Grand soiree to fund restoration

Southland Women's Club executive member Anne McCracken at the temporary piano, which is being used until the club's Bechstein grand piano is restored, with club president Lorraine Stevens.

THE Southland Women’s Club is opening its doors to the public.

To help raise funds towards the refurbishment and full restoration of the club’s heritage Bechstein Grand Piano, a Grand Soiree will be held at its Esk St rooms next month.

Executive member Anne McCracken said club members had been very supportive of the piano fundraiser, with member Sherry Shelton, of Bluff, performing at the soiree which was open to the public.

“We don’t generally open our rooms to the general public, but this will give people the opportunity to see how beautiful and elegant our rooms are, possibly with the consideration of membership, enjoy the ambience and also the chance to hear Sherry, who is also a composer.”

Originally belonging to Sir Robert and Lady Anderson, of Anderson Park (formerly Victoria Park), the club acquired the Bechstein, which was estimated to be more than 100 years old, in the early 1950s, and had pride of place in the club’s Lady Anderson Lounge.

“It’s now tired and needs work, so it is important to this club we maintain it,” Mrs McCracken said.

The Bechstein was being restored and refurbished by Timaru piano tuner and technician John Gray, with the hope it would be returned to the club early in October in time for the club’s 100th celebrations, Mrs McCracken said.

Mr Gray who had serviced the piano for many years, noticed during its last tuning it needed restoration including replacing the strings and hammer felt, general overhaul and adjustment of all the parts and up to 16 coats of French polish.

“It had to be partly dismantled even to get it out of the [clubroom’s] doors,” Mrs McCracken said.

A replacement piano was loaned to the club while the restoration was under way.

Shelton, an international concert performer, will present a programme of classical and popular music, including music by Brahms, Chopin, Rubenstein, Godard, Schutt, Schertzinger, Carmichael, Einaudi and other favourites.

Shelton received her musical education in the United States, graduating from Tusculum College (university) in Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education with major instruments piano, organ and voice, as well as completing graduate work at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and finished the course work for a Master of Organ Performance Degree and a Master of Music Education degree.

In 1984, she went to Sienna, Italy, to study early Italian organ music at the Sienna Session for Music and Arts and earned a Diploma in organ and voice.

As well as being a music teacher in public schools, colleges and her own music studio in the US, most of her music positions had been full-time in Catholic and Protestant churches in the US and New Zealand where she was director of music and responsible for the training of choirs and cantors, playing the organ and piano and overall supervision of the music in the church. She also held various other teaching positions for keyboard, singing, hand bells, recorder, guitar, harp and singing classes and had taken part in world tours and been an accompanist for various entertainers.

As well as donations from club members, other funding for the $15,000 restoration project was received from the Southland Masonic Charitable Trust, Community Trust South and Southland Regional Heritage Committee.

Club members hoped the remaining $3000 needed for the restoration would be raised at the public soiree.

Being held on Friday, May 7, attendees will be welcomed with a non-alcoholic drink and canapes from 5.30pm, with the concert at 6pm.

  • Grand Soiree piano concert, Southland Women’s Club, 194 Esk St, Invercargill, Friday, May 7, 5.30pm for 6pm. Door sales, $15 per person.