Johnsonville’s Spring Fling social dinner dance only just made it into ‘Spring’ on 28 November, having been rescheduled not once, but twice.
The original date of 23 May was set for Autumn (looking forward to Spring), then with Covid-19 restrictions, moved to 19 September – actual Spring (and original election night).
Ultimately, 19 September was taken for our Covid-rescheduled Annual Dance, which was subsequently cancelled, and that’s how we ended up Spring-Flinging our way towards summer. 2020 was not an easy year for planning anything.
However, 25 members finally made it to St John’s Church hall for a night of socialising, dancing, and great food. It was also a nice opportunity to get to know members’ nine non-dancing friends and family who joined us on the night, and bravely took to the dance floor.
The hall was decorated with the club’s mini-tartan bunting, and tartan rugs dotted with yellow and orange spring flowers (John M, Prisilla, and our young helpers let their creative instincts loose on those $2 shop flowers). The ‘Fling’ and ‘Spring’ themes continued with tartan tablecloths, and yellow and green serviettes.
We lapped up Allison Kay’s mulled wine, and did our best to make inroads into the very generous amounts of nibbles and curries catered by Tulsi Johnsonville.
Rod Downey’s dhal, Allison’s fruit salad and Moira Broughton’s glass jelly dessert went down a treat, alongside salads and desserts bought by the club. No-one went home hungry, no matter their dietary requirements.
In between eating, Rod brought us a Spring-and-fling themed programme of dances, starting with the waltz he wrote for the occasion, Spring Chick Waltz Mixer. I think it would be safe to say we were all well-mixed one way or another during that dance!
Other dances included Corstorphine Fair, Spring Fever, a more traditional mixer Canadian Barn Dance (by which time we had our wits more about us), Springtime in Kuckucksnest and Tartan Fling. We finished the night with the well-known and well-loved dance, De’il Amang the Tailors to send us home happy.
An occasion like this takes quite a bit of organisation. Thanks to Allison who again took on the role of kitchen organiser, ably assisted by Maureen Sullivan and our young kitchen helpers Emily and Sylvia.
Thanks also to Rod, who spent time seeking out interesting on-theme dances to teach us, and to members who came early or stayed late to help with hall set-up and pack-up.
It was a great night of fun and friendship, made successful by the friendly support of all members and the have-a-go attitude of their guests.
On 19 November, long-time Scottish Country Dance musician Peter Elmes passed away in his sleep.
Johnsonville Club members were amongst the many Scottish country dancers who attended Peter’s funeral at Old St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday 23 November. Many more would have taken part in the service via livestreaming on YouTube.
Scottish country dancing was very much to the fore. There was Scottish country dance music playing as we arrived, record sleeves of Peter’s early recordings on display (two are pictured below), as well as his old jacket worn thin in places from where the accordion rested.
We heard tributes from family members, and from former Johnsonville Club tutors Iain Boyd and Ian Simmonds, much of it focusing on the importance of music in Peter’s life, especially Scottish country dance music.
Before the words of committal, we were given time for private reflection on Peter’s life. Fellow Scottish Country Dance musicians Aileen Logie and Hilary Ferral played the Shetland tune The Light has gone out (Da Slockit Light) by Tom Anderson, the perfect choice.
Peter left a great legacy of Scottish country dance music sets and compositions. Much of his musical collection and treasured accordions are now in the care of Aileen Logie, ensuring that legacy lives on.
Aileen met Peter within a week of arriving in New Zealand in 2009, and their friendship and musical relationship has grown ever closer since then. Aileen has been kind enough to share her personal recollections of Peter.
Read Aileen’s tribute to Peter Elmes: the man, the musician, his legacy below.
Peter: The man, the musician, his legacy
Peter was the first person to contact me in New Zealand. Imagine my surprise when, a day after arriving in Wellington in early 2009, I got an email from an unknown Kiwi called Peter Elmes – and he wanted us to have a tune together! The music jungle drums had sounded all the way from Scotland to New Zealand.
