Original members violinist Virginia Ward and double bass player Allan Hunter at the Nelson Symphony Orchestra 50th Anniversary concert on Saturday. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

Symphony Orchestra celebrates 50 years


The Nelson Symphony Orchestra celebrated it 50th Anniversary with a concert on Saturday.

The evening concert at the Old St John’s had the sounds of overtures, symphonies and soloists flowing through the building and out into the street as loyal supporters of the orchestra filled every seat in the old church.

The orchestra began the evening with Reznicek’s Donna Diana overture before moving into a five piece anniversary Haiku by John Rimmer, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with piano soloist Buz Bryant-Greene, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in D major with trumpet soloist Raffaele Bandoli and Symphony No.1 by Sibelius.

Initially founded in 1966, the orchestra was comprised of 30 players who gave their first concert in May 1966. Two members of this group remain in the orchestra today, violinist Virginia Ward and double bass player Allan Hunter.

“I came to Nelson in 1964 and was fortunate to meet Richard Harris, he was responsible for getting the orchestra going with Frank Clayton Oxley and John Davis and they persuaded me to take up my violin,” says Virginia.

“It’s been a huge part of my life, playing all these wonderful orchestral pieces with so many other musicians and I’ve been very privileged on occasions to play piano concertos as a solo pianist with this orchestra, so it’s been a very exciting journey and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go.”

Double bass player Allan Hunter remembers being blown away after receiving an invitation to join the orchestra as a 19-year-old, and 50 years later he echoes Virginia’s experience.

“It’s been a big part of my life for fifty years, and it’s a massive milestone to reach, we’re only 25 years younger than the New Zealand Navy!”