Tribute concert held for music benefactor

By Linda Hall

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CONCERT: World-class pianist Michael Houston.
CONCERT: World-class pianist Michael Houston.

Iona College will play host to a world-class act this month when pianist Michael Houstoun performs at the school's prestigious Blyth Performing Arts Centre in honour of the late Sir Rodney Gallen.

Sir Rodney was a much loved and respected member of the Hawke's Bay community and Iona College Council. Houstoun will perform a programme of music by JS Bach, Brahms, Poulenc and Faur.

Hawke's Bay was home to Sir Rodney, who is remembered as an extraordinary man, the son of a postmaster who attended Waipawa District High School and Napier Boys High School.

He went on to study law, was admitted to the bar in 1953, became a Queen's Counsel in 1978 and a High Court judge in 1983. He received a knighthood for his services to the High Court in 2000, after which he continued to work as a Court of Appeal judge.

Sir Rodney was known among his peers not only as a wise and humanitarian senior jurist but as a man of many parts.

He had great compassion for his fellow human beings, working tirelessly for others and was deeply committed to the environment, youth and family.

At a local level, he was particularly proud of his association with the Te Whaiti scholarship which allowed students to attend Lindisfarne College or Turakina Girls School.

He also had very close links with Iona.

He was a member of the Iona College Council and in 2001 was appointed as one of three trustees of the college - the highest level of governance.

Sir Rodney was a talented musician and played the organ, bassoon, flute and piano.

When Iona received a significant bequest from an old girl, the college council decided to use the gift to invest in a quality piano.

After much careful research and with advice from Michael Houstoun, Sir Rodney chose a Fazioli - a world-class instrument.

It gave Sir Rodney the greatest pleasure to know that Iona girls would be able to play it.

In 2008, when Iona learned that another old girl, Margaret Blyth, had left a substantial amount of money to Iona to build a music school in memory of her parents, Sir Rodney's skills and specialist knowledge of music were called upon once again.

After a brief illness, Sir Rodney died in 2012.

He never got to see The Blyth Performing Arts Centre finished, but Iona feels sure that he would be delighted with the outcome.

"We feel confident that he would be especially thrilled with the magnificent concert chamber featuring acoustics which are, by all accounts, as good as any in New Zealand and comparable to the best in the world," Fellow trustee Pauline Campbell said.

This recital will honour Sir Rodney's contribution towards the creation of this facility at Iona. It is fitting therefore that such a musical giant as Michael Houstoun will lead the tribute to this exceptional man.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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