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1956 Music Week Programme

Ashleigh McLarin, Exhibitions Curator



Music brings us great joy and New Zealander’s have long supported the arts by attending concerts in their local region. This programme documents the events happening in Whangārei from the 25th of May until the 2nd of June 1956 (2017/6/3). It is fitting to look at this programme as we celebrate NZ Music Month in May. Regional Music Weeks were precursors to NZ Music Month, which launched in 2000.



The lead concert of this programme was the performance by Richard Farrell, an exemplary pianist. Farrell played at Whangārei Town Hall and performed compositions by Schubert, Brahms, Ravel, and Chopin.  This performance was sponsored by the Community Arts Service. The Community Arts Service was interested in the cultural development of Whangārei. Their main objective was increasing the exposure of Whangārei residents to premier cultural experiences. The service facilitated the travel of first-class musicians, theatre productions, ballet and art exhibitions to the region.



Other standout events of the 1956 Whangārei Music Week included performances by the National Orchestra and a performance by La Salle, a string quartet. The National Orchestra performances were recorded and broadcast on 1XN, which increased accessibility. The lunch hour performances hosted at the Public Library were also popular.



Music week incorporated many grass-root organisations and invited community participation. The local organisations involved were the Whangārei Turntable Club, The Whangārei Municipal Silver Band, the Whangārei Choral Choir, the Whangārei Salvation Army Band, the Whangārei Operatic and Dramatic Society and the Waipu Choral Society. Local school children performed as part of the programme.  



This 1956 programme belonged to Barbara Thompson. Thompson had been involved in music and the performing arts in Whangārei since the early 1950s. She was involved with the Northland Performing Arts Competition Society, the Whangārei Theatre Society, The Whangārei Music Society, the Whangārei Repertory Society, Whangārei Youth Music, and the Octagon Theatre. Thompson was awarded the Whangārei Council Civic Award in 1989, and later, in 2012, she was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the performing arts. These awards recognised and celebrated Barbara’s dedication to the arts.



The catch phrase of Whangārei’s 1956 Music Week was “Music makes the whole world one.” Music is something we need right now so let us continue to celebrate NZ Music Month and support all artists who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Check out the 2022 NZ Music Month gig guide on their website ( Unfortunately, there are no events in Whangārei this year - hopefully next year!



This collection item is on display in the main gallery of the Museum.