The next day he appeared to our rental house in Days Bay – we had no furniture other than two old garden chairs found round the back. He came armed with two accordions and some music – and wasn’t deterred at all by the fact my accordion and furniture were all at sea for three months on a container ship. Neither was he fazed by being given weird things called bannocks (Scottish oatcakes) for lunch.
We sat down and then – ‘could I play this, had I heard of that, did I know so-and-so?’ For hours, we discovered our worlds were overlapping to an amazing degree – and I had my first New Zealand friend.
I couldn’t believe there were all these Scottish Country Dance clubs in and around Wellington – and the list of gigs he left me ‘to think about’ was very long.
Over the next months, well years, I learned many things about and from Peter. He had a really deep knowledge of tunes and was impressive in emulating the Scottish sound. I learned how much he had shaped the live music scene for Scottish Country Dance clubs in New Zealand.
He generated enormous respect by all who played with him – and he was very generous in his support. Wellington now has many more Scottish Country Dance musicians than any other area in New Zealand – and this is all due to Peter’s influence and encouragement over the years.
As a mentor and band-leader, he was very steady and secure. Just about nothing would force a deviation or distraction from the tune in hand…even when the sound system one memorable evening was not behaving. I very rarely saw him rattled.
Playing with Peter was a real treat – sometimes challenging, always good, lots of new people, halls, dances and music. I learned the favourite dances here were different (dolphin reels??) – and so was the tempo. Here strathspeys went faster, but jigs and reels a bit slower. The tune repertoire was quite traditional and the New Zealand Scottish Country Dancing ambience is pleasantly more relaxed.
Peter’s musical output over the decades was quite prodigious. He took great care in matching tunes to dance movements and has left hundreds of superbly crafted dance music sets as his legacy. These are well known and well loved by us all – I’m frequently asked for particular Peter sets when compiling the music for a programme.
He also wrote many original tunes – original in all senses of the word – Peter tunes often have a quirky twist in them! There are two books of his compositions.
Peter lived for music, and we worried when he became unwell and was unable to play as he had before. Peter’s strength of character – his calm acceptance, his steadiness in the face of such adversity was humbling as his physical strength gradually ebbed.
With Kath and his family by his side, his reserves ran out on Wednesday 18 November – their wedding anniversary.
Thankyou Peter for all you achieved, the music, the inspiration, the care. It was a real honour to play with and learn from you – and I will keep your great music alive.
There was a great turnout and a very celebratory atmosphere at this year’s Halloween-themed club night on 2 November. Thirty-seven dancers brought the dance floor to life, and it was lovely to have former Johnsonville dancer, Pat Reesby, join the party.
Our last three Samhain celebrations have been combined with the Club’s AGM. This year the AGM was held separately, allowing us to enjoy a full night of magically mysterious dances, and wonderful music from Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris.
Rod gave us a great time as always, with lots of fun dances, including some we’ve come to know and love from previous years. Slytherin House, Ferla Mor and Ellwyn’s Fairy Glen are always crowd-pleasers. Nice also to once again dance The Scottish Werewolf named for local teacher and deviser Iain Boyd, with Samhain Magic, The Fairy Dance and Ghost Dance rounding out the programme.
Club members made a fantastic effort to dress the part this year. There were witches galore, cobwebs, spiders, bats, a devilish tutor and one very red devil, tam o’shanters, toothy vampires, robes of ochre and velvet, and colourful masks. Wall decorations and themed tablecloths added to the atmosphere.
The band went to great lengths to join in the Halloween spirit. Hilary’s brilliant effort at face painting made her unrecognisable, Jason was the serious man in black, and I hear Aileen is still finding strands of green wig hair in her accordion!
As a special treat, Aileen gave us a surprise performance of the song Dundee Ghost by Matt McGinn. It’s all about a Dundee ghost rising cold from his grave and managing to gain himself the warmth of a Glasgow ‘single end’ (a favoured end of the terrace house) by haunting the owner (lyrics here and lovely spooky YouTube video here).
