Edgecumbe is a small town of around 1800 people, 18km west of Whakatane. Edgecumbe is known to seismologists because fault lines which cross the North Island emerge at Edgecumbe, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale struck Edgecumbe on 2nd March 1987. This was similar in strength to the earthquake which struck Christchurch on 22 February 2011, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
Nobody died in the Edgecumbe quake, but major damage resulted, and several people were seriously injured, including one woman who was stuck by a falling piano in her home. It was not recorded whether she was a member of the Edgecumbe choir!
A church choir was formed in St David’s Presbyterian Church in Edgecumbe in the late 1940s. Initially the choir consisted of eight to twelve members, who were conducted by Kath Armstrong. In the 1950’s a local farmer, Ken Macdonald, became the conductor of the church choir.
In 1957 Ken (pictured right) formed the Edgecumbe Choir. This new choir still sang religious music, but it was not affiliated to any religion or denomination. Ken built the choir up until it drew members from all over the Eastern Bay. In 1985 the choir was of sufficient stature to be invited to join other choirs in Papakura, Napier and in Auckland Town Hall. Ken retired in 1987, after conducting the choir for nearly thirty years, a record which his successors will find hard to equal.
Valerie Milne, a long-serving choir member, took over. She brought considerable musical knowledge and skill to the choir’s leadership. One highlight was the choir's participation in the opening concert at Auckland's Aotea Centre in September 1990. Valerie worked hard to enhance the choir's reputation, and the choir still easily attracts excellent soloists and accompanists from around NZ and from abroad. Valerie died in 1997 - this was a sad blow to the choir.
From 1997 to 2002 the choir enjoyed the services of various guest conductors including Rita Paczian. These conductors presented a varied repertoire and the choir learned from their knowledge and different conducting styles.
In August 2002 the choir appointed Tony Hogg as its Musical Director. One decade on, he still wields the baton, as he is demonstrating enthusiastically here!
We must not forget our very capable and long-suffering pianist, Olga Stancliff. She has worked with the choir over a long period, and has accompanied us during many practices and concerts. Tony's job would be musch harder without Olga's contribution!
In 2007 we celebrated our golden jubilee. There are two enduring legacies from that year.
The first is our striking logo, which was designed by Kylie Baker (illustrated on the right).
The other legacy is "Jubilate Deo", which Andrew Baldwin composed for our golden jubilee. We gave it its world premiere when we sang it in our final concert of that year.
The choir is now 56 years old. Choir members have sung with, accompanied or conducted many more than 56 choirs - at least 104 of them! See the "Celebrating our members" heading to find out more about the varied groups we have sung with (or accompanied or conducted)!
Whakatane is a town of about 19,000 people, which lies at a latitude of about 38 degrees south, on the eastern side of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand's North Island. In 2010 and 2012 it was New Zealand's sunniest place. In summer daytime temperatures in Whakatane generally hit 20 - 25 degrees Celsius, and on some days they reach the 30s. Whakatane claims the country’s hottest temperature around 50 days a year. It is worth singing about - hence the sunshine logo!
Whakatane's best known manmade landmark is probably a small bronze statue of Wairaka, which is located near the mouth of the Whakatane River. It commemorates the time in the 12th Century when the Mataatua waka (canoe) landed at Whakatane. The Maori men set off to explore, leaving the women in the canoes on the beach. The tide came in and the waka began to float away. In those days only men were allowed to paddle canoes, but one independently-minded woman, Wairaka, cried out, "Kia Whakatane ake i ahau" ("Let me perform the duties of a man"). She brought the waka back, gaining heroine status in the process.
Perhaps the most distinctive building in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is tucked away at Whakatane Airport. Regardless of how well travelled you are, the terminal is completely different to any other you will have encountered. It was designed by Roger Walker and was completed in 1974. It looks like something out of a Walt Disney cartoon. If you are in the area, don’t miss it! It’s a bit like when you’ve first tried a Fisherman’s Friend – you’ll either love it or loathe it, but you’ll not forget what you think of it!
Just over the hill from Whakatane you can find New Zealand's favourite beach: in 2013 a nationwide people's choice poll was initiated by the Green party, and Ohope beach received the most votes.
Other natural features which are visible from Whakatane and Ohope are two islands which are well worth visiting. Moutohata (Whale Island),
a remnant of an ancient volcano, lies 10 km north of the town; and Whakaari (White Island), New
Zealand's most active volcano, can be clearly seen steaming away despite lying 49 km north of Whakatane.