South Auckland Choral Society

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In 1974, THE SOUTH AUCKLAND CHORAL SOCIETY INC began as an ad hoc group of singers, recruited from Papakura and nearby districts to celebrate Papakura's newly-acquired status as a city in the year 1975. The City Celebrations committee was formed and the convener, (the late Cliff Churchill, editor of The News Advertiser, now The Courier) asked local resident Lorna Clauson to form a cultural committee and present a year-long programme of cultural events. Chief among these would be musical occasions and a local choral enthusiast, Frank Harnett, told Lorna to "Get a choir together and sing something!" This was only made possible by the willingness of various church singers to get together as there was no local choral group. Crossroads Methodist Church Trustees kindly made their premises available and in October 1974 the first rehearsal of "St John Passion" by J S Bach was held.

Local singers helped train the four part harmony - sopranos, altos, tenors, basses - and the performance was conducted by Auckland musician Roger Harris on Palm Sunday 23rd March 1975. This was a great success and the 51 singers decided that perhaps they could complete the cultural year by doing another concert for Christmas. The work chosen was "The Christmas Oratorio" by J S Bach, conducted by Winston King. The success of this event finally persuaded the group to establish a regular choral society in Papakura, but which would embrace the whole of the South Auckland area. A committee was elected and the choir was 'in business,' as they say.

The formation of the Papakura Civic Orchestra in 1976 was to prove another major advance in the local music scene and during the next few years the choir and orchestra worked together to present many delightful family concerts in Crossroads, where the choir still meets every week.

Winston King led the choir for the next 3 years and after his resignation the SACS choir invited guest conductors to take the many concerts performed both locally and further afield. These included the well-known organist Bill Power, Juan Matteucci, Hugh Dixon, Dr Douglas Mews (all sadly now deceased), Peter Watts who also led Auckland Choral for many years, Bill Chessum, and John Buchanan who led the choir for several years before leaving for the South Island.

The 1980s and 1990s proved fruitful decades when John Rosser joined an illustrious list of conductors who were livening up the Auckland choral scene, among them James Tibbles, Neil Guyan, Leonie Lawson, Terence Maskell, Ronald Dellow, Indra Hughes, Stephen Rowley, David Squire, Stuart Weightman, Uwe Grodd [MSO] and Nigel Weekes who had arrived from Wales to takeover the Dalewool Brass Band with conspicuous success in the band competitions. By now, the choir was lucky to have among its ranks, the talented Myra Smith, who accompanied rehearsals, played both piano and organ for concerts and often rehearsed the choir when asked. A sideways leap into new works such as “Hear! O Israel” with Gary Daverne saw the choir move into the Hawkins Theatre for big performances where they have appeared many times since.

Mark Rosser [brother to John] and David Hamilton, now well-established with his choral compositions often sung by the choir, also joined the guest conductor ranks and in 2005 a new tenor soloist, Iain Tetley, came on the Auckland musical scene. He sang tenor solo roles for several concerts and when Myra Smith moved from Papakura to Palmerston North, SACS invited Iain to be their new conductor: the first time a permanent Musical Director had been appointed.

During the past six years the SACS Scholarship scheme has seen over 40 students join the ranks, prior to going on to their individual musical careers. Among them was Jonathan Dunlop who played piano accompaniments for the choir while studying for his Music Degree at Auckland University. Now moving up the musical ranks, Jonathan has acted as assistant conductor when required and took his first solo conducting engagement with SACS for the mid-year 2016 programme.  Following Iain Tetley’s move to Whanganui at the beginning of 2018, Jonathan Dunlop took on the role of Conductor and Music Director.

Jonathan is currently occupied with further music education.  From the beginning of 2019, Elizabeth Lau became the choir’s Conductor and Music Director.  Later in 2019, Simon Filice became the choir’s Conductor and Music Director.