Aileen also talked about the tradition of ‘guising’ in Scotland, where children go door-to-door in disguise and perform an item in return for a gift of fruit – without the threat of ‘tricks’. Good to hear a bit more about Scottish Halloween traditions from someone who’s experienced them.
Then it was on to supper itself, and yet another of Elizabeth Ngan’s amazingly creative displays of themed goodies with something for everyone. The ‘cauldron’ centrepiece contained pink hummus and GF crackers, chocolate fingers took on the role of firewood and witches’ brooms, there were monster faces with strawberry ‘tongues’, and toes made of sausage rolls complete with almond ‘toenails’. It really caused a buzz.
Thanks to the photos taken by Loralee Hyde on the night, we can all enjoy happy memories of the occasion now, and in years to come.
A group of New Zealand Scottish Country Dance musicians gathered in Lower Hutt at Labour Weekend to share ideas and make music together. They invited us to come and dance to them at an informal Tea Dance on Sunday 25 October.
With musicians and bands from Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch, the afternoon was a great opportunity for dancers to enjoy a variety of music played on a range of instruments.
The five bands/musicians were:
Bourach Mor from Hamilton – but with enough ring-ins they preferred to call themselves Borrowed Mor! Onstage were Lynne Hudson (accordion), Ruth Budden, Wayne McConnel, Glenice Saunders and Trish Henley on fiddles and Shelley McConnel on recorder.
Strings Attached: Lynne Scott on the fiddle and Sharlene Penman on piano, with technical wizardry from James Scott providing the double bass that usually accompanies this band.
Wild Heather: Sharlene Penman on piano, Lynne Scott on octave fiddle with Mary McDonald and Ann Goodbehere on fiddles.
Airs and Graces: Lynne Scott on piano with Mary McDonald and Glenice Saunders on fiddles.
Kiwi Kilties: Sharlene, Mary, and Duncan on drums.
All the musicians played for the five dances in the second half.
A great contingent of twenty-two Johnsonville dancers including MC Jeanette Watson enjoyed the afternoon of dancing. It was wonderful to see two of our new dancers doing so well and having a good time.
Organiser Lynne Scott, Convenor of the annual Scottish Country Dance Musicians’ Convention, says it was great fun and they really had a ball. As did we!
Thank you to Lynne and the musicians for all of their hard work over the weekend.
John has been a Johnsonville Club member since 2008 and ever since joining, he’s turned his hand to all sorts of activities that have benefited the club.
He is our resident ‘techie’, dealing with sound equipment issues, loading tunes from new CDs onto the club’s music database, and helping Rod out with any related music/laptop problems. In the past he also took on the massive task of converting the club’s collection of over a hundred CDs to digital format.
John has a long-standing interest in photography, and brings his technical perspective to that as well. In May we read about his photo interpretation of a tartan puzzle – employed in a bid to find out more about his great-great-grandfather Neil Patterson.
John gives us a brief glimpse below into his photographic journey, accompanied by a few ‘odd’ photos he took along the way.
My first camera was a Brownie style plastic camera which took 8 photos on a roll of film. It couldn’t focus, so it didn’t, as in the following photo taken in 1959. In spite of that I still like the photo.
Later I used the money from my paper-round to buy an Agfa Silette 35mm camera. Now I could focus and use Kodachrome film. The photo below taken in 1961 shows the old floating dry-dock used to maintain boats at Kaiwharawhara. On this day I found out I had passed School Certificate.
This is my first attempt at Astro-photography. Rodney Austin, who discovered several comets, helped me. My neighbour Beatrice Hill also used the New Plymouth Observatory. Married as Beatrice Hill Tinsley, she was a famous cosmologist. (“Bright Star” by Christine Cole Catley).
The Scow Echo in 1964 is one of my favourite photos of Wellington. It usually sailed between Wellington and Karamea. I now had a second-hand Canonet camera.
