My GREAT memory of the Town Hall and its wonderful main auditorium dates back to 1951. In that year the New Zealand National Band Championships took place in Wellington with the main events held in the Town Hall. The Hawera Municipal Band had not long been promoted to the A Grade and was under the conductorship of Louis Fox, who had taken over from his father, H.C.A. Fox, only months before. Those two gentlemen were respectively the father and grandfather of Rodger Fox of Big Band fame.

Hawera was well known for its music, witness “Music is where you find it”, about music in the town in 1946 and written by Allan Thomas (2004) from Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music. The main auditorium of the Wellington Town Hall was a very long way from the somewhat decrepit band room in Hawera. The Band marched from its accommodation in the Cambridge Hotel to the Town Hall and eventually took the stage following performances from the then premier brass bands in New Zealand to play the A Grade test Rhapsody for Brass by Dean Goffin. This was most demanding music requiring a high level of technical skills right throughout the band.

The perfect acoustics of the auditorium so enhanced the brilliance of the music and the skills of this band from a town of about 5000 people that the band left the stage to a standing ovation and eventually a decision by the judging panel that the band be awarded the accolade of champion band of New Zealand in 1951. The quality of the auditorium and its amazing acoustical qualities identifies it as by far the most rewarding musical venue in New Zealand for both players and audience alike.

Mel Smith CNZM

Image: Hawera Municipal Band Centenary 1878-1978 Booklet, Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki.