meet our members

Margaret Hastings

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I was born in Wellington and am still a big fan of the windy city, though I’ve been in Marlborough since 1968, a memorable year, with the sinking of the Wahine and the birth of a second child.

I believe I was always singing, though there was no music in the house. It wasn’t till an aunt put the pressure on my father to have me taught, that I had some piano lessons. 


My college choir was my first experience of choral singing, and then I accidently joined a night school class for choral singing and found that it was, in fact, the chorus of ‘opera technique’ at the Wellington Technical College. I learned heaps, was in lots of shows and met husband Bob there. I took some singing lessons, too, with a wonderful old lady who had in her younger days sung with Richard Tauber! A highlight was singing in the chorus with the NZ Opera Company.


Bob took a job at Seddon School and from there it was a gradual involvement with Repertory, where I met Viv Grigg who was my ‘Jill’ in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. Then came Blenheim Operatic (now Musical Theatre) and eventually the Choral Society, now Marlborough SIngers. We had to take turns at taking part until the children were old enough not to need a baby sitter. I’ve lost count of how long I have been treasurer!


I had a rare trip away last year, and a highlight was listening to five gorgeous Russian men singing a capella in the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in St Petersburg. I brought a CD home and they often sing me to sleep.


I’m sure I’d be an unhappy person if I couldn’t sing (or play golf – my second vice.)

Alex Smith

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  I have been singing in a choir of some sort since I was about six years old, which makes it 50 years so far … School choirs, church choirs, university groups, choral societies, a community choir and a cathedral choir: some of these took their work very seriously and I was stretched to keep up; others were more fun and inclusive in orientation. 


Being busy parenting teenagers and running a business, I came to Marlborough looking for a choir that could be sufficiently accommodating and flexible to meet the reality of my working life which means I am not always able to attend. I am grateful that the Marlborough Singers offer that.


I enjoy the variety of music we sing, the light opera, musical and show numbers a welcome breadth to what was for me a predominantly sacred choral English church music upbringing. I particularly like that we make great music in a community setting, collaborating with the local orchestra and brass band and welcoming singers whatever their experience, confidence and ability. I am grateful also that in Robert, our director, we have someone from whom I continue to learn. 


No matter how busy, tired or stressed I might be feeling, attending choir rehearsal is one of the few times when my mind is fully focused on something else and it is a welcome and necessary catharsis. 


I have been fortunate to sing in many British cathedrals and London’s finest concert halls, but right now the Marlborough Singers and the ASB Theatre are just right! 

Marie Dietrich

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I was born in Sydney and had my first singing experience when I came second in a radio competition singing 'Mockingbird Hill’ and winning 10 shillings. I sang in a church choir until I was 17 and then began my nursing career, eventually becoming a midwife.


I then travelled extensively, including going overland from London to Kathmandu and back. I was in London for seven years and Abu Dhabi for three, singing with choirs in both places. One great experience was performing with my choir on an offshore oil rig.


I came to Auckland in 1974, joining the North Shore Choral Society for several years and then a Welsh choir, which required some singing in the Welsh language. Highlights of this period were singing in a concert with Sir Harry Secombe and taking part with a 2000-voice choir in concerts in the park with Dame Malvina Major for three years.


I have been in Blenheim since 2002, singing with the Choral Society and the Lyric Singers and in Wesley church concerts at Christmas time. I sang in the backing chorus of ‘Cats’, which was great fun.


Choral singing is certainly so good for the soul! 

Derek Harding

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I was born and brought up in the South East of England. Since my earliest memories I have been surrounded by music and have developed a passion for all forms of music but particularly vocal. I joined a newly-formed church choir as a seven-year-old treble and I have belonged to some form of singing group since then. Secondary school enabled me to keep singing through adolescence and my voice breaking. Pantomime gave me the opportunity to broaden my experience and Gilbert & Sullivan opened the doors to light opera.


Following my passion, it was always a wish that I could have 'proper' singing lessons and it was in the early 1990s that the opportunity arose. That led to more choral and solo singing and I performed as Melchior in Menotti's, 'Amal and the Night Visitors', less than a month before leaving the UK for Blenheim in January, 2007.  


Inevitably I looked around for a choir and joined Marlborough Singers (then Blenheim Choral Society) with whom I have sung since (except for a short break when I returned to the UK in 2008). With Marlborough Singers I enjoy the variety and opportunities to make music in good company and performing locally and across the region. I've also sung with Blenheim Musical Theatre and choirs in Nelson and Tasman and look forward to singing in Marlborough for several years to come. 

Clare Bowes

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I grew up in Auckland where I went to art school. After I graduated, my husband and I shifted to Wellington where we lived for 37 years.


I was a freelance illustrator for the school journals and a number of other publishers, then became an art editor for School Publications during the 70s and 80s. The advent of computers transformed the look of the journals and other material and at the same time School Publications rebranded itself as Learning Media.


During the 90s I worked in their international section, producing a large reading scheme for the US market which included many books in Spanish for the Hispanic community. Also at that time I ran several illustration workshops in Vanuatu. They were developing their own readers written by local writers and illustrated by local artists. 


As for singing, I have not been in an actual choir since secondary school but have always enjoyed singing at informal occasions (around the piano and campfire!) When I arrived in Blenheim in 2018 I was delighted to find an open invitation to join the Marlborough Singers and am really enjoying this new experience.

Sarah Henderson

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My first memories of singing are from when I was about six, singing songs from My Fair Lady with my grandfather playing the piano. My grandmother had a reputation for having a lovely voice and singing in local Invercargill productions but unfortunately I never heard her sing because her voice was spoilt by smoking.


At primary school when I was about seven or eight I sang ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely?’ in a school concert and then went on to sing it at my teacher’s wedding, which must have seemed a strange song for a little girl to sing. After that I was always in school choirs. At secondary school I loved folk music and came second singing ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ in a competition.  At university I included one music paper in my Arts degree but found it very hard, all that transposing etc. Later my music interest developed into playing classical guitar in a mandolin orchestra in Fremantle Australia, which I loved.


My teaching career has included a fascinating year teaching in Singapore. Currently I teach several days a week in the local area and I love doing musical activities with the children. I once tried to sing the first line of a song for every spelling word in a test I was giving.


Apart from music, my other interests include yoga, gardening, reading, golf, swimming and travelling with my husband.

Kathryn Nicholls

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 I have been involved with singing in a choir from the time I was 13, a Welsh tradition. The big incentive to join the school choir was the opportunity to meet with the boys from the strictly segregated school next door. I progressed from the school choir and joined different groups as I moved around with the family in the south of Britain. My travels allowed me to participate in concerts performed in churches, cathedrals and even the Albert Hall in London. 


1990 produced a big change in my life. I arrived in Blenheim on a teacher exchange and have been involved for most of the years since then with the Blenheim Choral Society . However, the exploring bug bit again. The opportunity came for another job exchange to the Northern Territories of Australia and to the remote town of Nuhlunbuy on the Gulf of Carpenteria, which had only 12km of tarmac and then red dust, and two rivers to cross, which were only navigable in the months of June and July. We explored along the top of Australia, through the Kakadu to Darwin and then across to Broome in Western Australia. Within 18 months of returning from Australia we were off on another adventure, this time to eastern China and the town of Changzhou, which is close to Suzhou and Shanghai in the Yangtze delta. An amazing three years saw us using the great train system to travel to Beijing in the north, Kashgar to the west and Kunming to the south. 


I am now retired from teaching and, along with the choir, spend my time on a number of volunteer activities, confining my most recent travels to a solo tour right around the North Island with my 4WD, a tent and a bicycle. 

Elaine Harmer

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I’m from the 1950’s post-war generation, born into a New Zealand that had very modest cultural expectations. However, my parents always valued music: my mother collected children’s songs and sang to us, and my father was involved in school choirs throughout his career. At high school we had a wonderful music mistress, Kathleen Osborne, who opened our eyes to a new world and had us performing Britten’s ‘Christmas Cantata’ and the like in the town hall every Christmas with the big Christchurch choirs. 


Later, I was part of the young idealistic movement that aimed to live self-sufficiently on the land. Consequently, as we didn’t have any money, this meant living in isolated places where land was cheaper. I had seven children and I hunted out all sorts of songs and sang to them all the time; and wherever we lived, I always managed to find a singing group to join, driving long distances to get the chance. This meant contact with like-minded people; we were all isolated and always used to say that the groups were what stopped us all from going mad! I made lifelong friendships and had so much fun.  


Now I live in Marlborough and am enjoying belonging to a choir again. I’ve got to know more new good friends, and I know just how very, very lucky we are to have Robert. Fingers crossed, I’m hoping to be singing in the choir for a long time to come.