More recently I maintained an Electron Microprobe at Victoria University. Photos from this equipment were all in black and white. Some are shown on the walls in the following photo of the Electron Microprobe, taken in 2010.
I have jumped forward a few years, missing out University, Hydrology, DSIR, Antarctica and a few other adventures.
My photos of Scottish Country Dancing can be seen in various newsletters.
I worry about light and I always spend some time setting the camera to do the right thing rather than processing later.
I also enjoy travel photography and occasionally collecting interesting cameras.
The excited chatter and laughter of the crowd walking up to the Paraparaumu Memorial Hall on Saturday 10 October told the story; after months of Covid-19 restrictions, it was time for Scottish Country dancers to take to the floor!
One of the biggest events on the Region calendar, the New Dancers’ Celebration is a special event for those who have started dancing in the past two years, with more experienced dancers coming along as support.
Waikanae Club, the host this year, went through tribulations to put on this dance. First of all, Covid-19 Alert Levels chopped and changed over the past few months, and then the plumbing system at the original venue failed just two weeks prior to the dance.
Even with such short notice, the club managed to find a new venue and the dance went off without a hitch. As we are at Covid-19 Level 1, some preventative measures applied – there was a QR code to scan at the door (or a register to sign) and plenty of hand sanitisers. Well done Waikanae for your great organisation!
Piper Nicole Trewavas welcomed us with the rousing sound of bagpipes as we strolled into the hall. The loud buzz of conversation showed our delight in catching up friends from around the Region who we might not have danced with for some time.
MC Romaine Butterfield explained why blue butterflies decorated the hall. Butterflies emerge from chrysalides, as were the new dancers emerging to take to the floor. Together with the more experienced who were emerging from Covid-19 restrictions.
New dancers had special name badges featuring blue butterflies which made it easier for the experienced to recognise them and make sure they had partners throughout the evening.
With a programme appropriate for new dancers and with each dance walked through once, fourteen sets filled the hall to dance to toe-tapping music from Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris. Popular dances included The Birks of Invermay, Mrs MacLeod and The De’il Amang the Tailors.
Johnsonville Club had a great contingent at the celebration, with ten first and second year dancers supported by fourteen of our experienced dancers, plus Hilary in the band.
It was an evening of dancing to savour after having such limited opportunities this year to take part in an activity we love.
On a personal note, in April I shared my research about my Scottish connections and how I found out I connect to Clan MacMillan through my great-grandmother Jane’s maiden name of Lennie. This New Dancers’ Celebration was the first time in my 46 years of dancing I could wear a family tartan – my new MacMillan Hunting Ancient tartan sash!
For much of this past year, the dance calendar has been one long list of cancellations.
Johnsonville Club’s own Annual Dance, in combination with Capital City Club, was first postponed, then cancelled, and there were many more. But Saturday 3 October saw our first dance occasion since the shutdown, with the Tawa Club Annual Dance, and a splendid night it was too.
The numbers present were about right for the hall, filling it without becoming crowded. We must thank MC and Club Tutor Catherine McCutcheon for a programme that had a few challenges, but nothing preposterous, and for some excellent briefing.
She was admirably backed by the musical trio of Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris, and we were set for a good night’s dancing.
Which we had.
I might note that, had there been enough people to do true justice to the vast supper provided, the hall would have been too packed for dancing. But there was enough for all, including for people with dietary restrictions, and I am sure the leftovers found good homes later.
Johnsonville Club was well represented, and pay no attention to the murmuring about some people belonging to both Johnsonville and Tawa. They are our members.
Because of a dodgy ankle, my wife Aline can do very little dancing these days. So instead, she took videos of the dancing. See us all enjoying the dance.
Even though it was ‘only’ a club night, Monday night was pretty special. To me it epitomised the best of Scottish Country Dancing.
