A short History of the Hastings Music Society.

The Hastings Music Society celebrated 80 years of continuous music-making in June 2013. Its origins are in the 1930s when it was known as the British Music Society. (BMS)

A Wellington teacher, Miss Valarie Corliss, visited England in 1931, and she came across a network of societies of amateur musicians meeting to enjoy good music.

Miss Corliss returned to New Zealand and promoted the BMS in various towns, including Hastings/Havelock North. Miss Erica Hoby of Woodford House and Miss T.K. Newton were two of the early members who with Miss Mary Christie organised not only piano and instrumental groups but a successful choir.

Other groups within the society were string, gramophone and song, performing monthly in private homes. The society also brought musicians from Wellington two or three times a year to provide first-class concerts in the old Farmer’s Blue Room, a popular venue and remembered with nostalgia by early BMS members.

The earliest record we have found of these concerts is in the Woodford Chronicle of 1933 when Miss Erica Hoby LRAM (violin and piano) was the music teacher and head of music. Miss Hoby taught at Woodford House from 1925 – 1941 and it is reported in the Chronicle that in term 3 1933 “some of the violin pupils had been allowed to go to one or two of the BMS Concerts in Hastings”. In 1934 senior candidates for the Music Cup heard Gordon Bryan (pianist) in hastings; in 1934 the Gramophone group of the BMS met at Woodford House; and “on July 28 those girls who were members of the BMS went into Hastings to hear Mr Hamilton Dickson, a cellist, from Wellington”. That Woodford House students werre themselves members of the BMS unitl 1941 was in no doubt due to the enthusiasm of Miss Hoby in fostering music within the School, and it is to be regretted that no further reference is made in the Chronicle to the BMS from Miss Hoby’s retirement in 1941. Today of course, there are far more opportunities for young people to hear and share in making good music and that is to be applauded, though the Music Society tends to be overlooked as an opportunity for young people to perform to an appreciative and supportive audience.

Over the years the number of participants and members of the BMS outgrew the capacity of private homes and the society’s meetings came to be held in the Havelock North Primary School Hall. It changed its name to Music Viva for a short time, but unfortunately this led to confusion because the Hastings Branch of the Music Federation of New Zealand had also adopted the title.

So, in 1978, the Hastings Music Society came into being. About this time it hired the former Hastings Cultural Centre and used the concert grand piano gifted to the people of Hastings by Mr Tasman Smith. The society’s monthly meetings were held at the Cultural Centre until 1988 when the venue was changed to the auditorium of the Havelock North High School. In 1990 another change of venue saw the monthly Saturday night meetings held at Duart House, Havelock North. Winter meetings in 1991 changed to Sunday afternoons, and this proved such a popular change that from 1992 all meetings have been on Sunday leading to an increase of membership and visitors.

In 1995 the monthly concerts return to the re-furbished Ron Shakespare Room in the Hastings Municipal Chambers, but after 10 years there, and the new Opera House costs, in 2008 the Society moved to St Matthew’s Church where the concerts continue to be held for members and visitors on the 2nd Sunday of each month, March to November.

The intention and aims of the Society remain the same: “to provide its members and the general public with a varied musical program – vocal and instrumental – presented by members of the Society, voluntary artists, and students of music.” The concerts also provide pupils of members of the Music Teachers’ Association an opportunity to perform before an understanding and appreciative audience, and gives then valuable experience in performance before an audience or examiners.

Financial Grants:

When financially possible the Society makes donations/gifts to promising students, especially to those who participate in the concert programmes.

Students who have been supported this way by the Society include: Phillipa Reade (1993), Rhonda Browne, Y.Shuen Chan and B. Chan (1999), Anna Pierard, S. Beech, L. Beech (2000), S. Acraman (2001), Paul Carnegie Jones (2008), Freya Hodgson (2009), Steven Clothier (2010). Two Scholarships, to the total value of $600 on each occasion, have been given in 2008, 2010 and 2012 for presentation at the National Singing School held bi-annually in Napier.  In 2014 and 2016 a half-scholarship  valued at $700 was awarded to one of the finalists from the National Singing School.


The lack of historical records does not help here.                                                                          In 1984 – the Leader was Clyde Potter, Secretary Eris Hay, Treasurer Gladys Symes, Recorder Doris Gratton, with Committee: Marie Stothart, Elizabeth Ashworth, Murray McKenzie.

Since that date:

Presidents:      Gladys Boyce, 1987-91                                                                                                                              Margaret Sloane, 1992-98                                                                                                                      Beverley Heard, 1999-current

Secretary:        Geraldine Power, 1989-2005                                                                                                                  Nolan Martin, 2006-2020

Kirsty McMinn-Collard 2021-current

Treasurer:        Murray McKenzie, 1985? -1991                                                                                                              Marion Struthers, 1991-97                                                                                                                      Marion Morgan, 1997-2000                                                                                                                  Nolan Martin, 2001-2020

Kirsty McMinn-Collard 2021-current

The above information is drawn from an historical article written by Margaret Sloane in February 1995, with extracts from the Woodford Chronicle supplied by the School’s Archivist, and from a scapbook and Annual Reports 1988 onwards.

A request for additional information has given us the following:

  1. From Naomi Baker-Wenley, a copy of the programme of the Third Concert 1934 held in the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Tea Rooms on Thursday August 9th at 8pm. It featured Piano, Vocal Duet, Duettini for two violins and piano, Songs and a Trio. One pianist was Mrs S.E. Morgan, Naomi’s mother.
  2. We have also a newspaper report of a BMS programme at Mrs Morgan’s home featuring British Composers. Unfortunately, this is not dated.
  3. Mrs Jill Tobin tells of Mrs Ngaire Lynch and her husband of Stortford Lodge, stlwart supporters in the 1960-70’s, their home often the venue for concerts, as was Jill’s own home.
  4. Jill mentions other who, like herself, featured in earlier years and were/are performers and supporters – Cecilia Greenwood, vocalists Rachel Plank, Janet Popplewell, Mrs Klingender, Shirley Singer, Maureen Brady, Margaret Sloane, Nanette Roberts, Janet Smith, Haldane Scougall……; instrumentalists Marie Stothart, Dell Hamilton, Kathleen Barry, Mary Bell, Marjorie Hamilton, Richard Hewitt, Corrie Hughes…..

The list of known performers and convenors, past and present, would be too great to include here, but it may be that further information will be added to this brief history in time to come. In the meantime the Hastings Music Society continues to function through the Programme Convenors who undertake responsibility for arranging the monthly concerts with the support of a small committee, elected annually, that gives general direction and oversight, and ensures that the necessary venue, facilities, finance etc, are adequately provided for.

Written by Mr Nolan Martin, Secretary.