Organ restorer Ron provides recital bonus

Benemerenti medal recipent Joan Whelan and Ron Newton.

WANGANUI — A March 23 pipe organ recital by renowned organist, historian and composer Ron Newton proved not only an extraordinary treat, but a reflective occasion for the audience.
St Mary’s parish musical director Joan Whelan seized the chance to invite him while he was in Wanganui restoring the organ for the completion of the million dollar earthquake strengthening programme of the Jane Winstone Ryman Health Care Chapel — which used to be
the Sacred Heart College Chapel.

Benemerenti medal recipent Joan Whelan and Ron Newton.

Mr Newton, who is from Oamaru, praised the tone of the St Mary’s
Church organ, crafted in London by J. C. Bishop’s organ builders more than 150 years ago.
“These instruments were built as sweet and gentle accompaniments to
church choirs. This organ is quite distinct because it has a good variety of loud and soft stops,” he explained.
Even though the organ was shifted to its present site in Guyton St from the original church in main street, Victoria Ave, when it was demolished, he noted the organ still contains some of its beautiful original pipe work.
Playing from the console on the floor of the church, his programme started with Bach’s popular pieces titled Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Sheep May Safely Graze.
“From all the world’s greatest musicians, Bach wrote the most for the pipe organ. The rest were composed by organ players themselves,” he said.
Currently curator of the New Zealand Organ Museum at the Oamaru Railway Station and the director of the New Zealand Organ Manufactory, Mr Newton’s repertoire also included works from New Zealand composers John Barnett and Douglas Lilburn. Of particular delight during the 90 minute concert was his own composition, The Milner March.
It was written in dedication to Frank Milner, headmaster of Waitaki Boy’s High and noted educationalist of his day, when Douglas Lilburn was a student.
Even though Douglas Lilburn was born in Turakina just south of Wanganui, his natural musical giftedness showed up at Oamaru College.
Mr Lilburn was awarded the Order of Merit in 1988 and is referred to as the “grandfather” of New Zealand music.
Mr Newton services and tunes nearly a third of all pipe organs in the country, from the Bay of Islands to Dunedin. His PhD thesis centred on early pipe organ building in New Zealand and proved a
valuable record following the Christchurch earthquake — which damaged a number of organs in the city.
Money raised from his recitals are always split three ways — a third each to the church where he played, his own expenses, and to a charity nominated by the parish. St Mary’s parish priest Fr
Brian Carmine directed that the profits go to the Monday morning friendship meal.

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