Imagine a world where sound could not be produced at the push of a button, where music could be experienced only through live performance. The text and images in this story look at (largely) 20-century popular musical groups, and activities in the New Zealand community.
Imagine a world where sound could not be produced at the push of a button, where music could be experienced only through live performance. Without TV, CDs and the internet, live music was a major force in bringing people together and maintaining their sense of identity, as the images below reveal. With so many cultures isolated from their homelands, this was especially true in NZ.
Through many events in NZ history like the Temperance movement, the union movement and particularly the World Wars — bands of many kinds were formed. They fulfilled a meaningful role in funerals, weddings, celebrations and the ceremonies relating to war and peace. In days before logos existed, bands were a kind of logo for many groups. To understand the importance of music in these situations, we need to understand the context in which it functioned. For example, to appreciate the importance of a military band, we need to transport ourselves back, when soldiers would march through the streets to mark their departure for war.
As dance music and venues sprang up from the 1920s and through to the 50s and 60s, there emerged in New Zealand a significant number of name bands. This reflected a similar trend in other parts of the world, particularly America and Britain. Sometimes the name came from the leader/founder of the band or group, for example, the Bob Bradford Big Band. Other names emerged from family groups, e.g. The Tāhiwis and the Yandall Sisters. Even in the smaller more isolated regions name bands were very popular. Around Stratford, in the 1930s there were 4 dance bands operating: Vern Henry's Valencia Boys, Wright's Dance Band, Jack Hooker's Merrymakers and Bert Vinsen's Ambassadors. In one year alone Bert Vinsen's Ambassadors carried out over 300 engagements! Our research of music in the community found that there were so many name bands in New Zealand, we decided to highlight this as a separate category, which leads us to point out there are many instances of crossovers in these categories. Some of the music and groups could have equally, justifiably been placed in other sections. But just as is the nature of music itself, pigeon-holing and categorising is seldom exclusive. Music spills over from "art" music to ethnic, bi-cultural to rock, gospel to jazz, to infinity - and such is the joy of music!
Before the advent of recorded music, families were active in making music together, in ensembles and vocal groups of wide-ranging styles and instrumentation. The piano and other keyboard instruments, like the harmonium, were common in the family groups as was the guitar in the latter half of the 20th-century. Notice the unusual photograph of a family, complete with piano or keyboard instrument, playing in an outdoor setting!
Music groups in schools reflect the interests and availability of instruments, teachers and performers in each school community. Vocal groups are many and varied. Instrumental groups range from traditional orchestras (violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, oboes, clarinets and brass) through to recorder groups, percussion groups and general miscellaneous groupings made up of whatever players and instruments were available in the school.
NZ is made up of people who emigrated from many countries - Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Dalmatia, Scandinavia, Croatia and many more. Active participation in music is one of the strongest ways of retaining a sense of cultural identity within their new country.
The need to express ourselves through performing solo was as strong in earlier times as it is today. Our collection shows a great variety of performers, their instruments and the physical environment where the music is being performed. We see a Māori girl playing a Jew's harp, contrasted with a more traditional performer at the pipe organ. There is a great range of contrasting instruments and players within this category of solo performers.
Modern groups are defined here as those that evolved from the 1920s, playing jazz, swing, Dixieland, big band, rock, pop, punk, reggae and hip hop. The entertainment industry had a lively following in NZ, influenced largely by the music of America. Recording technology made it possible for local musicians to hear the new music and transcribe it for their own bands. People went to cabarets, dance halls and 'dine and dance' venues. Larger bands were often featured as the highlight of these venues. The 'dine and dance' culture died off in the 1960s when recorded music, cheaper than hiring live musicians, took over this environment to a large extent. At the same time, the emergence of rock and pop concerts in larger venues, which generated more money, replaced the more intimate 'dine and dance' environment.
Traditional Māori music is inseparable from Taha Māori, the Māori way of life. Music is interwoven into the total fabric of Tikanga Māori. Karakia, waiata, karanga, haka - all are integrated into life celebrations and events.
Later Māori music shows the European influence. Often, Pākehā music was adapted by Māori, who replaced existing texts with their own. For example, the beautiful song "Tama Ngā Te Marie", is originally an Anglican hymn while Now Is the Hour sung by Ana Hato has been adapted from the original, in two ways. One textually, two, rhythmically.
Later still, popular modern music showed the influence of traditional Māori music: Emma Paki, Moana and the Moahunters, Dalvanius, Howard Morrison and the Howard Morrison Quartet, Bo and Bic Runga, to name a few. This fusion of European and Tāngata Whenua has produced music which is distinctive and unique.
From the earliest days of European settlement in New Zealand, communities have formed choirs. Large choirs, for example, the Royal Christchurch Musical Society, had a membership of up to two hundred singers. These choirs are divided into four sections: Soprano - high female voice; Contralto - low female voice; Tenor - high male voice; Bass - low male voice. As well as large choirs, there are many women's choirs, male voice choirs, and smaller mixed (male and female) choirs, which sometimes specialise in a particular genre of music, for example, Baroque, or Contemporary, or Gospel music. There are choirs of every culture, including Māori (concert parties, Kapa Haka) and Samoan. Many of our finest singers, composers and musicians have had significant music education through their involvement in school, church, and community and cultural choirs. Our New Zealand Youth Choir is one of the leading youth choirs in the world. New Zealanders love to sing!
Military bands play a huge part in the history of NZ culture. Formed originally for the purposes of military and the state, they have retained their significance in society on occasions such as ANZAC day and military tattoos. Apart from the pomp and circumstance that these bands provided, they once held a role of profound meaning, keeping spirits high and soldiers marching, in the daunting face of war. There are three main categories of the military band: brass band, concert band and swing band: The brass band consists of brass and percussion. Rather than the trumpets and French horns of the orchestra, it involves cornets, tenor horns, baritones and euphoniums. The brass band movement has educated some of NZ's foremost musicians. The Concert band, also known as the Symphonic band, is made up of woodwind, brass, percussion and double basses. Like brass bands, concert bands can march for parades but are better suited to the concert hall. Swing bands consist of four sections: trumpets, trombones, saxes and rhythm and often feature soloists. They evolved during WWII, with the Glenn Miller Band. At this time musicians were sent overseas to entertain the troops.
Orchestral performances were held in New Zealand from the 1840s, with the first full professional orchestra formed in 1906 for the New Zealand International Exhibition. A national orchestra was established in 1946, and grew to be locally and internationally successful. Other professional orchestras flourished in the main centres.
Source: Peter Walls, 'Orchestras', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/orchestras (accessed 17 October 2018) Story by Peter Walls, published 22 Oct 2014
Music in the community text credit: Dorothy Buchanan and Vivienn Reid.