We were back at Level 1, so everyone could feel free to attend. On top of that there was live music, a great atmosphere, a jolly tutor and a (very) big birthday cake. A celebration indeed.
Despite so much loss of dancing time and cancellation of dancing events this year, we have been really fortunate to have so many nights of live music
This week was to have been another of the newly begun ‘live music at club’ nights with Aileen Logie playing solo. Happily for us, fellow Cranberry Tarts band member Hilary Ferral also decided to join us, bright cranberry-coloured socks and all.
Then it turned out Rod’s maths colleague (and violinist) André Nies, was visiting Wellington for work and he too joined the merry band.
Rod taught us dances from the upcoming Tawa and New Dancers’ programmes, and we had the bonus of dancing to the music that Aileen, Hilary and Jason Morris will play for both events. What a great way to prepare.
I love the generosity of the Scottish Country Dance community – tutors who encourage musicians and dancers, dancers who support musicians and each other, musicians who give us their music and welcome guest musicians (and in this case even supply a loan violin for the night – thank you Hilary).
So for me it was a perfect night of dance, music, and community, and all of it fun. The icing on the cake so to speak, was Aileen’s contribution of a massive chocolate cake to celebrate her birthday.
Our super supper co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan made sure there was something for everyone, contributing fresh fruit kebabs.
Bowling Club President Frankie added that little bit extra to the night, buying Aileen a not-so-wee dram to celebrate. Thanks to all for a night to remember, and to Deborah Shuker for giving André a ride home.
André Nies is one of a number of mathematicians who’ve become involved with Scottish Country Dancing through their professional connections with Johnsonville tutor Rod Downey.
Rod is someone who’s always keen to share his enthusiasms, and the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dancing Beginners’ Class poster permanently attached to his Victoria University of Wellington office door is a good conversation starter.
Over the years, Rod’s brought along quite a few mathematicians who’ve given dancing a go or come along for a look. Some have stayed on and danced at Johnsonville whilst working or studying at Victoria University, often for relatively short periods. Others have danced with the club for years, and return to visit us when they can
André has never been based in Wellington, nor taken up Scottish Country Dancing. However he has sat in as an occasional musician, playing with bands at Johnsonville events since Rod introduced him to the music of Scottish Country Dancing.
Learning violin in Germany, André had never encountered traditional Scottish music till he came to New Zealand on a work visit. Band leader Peter Elmes gave the OK and Rod invited André to come along and play with the band when his work visits aligned with Johnsonville Scottish Country Dancing events. For a while he even left his violin with Rod rather than carry it back and forth.
Peter Elmes is not the only band leader who has allowed André to join the band as a guest musician. More recently André has played with Lynne Scott’s band, travelling from Auckland to play for the first Johnsonville & Island Bay Joint Annual Dance in 2018.
Read what André has to say below about discovering Celtic music. Hopefully his love for the music means we’ll see him again in the future.
A German violinist discovers Celtic music
I fondly remember my first visit to Wellington in 1996, when Rod took me surfing and also introduced me to Celtic music.
My musical upbringing back in Germany was based on the serious music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner. I received my violin lessons from my father who was a concert master in an opera house.
Now in New Zealand, I adored the different moods provided by the Scottish music, and discovered with wonder that many tunes are just as old as the ‘opus pieces’ I knew and played. The excitement was augmented by being dressed up in a kilt that Rod has lent, complete with woollen socks, leather bag, and a knife.
Once I had settled in Auckland in 2002, I returned as often as possible to play at the annual events, as an extra musician. I’ll never, even remotely, be able to play the Cadgers in the Canongate (danced here at Johnsonville Club’s 2015 Annual Dance) like John Smith can1, but I will always love it.
André Nies 24 September 2020
Listen to a brief clip of John Smith playing Cadgers in the Canongatehere. For more of John’s playing (and a very brief glimpse of John in action), watch Pat Reesby’s video of Fight About the Fireside at Johnsonville Club’s 2013 Annual Dance.[↩]