition Societies, with the headquarters in Wellington. The federation maintains a panel of adjudicators, advises societies on common problems, coordinates festival dates, and generally maintains a certain uniformity of practice in the running of festivals.
New Zealand has worked out its own system of cultural competitions. Most of the festivals offer competitive classes in vocal and instrumental music, speech (the term “Elocution” which formerly was applied to these classes is now out of favour), classical, fancy, and national dancing. In an endeavour to attract public interest, some societies, by giving programmes greater entertainment appeal, have in recent years gone beyond normal cultural scope in adding such modern innovations as quiz programmes, modelling classes, and the like.
With the exception of the ballet and a few choral speech classes, the emphasis in the New Zealand festivals is almost entirely on individual performance. Whereas the competition festival movement in England did much to raise the standards of choral music, and indeed to stimulate composers to write ad hoc music exploiting particular choral difficulties, comparatively few choirs in New Zealand compete in the choral classes that many societies laudably try to foster. An influence which might be a powerful factor in promoting interest and advancement in an important class of music is accordingly largely neglected.
On the difficult question of prize awards and their value, there is no uniformity of practice in New Zealand. A few societies, mostly of recent establishment, follow the praiseworthy practice of making no monetary awards save for special scholarships, certificates in general sufficing. While most societies offer small cash prizes and an ever-increasing number of challenge cups and medals, there is a general tendency to recognise the award of scholarships to deserving competitors as best serving the aims of a competitive festival. In any case the offering of too generous prize amounts has in more than one case compelled a society to go into a temporary recess. Auckland, the most recently established of the major city festivals, has a number of valuable scholarships, thanks to the generosity of various commercial firms. They include five awards of £100, two for aria singing, two for concerto playing, and one for the competitor who in the opinion of a panel of adjudicators is considered most deserving of assistance in the furtherance of his or her musical career. Since their inception, the competition societies have brought before the public a great many young performers of talent and even brilliance.
Almost all New Zealanders who have won distinction in music, either at home or overseas, have made their way via the competition festivals. Among them may be listed Ernest Drake, a leading teacher of singing who was a prominent competitor in the early years of the Dunedin Society's festivals, as were also the conductor Warwick Braithwaite, Charles Andrew Martin – subsequently a leading figure in Otago music – and perhaps New Zealand's most gifted accompanist – and the singers Mary Pratt, Bertha Rawlinson, Brian Drake, Denis Dowling, and Dora Drake. Many others, such as Vera Moore, Alan Loveday, Richard Farrell, and Colin Horsley, later became famous overseas.
Prominent present-day performers who have been successful competitors include the singers Noel Mangin, Donald McIntyre, Andrew Gold, Geoffrey de Lautour, Ian Morton, Mina Foley, Mary O'Brien, and Elizabeth Hellawell, and the pianist Maurice Till.
N.Z.B.C. Symphony Orchestra
Not until New Zealand celebrated its centenary in 1940 was any attempt made at forming a permanent orchestra on a national basis. Until that time the country relied for its symphonic music on such orchestras, often incomplete, as the cities and larger towns could muster. In 1940 a Centennial Festival Orchestra was established under the direction of Andersen Tyrer, a musician who had first come to New Zealand as an examiner for the Trinity College of Music. Encouraged by the success of this ensemble, the New Zealand Government decided to form a permanent national orchestra under the organisation of its National Broadcasting Service. Plans were delayed, however, by the Second World War, which had caused the disbandment of the Centennial Orchestra. In 1946, the war over, leading players of the country were brought together for the first rehearsals of the newly constituted National Orchestra, whose inaugural concerts were given early in 1947. Andersen Tyrer was appointed the first conductor, and Vincent Aspey the leader (a position which he still holds).
To Andersen Tyrer, a colourful personality and a vigorous and able musician, must go the credit for taking the orchestra through its teething difficulties at a time when, despite warm enthusiasm from the listening public, ensemble unity and discipline had to be acquired. Subsequent regular conductors of the orchestra have been Michael Bowles (1950–54), James Robertson (1954–57), and John Hopkins (1957–63). In addition, opportunity is taken to secure the services of many guest conductors for short or extended seasons. Among them have been Warwick Braithwaite, Eugene Goossens, Sir Bernard Heinze, Juan de Castro, Dr Edgar Bainton, Nicolai Malko, Karel Ancerl, Josef Krips, and Igor Stravinsky. Whenever possible, eminent overseas artists touring New Zealand are invited to play concertos or sing with the National Orchestra. Among those who have done so are Solomon, Hepzibah Menuhin, Louis Kentner, Max Rostal, Eileen Joyce, Jascha Spivakovsky, Colin Horsley, John Amadio, David Oistrakh, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Yi Kwei Sze, Richard Farrell, and Bela Siki.
The playing strength of the orchestra consists of some 65 members, a figure which has been fairly consistently held since its inception. Many of the original players are still with the organisation. Other recruits have come as immigrants from various European countries, bringing with them playing standards that have enhanced the orchestra's quality. Because it serves the whole of New Zealand, the National Orchestra is a much-travelled unit. From its base in the capital city of Wellington it travels many thousands of miles each year to give concerts in the chief cities and towns. Each of the four principal centres is visited several times during the year for a series of subscription concerts and for the summer “Promenade” concerts that in popular support and appeal are among the most successful events of the year's music. Programmes are representative of all schools of symphonic music and, though the balance is heavily in favour of established classics, the works of contemporary composers, including those of New Zealanders, are given as opportunity occurs.
As early in its existence as 1947 the orchestra earned the praise of Eugene Goossens for its professional qualities. Since that time it has made steady and rapid progress in its playing standards under the direction both of resident and of visiting conductors. While it still needs additions to its string section to make its playing strength comparable with that of major overseas orchestras, its brass and woodwind sections have advanced notably in quality. By its concerts throughout the country, its participation in all the major festivals, and its frequent playing over the national broadcasting system, it is today the major influence in New Zealand's musical life. It is now known as the N.Z.B.C. Symphony Orchestra.
In September 1961 the New Zealand Government decided to sponsor a second orchestra of 25 players to serve the needs of opera, ballet, and theatre throughout the country. James Robertson, a former conductor of the National Orchestra, was appointed musical director of the New Zealand Opera Company and of the new orchestra.
A further development of orchestral music in New Zealand has been the formation of a National Youth Orchestra led initially by John Hopkins. First started in 1959, it had some 90 players, all under 21 years of age, by 1961. Chosen by auditions given throughout the country, its members meet each year in Wellington for a week of intensive rehearsals, after which public concerts are given. Its standards have already reached praiseworthy heights, and a step from its ranks to those of the National Orchestra should be a natural sequence for many of its players.
Influence of Broadcasting
In its radio programmes the National Broadcasting Corporation caters for every musical taste. The main national stations offer general programmes of wide diversity. For the serious listener the YC stations provide a wealth of good music in which all schools of composition are well represented, including a generous amount of contemporary music. While a large proportion of this necessarily comes from recordings, local performers, choirs, and orchestras are also widely used. Local composers, too, are encouraged to submit their work to a reading panel of the National Broadcasting Corporation. If this panel is unable to agree, the work is submitted to musical judges outside the Corporation. On acceptance, the work is given either a local or a national presentation, according to its suitability. The rights are purchased from the composer and the performing fees are guaranteed.
Any work accepted is recorded and broadcast eight times to promote familiarity. Other practical encouragement given to composers by the National Broadcasting Corporation is in the promotion of competitions in conjunction with the Australasian Performing Rights Association, and in the special commissioning of new works.