Vivienne Evans

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Hello fellow choristers. Although I'm a born and bred ‘Jaffa’, my husband and I saw the light and came to the Mainland many years ago (1988 to be exact). I'm a registered nurse and a registered homeopath and nowadays I combine my skills and knowledge in my own homeopathic practice, seeing people in their own homes.  


We originally came south to sail and eventually did, taking two young children on a four-and-a-half year ‘cruise’ (a complete misnomer – it's damned hard and often scary work) in NZ and the south-west Pacific Islands, including Australia, where we also worked while we continued to live on the boat (a 43 foot Harley Fijian yacht). Along the way, I worked and extended my deep interest in cooking, so upon returning to Blenheim I re-trained as a chef and worked in this field, part time, as well.  


Until 10 years ago I had absolutely no musical background. Then my best friend introduced me to a community choir, which I'm still singing with (the newly re-grouped and lovely Creative Voice choir).  

In 2012, Best Friend also introduced me to Marlborough Singers, where I've been also joyously singing ever since. I don't know how I lived without singing – it's up there with breathing. I go to every song workshop/opportunity I can afford, including joining fellow song friends Jacquelene Sandford and Elaine Harmer for last year's Teapot Valley residential summer school.   


Thank you so much to our lovely director(s), accompanists and all those involved who allow for the choir to be. 

Hayley Solomon

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Hayley, who has been with the Marlborough Singers for about three years (a very distinctive member of the choir), has just had a new collection of short stories published – Under the Shade of the Feijoa Trees and other stories. It is not generally known that she is a much-published and award-winning author and poet. Most of her earlier novels were published under the Zebra regency romance label, NY, before she switched from mass market genre writing to fantasy, JAFF*, poetry and literary short stories. Her books, written under the name Hayley Ann Solomon, are all available through online bookstores – Amazon, Fishpond, Barnes and Noble etc – in print and electronic editions. 


Originally from South Africa, Hayley majored in English and Psychology at the University of Capetown, and completed a masters degree in librarianship through Victoria University, Wellington. Passionate about her singing, she received her Trinity Advanced Performance Certificate (Singing) last year and will be undertaking the ATCL (Singing) this year.  


The mother of three grown-up sons, Hayley lives in Blenheim with her surgeon husband and ‘two fantastic parrots – one tiny and grumpy, one extra large, fluffy and full of joy’.  


* JAFF = Jane Austen Fan Fiction 

Generate excitement

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I am a born and bred Marlburian. I have always enjoyed singing, but am not that confident; I have spent more time acting on stage than singing.  So I was delighted when a friend invited me to attend the Marlborough Singers, saying that there was no audition. 


Herewith my late choral singing career has been launched. My early choral singing career was with St Christopher’s Sunday School Choir, Redwoodtown School choir (inaugural choir for the primary school music festivals) and Marlborough Girls' College choir.


I remember a musical childhood. My grandparents played the piano and violin when we visited, my mother played the piano, and I remember visiting friends’ places where we had a good sing-song around the family piano. Alas I managed only eight piano lessons before going the speech and drama way. My mother said I sang flat. She was probably right, but now with the friendly assistance of fellow choir members and YouTube I reckon I am on the improve. I have ‘quantity rather than quality’, but am working on it. It is a rewarding challenge.  


Research shows that singing in a choir exercises the brain, improves breathing, boosts immune function, and boosts our sense of happiness and wellbeing by making us feel more positive. What more can you ask for? Sing on.

Ros Henry

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Ros is a North Islander by birth but a South Islander by choice, relocating from Christchurch to Blenheim in 2015. As a child she was dragged along to singing competitions by her mother until she became old and stroppy enough to put her foot down. Apart from being in a school choir she had done no other public singing until an ad promising ‘no auditions necessary’ caught her eye and she joined the Marlborough Singers in 2017, thinking that this would be a good way for a newcomer to meet some of the locals. So it has proved and she is loving it. She sings alto, usually more successfully when standing next to someone who knows which note to hit.  


Ros was in book publishing for over 45 years, as an editor in an international company and later as a partner in a publishing company she formed with her husband in 1984. She still edits the occasional book and has been author and co-author of books on poker, genealogy and a family history. She enjoys playing bridge and is a voracious reader and a keen vegetable gardener.